As I mentioned in my previous post, I stopped by at Whole Foods and found really good quality greens. My finds included really fresh and good quality basil which were sold in huge bunches. They looked really good that I picked up a couple. I was planning on making a batch of pesto which is great to have around for quick pasta recipes, sauce for flat breads, and of course, panini... hehehe
The price per bunch is around $1.75 which is a steal considering the same amount of basil cost a little over $3 at Ralph's and Pavilions. I know because I checked those stores a couple of days ago but didn't get any since their basil didn't look very fresh...they looked like they have been sitting on the chiller for about a week or so. I do think the prices for fresh spices are outrageously high that sometimes it makes me want to plant my own...Oh, wait... I might end up killing them like I did my other plants...hehehe
Making your own pesto is really easy because it doesn't involve a lot of slicing or dicing. All you need to do is place all the ingredients in the food processor and let it do all the hard work. Washing all the small parts of the food processor afterwards though is the problem. Too many small parts to clean and wash which requires hand washing to remove all the food particle that gets stuck in the nooks and crannies. Having a homemade pesto though is, in my opinion, better than store-bought ones since you can control the amount of ingredients that you want to include. I, for one, like a lot of garlic in mine so I usually put a whole garlic head instead of just a few cloves. Besides, basil and pine nuts, you can practically use any nuts and greens of your choice to make pesto. Besides the traditional basil/pine nut pesto, I also like arugula and walnut combo.
After making the pesto, I made chicken pesto panini to go with the wild arugula salad. This is such an easy to make meal and with some shortcuts, they can be prepared in less than 30 minutes. Panini is nothing more than a grilled sandwich. No panini maker? No problem because you can use you stove top cast iron grill pan. Just make sure that it is well seasoned to avoid the panini from sticking otherwise you will have a mess on your hand. And believe me, cleaning a cast iron pan with burnt, stuck-on food is no fun. Besides the grill pan, you also need something to weigh your sandwich down. My Le Creuset wok's function has been redefined to double as the weight for making panini...hehehe.
2 cups packed fresh basil
1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
1 head of garlic, peeled (this is just based on my preference but you can use less if you prefer)
1/2 cups pine nuts
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Place garlic, pine nuts, and parmigiano reggiano in the food processor. Pulse for a few seconds.
2. Add basil and pulse some more until it is slightly chopped.
3. With the food processor still going, add the EVOO in steady stream until blended. Stop to scrape the sides occassionally and then pulse until well blened.
4. Season with sea salt and pepper according to taste.
Sweet Chili, Chicken, and Pesto Panini
skinless, boneless chicken breast, boiled and sliced
1 Cubanelle chili pepper - seeded, cored, and thinly sliced (or any sweet chili pepper variety)
Shredded mozzarella cheese
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
*** NOTE: you can determine the amount of ingredients to use per panini based on your preference.
1. Slice ciabatta into half. Spread pesto on each side of the ciabatta.
2. On one side, place one layer of chicken. Season with sea salt and pepper according to taste.
3. Add a layer of cubanelle chili pepper and top with mozzarella cheese.
4. Place the other halfof the ciabatta on top and set aside.
5. Heat your cast iron grill pan over medium heat.
6. Add about 1/2 a tsp of olive oil. Using a non-stick, heat-resistant basting brush, spread the oil all over the grill pan.
7. Position your panini in the middle of the pan. Place a layer of foil on top of the panini before placing you weight.
***make sure that the weight is stable and provides even weight on the panini. I used a cast iron pan and then topped that with a cast-iron wok to provide a a heavier weight on the sandwich.
8. Grill each side for about 3-4 minutes or until it is toasted according to your preference. When one side is done, use a spatula to turn it over and cook the other side using the same procedure.
9. When done, remove from heat and slice into two equal portion. Serve with potato chips, fried, salad or your choice of sides.