Freshly made basil pesto is heavenly. I learned about the sauce through a food talk with a friend a long time ago and I’ve been hooked ever since! Basil really liven things up. Not to mention the fragrance…oh so delightful. I have them growing in a container outside of our apartment this summer. So I’ve been able to use them a lot for pesto, on pizza, and on tomato salad. Yumm!
Anyway, one time last month I picked a bunch of basil leaves and made pesto sauce. Then I mixed it with roasted chicken breast and made sandwiches out of the delicious combination. I packed them up along with another type of chicken salad sandwich with mayo, chives, and celery and brought them for lunch on our hiking trip. The pesto sauce, with that fantastic aroma of basil, crunchy pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, and garlic, wrapped the roasted chicken so well. Super easy to make and packed with great flavors. Now that’s a great combination 🙂
What we’ll need:
- 1 pound of thick-cut roasted chicken breast meat from the deli section. (Next time I will roast bone-in and skin-on chicken in the oven, like this recipe. I was rushing to pack for the trip since I had miscalculated my schedule that day. Hence the deli alternative to create the sandwich at the time. It worked really well though!
Chop and mix in a food processor:
- Two handful of fresh basil leaves (maybe close to two cups)
- 3-4 garlic cloves
- A tablespoon of pine nuts (I’ve read that walnuts work fine too)
- 1/4 cup of Parmesan/Asiago cheese
- 1/4 cup of olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Dice the roasted chicken
- In a large bowl, mix basil pesto sauce with the chicken
- Serve with Italian or Pumpernickel bread
I have always loved sea scallops. But for whatever reason I would always forget to make them a regular menu in our kitchen. I am not sure why. Maybe I was still searching for the right pairing for this seafood in a dish.
Earlier this month, we “fell back” an hour to daylight savings time and were in adjustment to the early nighttime. So that Monday night I decided to distract myself from dreading about the coming of winter by making a special dinner. Somehow the thought of pan-seared scallops with basil pesto penne pasta and roasted artichoke came to mind. I enjoy all three, individually, very much and thought that the combination would make a great dish. The result did not disappoint at all. The sweet and succulent seafood is a perfect canvas for me to make a savory dish.
So here’s what I got in mind:
- Preheat oven to 375 F
- Create a marinate oil in a small bowl for both artichoke and scallops. Mix olive oil, minced garlic, a little salt, pepper, and cayenne powder. Do the artichoke first.
- Dip the canned quartered artichoke hearts (One can should be enough. I usually get rid of the water from the can and give the artichoke a quick wash. Or you can also substitute with the frozen ones), place them on an oven tray, and bake for 15-20 minutes on each side.
- Dip 8-10 sea scallops into the marinate oil and let them sit on a plate for 15 minutes
- Heat up a non-stick pan (medium heat)
- Sear the scallops for about 2 minutes on each side or until both sides get those beautiful golden crust
- Boil three handful of penne pasta. Add a pinch of salt. Let it cook for about 12 minutes, drain, and set aside.
- Mix a handful of basil leaves, a teaspoon of pine nuts, one clove of garlic, and ½ cup of grated parmesan cheese in a food processor. Add olive oil and transfer to a serving bowl to be mixed with the penne pasta.
- Serve (immediately) the scallops over the basil-pesto covered penne pasta and roasted artichoke
I think a special dinner doesn’t have to be tied to a particular occasion all the time. It also doesn’t have to be super fancy. To me, “special” means, of course, out of the ordinary but it should also be original and creative. So once in a while, try to combine food that you like (or that you’ve wanted to make for a while) and then pick a very ordinary night to have them. See if this pick-me-up trick works for you too. Have a great Monday!