Budget Friendly Meal- Caprese Salad and Chicken Pesto Panini

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

This is a meal that, when in season, is extremely budget friendly.  I make it a lot during the summer when tomatoes are in abundance, and if you grow your own tomatoes, it's even more economical!  Tomato plants are so cheap and you really can't go wrong when growing them, they are so super easy!  I used to plant them in a pot on my deck when I lived in an apartment and I got so many tomatoes I hardly knew what to do with them!  Basil is the same way.  It can be expensive at the grocery store, but a basil plant costs next to nothing and grows like a weed.  In no time whatsoever it will take over your garden if you let it (as will mint).  You can even grow basil indoors in the wintertime by planting it in a pot and placing it in the window.   Again, you can't go wrong.  
I love Caprese Salad.  The very essence of it screams late summer!  If you have never had Caprese Salad, it is a flavorful trio of beautiful, ripe red tomatoes, gorgeous and fragrant green basil, and mild fresh mozzarella.  I round it out with a simple dressing of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  YUM!

Caprese Salad

  • 2-3 ripe roma or hothouse tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 (8 oz) ball fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • 10-20 basil leaves
  • 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. italian herbs
  • salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Arrange the salad by placing sliced tomatoes, then basil, then cheese in kind of a circle fanned out on a plate, or in lines.  In a small bowl, mix together the vinegar, olive oil, herbs, salt and pepper.  Drizzle over tomatoes, cheese and basil.  Enjoy, it's really yummy!

Panini is like a fancy grilled cheese sandwich.  You can add whatever you like and you don't even need a panini press to make it.  I used to have one of those fancy panini presses, but cleaning it was a pain, and after awhile it broke.  I just make panini in my grill pan and place a heavy pot on top of the sandwiches to smoosh them down.  I made a nice pesto aioli and piled these sandwiches with thin slices of chicken breast, tomatoes, and provolone cheese.  Yummmm!

Chicken Pesto Panini (this is for one sandwich)

  • 2-3 slices thinly sliced chicken breast (I go to the deli counter and ask them to thinly slice some chicken breast for me, I ask them to do it fresh and not take it from the stuff that has already been out because I fear deli meat)
  • 2 thin slices of fresh tomato
  • 1 tsp. pesto aioli (see recipe below)
  • 2 slices provolone cheese
  • 2 slices good bread (I like to us a fresh sourdough or last night I used homemade brioche).
Spread aioli thinly over both slices of bread.  Place a slice of cheese on each slice of bread.  Pile on the rest of the ingredients on one slice of bread and top with the other slice of bread and cheese.  Grill using a panini press or a grill pan and pressed down with a large, heavy pot for about 3 minutes on each side or until the cheese is sufficiently melted.  Enjoy!

Pesto Aioli
  • 1/2 cup homemade or store bought mayonnaise (I use homemade)
  • 1/4 cup homemade or store bought pesto sauce (I also use homemade for this)
Mix the two ingredients together until well incorporated.  Spread on sandwiches, use as a dipping sauce for chicken strips, or as a dip for veggies.

I hope you enjoy these budget friendly recipes!  Until next time, happy and HEALTHY cooking and EATING!


Amy Mantooth said...

This is GREAT! I can't wait to try it! I was just searching for budget friendly easy meals that I can do for Sept. If you have any more that you want to advertise your blog with, go over to my blog http://5littleteeth.blogspot.com/2010/08/super-cheap-but-delicious-meals.html
You can post your meal title and the link back to your blog for the recipe in the comment section. Then I will put them together on a calendar!

Denise said...

I am now a follower and can't wait to look through your blog! Looks like you have some great recipes!

Mhel said...

What i love about caprese - the simple ingredients put altogether into one obra. I have been reading decontructed recipes and anything with a twist or fusion, but I always go back craving for the classic recipes, who have respect for the simple, and humble ingredients. youve done a great job my friend!

frenchieliza said...

Wow! Thanks so much for the nice comments. I agree that there is nothing better than a simple recipe with classic ingredients. I don't think cooking needs to be grandiose or complicated, the simpler the better.

Jackie H. said...

Yum! Love paninis. I got a panini press for Christmas so I'll def. try this one out!!

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