Saturday, April 26, 2008

Pesto chicken resting on quinoa

Inspired by Barbara Kinsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, about using local ingredients to store food for the seasons when its not available, last summer I made over 64 ounces of fresh pesto from nuts from Sahadi's and fresh basil from the Farmer's Market. I made traditional pine-nut pesto, but I also made walnut pesto, hazelnut pesto, and pecan pesto. We didn't eat as much of it as I thought we would over the winter because we essentially stopped eating pasta. Every once in a while I get an idea about how to use it again, and here's one of my favorites.

Pesto Chicken Resting on Quinoa

1 cup red quinoa
1 veggie (or chicken) bouillon cube
1/2 cup pesto (I used pecan this time)
2 free-range antibiotic free chicken breasts (not too big)
1/2 onion
nice olive oil

Prep time: 1 - 1 1/2 hour (and an overnight soaking)

The night before you're going to make the dish, put 1 cup of dry red quinoa in a bowl with twice as much water and let sit. (You can use regular quinoa, but then you'd have to make it colorful to balance out the dish--maybe chopped seasonal tomatoes or roasted red peppers...hmmm, that WOULD be good!)

Start preparing by draining and rinsing the quinoa. Dry it a little bit and then place in a large saucepan with 1 3/4 cup of water. I added a bouillion cube (vegetable) to this one, but that's optional, salt, pepper, and paprika. Bring to a boil.

While the quinoa is heating, chop coarsely the 1/2 onion and sautee in some nice olive oil until carmellized in a cast-iron pan. Dump the carmelized onions in with the quinoa (you can even wait towards the end, just set the onions aside in a small bowl).

Pour a little bit of water in the cast iron pan and swirl around. Do not clean the pan before the next step!

Take the two chicken breasts and cut diagonal slits (about four per each breast) with a sharp knife. This wil help keep the chicken moist. Sprinkle some salt, pepper and paprika on the breasts. Heat some oil in the pan that still a bit mucky with the onions, and when the oil is hot and begins to smoke a bit, sprinkle some salt, pepper and paprika on the surface of the pan and immediately put the breasts, spice side up, in the pan. Push them around a bit immediately so they don't stick to the pan. Brown the breasts on both sides until they are a nice golden/tan color. If they are thick, turn and cook a bit on the sides as well.

When they are browned (but not necessarily cooked fully on the inside) place them on a oiled baking dish (or you can keep them in the cast iron pan). Spread about 1/4 of a cup of pesto on each breast, coating the top completely. Pop in the oven for 30-45 minutes, depending on the size of the breasts.

When the quinoa is done, so should the chicken breasts. Spoon about 1/2 cup of quinoa on each plate and either slice the breasts attractively to sit on the bed of quinoa, or just put a whole breast on top and serve. Enjoy!

If you're trying to eat less, and everyone (except anorexics) should, cut the portions in half (eat only one half of each breast) and save the rest for tomorrow's lunch.

We served this with a simple green salad with sliced sundried tomatoes, sunflower seeds, and sliced almonds.

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