Last minute is a key phrase that comes up frequently in the life of a private chef. You can be the most hyper-organized, vigilant list-making, pantry-stocking, backup-shopper and there will always be those days where you think you are all set and suddenly you are not. Well, yesterday was one of those days for me.
The summer on Nantucket is glorious. And it is also crowded as hell with the worst traffic you can imagine (think no traffic lights, historically small streets, touristy drivers and too many rotaries). Doing errands is a strategic undertaking, where you have to plan for time of day, route, and of course, delivery days for specialty (and non-specialty) items. Well, I tried to start early and didn’t have a 100% clear idea of what was needed for lunch, but I made an executive decision on the fly that I felt would be well-received. As I was leaving the store, I suddenly received a text asking for something completely different-"chicken and some sort of pasta”. Okay, deep breath and onward. Onward to the rotisserie chicken aisle, that is.
I recently made a delightful zucchini pasta dish by Yotum Ottolenghi, that was featured in NYT Cooking. Riffing on his idea of a room temp pasta, sauced with an herby/capery/lemony combination and combined with grilled summer squash, I took a similar approach. I was able to get this on the table in 25 minutes, using an already cooked chicken and having some pesto in the fridge.
Here you go, kids.
Last Minute Chicken and Pasta Salad
1 store-bought rotisserie chicken, shredded into medium bite-sized pieces
1 cup of any kind of pesto (I had arugula on hand)
1 box of penne pasta (GF or regular)
3 T red wine vinegar
1 bunch of basil, whizzed in a blender or processor with a cup of EVOO
2 small-medium sized yellow and green summer squash, ends cut off and sliced lengthwise about 1/4” thick and grilled outside or on a grill pan, until browned and cooked through
1/2 roasted red pepper from a jar, diced
1/2 jar capers
Zest of one lemon
a few good squirts of white balsamic glaze
a large handful of minced parsley
Salt and Pepper to taste
Buratta-1 or two, depending on how decadent you are feeling
Fold the pesto into the chicken. Cook the pasta till al dente, drain, and sprinkle it with the vinegar and about 1/2 cup of the basil oil. Chop the squash into 2-3 inch pieces and throw that in with the chicken, along with the red pepper and zest. Then combine the two mixtures, add the balsamic glaze, parsley, and taste for salt and pepper. Arrange this mess in a beauteous bowl and carefully tear your expensive Buratta and scatter it artfully over the top of the salad.