It’s Hatch Pepper Festival time! The peppers are being harvested in Hatch, New Mexico, now. They have a huge festival there in Hatch, but we don’t have to travel any farther than our local supermarket. The upscale market in Dallas has a lot going on with big mesh roasters going outside. Inside, their chefs think outside the salsa and have put some Hatch into everything from hamburgers and buns to brownies and ice cream. It’s mostly pretty delicious.
If you are lucky enough to come across some Hatch chili peppers and favorite variety of basil, here is a pesto recipe with a friendly amount of spice. Try it atop a Southwest chicken salad and transport yourself to New Mexico. (If you can’t make the festival, you can still make the pesto.)
Make your most delicious Chicken-Pesto Pasta with this one. Add this kicky pesto to chicken enchiladas or tacos, stir it into the dressing for a Southwest Chicken Salad (see recipe below), or add it to a fajita platter. It’s absolutely yummy.
• 2 medium cloves garlic, mashed or twice as much roasted garlic
• 1 large Hatch chili pepper - mild or hot, you choose - seeded and cut up
• 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
• 2 cups basil leaves, packed
• 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Wash the basil and drain well. If you have a salad spinner, use that or just shake it. Start with the garlic, pepper, and cheese. Process a minute until well mixed and the pepper is chopped, then start putting in handfuls of the basil. When the basil is incorporated, add the olive oil slowly until you have a lovely grainy texture. If you’re not eating this immediately, put it into a bowl, smooth the surface and coat it with a film of olive oil to prevent darkening.
Freeze in tubs, coated with olive oil.
Try this salad either as individual dinner salads or one huge one to pass around.
Hatch Pesto Dressing Ingredients:
• 1/2 cup mayonnaise
• 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
• 1/4 cup Hatch pesto (or more to taste)
• pinch sea salt
Pesto Dressing Directions: Stir up a bowl of dressing, multiplying to allow about ½ cup per serving. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
• Romaine lettuce, half to a whole head per serving, depending on head size
• Cooked boneless, skinless chicken breast, nicely sliced or bite-size dice
Additional Salad Topping Suggestions:
• Diced cucumbers
• Tomato wedges
• Sliced marinated dried tomatoes
• Cherry tomatoes
• Avocado slices
• Artichoke hearts
• Barely blanched corn kernels
• Cooked black beans
• Grated Jack cheese
• Peppers, crisp sautéed and cooled
• Black olives
Salad Directions: Season the chicken nicely with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Either sauté, deep fry or bake until cooked through. Chill.
Fill a generous bowl with torn romaine leaves and then top with as many of the above-mentioned suggested toppings as you want. I like to place the chicken in the center and then arrange the others in a pretty pattern around, like a Nicoise salad.
Drizzle on a little of the dressing, then serve the rest on the side, as pictured.