Tomato-Hazel Nut Pesto with Chickpeas and Sweet Peppers

This past summer was so dry I wasn’t able to grow a sufficient crop of grape tomatoes to put some up as sun dried tomatoes.  With the colder weather, I have been wanting that flavor often.  I was fortunate to find reasonably priced sun dried tomatoes that are packaged without the oil at Costco, so I bought one bag to try them out.  Without the oil, they are lower in calories, but still have all that wonderful summer flavor.  (Although, I have to admit, I liked having the oil as well.)

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Nonetheless, I returned to Costco to pick up another bag a month later only to find there were only a few bags left (not enough adventurous foodies shopping this location).  I quickly snatched up 6 bags so I would have enough on hand to get me through until next summer.

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Since then I have been playing with different recipes using them.  My latest try was tonight when my husband was supposed to fix dinner.  It was the last meal to be made before my next grocery run and I hadn’t managed to have all the needed ingredients for his meal. (it was a list for 11 dinners…give me a break!)  I had been mulling over the idea of making a sun dried tomato dish and told him I would cook.

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Most recipes for tomato pesto are very much like basil pesto recipes, but I wanted to mix things up just a bit.  I love the sweetness of the tomatoes and decided to pair it with hazel nuts, which also have a slight sweetness to them.  I still used garlic and a fruity olive oil, but added some white balsamic vinegar to once again carry those slight sweet notes to another level of flavor.  A spoonful of the basil I freeze up every year added more summer flavor. Combined with Asiago cheese instead of Parmesan, because, well….we like it better!

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While waiting for the water to boil, I thawed a package of grilled chicken and sauteed a little onion with sweet yellow peppers and chickpeas.  Toss a little fresh cilantro end at the end to give the subtle sweetness a counterpoint to dance with and you’ve got something quite tasty that was ready in 35 minutes.

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My husband said I had hit a home run and he is not even a baseball fan.  My son agreed and this will now become a regular meal on “the roster” in my kitchen.

You’ll need:

1 pkg of your favorite pasta, cooked and drained (I like rotini for this-it’s edges hold the pesto well)

1 cup of sun dried tomatoes

1/4 cup hazel nuts

3 cloves of garlic, peeled and trimmed

1 Tbs of basil, finely minced (a large spoonful of pureed basil)

2 Tbs of white balsamic vinegar

1 cup Asiago cheese, shredded

salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

fruity olive oil, as needed (about a 1/2 cup)

1 small yellow onion, chopped

1 cup of yellow sweet peppers, chopped

1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1 pkg (about 2 cups) grilled chicken, cubed and heated till hot

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Put a large pot of water onto boil.  Add salt if desired and cook pasta til al dente and drain.

While waiting for the water to boil…..

In a food processor, combine sun dried tomatoes, garlic, hazel nuts, vinegar, basil and cheese.  Close and process on low speed.  Through top opening, pour olive oil in a thin steady stream until pesto comes together to make a loose paste.  Taste pesto and add salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside to allow flavors to blend while you make a quick saute.

In a medium skillet,  saute onion and peppers in a little olive oil until onion is translucent.  Add drained chickpeas, salt and pepper.  Saute for about 5 minutes more.

Place chicken in microwave and heat thoroughly.

Combine cooked pasta, chicken, sauteed veggies and pesto.  Toss well and sprinkle with fresh cilantro and toss lightly again.  Serve immediately with more Asiago.  Enjoy!

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5 thoughts on “Tomato-Hazel Nut Pesto with Chickpeas and Sweet Peppers

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