There are dishes that appear to be very complicated, while they are not. As it was the case with my last night’s dinner, whose labor-to-yum ratio is extremely favorable. The whole meal start-to-finish took about 20 minutes to put together. It’s robust, bright in both color and flavor and irresistibly good looking. The secret is to keep everything separate until it’s time to serve — this way you’ll preserve the looks without sacrificing the quality. And when all the ooh’s and aah’s are over with and all stunning pictures for your brag book are taken, you can make a mess in a plate and enjoy. That’s all there is to it.
You will need a pasta cooking pot, a skillet for braising the chicken, a small skillet for toasting pumpkin seeds (skip this if you purchased pre-toasted ones), and a processor for your pesto.
Spinach & Pumpkin Seed Pesto Chicken
serves 6 hungry Italians
For the chicken:
- 2 large chicken breast halves
- 1 lemon (juice only)
- 3 tbsp cooking fat (I used rendered chicken fat, but butter or olive oil will do nicely)
- salt, pepper, dry oregano
For the pesto:
- 3 packed cups baby spinach
- 1 lemon – juice and zest
- 1/3 cups (or more) olive oil
- 3-4 scallions, green portion only
- 2-3 cloves garlic
- 1 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
- 3-4 tbs chopped parsley
- salt, pepper
- 1 lbs colorful pasta, not too small
- 1/2 tbsp coarse salt for toasting pumpkin seeds
- a few shavings of parmesan into each bowl at serving
- Start by boiling water for pasta in a large pot. Add some salt and olive oil to prevent pasta from sticking. When water is boiling, add pasta, stir, reduce heat to medium and cook until ready (9-12 minutes, depending on pasta type). Drain an set aside.
- While pasta is cooking, prepare the rest of the components simultaneously.
- Start by heating the cooking fat in a skillet over medium heat.
- Sprinkle chicken breast halves with salt, pepper and dry oregano all over.
- Place chicken in heated oil and cook on both sides for a short time (1 minute each).
- Add juice of 1 lemon to the skillet, reduce heat to medium/low and continue cooking, turning occasionally, until done (about 10 – 12 minutes). Set aside.
- If toasting pumpkin seeds, put 1/2 tbsp of coarse salt in a small (preferably cast iron) skillet over medium heat. Add pumpkin seeds. Toast seeds for a few minutes, stirring or shaking frequently, until they start to crack and turn golden. Turn off the heat and leave pumpkin seeds in the skillet until cool. When move seeds away from salt before using them. It won’t be hard, because they are lighter than coarse salt. Discard the salt.
- Now you are ready to prepare pesto.
- Reserve 1-2 tbsp of pumpkin seeds for garnish. Put the remaining pumpkin seeds and the rest of the pesto ingredients in a processor and hit pulse a few times at first, allowing everything to settle. Now turn the processor on and see if pesto is thin enough (consistency of pancake batter). If not, add a little more olive oil and/or lemon juice as you work the pesto.
- Slice or dice cooked chicken breasts.
- Assemble your dish in serving bowls: pasta, chicken, pesto, pumpkin seed sprinkle and shaved or grated parmesan.
- Now inhale deeply and try to say Spinach & Pumpkin Seed Pesto Chicken Pasta Bowl three times in a row fast. That’s it!