June in the Kitchen – Pesto Chicken

June in the Kitchen – Pesto Chicken

Pesto Chicken

Pesto Chicken

Once summer begins my thoughts turn to easy, simple dishes that highlight outdoor cooking and the wonderful produce that is available this time of year. That doesn’t mean that a regular weeknight meal needs to be fancy or take time, grilled chicken and a sliced tomato salad sounds like heaven. But, what do you do midweek when you don’t want to fire up the grill and the troops need dinner NOW?

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Enter the Breville Panini Press and Grill. I know, you don’t want any more appliances. I understand, I’m trying to cut out unnecessary electric appliances that just sit in the top of my cabinets too. But this one is different. It has earned its keep in my house for quick snacks or dinners, we are now on our second the first having burned out after several years of regular use. It makes the best grilled sandwiches in the world. How would you like a Sunday brunch sandwich with ham and cheese and a fried egg? Yes, us too. And, it grills chicken breasts perfectly without drying them out. You can also use it for chopped meat patties, although I haven’t done that much. What makes it different from other grills is that the top adjusts to the thickness of the food being grilled, you don’t overcook the back corner because the top isn’t flat (that happens in a George Foreman). You can also control the temperature for the food being cooked.

It would make a wonderful wedding gift. It’s great for parties, simply lay out a variety of breads, meats, spreads, and cheeses and let your guests create their own custom paninis. Once cooked, cut them into small pieces and hand them around. Let everyone vote on their favorite combination.

Grilled Chicken with Pesto

Grilled Chicken with Pesto

Grilled Chicken with Pesto

  •  1 chicken breast half for each person, boned but skin on if possible (I used one whole breast with the skin)
  • 1/5 cup of home-made or commercial pesto sauce
  • Extra garlic, minced if you like garlic (unless pesto is freshly made)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  1. If you love garlic like our family, add an extra minced clove to the pesto. I have pesto in the freezer from last year and it has lost its heat although it is still good. Almost time to make more.
  2. Rub the chicken breast with the pesto, spreading some under the skin. Brush with a olive oil and salt lightly.
  3. Preheat your panini maker or stove top grill.
  4. Add the chicken breast, close the lid and cook until no longer pink in the middle.
  5. This will take about 5-10 minutes on the grill, depending on the thickness of the chicken. If frying in a stove top grill, use medium hight heat and turn after about 10 minutes. If browning too quickly, turn down the heat.
  6. Let the chicken cool for 5 minutes then slice thinly to serve.
Grilled Chicken with Pesto

Grilled Chicken with Pesto

The skin was brown and crisp and the meat still juicy.

January in the Kitchen – Spagetti Squash with Mushrooms and Pesto Sauce

January in the Kitchen – Spagetti Squash with Mushrooms and Pesto Sauce

Spaghetti Squash

Spagetti squash with mushrooms and pesto

Spagetti squash with mushrooms and pesto

At the time the British food writer Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book was published (1978), Spaghetti Squash was considered a newcomer on the vegetable scene. She found it an embarrassing name and preferred noodle squash or squash novella. It now seems to be taking the U.S. by storm, particularly in Paleo or low carbohydrate circles. It’s called spaghetti squash because the flesh, when cooked, can be scraped out of the skin and resembles strands of spaghetti.

I think the name is somewhat unfortunate as well; it is a type of delicious winter squash and deserves to be treated with more respect. The name suggests that you can substitute it for pasta and the www abounds with lovely pictures of using it in lasagna or with a red sauce. I’ve tried it and don’t think the flavor mixes well with tomato sauce, just my opinion. It looks good with the runny cheese (as you can see below) but that’s where it ends. We didn’t like it that much. Any kind of cream sauce, or sautéed mushrooms or chicken is a different story.

Baked Spagetti Squash with Mozzarella and Tomato Sauce

Baked Spagetti Squash with Mozzarella and Tomato Sauce

Ms. Grigson suggests poking a hole in the stem end and boiling. I prefer to cut it in half, remove the seeds, and bake it (flesh side down) at 400 degrees F for 30-40 minutes. The time will depend on the size. The squash should retain some crunch but be easy to separate from the shell with a fork. If you intend to stir fry it, let it drain on paper towels in a colander for a few minutes. Otherwise it can be watery.

This is what I consider a ‘non-recipe’, just a loose set of directions rather than a strict ‘how-to’.

Spagetti squash with mushrooms and pesto

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound of mixed mushrooms, wiped with a paper towel and sliced
  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 shallots, diced finely
  • 1/4 cup of pinenuts, briefly browned in a dry skillet
  • 4 tablespoons of pesto sauce
  • Optional, a couple of tablespoons of heavy cream
  • Few cubes of fresh mozzarella
  • Freshly grated Parmesan
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. Prepare the squash as above, baking at 400 degrees, cut side down.
  2. When slightly cooled, shred the strands with a fork into a collander lined with a dish towel or paper towels. Leave to drain while you prepare the mushrooms.
  3. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium high heat.
  4. Add the mushrooms and saute the liquid is gone and they begin to brown.
  5. Add the shallots and continue to saute for another 5 minutes until softened.
  6. Add the cream, pesto and squash to the skillet. Turn off the heat, add the mozzarella, and warm all briefly before turning out onto warmed plates.
  7. Top the the pinenuts and additional grated parmesan.
Squash with mushrooms

Spagetti Squash with Pinenuts and Pesto and Mushrooms

I’m going to take this to share with Angie and the gang at Fiesta Friday, sponsored by the Novice Gardener. Please come join the party and sample the delicious food.

Fiesta Friday

Fiesta Friday