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Lemon chicken with pesto potato salad: an easy vacation dinner

June 8, 2011

WE’VE HAD A BREAKTHROUGH in the potato department. Never a fan of them, Phoebe actually said, “I ont aunt tatoes” when I was trying to play up tonight’s dinner—a tough task considering that we were swimming (aka, the most fun activity ever) just before the potato conversation. But potatoes it was. Only I added a couple of her (current) greatest hits and it worked.

The salad was easy. Boil half a pound of new potatoes in salted water for 15-20 minutes then let cool in a colander. When they’re ready to handle, cut them into bite size pieces, whatever that means for you. (In our house we have a running dispute: my husband says everything is too big, I think it’s hearty.) Add half a cup of pesto, a splash of oil, salt, pepper and the most important ingredient, freshly squeezed lemon. Dice tomatoes, whatever kind looks best at the store (I usually use grape or cherry) and add them at the very end so they don’t splatter everywhere. And always trying to squeeze in an extra shot of green, I added peas.

Now, a note about pesto. People are always saying “it’s SO easy to make your own pesto”, just like it’s SO easy to make your own stock. To this I say, what’s so easy about boiling a bird for 4 hours? Especially when there are delicious versions ready to buy and use immediately? Such is true for pesto. I picked up a fresh jar (usually in the deli section) and went about my business in under 10 seconds. Soon enough I’ll be grinding up baby food for Estelle, I don’t need to start with pine nuts and basil now.

Anyway, the lemon chicken is simple and delicious, thanks to The Barefoot Contessa. Yes, another Ina Garten recipe but here’s the thing: it’s always good when it comes from the East Hampton manse. This is thinly cut chicken breasts, marinated in lemon. As usual, I updated the Contessa’s original Lemon Chicken Skewers recipe to make it a little healthier. (The satay dip included in her recipe, by the way, is excellent.) In this case, I simply reduced the amount of oil and increased the lemon juice. Tonight I used oregano because we’re on vacation and that’s the only herb I had but you could use thyme, parsley, basil or even dill and any one of them would be wonderful. I squeezed the juice from two big lemons, added about 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (fresh and yummy right from the Puglia region of Italy where we are staying), salt, pepper and oregano. Basically you’re making a vinaigrette to marinate the chicken. I do this in the afternoon to eat that night (yes, at nap time), but you could do it in the morning, or even the night before. Saute the chicken, grill it, throw it on the BBQ… Just do it over high heat and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side.

Shockingly, Phoebe ate everything. The chicken (uniformly refused in the recent past), the potatoes (see toddler-speak above) plus the peas and tomatoes but those are perennial favorites so no surprise there. Just relief. Am I the only one who thinks it’s actually tiring to be on vacation?

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