Adventures in (Post) Gradland

Thoughts on life after the PhD

Fresh Pesto: Easier Than You Think

For the record, I really did intend this blog to be primarily about grad school.  There are all manner of blog posts in my head at the moment–one on the semi-annual dilemma of whether grad school is really worth it, one on my new cohabitation situation, one on the outdated stereotypes that foreign language textbooks still promote.  But for some reason the posts that get written tend to be about food.  Even stranger, I can’t seem to stop thinking about food and cooking these days, particularly when I’m supposed to be doing research.  During my 9 am Japanese class (which is just a little too easy and often finds me daydreaming) I always seem to be imagining what I’ll cook for dinner that night.  Or for lunch the next day.  Or just wondering if pumpkin and basil work well with gnocchi. 

Not sure what all this means–I’ve long said that while cooking and having people eat what I’ve cooked is one of my greatest joys, I have absolutely no desire to be a professional chef.  Too stressful, too high-pressure (or maybe I’ve watched too many reality TV cooking shows).  Still, cooking and food seem to have taken on a lot more significance recently.  Maybe it’s because school leaves me very little time for the creative things that I used to do–writing, drawing, acting, singing–and cooking has become a new creative outlet.  Tonight I turned my kitchen upside down and felt absolutely amazing doing it.  Three pots stewing at once, remnants of chopped vegetables and shaken spices all over the counter, hands covered in goo–it was every bit as good as I’ve ever felt when writing or engaging in some overly complicated art project. 

So here’s what I whipped up tonight, courtesy of the Silverlake farmer’s market (more about that later) and  Maybe it won’t get you as excited as it got me, but it sure tastes good.  In the meantime, this blog might be transitioning from “Adventures in Gradland” to “Adventures in Foodland.”   And I’ll be trying really, really hard to resist the temptation to get a grill pan and a larger food processor. 

Pesto Pasta with Chicken

  • 1 (16 ounce) package bow tie pasta
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
  • crushed red pepper flakes to taste
  • 1/3 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and cut into strips
  • 1/2 cup pesto sauce (recipe follows–you can of course use store-bought pesto but oh my, fresh pesto is AMAZING; I was licking it out of the food processor after dinner.)



  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute garlic until tender, then stir in chicken. Season with red pepper flakes. Cook until chicken is golden, and cooked through.
  3. In a large bowl, combine pasta, chicken, sun-dried tomatoes and pesto. Toss to coat evenly.

Fresh Pesto (courtesy of

Note: I didn’t use parsley because I didn’t have any, but I’m sure it would make this pesto even better.

  • 2 cups packed basil
  • 1/2 cup parsley
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted and cooled
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • pinch or two pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Place all ingredients except oil in a food processor. Blitz two or three times to get it going, then turn on and let run while drizzling oil in. Stop when all the oil is incorporated but before it gets too thin.


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2 comments on “Fresh Pesto: Easier Than You Think

  1. Lesley
    July 22, 2009

    NICE!! I’m totally cooking this this weekend. And as for the feeling totally fulfilled in the upside down kitchen, I love that. It’s what that russian psychologist talks about in his book “Flow: the psychology of optimal experience.” All about being purposeful and contented because of that purpose. Awesome!!!!

  2. gradland
    July 26, 2009

    Now if I could just achieve that level of flow when I’m doing research or studying Japanese…

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This entry was posted on July 18, 2009 by in Food! and tagged , .
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Thoughts on life after the PhD

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