Saturday, July 31, 2010

Chicken Pesto Sandwich

My sister Susie and I have been trying out new recipes this summer since we both seem to have a lot of spare time.  We had some spinach walnut pesto left from our pasta lunch last week so we wanted to use the leftovers for this week’s lunch (I’ve added my recipe for the pesto below).  So after doing some thinking last night we decided to put together some chicken pesto sandwiches.  I’ve had a good chicken pesto sandwich from the Zanzibar CafĂ© located at my school, which is really good,  so I tried to recreate the similar flavors for today’s lunch.  Assembling the sandwiches was a cinch since the pesto was already made and the fresh ciabatta bread from Bread and Cie the Wuz (aka Susie) and I picked up made a huuuge difference in the overall taste.  If you can get your hands on freshly baked bread for this sandwich (or any sandwich for that matter), do it!

Spinach walnut pesto
2 cups of chopped spinach
A handful of walnuts, chopped
2 cloves of garlic
½ cup of parmesan cheese
olive oil (I just eyeball it as I go)
salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a food processor (or a blender) throw in all of the ingredients. 
2. Pour in some of the olive oil and blend it up.  If the mixture seems too dry add more olive oil and blend.  Remember that you can always add more oil rather than take it away so don’t get too oil happy if you’re not sure how much to use. 
3. Blend the ingredients up until you end up with a thick, bright green goopy goodness. 

Chicken pesto sandwich (serves 2)
2 ciabatta rolls, sliced in half (or any bread of your choice)
2 chicken breasts
2 slices of mozzarella cheese (I actually cut up string cheese because I didn’t have slices)
½ avocado, sliced
Approximately 4 tablespoons of pesto (or however much you want!)
1 tomato, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
olive oil
salt and pepper

1. Start by pouring about 3 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan with the heat at medium.  When the oil heats up, place the garlic in the pan and remove once they start browning.
2. You can cut the chicken into strips before cooking or cut after, like I did.  Season the chicken breasts using salt and pepper before placing them in the pan to cook. 
3. When one side of the chicken turns golden brown, flip, and let the other side cook.  Covering the pan using a lid helps the chicken cook faster. 
4. While the chicken is finishing up on the stove, set your oven to broil and toast up the slices of bread with mozzarella on top until the cheese melts.  And for all you garlic lovers, I minced the garlic used for infusing the oil and sprinkled it on top of the cheese.
5. When the bread is done toasting and chicken is no longer pink, begin assembling the sandwiches.  Spread pesto on the slice without the cheese.  Finish by placing some pieces of chicken on each of the bottom slices, then tomatoes, and avocado.      

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Quinoa Salad with Spinach, Cucumbers, and Roasted Grape Tomatoes

Today I decided to make some kind of Greek inspired salad using the red quinoa I recently bought from Trader Joe's and so I came up with this: quinoa salad with spinach, cucumbers, roasted grape tomatoes, and feta.  Regular quinoa or even couscous could easily be put in place of the red quinoa (this particular kind was just what I had on hand).  Also, the water can be replaced with vegetable or chicken broth for added flavor.  This simple salad can stand alone as a light meal, or serve it as a side with some grilled chicken marinated in Greek yogurt, lemon juice, and olive oil.  The Wuz and I made some of that chicken to go with the quinoa salad but sadly wasn’t photograph material, although it tasted pretty good.  I’m trying my best to practice taking photographs of food that look appetizing so we’ll see how it goes, but I can’t promise anything extraordinary will come of this!

Just as a side note, prepare the grape tomatoes first and pop them in the oven since it takes about 30 minutes to roast. 

Roasted grape tomatoes
About 1 pint of grape tomatoes
Olive oil
Natural cane sugar (to bring out the natural sweetness of the tomatoes)
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat your oven to 350˚F.
2. Cut the tomatoes in half (the long way) and lay them facing up on a baking sheet.
3. Drizzle some olive oil over the tomatoes, then sprinkle with sugar, salt, and pepper.
4. Roast them in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until shrunken and shriveled.

Quinoa salad with spinach, cucumbers, and roasted grape tomatoes
1 cup of uncooked red quinoa
½ an onion, diced
2 cups of water
A handful of fresh spinach, chopped
1 small cucumber, diced
Feta cheese
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

1. Turn on the stove to medium and using a medium sized pot, pour a tablespoon or two of olive oil when pot is heated.
2. Cook the onions until translucent and tender.  Season with salt and pepper.
3. Pour in the uncooked quinoa along with the water.  Stir, and cover.
4. The quinoa should be done after about 15 minutes, or until you can see the little white curlicues in the middle.  Remove from heat.
5. Mix in the chopped spinach and it should wilt from the heat.  Add the tomatoes.
6. Wait for the quinoa mixture to cool before adding in the cucumbers (unless you don’t mind eating warm cucumbers).
7. Mix in some feta, or sprinkle it on top before serving.

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