pesto grilled chicken stacks

Happy 4th of July!  It’s been a whirlwind, yet wonderful, couple of weeks for Joe and I, and I’ve been anxiously waiting to get behind the keyboard and share a long overdue post on the good old Karma Cucina site.

Last weekend, Joe surprised me with a trip to Montreal to celebrate my big 3-0 in style and we had a sensational time in this cosmopolitan city I am now happy to call one of my favorites.  Though, I’m not quite sure one could really classify our visit as traditional tourism; it was more like culinary-tourism.  We scoured the streets, markets, and restaurant hot spots of the city, leaving no croissant or poutine unturned, only to return back home with more than our fill of delicious Montreal cuisine.  As an added and completely unplanned bonus, it was International Jazz Festival and we were able to take in some amazing talent  in between eats.

Beyond the amazing food, one of the coolest aspects of touring Montreal, was their Bixi bike system. In 2009, the city launched the first public bike system in the world, allowing residents and tourists alike to pop their debit card into a pay station and rent bikes from one of the hundreds of conveniently located docking stations throughout the city. As avid bikers and fitness enthusiasts, we were all over this and ended up touring the city for two and half days completely by bike. It was a fantastic way to see the city, allowing us to find our way into every nook and cranny of Montreal. Plus, we were able to work off some of those deliciously excessive vacation calories. All in all, it was a win-win. The Bixi trend is catching on with systems in place throughout the US and parts of Europe and I can only hope that our next destination will be outfit with this hip and fit means of public transport. Cheers, to the trendsetters in Montreal!

This lovely 4th of July weekend was kicked off with the marriage of my longtime best friend, Juls, to her husband, Ryan.  Beyond the fact that their event was simply over-the-top with delicious food, amazing people, and stunning sunset water views, it was enormously moving and satisfying to see two people that we love so much tie the knot.  Thank you for letting us be a part of your day!

Now, for those of you just here for the food, I’ve got a simple summer dinner treat straight off the grill:  boneless skinless chicken breasts marinated and grilled with homemade spinach-basil pesto and stacked with fresh mozzarella and roasted red peppers.  I believe summer is the season for simple pleasures and a time when less is more.  This dish encompasses all of the above, utilizing the best of the garden’s greens and a couple Italian delicacies to catapult simple grilled chicken into the big leagues.  Buon appetito!

Pesto Grilled Chicken Stacks
Serves 4

4 pieces of boneless skinless chicken breast
2/3 cup spinach-basil pesto or store-bought (recipe below)
4 roasted red pepper halves
8 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced

Put chicken and half of the pesto in a resealable plastic bag, reserving the remaining pesto in the refrigerator for later use.  Seal the bag tightly and smush around with your hands until the chicken is well-coated.  Refrigerate for one to two hours.

Preheat the grill on high heat.  Transfer chicken to the grill, discard the bag with pesto marinade, and cook chicken for approximately 5 minutes on each side or until done.  Transfer breasts to a serving platter.  Smear a dollop of reserved pesto on top of each piece of chicken.  Place one piece of roasted red pepper on each breast.  Top with slices of mozzarella and serve immediately.  If you prefer a little melted mozzarella goodness, you can also finish this dish under the broiler for a minute or two before serving.

Spinach-Basil Pesto
Makes 1 cup

2 cups basil leaves, packed
2 cups spinach leaves, packed
1 clove of garlic
1/3 cup walnuts
¼ tsp. salt
A few grinds of fresh ground pepper
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Combine basil, spinach, garlic, walnuts, salt, and pepper in a food processor.  Pulse to combine.  With food processor running, pour in olive oil through the feeding tube and puree until smooth.  [If there is herb buildup on the side, stop machine after all the oil has passed through and scrape down the sides with a spatula.  Resume pureeing until combined and smooth.]  Transfer to a bowl and stir in cheese.

A few notes:

  • The pesto can be made up to two days ahead of time.
  • Enjoy summer’s most fragrant sauce all year long!  Pesto can be frozen and reused at a later time, but hold off on stirring in the cheese until you are ready to thaw it.  For convenient frozen portions, spray or brush a few sections of an ice cube tray with olive oil, divide the pesto among each oiled section, and put into the freezer for several hours or until firm.  Once the pesto blocks have frozen, use a small butter knife to pop them out of the tray, transfer to a resealable plastic bag, and return to freezer.  Thaw desired amount of pesto when ready to use and remember to stir in the cheese that you left out!
  • There are an infinite number of ways to use pesto, but here are some ideas:  over hot pasta, in a cold pasta salad, tossed with grilled vegetables, drizzled over roasted broccoli or asparagus, in a green salad, on top of salmon or shrimp, whipped into mashed potatoes, on top of eggs, smeared on crostini.

11 Responses to “pesto grilled chicken stacks”

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  1. Leslie Eaton says:

    H A P P Y 30!!! though sorry im sooo belated…good grief.
    …looks like you guys had a fabulous time in a wonderful city (love montreal!!!)…and as always, thanks for sharing tidbits of your adventures with the rest of us!

  2. Melissa says:

    Made this dish last night..simply delicious!! Another job well done Alyss!!! I melted the cheese as suggested…so yum!

    • KarmaCucina says:

      Thanks! I melted my mozz, too, when I ate the leftovers last night… mmmmm… I think that’s the way to go 🙂

  3. Ted says:

    mmm… food adventures! I read about the bike taxi programs, my brother being a huge bicyclist (biked across south America) was telling me about these bike share programs, such as the one you and Joe had in Montreal! It is so handy!

    • KarmaCucina says:

      It’s the absolute best way to see a city… Plus, I hate the idea of using a hotel gym on vacation to squeeze in a workout. Aside from running, this is a great way to stay fit and explore!

  4. Lynn says:

    Tried this tonight. It was lovely to look at and tasted great too!

  5. Julie says:

    This looks amazing! I heart pesto…so now that I’m a wifey, I will be trying this very soon!! Thanks for the kind words in the shout-out and awesome picture!

  6. DMan says:

    I love anything pesto – including this fabulous dish!


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