Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Magical (Flavor) Qualities of Pine Nuts

Good evening everyone! If you do any type of at home cooking (which, seeing as you're presently reading a cooking blog, I'd assume you'd at least dabble in) you've likely come across a recipe or two featuring pine nuts. These tasty little morsels are the main ingredient in many pesto recipes and feature as a key component in a lot of different breading dishes as well. Their flavorful, easy to work with and readily available at almost any grocery store. Their one drawback?

Those little suckers are expensive!

Our local grocery stores sell pine nuts in 4 ounce jars for $6.99. That usually results in me standing, staring at the shelf while I mumble something about checking into a career growing pine nuts, because that's clearly where the money is. I've never been able to justify $7 for such a small quantity of something, so we've used pine nuts VERY sparingly on the blog.

Enter: Trader Joes. Our newest grocery store of choice not only carries pine nuts, but they sell them in 8 ounce bags for - $6.99. Yup, twice the quantity, same price. They're still expensive, but with the small amount of pine nuts that most recipes call for, an 8 ounce bag will last you a good while.

Armed with our cost effective pine nuts, our blog will be an unstoppable culinary force!

Or...we will have some new recipes to dabble in. Same thing.

The Recipe: Pine Nut and Parmesan Crusted Chicken

Original Recipe Found In: America's Test Kitchen: Simple Weeknight Favorites

What You'll Need: 
(Serves 4) 

4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts (Trimmed of excess fat) 
1/3 Cup Panko Bread Crumbs 
1/3 Cup Toasted Pine Nuts 
1/3 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese 
3 Garlic Cloves (Minced) 
3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil 
1/4 Cup Light Mayonnaise 
1/2 Cup Chopped Fresh Basil 

Begin by preheating your oven to 450 degrees and spraying a large rimmed baking sheet with non stick spray. 

The original recipe calls for you to toss the pine nuts, bread crumbs, oil, cheese, garlic and a pinch of salt and pepper together in a medium bowl until everything is homogenous. I found it was much easier to add all of the ingredients into a small food processor and simply pulse for 4 to 6 seconds until the mixture was blended nicely. This creates a more even breading as well (no large pine nut chunks or spaces where some ingredients don't appear). 

Next, combine the light mayo in a bowl with the basil. Stir until evenly blended. Pat you chicken breasts dry with a paper towel, then spread an even coating of the basil / mayo mixture over each breast (just the top). You don't need much, just a thin layer will suffice. This spread will both add flavor to the chicken breast and act as a 'food glue' to keep the breading in place. 

Speaking of the breading - it's time to spread it on! Set your chicken breasts on the baking sheet and then simply sprinkle the  mixture across all of the breasts, making sure to work it into any crevices of the chicken and making sure all the sides are covered (again, focus mainly on the top and do not bread the bottom).  

Once each breast is evenly covered, pop the baking sheet into the oven and let the chicken cook for 18 to 22 minutes, or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Serve with a side of green beans or other veggie and enjoy! 

The Results: 

This dish hits all of the 'must haves' when it comes to weeknight cooking. Flavorful? Check - the panko / pine nut breading creates a beautiful crunchy crust that blends great with the juicy chicken and surprisingly fresh basil spread. Quick and easy? Check - at roughly 30 minutes start to finish, this dish can go from concept to reality in time to feed a hungry family (or just a family of one). Healthy? Check - at just under 350 calories per serving, this dish will deliver on the flavor while keeping your healthy eating goals a reality. This dish is a must try! 

That's all we have for you this evening, we're back tomorrow night with Maggie's turn in the kitchen. Until then, 


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