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.


Create an Herb Garden, Just About Anywhere

Who says you need a lush backyard with sprawling greens to grow your very own herbs? Ever since we moved into our brand spankin' new digs here in Jersey City, we've been harboring a pretty open obsession with the terrace. We filled it with a grill, some plants, flowers and a sweet little herb garden. I might be using the term garden a little...liberally. All it took was a $6 long plastic flower box, some potting soil and some starter herbs from Home Depot. While I was in Brooklyn celebrating Kim's birthday girls-night style, Shaun was home putting our little garden-that-could all together. It started out looking something like this:

And within a few short weeks, we had a lush green herb garden of our own, complete with bright herbs that not only look gorgeous but smelled delightful to boot. From left to right, Dill, Basil, Sweet Peas, Parsley.

Anxious to get cookin' with our new herbs, Shaun concocted a fun twist on the classic caprese salad. Using our freshly grown basil, Shaun and our new best friend, Mr. Weber, fixed a warm caprese salad that has become a nightly staple in recent weeks.

Grilled Caprese Salad
large heirloom tomatoes
fresh mozzerella
fresh basil
olive oil
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper

Heat up your grill, be it charcoal, gas or Foreman. Slice the tomato into thick slices. Chiffonade the basil, place atop the sliced tomato and top with a thick slice of fresh mozzerella. Drizzle a bit of olive oil, kosher salt and pepper and grill for a few minutes until the cheese is melted and the tomato has a bit of char on the edges. Enjoy!

And now we're in the midst of concocting lots of recipes to utilize our fresh herbs. Once they get growing, they tend to spring up pretty fast. The only way to keep 'em alive? Use them up in delicious dishes.

So there you have it - how you can make a mini herb garden just about anywhere, even on a tiny terrace outside your urban dwelling. We're just about thrilled that we no longer have to splurge $3 for a bundle of dill just so we can use a quarter of it for dill and yogurt dip, while the rest goes bad before being put to good use. And my Shrimp Sautee with Orzo will surely benefit from some fresh sprinkled parsley, rather than a few dried sprigs. But what about you? Are you of the grow-it-yourself mindset?