Dinner Tonight: 30-minute Entrees
Chicken with pesto, tomatoes
Reaching back for an old favorite, give or take the pasta
Chicken with pesto: This dish makes a light supper for a hot summer night. But if you want something more substantial, stir in a pound of cooked and cooled penne pasta. (E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune)
With summery basil pesto on my mind, and the desire to do something other than dressing pasta, I recalled a favorite dish from the famed Zingerman's Delicatessen in Ann Arbor, Mich. It was a cold chicken, pesto and fresh tomato salad, the alchemy achieving greatness beyond the simple ingredients. But I couldn't remember: Did it have walnuts too? Or another something? It was years ago, nearly 20, so memory failed.
A conversation with Rick Strutz, a partner in Zingerman's, confirmed that, yes, they have such a dish (and, yes, with walnuts), but it has always been made with pasta. Did I have it wrong? Did what I ate include pasta?
Either way, it's delicious. Strutz shared the recipe, which revealed that the sauce was bolstered by a little mayonnaise (for creaminess) and lemon juice and vinegar, which impart contrasting acids. We've adapted their deli-size recipe for the home kitchen, leaving out the pasta, just because that's the way I remember it.
The dish here makes a light supper for a hot summer night. But if you want something more substantial, stir in a pound of cooked and cooled penne pasta.
And remember to toast — both the dish and our food memories — with a crisp, cold rosé.
Chicken with pesto, tomatoes and walnuts
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 12 minutes
Note: Adapted from Zingerman's, which uses an imported jarred pesto. Sub with homemade pesto, if you're inclined to take advantage of summer's bountiful fresh basil and make it.
3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup basil pesto, jarred or homemade
1 to 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Freshly ground pepper
2 pints cherry tomatoes, in assorted colors, halved
1/2 to 1 cup walnut pieces, toasted
6 ounces arugula leaves or other salad greens
1. Place the chicken in a large saucepan; add water to cover. Add salt. Heat to a simmer; cover, cook until just done, 12 minutes. Do not allow to boil. Cool to room temperature. Thinly slice crosswise.
2. Meanwhile, stir the pesto, mayonnaise, lemon juice, vinegar and pepper to taste together in a small bowl to form a dressing. Combine with the chicken in a large bowl. Stir in the tomatoes and walnuts. Serve on a bed of arugula leaves.
Per serving: 333 calories, 21 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 61 mg cholesterol, 12 g carbohydrates, 27 g protein, 212 mg sodium, 4 g fiber.