Wednesday, August 26, 2009

9:36 (Tomato Corn Chutney)

BOOM….. BOOM …..boom boom boom boom… Boom……boom boom

With the exception of one summer that I spent in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, just about every summer night of my life has been punctuated by the Disneyland fireworks.

These days Disneyland's fireworks fill the skies on weekends during the rest of the year, too. But I equate them with summer. Depending on where you are located you might see them; but most often you hear them in the distance. And from whatever reason I always glance at the clock and announce, “9:36,” which more often than not is the time on the clock when the sound reaches us.

It is strangely reassuring.

Last night we watched the Disneyland fireworks light up the sky as we whizzed along the 57 freeway past a packed Anaheim Stadium and equally full Honda Center parking lot. I felt a tad sad, knowing that soon this would be a summer memory. But was also curious about what will fill the void left in my future summer nights.

I’m looking forward to summer evenings watching fireflies, which I saw for the first time last year (until then my firefly experience had been limited to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, again a Disneyland reference). I’m sure they will torment our little Scottie dog who has a thing for bright lights and shadows. I can already hear my niece Katie squealing with delight.

Tonight’s recipe is one that often makes an appearance of a summer night as well. A rich tomato corn chutney that celebrates some of the best flavors that summer has to offer. I’m looking forward to making it with Katie and enjoying it after a night of chasing fireflies.

Tomato Corn Chutney

  • 1 medium red onion - diced
  • 1 basket cherry or grape tomatoes - halved
  • 2 ears corn, kernels removed (or 1/2 bag frozen corn thawed)
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 sprigs thyme (or 1 tsp dry)
  • 1 clove garlic, slivered
  • 1 T red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

  • In large sauté pan, heat the oil, cook the onions over medium heat until just beyond the translucent stage
  • Add the thyme, cherry tomatoes and the garlic – cook over medium low heat until caramelized. This step requires patience.
  • Add in the corn and saute until heated through.
  • Lower the heat and stir in vinegar, combine well.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste

Serve hot, at room temperature as a side dish or cold as condiment for grilled chicken

Enjoy!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Savoring Saturday Mornings (Sautéed Eggs with Shallots)

Today is a big day – our buyers will do their final walk through, and I am finally going to start packing. So far Steve has carried the brunt of this chore and has made significant progress. Now it is time for me to roll up my sleeves and do my part.

But first… Saturday morning.

I’ve always loved Saturdays. Hopefully no office work to be done. A day for chores and errands. Maybe a walk or other exercise with friends. And Saturday mornings. Truly the best morning of the week.

I’m up and out early Monday through Friday. Saturdays take a much leisurely pace. Coffee with Steve on that patio or in the living room, rather than in a go-cup on the road. And an egg with toast for breakfast, rather than my normal yogurt with fruit and Uncle Sam or Grape-nuts sprinkled on top (usually eaten at my desk, often with the mute button on so the other people on the my first conference call don’t hear me crunching).

The egg truly lives up to its “perfect food” status. Omelets, poached, scrambled, fried. You really can’t mess them up.

This morning I made my take on the fried egg -- sautéed with shallots and olive oil served with hearty Best Bread from Orowheat. It will serve us well as we pack up the bedrooms and home office.

Here’s how to do it.

Sautéed (because us Southern Californians can’t say Fried) Eggs with Shallots

Serves two

Ingredients

  • 4 large or extra large eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (coat the bottom of the pan, plus a smidge)
  • 2 Tablespoons minced shallots
  • Pinch Salt
  • Grind of black pepper to taste
  • 2 pieces toast made with hearty whole grain bread (we like Orowheat’s Best Bread)

Method:

  • Heat a skillet large enough for cooking four eggs
  • Coat the bottom of the pan with the olive oil and then add a bit more
  • Add the shallots, salt and pepper to the pan
  • Sauté the shallots until soft
  • Crack the eggs into the pan
  • Cover with a lid or another pan
  • Cook over medium heat until most of the whites are set
  • Flip eggs and continue cooking for a minute or so to slightly set the yolk
  • Slide the eggs onto the toast.

Enjoy.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Promise of Local Fare Right Outside Our Door (Farmers Market Chicken Salad with Pepita Cilantro Dressing)

The other day I chatted with the woman who owns the furnished townhouse we will live in for the next two to three months. She lives in Ohio, spends the winters in Chapel Hill, and won’t need the place until December. The timing is perfect for us as we get our sea legs and find and purchase a home.

The trend in Chapel Hill is to create little “villages” that include a small city-center with shops, restaurants and other amenities. Our temporary rental home is in just that kind of development, and looks out on a pretty little park that is home to summer concerts and movie series, art festivals and a weekly farmers’ market.

A farmers’ market right outside my door. I will have died and gone to heaven.

I am a long-time fan of farmers’ markets. I love perusing the stalls, chatting it up with the vendors and learning about new and different produce. I have a little wire cart that I use for these weekly excursions. Here in Southern California my bounty typically includes strawberries that are red all the way thru, buttery avocados that replace mayonnaise in our sandwiches, cilantro, spicy and hot peppers, squash, beets and crisp seasonal apples that come up from San Diego County.

I have no idea what I will find when I hit my new farmer’s market, but I can’t wait. My brother tells me that local food movement is a strong one. And yes, I will conquer okra.

The following salad is one that I often make after a trek to our local farmers’ stands. It was inspired by a yummy salad that often get at the El Torito Grill that is down the hill from Brea Olinda High School – but with less fat, since I make it with fat free Fage Greek Yogurt.

Whether you use veg from a local farm or your local store, I hope you make up a batch of this soon.

P.S. The dressing is GREAT as a dip and sandwich spread as well.

Farmers Market Salad with Grilled Chicken and Lower-Fat Cilantro Pepita Dressing

4 meal-sized portions, with dressing to spare

Dressing ingredients

  • 1 large or two small garlic cloves
  • 2 small containers Fat Free Fage Greek Yogurt (12 oz total) (from Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, or similar market) - Note, if you can't get this brand of yogurt, substitute low fat sour cream. Don't use normal plain yogurt. Yuck.
  • 2 T mayonnaise
  • 1/8 cup cider vinegar
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp ground cumin
  • 2 bunches of cilantro, stems removed (just twist ‘em off, no need to get crazy about removing every little stem)
  • ¼ cup roasted/toasted pepitas (I prefer to buy raw and toast in a pan or roast in the oven, but pre-roasted will do just fine.

Dressing Directions:

In the food processor with steel blade:

  • Pulse garlic until fine, scrape down bowl
  • Add yogurt, mayo, vinegar, lime juice, salt, pepper and cumin – mix until well mixed and very smooth.
  • Add cilantro and pulse until cilantro is finely chopped and incorporated into the mixture
  • Add pepitas and pulse until chopped and incorporated
  • Season to taste.

Grilled Cilantro Chicken Marinade

  • 1 clove garlic, grated with microplane or chopped very fine
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • ¼ tsp cumin
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 8 chicken tenders

Grilled chicken directions

  • Combine all ingredients in a plastic storage bag and marinade 30 minutes or up to 3 hours.
  • Grill chicken 3 – 5 minutes each side, or until juice runs clear. No more than 10 minutes!
  • Remove chicken from grill, tent with foil for 10 minutes
  • Cut into bite sized pieces.

Salad ingredients

  • 3 hearts of romaine, chopped
  • ¼ Cup roasted/toasted pepitas
  • 4 green onions (scallions) chopped
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • Kernels from 2 ears of corn (see August 13 post for method) or 1 ½ cups thawed frozen corn (get the frozen roasted corn from Trader Joe’s if possible)
  • 2 avocados, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • ½ cup cojita cheese or other Mexican cheese (optional)
  • Lime wedges for garnish (optional)
  • Slightly crushed tortilla chips (optional)

To Assemble salad:

  • Toss all salad ingredients except for cheese with enough dressing to coat greens, but not drench.
  • Add chicken, chicken and tortilla chips and toss if serving for a crowd; for individual servings, plate the salad and top with chicken, cheese and chips. Serve lime wedges on the side.

Enjoy!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

"Until Next Time" Lunch at Norstrom (Lime Cilantro Salad with Shrimp)

My now retired brown Norstrom was my first credit card. Replaced by a new silver hologram version a while back, it has served me well.

I've spent many hours at that store. I’ve celebrated there (looking for a dress to marry Steve in), I’ve grieved there (shopping with my mother a few days before my father’s funeral) and for the past three years I’ve met girlfriends for lunch at the Nordstrom near my office in the Irvine Spectrum (you can get there and back within a 60 minute lunch-break, plus you can scope out the new arrivals as you dash in and out of the store).

I started lunching at Nordstom with my mother who was a true Nordie aficionado. She often told a story about how when she was in her 20s in Los Angeles she would go to a department store called Hagarty’s. When she walked in the door, she said she felt “changed.” Head held high and with a certain air of confidence that comes with a new pair of shoes, I saw that look on her often at Nordstrom.

I thought that story of hers as I ascended the escalator at the Spectrum Nordstrom yesterday. I was en route to an “until next time” lunch with my dear friend and colleague, Ingrid. Ingrid was the first member of the HB Marketing & Communications team of consultants. We worked together via email and phone and kept my little business humming. Ironically, it took us three years to meet in person, but we talked every day. Mostly about business, but also about life. She is one of my dearest friends. And yes, I started to cry when I saw her.

Tears wiped away and a with vow not to never really say good bye, we covered more topics than should be possible in a 50 minute span. The lunch date was too short. They always are. But I’m so glad we made the time. And I look forward to seeing her next time our paths cross again.

Tonight I recreated my favorite Nordstrom salad, which I had for lunch yesterday. I think I got it pretty close. Give it a try and let me know what you think:

Lime Cilantro Salad with Shrimp

Inspired by Nordstrom Café

Serves 2 (entre size, or 4 starter size)

Salad Ingredients:

  • 10 – 12 medium/large sized shrimp, shelled and deveined (not jumbo or tiger)
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 tsp Emeril’s Essence seasoning
  • 1 ear corn
  • ½ Heart of Romaine lettuce (torn)
  • 2 big handfuls of Spring Salad mix
  • 1 cup diced jicama (1/2 inch dice)
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 small (Hass variety) avocado or ½ large avocado (Reed variety – tpically found in California Farmers Markets - if you see 'em buy 'em, they are amazing)
  • ½ cup Jack cheese, shredded (divided in half – ¼ cup for the salad and reserve ¼ cup for garnish)
  • Small handful of crushed tortilla chips per serving
  • Lime Cilantro Dressing (recipe follows)

Lime Cilantro Dressing

Shake in a glass jar:

  • Juice of one lime
  • ½ tsp of lime zest
  • 2 Tbs rice wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbs chopped cilantro
  • 1 Tbs fine chopped shallot
  • 3 Tbs walnut oil (or other light colored oil)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp cracked pepper

Method:

Pepare the shrimp

  • Toss the shrimp, olive oil and Emeril’s Essence in a medium sized bowl. Set aside.

Prepare the Corn

  • Fill a medium sized pot with cold water
  • Break the cob of corn in half
  • Put in the water, put heat to high until boiling.
  • When the water boils, put on the lid and turn off the heat.
  • Let sit for 5 minutes
  • As the corn cooks, fill a medium sized bowl with ice water
  • At the end of 5 minutes, remove the corn and place it in the water to cool
  • When cool use a large knife to shave off the kernals. This will be easier because you can balance the cut side of the corn on the cutting board. (I discovered this tonight!)

Grill the shrimp

The trick here is not to over cook them. If you don’t have one of those perforated flat surfaces made for grilling seafood or veggies, you can put them on skewers so they don’t fall thru the grates. Either way, they are done when they are pink. Don’t over do it!

Assemble the salad

  • Toss everything EXCEPT the shrimp, cheese and tortilla chips in a large salad bowl with the salad dressing.
  • Portion onto plates.
  • Top with shrimp
  • Garnish with cheese and crushed chips

Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Picnic with Gal Pals (Lemony Zesty Humus)

The past two weeks have been a whirlwind of celebrations. Some large, some small. But each one special in its own way.

The Southern California sun rose slowly this past Sunday to reveal a beautiful day. Warm but not hot. Breezy but not a Santa Ana gale. A perfect day for a picnic, and as luck would have it that is exactly what was in store.

I have been blessed to have many dear friends who first entered my life as professional colleagues. We can be an interesting breed, us PR folk. We can get sucked into our work and sometimes forget to look up and see what is going on around us. Our spouses must be tolerant, our friends forgiving. The good news – most of us play as hard as we work. We love a good time, and know how to throw a damn good party. If I do say so myself.

So on a perfect Southern California Sunday I was excited as I headed to Laguna for a picnic with a small group of Orange County’s finest PR women – who are also some of my very dearest friends.

With our busy lives, this little band of PR (dare I say) divas only gets together once or twice a year. But the bond between is strong. We’ve had our business ups and downs. Lost parents. Gained husbands. Watched our children (all boys) grow up and leave the nest for college. A couple of years ago, one of our little group moved to Memphis; now I’m also heading to the southeast.

I love these wonderful women. I love their strength. I love their passion. Their humor and also their conviction in what they believe.

I also love the fact that they can pull together a picnic like the one we had Sunday with absolutely no effort. A veritable feast of appetizers and chocolate, complete with French champagne, a dry Italian rose and a sip or two of California merlot (to round out that chocolate course).

Here’s the humus I contributed, which pairs quite well with champagne. I hope you make it for friends and enjoy it as much as we did.

Lemony Zesty Humus

Note, this does not call for tahini paste. I read the back of the jar and decided that there is just too much fat, especially when you add all the olive oil. Plus, it’s pricy. This is surprisingly good without it. Very fresh and a bit lighter than normal.

Ingredients

  • 1, 15 oz can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1, 15 oz can cannellini or white northern beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 small or 1 large clove garlic, grated with a micro-plane or crushed into a paste with a large knife and a bit of salt
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds, toasted in a skillet until fragrant and cooled
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • ½ cup flat leaf parsley (whole leaves – a bit of the stem is OK, just rip off a handful and eyeball it.)
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • A handful (1/4 cup or so) pomegranate seeds, if available (this is how I serve this in the late fall/winter when they are in season)

Method:

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse until combined and crumbly:

  • The drained beans
  • Garlic
  • Cumin
  • Lemon juice and zest
  • Salt

Now set the processor to the continuous mix setting

  • Stream in the olive oil
  • Stop and scrape down the sides
  • Pulse a few times more.
  • Add the parsley
  • Whirl until smooth.

Adjust seasoning to taste.

Spoon into the center of a plate, about a half-inch to one inch thick, with a drizzle of olive oil. Garnish with cracked pepper. Scatter the pomegranate seeds if you are using the.

Serve with crusty bread, pita wedges and/or veggies.

Enjoy.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Vinny on the TV, Dinner on the Grill (Rosemary/Garlic/Lemon Rubbed Salmon)

Among the things I will miss about California: Dodger games called by Vince Scully. We listened to him earlier this week as Steve grilled salmon that I served with a light sauté of summer veg.

With Vinny in the background and the smell and sounds of the grill, I felt like I was back home in Whittier. Vinny can call an entire game and never use the words “me” or “I.” Those goofballs who call the Angel games should take a lesson. Don’t get me started… but back to the grill…

Until the Webber BBQ came on the scene my father went through more hibachis than most people have in a lifetime. He literally burnt them out. I can still see him crouched down cooking dinner on his little cast iron hibachi next to the ubiquitous Southern California dwarf lemon tree and box garden of parsley and chives. Later the Webber Kettle BBQ came along and he got to grill standing up. No wonder he was among the first to have one!

Rain or shine. Daddy would cook prime Manning’s Beef steaks; succulent lamb skewers from our Armenian butchers, Souren and Voc; and fresh sea fish that he caught with his buddies in the deep Pacific waters off of Oceanside. I don’t remember anything every being over-cooked or over-thought. Everything was simply done and delicious.

While more bass and albacore graced the Billings family grill, I sure we had salmon now and then. The following recipe is my favorite preparation on this tasty fish. With a hint of lemon, rosemary and garlic it is a perfect light summer meal. If salmon is not your deal, this same preparation is also excellent on other fish, as well as chicken and pork.

Rosemary/Garlic/Lemon Rubbed Salmon

Measurements are sketchy on this one. Sorry, that’s just the way it is…

For each two-person portion of salmon, with skin on:

Prep the Rub:

Combine and chop up together so that the mixture is REALLY fine:

  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced REALLY fine
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, chopped REALLY fine (do you see a trend here?)

Prep the Fish

  • Put about a teaspoon of olive oil on a plate, put the fish skin side down on the plate and wiggle it around to lightly coat the skin.
  • Sprinkle the fish with a pinch or so of kosher salt
  • Pat the lemon zest/garlic/rosemary seasoning mixture into the flesh side of the fish.
  • Pour about a tsp or two of olive oil into the palm of your hand and rub your hands together. Now pat down the fish so that the seasoning mixture is lightly coated with the oil.

Now to the grill!

  • Heat your grill on medium high
  • Cook the fish skin side first, lid closed for 7 minutes
  • Flip the fish
  • Cook flesh side down for 5 minutes or until cooked to the way you like it. We err on the side of underdone. It will continue to cook on the plate (as my father used to say).

Remove the fish, allow to rest for 5 minutes or so and serve.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Social Networking and a Walk on the Beach (Jeff’s SoCal Egg Soufflé Casserole)

If you are reading this blog you know all about social networking. But this past Saturday, I was witness to what I feel is the its true meaning.

A few months ago I was looking for a way to get some exercise on Saturday mornings when Steve was working at Black Gold Golf Course. So I started a walking group on Facebook, and invited a few of my OC Friends to join.

Next I created an event – a walk on the beach at Crystal Cove. A very diverse group joined me for that walk, including a high school and college pal, friends from work, former colleagues from agencies I worked with in the 80s and 90s, and a couple of former clients. We set off walking and by the end of our trek up and down the beach, everyone became fast friends and four or five miles later we enjoyed post-walk beverages at Starbucks.

Subsequent walks have taken us to Balboa Island, Newport Back Bay, and this week the beautiful beach at Salt Creek in Dana Point. The Facebook “No Name OC Walking Group” has grown to 23 members and anywhere from 6 – 13 folks have shown up for any given walk. Anyone can invite friends. Anyone can organize a walking event.

Friendships and business connections have been made on these walks that bring together people whose paths might not have otherwise crossed. In my book, the group represents social networking at its fines. From the computer screen to face-to-face.

Last week’s walk was more than likely my last with the group. Afterwards, walk organizer Jeff Gillis surprised us with a simple and lovely brunch at his home in Laguna.

Orange juice freshly squeezed picked from Jeff’s backyard tree turned into a refreshing and tasty mimosa that we enjoyed as he warmed a yummy egg soufflé casserole that reminded me of how important Ortega chilies are to our local cuisine.

Since before I can remember, a can Ortega chilies has been a kitchen staple. Perfect on a tuna melt, wonderful in a quick dip or in chicken enchiladas, and even better in scrambled – or now souffléd – eggs.

This one is a keeper. Thanks, Jeff for sharing this recipe with me and most of all for your friendship.

Ingredients:

  • 10 Eggs
  • 1 pint cottage cheese (nonfat is OK)
  • 1 pound shredded cheese (sharp cheddar is best)
  • 1 stick melted butter
  • 2 cans 4 oz. chilies (Jeff says to choose your spice level, so theoretically you could do jalapeño, but I say Ortega chili is the only way to go)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Method

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Mix all wet ingredients.
  • Fold in dry ingredients until well incorporate (don't over-mix).
  • Put mixture in 9x13 inch pan (no need to grease pan, but you can spray with oil if you like).
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes on middle rack. Let rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

Bon appétit!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Escape Plan (Summer Pesto Chicken Pasta)

Sheryl and I met in college – my freshman year, her sophomore year – outside the big theater style room at Cal State Fullerton when we took a class called History of Radio, TV and Film. I remember thinking it was pretty darn cool to get to watch old movies and news clips for a grade. If this was college, I knew I was going to like it.

The class was a fairly early one, as I recall, and our friendship grew over coffee, bagels and cream cheese from the Student Union.

Since then, our friendship has had its peaks and valleys. With marriages, kids careers… there were times when we went months without talking and others when we talked every day. I often note that she’s the only “college friend” I have from that sea of students that passed through the CSUF Communications department during the years we were there. Frankly, I’ve never needed more.

So it is fitting that Sheryl would volunteer to drive cross-country with me when Steve and I make the big move to North Carolina later this month. Steve and our Scottish terrier, CurveBall, will head out first and arrive a few short days later to supervise the arrival of our life’s possessions. In true Steve Barnett style they will drive guy-style; stopping to eat, sleep and not much more.

Us girls…. Well, let’s just say we will take more leisurely approach.

Last night we got together to plan the trip. In true Sheryl fashion, she had the whole thing mapped out. Rest stops, hotels, and entertainment for a trip that will wind our way from Orange County to Chapel Hill via Flagstaff, Santa Fe, Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga and Asheville. Oklahoma City is in there somewhere, I think, but it is just a hotel stop. No offense, OK City.

We figure it will take a full week. I can’t wait!

Our evening was complete with great wine and a warm pasta dish that is great for an evening with friends on a hot summer night. Sheryl was a true pal and wrote down what I did so I could share it with you. I actually grilled an entire whole chicken (split and pressed flat) so that we’d have leftovers for next week. To simplify matters, I’m providing the recipe below using two large chicken breasts. The choice is yours.

Summer Pesto Chicken Pasta

Note, this is easier and faster than it appears… and is a great meal to cook with friends over a glass of wine. We like it in the summer because is served warm, with the “cooking” of the sauce coming from the heat of the pasta and chicken as it is tossed with the room temperature pesto and tomatoes. (Oh, and if by chance there are leftovers, it is amazing cold!)

Serves 4


Ingredients

  • 2 large chicken breasts, with bone and skin. Brined (see below)
  • Emeril’s Original Essence seasoning and cracked black pepper – to cover both sides of the chicken
  • 2 cups (firmly packed) fresh basil leaves. (This equates to an entire large package fo fresh basil from Trader Joes, or 1 large very large bunch from a farmer’s market. Stems removed.)
  • Either ¾ cups walnuts or ½ cups pine nuts, toasted in a skillet until fragrant and then cooled
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, grated on a micro plane, or mashed into a paste (the idea here is that you want a hint of garlic and not raw chunks)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese
  • 2 large heirloom or 3 farm stand tomatoes (look for the heirlooms as their seed to flesh ration is much lower.
  • 8 oz dry rigatoni pasta – and yes, you need to use rigatoni. Penne won’t stand up to this dish

Brining liquid

  • ¼ cup kosher salt
  • 1/8 cup Emeril’s Original Essence
  • 1 clove of garlic, smashed
  • Cold water to cover the chicken in a stockpot

Method:

Brine and Grill the Chicken

Mix the dry brining liquid ingredients in a stockpot; Add 1 or 2 inches of water; stir to dissolve the salt as much as possible. Add the chicken and the garlic. Cover the chicken with cold water. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 2 – 6 hours. (Trust me – this step is worth it and results in amazingly moist and tender meat. Once you brine poultry you will never go back!)

After the allotted time, remove the chicken and pat it dry. Dust it with Emeril’s Original Essence and fresh cracked pepper.

Grill on a medium high flame (gas) or ash white coals until done, typically about 5 – 7 minutes per side. Remove the chicken, tent with foil and let rest for 10 minutes. Then remove the skin and cut the chicken into 1-inch chunks. Cover with foil to keep warm.

Prep the Tomatoes and Pesto:

While the chicken is brining you can prepare the tomatoes and pesto.

To prepare the tomatoes, chop them into 1-inch chunks, place them in a medium sized bowl and sprinkle them with a pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of pepper. Set them on the kitchen counter until needed. DO NOT put in the refrigerator.

Then make the pesto. In a food processor, pulse the basil, nuts, lemon juice, lemon zest, water, garlic and salt until well chopped. Then whirl in the processor as you stream in the olive oil. Scrape the sides mid-way. Do not add the cheese. That comes later. Scrape this mixture into a large bowl. Don’t be alarmed if this tastes bland. The flavors need to come together, plus it is lacking cheese, which will come later. (Sheryl told me to make sure to tell you that.)

Toss the tomatoes with a little salt and pepper and allow them to rest in a separate bowl. If you can’t find heirlooms and need to use everyday tomatoes, slice them in half before you cut them into chunks and squeeze out as much of the water and seeds as possible. You will appreciate this extra step later when your sauce is not watery.

Cook the Pasta

Fill a large stockpot with water, bring to a boil and add a handful of kosher salt. Cook the pasta until al dente, typically about 8 – 10 minutes. Drain thoroughly

Assemble the dish

Add to the bowl of pesto in this order, stirring after each ingredient:

  • Tomatoes
  • Pasta
  • Chicken
  • Cheese

Serve with a dusting of Parmesan cheese and a grind or two of fresh cracked black pepper.

Enjoy!