Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Lemon Chicken Pesto Pasta

It all started with the kale. I hadn't yet used it from last week's SLO Veg box...why? I don't know! I didn't have time to wash it? or cut it up? I was too rushed for time? I don't know, but the Dinosaur kale was just laying there, being pushed around the green onions and shredded carrots and cherry tomatoes, languishing in the frig until some creative idea came along. Originally, I was thinking kale salad with apples and raisins mixed in. Or braised kale with onions and bacon bits. Then, as I was browsing through my magazines, pulling out recipes before I tossed them into the recycling bin, I found it--Presto Pesto made with kale. No actual cooking of the kale was involved! Which eventually translated into Lemon Chicken pesto made from kale. Which made a marvelous dinner--so marvelous I had to recreate it last night for my daughter and son-in-law when we went to visit the new baby and brought dinner along with us. Bribery with food isn't necessarily necessary, but it helps us to be able to hang out longer and hold on to that cute little guy.

The magazine recipe called for spaghetti squash, which I had previously had on hand, but then used last week with a spaghetti meat sauce on top. I did, however, find time to blend up the pesto last week, which then sat in the frig in a jelly jar for another couple of days. It can take it, since the olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese was added and bound it all together. My one batch made enough pesto for two pasta dishes. Simple ingredients: kale, sea salt, garlic cloves, nuts, lemon juice, Parmesan cheese. Also, I used walnuts instead of almonds, because my almonds had been stashed in the back of my pantry and seemed to be a little...stale. My walnuts were in the freezer, where the almonds could have also been if I had been a little more proactive. Sigh!

I decided to add chicken for a protein component, so I cubed up two chicken breasts, sauteed them in olive oil and then added a cup of water to braise and tenderize the chicken for another 20 minutes. At that point, the water had evaporated to about 1/2 a cup, so I mixed in the pesto, then poured it all over some freshly cook and drained penne pasta noodles. A little more Parmesan cheese sprinkled over the top, plus some piping hot buttered French bread, and the feast was on!

We got more kale in this week's vegetable box--curly kale. Also some nice parsley. I think I will whip up some pesto and freeze it in cubes for later quick work-night pasta meals. Taylor could even use it in his Top Ramen and elevate those noodles to a new level. Hah! I am trying to teach him that he can make better food at home for pennies on the dollar rather than picking up fast food, and with the same levels of sodium. (That's a sick joke!) I think I like the kale pesto better than a basil pesto, because its not so spicy hot! You can use all sorts of dark greens for pesto: arugula, spinach, basil, kale. (oh, yeah, just did that!) Giada makes a green pea pesto, also, which seems like a good idea.

The recipe pictured here just calls for the Parmesan to be sprinkled on top, but I like to blend it into my pesto because I like the cheesy, salty, pasty properties it brings to pesto.

Here is what I did:


2 cups chopped kale (about 6 leaves)
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup coarsely chopped nuts (almonds, walnuts, pine nuts)
1-2 Tbs lemon juice
5-6 fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup olive oil

Put everything into a blender except for the cheese and olive oil. Blend until everything is chopped and resembles a paste. Add in the Parmesan cheese, then drizzle the olive oil in through the top of the blender lid until the desired consistency is reached. Use immediately, or spoon into ice cubes trays and freezer for later use.


2 chicken breasts, cubed into bite-sized pieces
olive oil
garlic, salt, pepper blend
lemon juice
16 oz pasta noodles, any type

Bring a pasta pot of water to a boil. Add about a teaspoon of salt to the boiling water and then add the pasta. Cook until al dente. Drain, reserving about a coffee cup full of pasta water. Put drained pasta back into the pasta pot.

Coat a saute pan with two twirls of olive oil. Saute the chicken until cooked through. Season with garlic salt pepper blend and a couple of teaspoons of lemon juice. Add a cup of pasta water and let the chicken simmer for about 20 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup of pesto. Pour this mixture over the pasta in the pasta pot and stir until all the pasta is coated. Dish up in pasta bowls and sprinkle with more Parmesan cheese.


1 loaf French bread, cut in half length-wise
minced fresh garlic or a garlic powder or garlic salt

Cut the bread in half, spread with softened butter. Sprinkle with garlic or seasonings. My daughter had a TJs grinder with sea salt, garlic, pepper and parsely that smelled great. Some minced parsley is nice, too.
If you are playing is safe, heat in a 350 degree oven until the butter is soaked in. If you are being adventurous, toast under the broiler for a few minutes until the bread is lightly browned. Don't have a glass of wine and get to talking like I did last night, or the bread will be burned to a crisp and smell up the house and set off the smoke alarm and wake the baby. But this does cut down on carbs. Just sayin'!

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