Lemon basil chicken and vegetables is easy to make, simple and utilizes rustic flavors with spring and summer vegetables that can be harvested right from the garden. I’ve adapted this recipe in The Essential WW Freestyle Cookbook from a similar kebab recipe, but I generally don’t like to mess with kebabs and not to mention I’m not entirely confident in my chicken grilling abilities. I still struggle to get chicken up to safe temperature without overcooking it and drying it out.
We begin with a simple mix of oil, garlic, lemon zest and juice, salt and pepper in a bowl. I used olive oil here although the recipe calls for canola oil. I have cognitive dissonance regarding cooking with oils. No matter which oil you research you can find articles on why it’s the best one to use or why you should throw it away immediately. There are some downsides to cooking with olive oil, the most immediate being it’s low smoke point, but some basic research shows your electric stove-top only hits about 500 max (this temp is arguable) and EVOO has a smoke point of 410. We’re not cooking on super high heat today – we’ll keep an eye.
Here’s the boneless – skinless chicken breast cut up into nice bite-size pieces. Stir that into your oil and garlic mixture and let it get happy while you prep your veg.
Funny story: for years I had wondered why cooking seemed frantic once you put food into the hot pan. Throw in my onions, now I have to quickly chop up my other veg before my onions caramelize too much, etc. Basically, I had nothing pre-prepped and ready to go. I forget who it was, maybe it was Alton Brown, where I noticed he had all of his ingredients ready to go in little ramekins before he put heat to anything or started the cooking process.
Cooking the Chicken
Once I had this epiphany to prep everything before cooking, I asked myself how I had adopted the bad habit of having nothing prepped to begin with.
Here, we’re just cooking our chicken on a nice medium-high.
Cooking the Veg
Once your chicken is cooked, remove it from the pan into a bowl (or a plate). Keeping your pan on a medium-high add your onions. There should be some residual oil leftover so you shouldn’t need to add more, but you can if you need.
It dawned on me that I didn’t pre-prep because I was mimicking tv-chefs. It would make a boring show to watch somebody chop vegetables for 20 minutes. They have the knife skills and speed to do it as they go, chop the veg – add to the pan. That makes for good television! But at home, cooking should be relaxing – go at your own pace and enjoy the experience.
Putting it all Together
Once the onions have caramelized a bit add your squash and zucchini. Let it all cook for a few minutes before adding your cherry or grape tomatoes. Keep the heat up to put a nice sear on everything, then add you chicken (and the juices) back into the pan. Add your fresh basil, and let all the flavors marry.
I served the chicken-veg mix over a bed of whole wheat couscous I happened to have in the cabinet and topped with a little shredded Parmesan cheese. You can use any pasta, really, or even rice for this dish.
What I like about this dish, Lemon Basil Chicken and Vegetables, the most is how the garlic and lemon accentuates and brings out the natural flavors of the vegetables. It lets them have a say in the composition of the dish. The basil and acidity of the lemon lifts and brightens the dish so you get a full spectrum of flavors on your palette. Hearty, healthy, and satisfying dinner. Enjoy!
Lemon Basil Chicken and Vegetables
- 1 Lemon grated zest and juice
- 4 tsp canola oil or your favorite cooking oil
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 zucchini halved lengthwise and sliced
- 1 yellow squash halved lengthwise and sliced
- 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
- 1/2 cup red onion sliced
- 1/4 cup fresh basil chopped
- additional lemon wedges for serving
- Parmesan cheese (optional)
- Prepare pot for pasta or rice – prepare according to package instructions
- Stir together lemon zest and juice, oil, garlic, salt and pepper in a large bowl; add chicken and toss to coat. While chicken is marinading, prepare the vegetables.
- Preheat large pan on medium-high. Add chicken and cook until chicken becomes golden brown, stirring regularly. Remove chicken into large bowl and return pan to heat.
- Add onion the the pan and cook until onion starts to caramelize. (add more oil here if you need but watch your SmartPoints!)
- Add squash and zucchini to the onion and cook for another 4-6 minutes on medium-high, stirring periodically. Add tomatoes to the pan and cook for another couple of minutes.
- Return chicken and any juices that have accumulated on the bottom of the bowl to the pan. Add half of the fresh basil and stir to incorporate all ingredients.
- Serve in individual dishes and top with remaining fresh basil, lemon wedges, and optional Parmesan cheese (will add SmartPoints).