Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pesto Chicken and Green Bean Pasta

I love basil. It has so many uses and pesto is one of my favorites. I made pesto pasta with chicken and green beans and want to submit this to Presto Pasta Nights which was created by Ruth at Once Upon a Feast and is being hosted by Melissa at The Cooking Diva this week. Check it out on Friday to see everybody else's great entries! Happy early Halloween by the way!

Anyway, my basil plants flowered quite a while ago, and apparently (though I haven't tried it), after it flowers, the leaves become bitter. Does anyone know how to keep basil from flowering besides pinching them on a regular basis? Pinching is just way too labor intensive for a lazy girl like me...

Before the leaves got bitter, I took them all and made a big batch of pesto and froze it to use throughout the year. Usually, I use my food processor to make my pesto, but I decided to minimize the mess and try using my immersion stick blender. Even though it still tasted great, it made the pesto too smooth. I like a bit of chunkiness to mine, so next time, I'm switching back to my tried and true food processor method.

I also substituted chicken stock for most of the olive oil. Yes, it changes the taste a bit, but it's still good. Plus I've always found pesto sauce to be too oily anyway, so I prefer it this way. And it's healthier! Everybody wins! Yay!

As far as putting the pesto with chicken and green beans, that's something I learned from Paolo, the Italian grocer/restaurateur I met in Hong Kong who also taught me spaghetti bolognese and many other Italian goodies. According to him, the traditional way to eat pesto in Genoa is spaghetti, potatoes and green beans, and lemme tell you, it is dee-lish that way! But I figured with the pasta, I don't really need any more carbs, so I left out the potatoes and added some chicken to make a more well-rounded meal. It may not be as traditional, but it's still just as yummy.

Pesto Sauce:
(as usual, I don't actual measurements because I just eyeball things, sorry)
- Basil leaves (about 3-4 handfuls)
- Pine nuts (about 1 small handful)
- 2-3 garlic cloves
- Chicken stock/Olive oil
- grated Parmesan cheese (a healthy handful)
- Salt and pepper

This step is optional, but I like to toast my pine nuts in a dry pan to give it a bit more color and bring out the flavor and aroma.

Put the basil, pine nuts, garlic cloves and cheese in a food processor and pulse it a bit. Slowly add the chicken stock/olive oil while pulsing until it reaches the desired consistency. Try not to over-process it and leave it slightly chunky - unlike mine =(. It's less of an issue with a food processor than an immersion blender though.

Salt and pepper to taste (don't worry about this part too much because you can always adjust it when you actually use it).

Put them into small containers and freeze for future use. I find muffin tins to be a good size to freeze them in, and then transfer them to a ziploc bag after they've hardened.

Pesto Chicken and Green Bean Pasta:
- Chicken (I prefer boneless, skinless chicken thighs for this)
- Green beans
- Pasta
- Pesto sauce
- Salt and pepper
- Parmesan cheese (optional)

Salt and pepper the chicken and grill until cooked through and nicely browned. Let it rest for a few minutes and then cut it into bit size pieces. Set aside.

Boil the green beans until cooked through and drain. Set aside.

Cook pasta according to the directions on the package and drain. Set aside.

Mix the pasta, chicken, green beans and pesto sauce over low heat. Salt and pepper to taste and feel free to add a healthy dose of parmesan cheese on top too!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A year later...

I'm a bit late on posting this, but we had our one year anniversary a little while ago and our wonderful bakery gives us a FRESH anniversary cake instead of making us eat frozen one-year-old cake! All we had to do was bring in a picture of the original cake for their portfolio.

They even fashion the anniversary cake after the original with fondant, ribbon, flowers and all!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Japanese Curry

I had leftover katsu because I figure if I'm gonna make a mess breading and frying stuff, I might as well make extra, right? I also thought I'd mix things up a bit with the extra katsu and make some japanese curry to go with it for Katsu Curry!

In the end, the hubz and I decided we liked the katsu better with the katsu sauce and the curry on it's own over rice. Either way, japanese curry is a winner in my book =)

I'm also going to submit this entry to Joelen's October Tasty Tools event! She's highlighting Dutch Ovens this month and I can't even begin to tell you how much I loooooove my Le Creuset. Even though this dish can technically be made in any old pot, I used my Le Creuset dutch oven for it, so it qualifies for Joelen's event!

- 2/3 lbs ground meat (other non-ground meat like chicken or beef would be good too)
- 3 carrots peeled and chopped
- 1 onion diced

- 1 tsp minced ginger
- 1 potato diced

- 1 tbs of oil
- 2 tbs of flour
- 1 tsp of curry powder
- water or chicken broth as needed
- 2.5 blocks of S&B Golden Curry (pictured below)

Brown the meat and then remove it from the pot. Or if you're lazy like me, you can add it into the pot after sauteeing the onions and toasting the flour and curry powder.

Heat the oil and add the onions. Sautee until soft.

Add the flour and curry powder and toast until fragrant.

Add the ginger, carrots, potato, the browned meat and water/broth to deglaze the pan and make a sauce.

Add the blocks of curry and stir until melted. Simmer the curry until the vegetables are soft. Keep adding broth/water as needed and to make as much sauce as you'd like. Taste. If it needs, add more curry powder, salt, white pepper, etc as needed.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Chicken Katsu

Panko is everywhere these days, and why shouldn't it be? It makes things much lighter and crunchier than traditional bread crumbs - it's great!

Before the whole panko craze, I always kept it in my pantry for making katsu and it's still one my favorite uses for it. Just fry up a few of these babies and serve it with some rice and steamed or sauteed veggies and you've got a great meal. You can use pork instead of chicken for tonkatsu too!

- Chicken
- Flour
- Salt

- Egg
- Panko

- Oil

Take boneless, skinless chicken breast or thighs and either cut or pound them to an even thickness.

Mix the flour with a bit of salt in a plate. Mix an egg with a bit of water in another plate. Spread panko crumbs out in a third plate. Here's what my breading setup looked like.
Heat up enough oil to cover at least half the thickness of the chicken to about 300 degrees.

Take each piece of chicken and lightly coat it in the flour mixture and pat off the excess flour. Then drag it through the egg mixture and let the excess drip off. Lastly, pat it in the panko crumbs. I found that holding the corner of the chicken with your thumb and forefinger and dipping it in each mixture without letting go was the best way to go. Yes, one corner won't have breading, but honestly, after it's been fried up, you can't even tell which corner you were holding on to.

Next, carefully put it into the hot oil and fry it for a few minutes on each side until golden brown and cooked through.

Dip it in some katsu sauce and enjoy. You can probably make the sauce yourself with some ketchup, worcestire sauce, garlic powder and maybe some vinegar? Add some honey and/or brown sugar if you like the sweet hawaiian style sauce better. I've never tried making the sauce, but if I were to, I'd start with that and then make adjustments as needed. Or, you can just buy this -
I hope you like it!