Grilled Chicken Breasts with Cilantro Pecan Pesto and Red Cabbage Slaw

Big Flavors of the Hot Sun by Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby awaits patiently all winter, on my shelf.  But the first really hot day of summer, I’ll grab my beat-to-shreds copy and get cooking.  Each recipe has its roots in warm weather regions of the world: bursting with fresh herbs, tropical ingredients, and bright colors.

This recipe, adapted from Big Flavors, features a tangy cilantro pecan puree (it’s more a sauce than a thick pesto).  The cool crunch of the slightly sweet red cabbage/red pepper slaw is a brilliant contrast, not to mention a visually appealing addition to the dish.

Wine pairing is a bit of a challenge with this type of fare.  And really when the temperature soars, doesn’t a cool Corona with a wedge of lime sound refreshing?  Embrace the heat; enjoy the bold flavors of “hot sun” cooking!

Grilled Chicken Breasts with Cilantro Pecan Pesto and Red Cabbage Slaw

Cilantro-Pecan Pesto

1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro (stems may be included)

1 TBS minced garlic

1/4 cup chopped pecans

6 TBS olive oil

1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)

6 dashes or so hot sauce

Salt and coarsely ground black pepper to taste

4 8-10 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Olive oil

Salt and coarsely ground black pepper

Southwestern/Latin spice blend (optional…I used Penzey’s Arizona Dreaming)

Red Cabbage Slaw

16 oz. of shredded cabbage (about 1/2 of a head)

1 red bell pepper, seeded and cored and cut into thin strips

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup olive oil

1/3 cup mayonnaise (either regular or lite)

1/4 cup pineapple juice

Couple dashes hot sauce

Salt and coarsely ground black pepper to taste

  1. For pesto, combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until a rough paste is form.  Season to taste.  Cover and set aside (can be made up to 4 hours in advance.  Store in fridge)
  2. To make the slaw, combine the cabbage, peppers and raisins in a bowl.  In a separate small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, mayo, pineapple juice and hot sauce.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Toss with the cabbage mixture and taste for seasoning.  This slaw tastes best when it’s allowed to rest for a bit.
  3. For chicken, coat lightly with oil and sprinkle with seasonings.  Grill chicken over a medium fire for about 7-9 minutes per side, or until juices run clear and chicken is fully cooked.
  4. Let chicken rest for about 5 minutes.  Slice and serve with cilantro pesto.  Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves and lime wedges.  Pass the slaw and pop open an ice cold beverage.  Cheers!
Serves 4

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