pesto chicken salad

I'll probably never forget the first time I saw someone make pesto. I remember being shocked. It was very much a "THAT'S IT?" moment. 

But seriously, pesto is really that easy. 

And upon further investigation, you can pretty much make it any which was you want. I saw this great blog post that illustrated all the different ways you can really make the pesto of your dreams .... or just to suit a picky guest who doesn't like basil or arugula or life. I think I stuck pretty close to the norm for this round. 

I'm not sure what took me so long to make my own pesto but I did it today. I was home in the burbs over the weekend and managed to swipe a pile of basil from the family garden. Free basil is one million times better than store basil. But, if I can't get all my ingredients from the garden .... I'm happy enough to buy them in the North End ... which is where I got everything else. 
- pine nuts & pistachios are from Polcari's
- lemon is from the Haymarket Market
- grated parmesan is from Monica's Mercato

I knew my garden fresh basil wouldn't last super long but I was a little bit short on inspiration for what to eat with my pesto. I didn't feel like pasta. I didn't want something heavy. I wanted summer on my plate. A quick search of my Google Reader revealed this gem of a recipe for Pesto Chicken Salad. WELL HELLO THERE! And I was in love. 

See as soon as I saw that juicy big ole tomato in the recipe picture, I knew I had also found a use for one of my prized San Marzano tomatoes. I first fell in love with them when I made tomato soup and then used them again in my bolognese sauce. I mean check out how amazing and red that baby is up top....

And if you are wondering if making your own pesto is worth it. It is. After I had blended / pulsed / whatever'd the ingredients for the pesto ... I removed the cover and gave it a whiff. Smelled amazing. But, then I put a spoon in there just to give it a little taste-a-rooski ... and I literally said "now, that's the stuff" ... alone in my kitchen.

So here is how you make pesto .... and essentially pesto chicken salad.

Makes enough for 3 people? or maybe about 1 cup of Pesto?

(Step 1) Add your basil, nuts, cheese, garlic, and lemon juice to the food processor. Pulse the mixture until all the basil and nuts are well chopped. It doesn't have to be perfect since you aren't done chopping. You might have to shift the ingredients around in the food processor just to make sure everything gets a good chop. 

(Step 2) Slowly add the olive oil into the food processor while it's running. Given the tomato soup debacle where I ended up with tomato soup everywhere, I was super sensitive to not having both hands on the equipment .... but it was totally fine. Also, this gives you a chance to use that spout thing to add ingredients ... pretty much made me feel like a professional chef.

(Step 3) Pulse the mixture until you get the consistency that you like. Essentially what you are going for is loose green mud. But, it looks so delicious. Add any salt or pepper for flavoring.

(Step 4) Now you've made pesto. Just add it to some roughly chopped cooked chicken and you've got pesto chicken salad. I quickly cooked up some chicken breasts in a skillet with some olive oil before chopping them up and adding to the pesto. Easy peasy.

(Step 5) To give the meal a little more bulk, I made some bread croutons that I whipped up. In an effort to not heat up my apartment any more than necessary ... and to limit the amount of time I was spending on my feet ... I just threw them in the same skillet I cooked the chicken in with a bit of olive oil, garlic powder, and kosher salt. This is super fast, but be careful you don't burn your croutons. They cook super fast in a skillet.

Shopping List
2 cups basil
1/4 cup of nuts (any combo you want)
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 chicken breasts
Big Ole Juicy Tomato (San Marzano if you want to be my twin)

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