Sunday, July 8, 2012

Homemade Pesto & A Light Dinner

Cooking is one of my favorite things to do. I am a pretty laid back gal, but cooking is the one area of my life that I will happily claim to be a perfectionist with. I know I'm a good cook and I expect things to come out exactly the way they come out for Giada De Laurentiis at all times. When they don't I get mad. Work in progress!

I recently bought Bob Harper's latest book, The Skinny Rules. Aside from giving a lot of great tips for eating healthier, Bob has a lot of great recipes. I had never made my own pesto before today, but it's something that's been on my cooking bucket list for a while.

Here's is Bob's recipe (Notice the lack of oil. You won't miss it.):

1 cup chopped basil leaves
1 tbs. grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup vegetable broth
2 tbs. walnuts, pine nuts, or cashews; chopped

I only have a tiny little food processor, but it was the perfect size for this endeavor. I put my cashews in the processor first to chop them up, but not pulverize them. Since my processor is not as powerful as a big guy, I didn't want any big chunks and I knew they would chop up better if I threw them in first and pulsed it a few times.

The only reason I used cashews was because I already had some and if I can avoid buying the $7 bag of pignolis at Trader Joe's I'm all for it.

I also chopped the garlic a bit before tossing it in and tore the basil leaves into smaller pieces. A traditional pesto is made with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, but you'll clearly notice that there is no EVOO here. Bob's replacement vegetable broth works perfectly and doesn't compromise the flavor. And it will save you some calories!

A quick whiz in the processor and you get a yummy homemade pesto that is super simple. Pesto is traditionally used to top pastas (this one would be great with some whole wheat spaghetti), but on Bob's suggestion I did something a little different.

I topped a chicken breast and about a cup and a half of chopped vegetables with the pesto and roasted them. It was 87 degrees in Boston today and why I wanted to turn on a 400 degree oven is beyond me. But I sweat soldiered on.

For my vegetables I used zucchini, yellow squash, grape tomatoes, and sweet pepper. When you're roasting vegetables it's important to cut them the same size so they cook evenly. I mixed the vegetables with 1 tablespoon of the pesto and put them in an even layer in a foil-lined baking dish, coated the chicken breast with another tablespoon of pesto and placed it on top of the veg.

Bob's recipe said to roast them for 12 to 15 minutes at 400 degrees, but I knew this wouldn't be enough time for the chicken to cook. Even though it would cause us to drop some pounds, I don't think Bob is trying to give us salmonella. So maybe that was just a typo? Anyway, I took the vegetables out at 15 minutes, put them on a plate, and covered them with foil. I put the chicken in for another 15 minutes and it was perfect.

I made a little herb & greens salad dressed with lemon juice, EVOO, salt and pepper and that was my dinner. I am delighted that my first attempt at pesto came out perfectly. Granted, the actual work I had to do was minimal, but still! I have a new go-to recipe and for that I am excited. Nom nom.

*Of note - I don't have a fancy camera and I don't plan on buying one, um, ever. I'd rather buy clothes. So it will be all iPhone all the time 'round here. 

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