This birthday present will inspire many dinners
If I had to create a list of essential kitchen tools, a large stone mortal and pestle would be in the top 20. It is definitely a piece that I will use on a weekly basis. With the smooth stone exterior, it is so pretty on the kitchen counter. With the rough interior of the mortar bowl and the perfect grinding surface on the pestle, tonight I had homemade pesto in five minutes.
Oh my, and what a delicious pesto it was! My youngest declined the sauce on her chicken and pasta. Being that is was green and fragrant with garlic, it caused facial contortions of dislike. No matter, more for the rest of us!
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After a day away at meetings, I arrived home to hungry kids. I started my largest pan over medium high heat with a tablespoon of olive oil poured in to heat, shimmering and dancing across the surface. While this is working I put a large stock pot of generously (1 tablespoon per gallon) salted water on to boil. Now the oil is ready for the chicken to begin browning. I add the boned, skinned cutlets to the pan and turn my attention to the pesto. I skin the garlic, stem the basil and add the first ingredients to the bowl of the mortar. I can smell the chicken cooking, always a good indication of progress, so I turn back to the stove.
After flipping the chicken over, I add the pasta to the boiling water. With a quick stir of the noodles, I am ready to crush and grind some sauce. Four steps, two of grinding ingredients and two of stirring in additions, and the pesto is ready.
While you can thin your pesto with some of the pasta cooking water, the culinary science this evening dictated that the heat of the chicken and the residual starch on the surface of the pasta made thinning an unnecessary step.
I first save about 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta water, in case I need or want to thin the sauce. Tonight I didn't need this extra ingredient, but you never know. Pascal's Wager is a good treatment of pasta water, always save some just in case. Then I drain but I do not rinse the paste. I plate an unadorned chicken breast and simple noodle for the youngest and serve.
Next, I plate a hot chicken breast for the teenager, spooning some pesto over the steaming entree. The heat from the chicken will soften the sauce and meld it with the meat. I add some plain noodles to the plate for him and serve.
For myself, it is pesto with everything. I plate some paste, add a chicken breast cantilevered over half the noodles. I spoon pesto on both my chicken and my noodles. Once seated, I stir the now warmed pesto into my noodles to distribute, I smooth the sauce evenly over my chicken and I dig in.
Oh my. So very, very good. Only 30 minutes from starting to heat the first pan for the chicken to sitting down at the table with my fork and knife in hand. Perfect.
This is just one of many 30 minute, family friendly meals that are in my cooking arsenal. Healthier for your family and happier for your budget.