Recently, I was asked if I like to host parties or if I enjoy having people over. My answer: You'll find me in the kitchen. I love to feed and nourish people. I like to make people feel seen and valued through food. But, I'm also an introvert. The kitchen is, for me, a place to retreat, a safe space to think and to breathe and to be me. If you invite me to a meeting that includes food, I am likely the one making coffee, asking if I can grab you a fork, if I can take your plate, or making sure you had enough to eat. If you invite me to your home for a gathering, you will likely find me looking for ways to make myself useful in the kitchen, insisting on doing dishes and quietly cleaning up despite your protests.
When life gets hard, it can be easy for me to hide behind the food, to seek refuge in the predictable and soothing rhythms of the kitchen, to be reminded that when all else is spinning out of control, I can still make something that looks familiar and tastes like home. I've been making this simple chicken recipe for ages, a delicious old standby that I can whip up even when I hardly have the energy or the wherewithal to cook.
Because cooking seasonally isn't just about the weather outside the window or a date on a calendar, it's also very much about the seasons of our lives. Give yourself permission to make something easy, step out of the kitchen, sit down at the table with someone you love, look them in the eye, and breathe. Just breathe.
Pesto chicken with mozzarella and tomato
Yields 4 servings
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
Olive oil for the pan
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup pesto
4 slices mozzarella cheese (I prefer fresh mozzarella)
4 slices tomato
1. Preheat broiler to high. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
2. Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Pat the chicken breasts dry and season them on both sides with salt and pepper. Swirl the pan with olive oil. Place the chicken breasts into the pan and sear on both sides until golden brown and almost cooked completely through, about 4-5 minutes per side (depending on thickness of the breasts).
3. Transfer the chicken to the prepared sheet pan. Spread the top of each breast with 1-2 tablespoons of pesto, followed by a slice of mozzarella and a slice of tomato. Season the tomatoes with salt and pepper. Place the chicken under the broiler and broil until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the chicken is cooked through, watching carefully, about 2-3 minutes. Serve promptly.
Maya Evoy lives in Kenai and blogs about food at alaskafromscratch.com. Have a food question or recipe request? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and your inquiry may appear in a future column.