Chicken and Cauliflower in Cilantro Pesto over Yellow Rice Recipe

I thought the line at the salad restaurant in the skyway near our offices looked, perhaps, just a little bit longer than usual on January 2. Many folks are working on their resolutions to eat healthier in the new year—and balance out some of the cookies and other treats consumed over the holidays. If one of your resolutions is to not only eat a little better but to also cook at home more often, you can do it and make it easier on yourself with a little help from a ready-made part of the recipe. It’s not “cheating” to get a head start, and you can do it without sacrificing a healthy meal. Instead of picking up fast food, you can swing by the deli at the grocery store and pick up a rotisserie chicken to make this recipe by Twin Cities chef and cookbook author Robin Asbell, which appeared in Real Food.

A deep green, herby pesto is a brilliant way to jazz up some cooked chicken, says Asbell, and it looks stunning over a simple dish of yellow-tinged rice and vegetables. If you grab a big rotisserie chicken on your way through the store, you can strip the meat when you get it home, or you can buy precooked, chopped chicken breast from the frozen food section. You will still make a lovely, balanced dinner—just more quickly and easily.

Chicken and Cauliflower in Cilantro Pesto over Yellow Rice

Makes 4 Servings

3 cups cooked chicken, shredded or chopped
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 cup fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon fresh lime zest
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
3 cups cauliflower florets about 1 inch across (from about 1/2 small cauliflower)

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
1 cup long grain white rice
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
11/4 cups chicken stock

1. Pull the meat from the chicken, and reserve. If using frozen, precooked chicken, measure 3 cups and thaw overnight in the refrigerator. (If you want to use the same night, defrost in microwave according to package instructions.)

2. Prepare the rice: In a 4-quart saucepan, heat the canola oil over medium-high heat, and add the onion, red bell pepper, and tomato. Stir, cooking until the pan is dry and the vegetables are softened, about 4 minutes. Add the rice, turmeric, cumin, salt, and cayenne and stir until the rice is coated with spices. Add the stock and bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook for about 15 minutes, until the liquids are absorbed. Fluff and keep warm.

3. For the pesto, place the pumpkin seeds in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Swirl the pan to move the seeds around until they start to pop and smell toasty. Transfer to a food processor bowl. Add the garlic, cilantro, and zest and process to make a paste. Add the lime juice, salt, and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and process until smooth.

4. In a large skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the cauliflower and stir, cooking until some brown spots appear and the cauliflower starts to soften. Add 1 tablespoon of water and keep stirring until the cauliflower is tender and the pan is dry. Add the chicken and stir until heated through. Add the pesto from the processor and stir to coat. Serve over the yellow rice.

Nutrition info CHICKEN & CAULIFLOWER: (per serving): CALORIES 577 (228 from fat); FAT 26g (sat. 5g); CHOL 90mg; SODIUM 687mg; CARB 49g; FIBER 5g; PROTEIN 38g