Dinnertime in my house was never a fancy affair. There were nine of us so as the youngest I was lucky to get a bone tossed my way and there was never enough space at our kitchen table for all of us to eat together. It may have not been perfect, but my mother always strove to fill our bellies as best as she could. I especially remember Saturday afternoons seemed to take on a slower pace for all of us. There might be a simmering pot of caldo, or Mexican soup, on the stove, steaming up the windows and wafting through the house as me and my siblings sat glued to the tv in the living room watching our favorite shows. Sometimes my Dad would indulge and leave his outside chores to join us and the whole house just seemed to take a breath and relax.
These days I find we invent our own busy. We’re too busy to meet with friends, too busy to get to the laundry, too busy to sit down and cook a simple meal and enjoy it with our families. I’ll admit, I’m just as guilty of it. Running a business is no joke and giving myself permission to slow down before the next thing is still something I’m getting used to. This is when I remind myself that the joy of cooking and sharing a meal can be cathartic and provide me with that moment of pause. We all need a way to hit that “reset” button. Even if it’s only once a week that we get to sit down and enjoy a home cooked meal, I guarantee, slowing the pace just a little allows the space for the mind to rest and for moments to happen, which is truly where the riches of life await us.
In keeping with my approach to provide small batch, budget and balanced meals, I want to share this recipe for asparagus pesto pasta with chicken and spring green salad. It’s a classy looking dish that comes together quickly and it makes use of one of my favorite seasonal vegetables, asparagus. Asparagus is used both raw and roasted in this recipe. Don’t fear it, embrace it. Asparagus is one vegetable I like to think fancies up a dish just by showing up to the party. This meal is already planned out for you, so save the excuses and just get to the store already. Cooking in your pjs is optional, but recommended.
Asparagus Pesto Pasta with Chicken and Spring Greens
1/4 yellow onion
2 large cloves garlic, divided
1/4 cup loosely packed chopped parsley
1 sprig rosemary, leaves removed
3 sprigs thyme, leaves removed
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
1 (8 ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 bunch (12 ounces) asparagus, ends trimmed
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup walnut pieces
3 Tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
1 sprig fresh basil (6 leaves)
1 1/2 cups whole wheat penne pasta
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
For the salad and dressing
1 small head baby gem or butter lettuce, halved
1 1/2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons parsley, minced
2 leaves of basil, chiffonade
1/4 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Serves 2 to 3
In a food processor, pulse onion, 1 clove garlic, 1/4 cup parsley, rosemary, thyme and ¼ cup olive oil. Season chicken breast liberally with salt and pepper on both sides and place in the marinade in a small baking dish covered with plastic wrap. Refrigerate.
Roughly chop half the asparagus and place in a food processor along with 1 teaspoon lemon zest, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, ½ teaspoon vinegar, walnuts, 1 clove garlic, Parmesan, 6 leaves of basil, ½ teaspoon salt and 3 tablespoons oil. Pulse until a thick pesto comes together; set aside.
Preheat broiler to high. Chop the remaining asparagus into 1-inch pieces and toss in a small bowl with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, remaining lemon zest, salt and pepper. Form a small rectangular tray out of aluminum foil and spread asparagus onto it. Remove chicken from marinade and place on a broiler pan. Broil for about 10 minutes, until an internal temperature reaches 165° F. Add asparagus during the last 5 minutes of cooking. Allow chicken to rest 5 minutes prior to thinly slicing.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta with a lid slightly ajar, about 12 minutes. Drain pasta and return to the pot with butter. Mix with pesto and roasted asparagus. Toss to coat and keep warm.
Whisk together salad dressing. To serve, place pasta in center of plate along with a few slices of chicken. Drizzle lettuce with 1 to 2 tablespoons dressing. Garnish pasta with additional torn basil, Parmesan and chopped walnuts.