Provolone Stuffed Chicken with Pesto & Quinoa

Though our beautiful herb garden kicked the proverbial bucket during this extremely hot summer combined with our constant vagabond state, we do have one potted sweet basil plant that is alive and well.

Since we had accumulated lots of leaves, all looking ripe and ready to eat, I thought that a quick and easy pesto was just the ticket to a simple, yet flavorful Monday dinner. By substituting traditional pine nuts with walnuts that we already had on hand, this dish was comprised of all work with what we have ingredients.

This dish was really a team effort. While I made the pesto, Shaun cooked up an idea to turn the ordinary chicken breasts from bland and boring to juicy and mmmm-inducing. Rather than simply grill up the chicken, he seasoned and stuffed them with a slice of provolone cheese, adding that extra oomph that rounded out the dish.

Provolone Stuffed Chicken with Pesto & Quinoa
For the chicken:
1 lb chicken breasts (3-4 pieces)
3-4 slices provolone or mozzarella cheese
kosher salt or Lawry's seasoning salt
black pepper
For the pesto:
2 C fresh basil
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
1/4 C walnuts, lightly toasted
1 small clove garlic
1/2 C parmesean or peccorino, grated
For the quinoa:
1 C organic, dried quinoa
1 14oz can low sodium chicken broth

Get your grill heated and ready. Butterfly the chicken breasts, stuff with provolone cheese and secure with toothpicks to keep it all together. Season with salt and pepper and grill. Meanwhile, in a food processor, add the basil leaves, lightly toasted walnuts (you can just toss these in a small skillet for a few minutes until they are fragrant - but don't let them burn!), and one small garlic clove. Note: I used two large garlic cloves and was tasting garlic for the next 24 hours. Unless you’re trying to keep those hot vampires away, then I recommend using at least half as much garlic as I did.

Pulse until combined. With the motor running, add 1/2 C olive oil and process until smooth. Add salt to taste, but keep in mind that you will also be adding grated cheese so don't over do it!

Remove from the processor and stir in the grated cheese. This will soak up some of the excess oil and give it that extra depth of deliciousness.

Meanwhile, rinse your quinoa thoroughly. I used a sieve to rinse mine. Next, combine this in a saucepan with one can of low sodium chicken broth and 1/4C of water. Bring it all to a boil and then simmer until the quinoa has soaked up all the liquid. Follow the package directions for cooking time - mine took about 15 minutes.

Once chicken is grilled, serve over quinoa and slather some pesto on top. The result is nothing short of mouthwatering. In fact, Shaun and I agreed that this is one of our best creations yet.

So there you have it. A homemade Monday night dinner that was not only full of flavor but healthy to boot. And the fact that we used homegrown basil - that was F-R-E-E, I might add - was just the icing on the cake. I've never had a dish taste so fresh and look so green! And what I'd love to know is, do you cook with fresh ingredients? Have you ever tried quinoa? It was our first foray and I'm converted!

Psst...want to know how to make your own herb garden, just about anywhere? Check out this article.


It's a Manhattan Barbeque Block Party

Meat lovers rejoice! Remember this article? Scratch it (for now). Forget the restaurants for the weekend, and hit up some genuine, outdoor expert grilling. On June 13-14, award-winning pitmasters across the nation unite (including NYC's own Blue Smoke & Dinosaur Bar-B-Que) as Madison Square Park is transformed into an all out feast at the Snapple Big Apple Barbeque Block Party.
Ok, so this two-day event won't feature fireworks and stick ball. But it will feature food, drink, cooking demonstrations, live music...for very limited $$. While the event itself, musical performances, cooking demonstrations, and seminars are free, you'll have to shell out a little cash for food, drink, and souvenirs.

General Food Breakdown

Plate o'BBQ (including, but not limited to ribs, brisket, pulled pork, sausage, beans, and slaw): $8
Desserts (not sure what this entails, but you can bet I'm going to find out): $4
Beverages (Snapple, Coke, beer & wine): $2-6

In my opinion, the only way to do summer is to include grilled meat, and what better opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy summer food? In Manhattan, this is about as good as it gets. Bonus: Proceeds go to support the Madison Square Park Conservancy, the organization dedicated to preserving the park. I'll be there on Sunday, June 14th, so check back for photos, videos and reviews! And if you want to join me, post in comments!
For complete event info, hit up the official site.
You can also visit their Facebook page and Become a Fan (like me!).

*Madison Square Park is located in the Flatiron District, between Fifth and Madison Avenues and 23rd and 26th Streets