Garden Fresh Chicken Pesto Panini
Happy 5th of July! Hope everyone is enjoying the extended weekend and surprisingly cooler temps here in Iowa. July is about the time that those fortunate enough to have a basil plant of their own is starting to wonder just how they are going to put all that delicious basil to good use.
I have a Garden Fresh Chicken Pesto Panini that features a quick and easy basil pesto that you can make a big batch of and enjoy in a variety of ways throughout the week.
If you don’t have a basil plant of your own, you can always buy fresh basil at the store since it’s relatively cheap this time of year as it’s in season. A lot of the grocery stores are still selling basil plants so it’s definitely not too late to plant one!
Our basil plant is definitely flourishing this year. I can think of worst problems, that’s for sure! The little planted pot to the left is the infamous rosemary. Another highly versatile herb that is convenient to have on hand as fresh rosemary far exceeds the flavor of dried, for example on these Grilled Rosemary Carrots.
PRO TIP for growing basil; when your basil plant starts to get little white flowers in the center of a cluster of leaves, pluck the flowers off at first sign to keep your basil plant producing and continuing to replenish itself.
Ingredients for pesto couldn’t be simpler and there are a lot of variations you can use. For this batch, I used pine nuts which is considered more ‘traditional’, but you can also use walnuts, sunflower seeds, peptidas, or whatever else you might have on hand in terms of an earthy nut or seed.
Add your pesto ingredients to your food processor and blend away. I love pesto for a number of reasons. It screams freshness especially when I make it at home. I also consider it to be rather healthy since it utilizes extra virgin olive oil which is heart healthy compared to a lot of other spreads you can put on a sandwich or pasta (like mayo or alfredo) and packs quite the flavorful punch to your favorite sandwich or pasta.
For the garden fresh chicken pesto panini, I used a spread of freshly blended pesto, sliced tomato, avocado, 2% swiss cheese, and thinly sliced leftover grilled chicken breast. I assembled the sandwich on sprouted wheat bread and toasted it on a George Foreman grill that I’ve had since the dorm days in college. If it ain’t broken, why fix it! Still works like a charm!
PREP-AHEAD TIPS: You can make the pesto ahead of time and store it in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks to be used on sandwiches, eggs, or pasta. Come back and visit tomorrow where I will feature the pesto on a delightfully fresh summertime pasta.
A great addition to your Sunday prep is to grill up some extra chicken breasts to have on hand for the week. This panini features just that, leftover grilled chicken. After refrigerated this chicken is easily sliced in half (like a hamburger bun sliced in half) using a sharp knife to get a thin slice of chicken which is perfect for paninis.
What is your favorite way to use fresh basil?
- Several stems of fresh basil
- Squirt of lemon juice
- 2 tsp. crushed garlic (or more if you love garlic like I do)
- 1/4 c. pine nuts
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil until spreadable consistency is achieved
- Pinch of salt
- Bread of choice (I used sprouted wheat)
- Grilled chicken breast, sliced thinly
- Tomato, sliced thin
- Avocado, sliced into thin strips
- 2% Swiss cheese (or other melty cheese)
- Pesto (see above)
- Add ingredients to a food processor and blend until a spreadable consistency is achieved. Exact ratios of ingredients are approximate so be sure to taste test along the way to suit your tastebuds. Store in an airtight container for later use. YIELD: 3/4 cup pesto
- Plug in George Foreman or panini maker while assembling sandwich. Spread sandwich bread with fresh pesto. Top with chicken breast, avocado, tomato and cheese. Once hot, spray Foreman with EVOO to prevent sticking and place sandwich on the griddle and close the lid. Rotate 180 degrees halfway through to get even toasting on the bread