Ever since my husband started working 12 hour shifts, the process of planning and cooking our meals has become much more orchestrated. There are days when we eat dinner at 4:30 p.m., other days not 'til 8:30 p.m., depending on if he's on days or nights. It's been an adjustment for everyone, most of all him. There are definite perks, but finding time to plan and cook a meal on a whim is not one of them. We gotta be organized.
Occasionally I'm like a menu-planning ninja, busting out a different menu for each day, with a corresponding shopping list organized by grocery store department. This was not one of those weeks. I believe this week's grocery run was done by me on Mother's Day after spending the whole day traveling back from Texas...and only because we purposefully cleaned out our fridge before the trip. Big mistake. I had zero meals in mind, and zero motivation to care. I raced through the store, tossed a bunch of random stuff in the cart, and got the heck out of there as quickly as possible. Must. Get. Sleep.
This meal came about as I was trying to think what the heck I was going to do with a chicken, zucchini, and mushrooms. Sure, I could have just cooked them up and put them over rice or pasta, but the thought of that just bored me to death that day. I have seen many recipes for zucchini spaghetti, but most of them required a julienne peeler or other fancy gadget that I don't own and if I did would probably only use a handful of times. I decided to use my vegetable peeler instead. I'm quite positive I am not the first or last person to use this method, but it still made me feel pretty dang resourceful, and I know you have a vegetable peeler laying around, right?
I was impressed with how easy this meal was to make. It's perfect for a light, weeknight meal, and as a bonus it's gluten-free, if you're into that sort of thing. The ribbons are reminiscent of pasta, minus the guilt. The trick is to not cook the zucchini too long (as in no longer than about 30 seconds), or it will become one big globbity-gloop of squashy mush, and no one wants to eat that.
Chicken with Zucchini Ribbons, Mushrooms, and Spinach Pesto
Special Equipment Needed:
food processor or blender
2 small zucchinis
8 oz. package of mushrooms, sliced
1 large chicken breast, or 2 smaller ones
spinach pesto (recipe follows)
salt, pepper, and garlic powder
Parmesan, for garnishing
2 big handfuls of baby spinach leaves
3 cloves garlic, peeled
3 Tbsp. Parmesan, shredded or grated
juice from half a lemon
sprinkle of salt and pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Preheat oven to 400 F.
- Heat a saute pan over medium high heat, and add enough olive oil to just coat the bottom.
- Season the chicken breast on the top side with salt, pepper, and garlic powder (about 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt, 1/4 tsp of garlic powder, and 1/4 tsp. of pepper).
- Once the pan is very hot, lay the chicken breast in the pan, seasoned side down. It should sizzle! Sear both sides of the chicken breast for a few minutes, then transfer the chicken to a baking dish and finish cooking in the oven, about 20-30 minutes depending on the thickness of the chicken. Be sure to temp the center after it's cooked...remember you are looking for no less than 165 degrees F. For more tips on how to cook the perfect chicken breast, click here.
- Once the chicken is in the oven, prepare everything else.
- In a food processor or blender, combine all the ingredients for the pesto. Buzz til blended and beautifully green. Set aside.
- Run a veggie peeler lengthwise down the zucchinis to make thin ribbons (see tips below).
- Once the chicken is fully cooked and you are ready to eat, proceed with the rest of the steps.
- Heat a saute pan over medium high heat and coat the bottom with olive oil.
- Once the pan is hot, add the sliced mushrooms and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute for about 3 minutes.
- Add a couple tablespoons of the pesto to the pan. Toss the mushrooms to coat.
- Add the zucchini ribbons to the pan. Use tongs to turn and coat in the pesto. Cook until just heated, about 30 seconds. Don't overcook...the zucchini will turn to mush!
- Using tongs, plate the zucchini and mushrooms in center of plate.
- Slice the chicken and arrange desired amount around the pile of ribbons and mushrooms.
- Drizzle the whole thing with extra pesto and grate a little Parmesan over the top.
- Smile because you know you'll have plenty of room for dessert. :)
- The easiest way to make the zucchini ribbons is to first cut off ends, then start peeling lengthwise on one side until you get almost to the middle, then switch and continue peeling on the other side. This will keep the ribbons a manageable width for the peeler.
- When plating the zucchini (or any ribbon-like noodles), use your tongs to pick up a small portion of zucchini. Hold the tongs vertically, then twist as if you were twisting a corkscrew into a bottle of wine. This piles the ribbons up and makes them look all pretty.