Hello again, everyone! I’m coming into the work week with a little extra summer glow (re: burn) on my face, a very satisfied stomach, and the feeling that I have officially experienced summer. If you follow me on Instagram, then you may have seen that this weekend Philip and I made a trip to Iowa to experience the Iowa State Fair. It was a picture perfect day for the fair—mid 80s, sun shining, slight breeze, and absolutely no humidity. It was like we were meant to be at the fair that day. It was warm enough to want the delicious nitro ice cream there (think extra smooth ice cream that’s frozen quickly with nitrogen), but not so hot where our appetites left us…we definitely had our appetites! :)
While any other person may wonder why we drove 5 hours to go to a fair, it was something I’ve been wanting to get back to ever since we went 3 years ago right before our wedding (oh yeah, we also celebrated our 3 year anniversary last week! Read here and here about our 1 and 2 year anniversary!). Long story short, the Iowa State Fair truly is a sight to see and is the largest state fair in the country. Not to mention, I grew up going to the state fair, showed hogs for 4 or 5 years at the fair, and even stayed on the fairgrounds for the whole fair once when I was in high school. What can I say, I’m an Iowa girl at heart and it always feels good to get back to my roots. ;)
Of course, it helps that my parents live just a short drive from the fair, so we can all go together and spend the weekend together. After a full day at the fair—sharing stories with Philip and hitting up all the classics (I’m looking at you, Big Yellow Slide)—we headed back to my parents’ house and had a great time pulling out boxes from the basement, looking through all my old grade school projects and papers. We’ve all been there, right? So much fun (and slightly embarrassing/hilarious?) to share even more memories and stories with Philip. I think my current day self and personality was present even at the young age of 5. :)
Food was definitely the star of the weekend. Philip can attest I was planning out our day’s menu well before we made it to the fair (which actually made it much less stressful while we were at the fair, btw). From the classic fresh-out-of-the-oven cookies in a cup with a cold glass of milk to one of the new additions to the fair food list, the Pride of Iowa Wrap, can we just say yum? And that wrap—I couldn’t stop raving about it.
To wrap up our weekend of delicious food, we headed to The Café in Ames for brunch on Sunday. I’ve been to a lot of great restaurants and Madison certainly knows how to create some amazing fresh and local fare, but The Café is still one of my favorite restaurants, hands down. And it did not disappoint on our latest visit there. As soon as I saw Avocado Toast on the menu, I was sold. Simple, whole foods, fresh and local ingredients. It just goes to show that not everything has to be complicated. Sometimes the simple meals are the best.
Which is exactly how I’d explain this Pesto & Chicken Sandwich Melt. So easy and simple, but the fresh basil and tomatoes make this a meal you’ll be craving for the rest of the summer.
This simple meal was created a few weeks ago when Philip was gone for a weekend. On the menu board for that week, I had written “Kara fends for herself,” and with this meal created. I think I managed quite nicely. ;)
The components of the meal started when our CSA box for that week included cherry tomatoes and a ton of fresh basil. I made up a batch of fresh pesto straight away since the basil was already starting to wilt…that color, though. *Heart-eye emoji*
After that, my mind started thinking through all the possibilities of how to start enjoying the homemade pesto and by the morning of the next day, I had created this Pesto & Chicken Sandwich Melt in my mind. You know you’re a foodie/food blogger when you literally can’t wait to make the meal and think about it all.day.long.
Let’s just say, the meal was just as good as I had imagined. The tomatoes burst in your mouth, the vibrant pesto is full of fresh flavor, and the melted mozzarella adds a nice saltiness and creaminess to the sandwich melt. I created this as an open-faced sandwich, but the joy of simple recipes is that they’re really not recipes at all. You can make this into a typical sandwich, increase or decrease the amount of toppings you add, or even add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar to the sandwich, which I think would take this sandwich to the next level.
However you make it, I know you won’t be disappointed. Sometimes it’s best to enjoy the simple things in life and when it includes a simple meal that highlights the fresh tomatoes and basil of the season, well, you can’t go wrong with that. :)
Pesto & Chicken Sandwich Melt
- 2 thin slices bakery bread, lightly toasted (I used spinach feta bread, but a whole wheat or crostini bread would be delicious, too)
- Homemade pesto (recipe below)
- 1/3 cup cooked and shredded chicken breast (leftover rotisserie chicken breast would be perfect)
- 1/4 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half
- 1 – 2 Tablespoons shredded mozzarella cheese
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spread pesto onto both slices of bread. Top with chicken, tomatoes, and cheese.
- Place the slices of bread onto a baking sheet and put into preheated oven. Cook until the cheese is melted and everything is heated through. (For extra flavor, drizzle balsamic vinegar on top of the melts and place a few leaves of basil on top).
Homemade Basil Pesto
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves
- 1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
- 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
- Blend the basil, pine nuts, cheese, and garlic together in a food processor or blender. Pour oil in slowly while still mixing. Scrape down the sides, then add salt and pepper. Pulse until everything is blended together and relatively smooth. Add more olive oil, if needed, depending on desired consistency.
- To store: Pour pesto in a jar, tightly seal, and refrigerate for up to a week. Freeze the pesto for up to 2-3 months.
Pesto adapted from: Sally’s Baking Addiction