Harvest Bounty Beauty: Chicken Pesto Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes

2 Sep

Bundles of fresh basil, baskets of sun-kissed cherry tomatoes, just picked greens are all available at my local market. Add some leftover Pollo al Mattone (or supermarket rotisserie chicken) and linguine and you have a zippy summer supper.

Sun-kissed cherry tomatoes.

Sun-kissed cherry tomatoes.

Chicken Pesto Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes is the cover recipe of Chatelaine Magazine‘s September 2013 issue (page 79). My photos are far less appealing than the cover model, but I haven’t studied food styling and air-brushing!

Chicken Pesto Pasta with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

Chicken Pesto Pasta with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes.

As mentioned in an earlier post, I wanted to use up the last of my 2012 crop of pesto before making this year’s batch. I’ll post the recipe for basil pesto when I get around to making it, but you can easily make this dish using pesto purchased from your grocery.

This pasta offers a meal in a bowl — protein, starch, greens, fat and vegetable — and comes together in about 30 minutes. The original recipe called for arugula which I could not find on its own, so I substituted baby spinach leaves. I expect the peppery taste of the arugula would add an interesting taste to the combination.

Next time, I’ll increase the amount of tomatoes to a pint and a half — I had less than a full pint. The ripe cherry tomatoes become sweet and rich when roasted and I think the flavours would have a better balance with more tomatoes.

Go for maximum colour.

Go for maximum colour.

Likewise, some of the pesto I cleared out of the freezer had lost its punch, so for the second serving of this meal I added another 2 Tablespoons of pesto. It’s good advice to taste a dish before serving and adjust the seasonings as necessary. Too bad I don’t always take good advice.

Shredded chicken, baby spinach, linguine and pesto.

Shredded chicken, baby spinach, linguine and pesto.

CHICKEN PESTO PASTA WITH ROASTED TOMATOES             Serves: 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 (+ 1/2) pint                       cherry tomatoes, halved (about 2 cups)
  • 1 tsp                                     extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp                                 salt
  • 225 g                                    linguine, 1/4 of a 900 g package
  • 3/8 cup                                Basil pesto  (approx. 3 “cubes” of homemade pesto, frozen in ice-cube trays, thawed)
  • 1 cup                                    shredded rotisserie chicken, about 1/4 whole
  • 1 cup                                    arugula or baby spinach

Instructions:

1.     Preheat oven to 400 F/200 C. Set a rack to the centre position. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Pint of cherry tomatoes, halved tossed with 1 tsp EVOO, salt and pepper.

Pint of cherry tomatoes, halved and tossed with 1 tsp EVOO, salt and pepper.

2.     Set a medium pot of water on to boil.

3.     Place halved cherry tomatoes on the parchment, sprinkle with salt and drizzle with the EVOO and toss to combine. Season with ground black pepper and spread tomatoes around on the baking sheet.

Roast on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet in 400 F oven for 20 - 25 minutes

Roast on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet in 400 F oven for 20 – 25 minutes

4.      Roast in the centre of a 400 F oven for 20 -25 minutes, shaking or gently stirring halfway. Roast until tomatoes are golden brown and soft.

Sweet, rich roasted cherry tomatoes.

Sweet, rich roasted cherry tomatoes.

5.     Meanwhile, wash and drain the greens (arugula or baby spinach) you’re using. Shred chicken.

6.     When tomatoes have roasted for 10 – 12 minutes, put linguine in the pot of boiling water to cook according the package instructions. This should take about 7 – 8 minutes for al dente. Just before draining the pasta, add the baby spinach, if using, to wilt.

7.     Reserve 1/8 – 1/4 cup of pasta cooking water before draining the linguine and spinach in a colander. Return to pasta pot and stir in the pesto (and extra pasta water if the mixture seems dry). Add the shredded chicken, roasted tomatoes and arugula (if using) and toss before serving.

Chicken Pesto Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes

Chicken Pesto Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes

Enjoy with a glass of lusty, fruity red or an extra-dry, medium-bodied rose and perhaps a chunk of garlic bread on the side. “Cin-cin!”

 

 

Chocolate Chip Cookie Nirvana

30 Aug

I cannot believe it. I think I’ve finally landed on a chocolate chip cookie recipe I love. I am beyond excited . . . which is hilarious for a feminist teenager who eschewed home economics in favour of drafting classes.

But trust me, I haven’t needed to drafted a thing for years. There have, however, been many times a great chocolate chip cookie (CCC) would have solved many problems. Particularly for a feminist.

Susan's Nivana Chocolate Chip Cookies

Susan’s Nirvana Chocolate Chip Cookies

Having missed Mrs. Holmes’ rigorous Home Ec classes, I never grasped baking science. My culinary education advanced recently thanks to the amazing Tessa at Handle the Heat. A recent culinary graduate, Tessa undertook the onerous research of testing multiple variations on the classic “Tollhouse Cookie Recipe” (Canadian translation = chocolate chip cookie). See her incredible 2-part blog posts reporting on the results of each recipe variation she tested. Her photos of each cookie iteration, taste descriptions and comparisons were very helpful and easy to understand.

Take a gander at Tessa’s hard work and figure out what you like in a chocolate chip cookie. Then give her recommendations a try. I’m certainly glad I did.

Based on my ideal CCC — melt in your mouth softness, not too crispy or crumbly and plenty of chips — I selected options from among Tessa’s recipe variation(s). My choices rendered terrific cookies warm from the oven. They still made me happy when “tested” cold.

Soft centres, slightly crispy rims, not too sweet.

Soft centres, slightly crispy edges, not too sweet.

These are the types of ingredients and tools I used:

1.     I used no-salt butter brought to room temperature. In my family, we’d always used all-vegetable shortening for our CCCs. Next time, I may try 1/2 butter + 1/2 Butter-Flavoured Crisco All-Vegetable Shortening and see how that turns out.

2.     The flour was Robin Hood all-purpose unbleached — which gave me slightly off-white coloured cookies.

3.     I have a Black & Decker hand mixer, not a stand mixer. It seemed to do the job just fine.

4.     I used semi-sweet Hershey brand Chipits chocolate chips.

5.     Bake cookies on a rimless, metal cookie sheet (NOT dark-coloured non-stick sheets) lined with parchment paper. I found reasonably priced rimless metal sheets at Home Sense.

NO Non-Stick Baking Pans. Use rimless metal lined with parchment paper.

NO Non-Stick Baking Pans. Use rimless metal lined with parchment paper.

6.     Oven was pre-heated to 350 F, the oven rack set in the middle position.

7.     Eggs were large.

8.     I baked the cookies for 9 minutes, then turned the pan in the oven and baked for an addition 1 – 1.5 minutes. Next time, I’ll turn the cookie sheet half way through the nine minutes (to allow cookies to brown evenly). Nine minutes may prove long enough.

Here’s the recipe I chose:

SUSAN’S NIRVANA CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES    Makes:  20 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp                                  all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp                                                salt
  • 1/4 tsp                                                baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp                                                baking soda
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup or 1/4 lb)                unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp                               granulated white sugar
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp                               packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp +                                             vanilla extract
  • 1 large                                                 egg
  • 1 cup [250 mL]                                  semi-sweet chocolate chips

Instructions:

1.     Preheat oven to 350 F. Cover a rimless metal cookie sheet with parchment paper.

2.     In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Set aside.

3.     In a large bowl place room-temperature butter (slightly colder than room temp in a summer kitchen w/o air-conditioning), white and brown sugar. Using an electric mixer, beat until the sugar & butter are creamy.

4.     Add the vanilla extract and egg to the butter mixture and beat well to combine.

5.     Gradually add the dry ingredients (I added mine in 3 parts) and beat with mixer until dough is smooth.

6.     Using a wooden spoon, stir in chocolate chips until well-distributed throughout the dough.

7.     Scoop dough by 1.5 tablespoonfuls on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. The smaller dough balls made nicer looking cookies! Leave 2 – 3″ between cookies.

Leave plenty of room between 1.5 Tbsp-sized dough balls.

Leave plenty of room between 1.5 Tbsp-sized dough balls.

8.     Bake in centre of pre-heated 350 F oven for 9 – 11 minutes, turning the pan halfway through to ensure even browning of the cookies. SET A TIMER to avoid over-baking cookies.

9.     Allow cookies to cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheet before carefully moving to racks to cool completely.

10.    I kept the bowl of raw dough in the refrigerator between batches. Dough can be chilled in the fridge for 24 hours before baking.

Happy, Happy, Happy. FOund my chocolate chip nirvana. Thanks, Tessa!

Happy, Happy, Happy. Found my chocolate chip nirvana. Thanks, Tessa!

Care to share your favourite chocolate chip recipe? Or what you consider CCC nirvana?

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: