On Pesto, To Taste, & Bravery

A month ago, during the week of Easter, I did something outrageous, something totally unlike me, courtesy of something Frankie found and encouraged me to try. I filmed myself, which the help of Frankie & one of my besties who also happens to be a director & film maker, and submitted said film to Food Network (for Guy’s Next Big Project). Now, before I go further, no, I have not heard back, nor do I expect to because we essentially did the submission in roughly three hours, so it was rushed—bad, I know—but the point of this is that, for me, this was bold, terrifying, and exciting. I am just not the kind of person who normally seeks out the spotlight—though I guess this blog, in its own way, does kind of put me in the spotlight…but I can hide behind my words, behind my computer screen, in my apartment, whereas filming puts me front and center with no where to hide. It’s just not something I’m used to doing, but that’s what this whole 2017 experiment was all about. Getting outside of my comfort zone and doing things I didn’t think I could ever do. I mean, I did start this blog and have been doing my best to keep up with it, right? Right! And would I ever do something like that again? Actually, I would. Not for fame and glory, I’m not looking for that, but rather, I would do it again just to prove that I can do more than I think I can. If I’m learning anything, I’m learning to be brave.

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But enough about being brave, lets talk turkey, or rather chicken. Chicken Piccata from Diana Henry’s recipe book Simple And you might notice, I used chicken cutlets, rather than halving a chicken breast and just pounding it out a little, which is what I would have done under normal circumstances. However, to save time on cooking so I would have more time for filming, I did not—and in hindsight, maybe I should have been filming myself cooking a little too for my submission, but a lesson for next time to be sure. And frankly, while it’s not my favorite cut to cook with, there is nothing wrong with a chicken cutlet here and there, provided you don’t overcook it because it can get really tough given how thin it is. But a quick sear on medium-high heat, about 2 minutes, maybe 3 tops depending on the cut from your store, should be just right to keep it tender.

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Oh, and I adapted her lemon orzo that pairs very well with something like Chicken Piccata. You can make spaghetti, but there’s something really delightful about the texture of orzo that I almost prefer to spaghetti in dishes like this. However, I took some liberties, and kind of, on the spur, threw a quick pesto together because, as I thought about it, and Chicken Piccata is a pretty light colored dish (pop of parsley aside) and thought that a pesto orzo would just look better on the plate. So, I whipped together the parsley with a little basil, some pesto gevonese—you can buy jarred in any grocery store, and honestly is a quick way to help bolster the foundation of your pesto without having to filter through your grocer’s basil, which might not be as fresh, or economically friendly, as you would like—a little olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, and of course a dash of salt & pepper. Throw in the pesto, throw in your Parmesan, and voila! Lemon Pesto Orzo!

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Now, normally this is where I throw out some links to recipes for you to try, and provide you with my take on the pesto. Unfortunately, I made my pesto to taste, which frankly, is how I think most pesto’s are, and should, be made. The ratio between parsley to basil (if you want a combination) is purely to your own preference, but I think that’s what helps to make cooking so personal for you and your family. And pesto can be such a blank slate that it’s SO easy to jazz it up any way you want! Want to use a little sun-dried tomato in your mix? GO FOR IT! Want to add a little pine nuts, absolutely! Garlic? Done. Spinach or arugula? Both make GREAT alternatives for either parsley, or basil, or both! Want to change out regular table salt for pink Himalayan salt, which you can get at your grocer, spice shop, Marshalls, HomeGoods, or TJMaxx (yes, you read that right) and happens to have a lower sodium content than regular salt for those looking to watch their sodium intake. Not to mention it still has small amounts of other good stuff like potassium, calcium, iron, and magnesium! (For those who have used pink salt, but don’t notice a difference in taste, that’s true, there really isn’t one, but it’s fun to cook with and the added reduction of sodium is a plus I think.) But that’s my point! Pesto is whatever you want to make it, and why I just can’t possibly give definite measurements. What I can provide is a starting list of ingredients, things I have thrown together before, and then you can take it from there.

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And the same could go for Chicken Piccata, some like it breaded, others like it very lemony & capery, but me personally, it’s all about that buttery depth to the sauce, in addition to the lemon and capers.

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