Preheat oven to 375F/190C. Trim all visible fat and tendons from chicken pieces, then cut each chicken breast lengthwise into 2 or 3 pieces. (I cut the larger ones into 3 strips and the smaller ones into 2 strips.)
Spray a 9" x 12" (or 8.5" X 12.5") baking dish with non-stick spray, then spread 1/4 cup basil pesto over the bottom of the dish. Lay chicken strips over the pesto, then spread 1/4 cup more basil pesto over the chicken.
Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil (or use a baking dish with a tight-fitting lid) and bake the chicken for 25-30 minutes, just until chicken is barely firm and cooked through. (Don't cook too much at this point, or the chicken will be overcooked by the time the cheese is melted and browned.)
When chicken is barely cooked through, remove foil and sprinkle chicken with 1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese. Put dish back into the oven without foil and cook 5 minutes more, just until cheese is melted. (If your broiler is separate from the oven, start preheating it when you take the chicken out.) After I melted the cheese for 5 minutes I switched my oven to broil and broiled for 5 minutes more, just long enough to get the cheese lightly browned.
Serve hot. There will be some flavorful juice in the bottom of the dish when this is done, so you may want to serve with rice, couscous, or quinoa to soak up the juice, but if you're eating this for phase one, just spoon the juice over the chicken.
Basil Pesto with Lemon (or can use store bought)
(Makes about 1 1/2 cups pesto, recipe inspired by many basil pesto recipes through the years, with the idea of adding lemon juice something Kalyn has been committed to the last few years.)
2 cups fresh basil leaves (packed into measuring cup)
3-4 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (choose a a flavorful olive oil for pesto)
1/2 cup pine nuts
3/4 cup coarsely grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.
Wash basil leaves if needed and spin dry or dry with paper towels. Put basil leaves and sliced garlic into food processor that's been fitted with the steel blade and process until basil and garlic is finely chopped, adding oil through the feed tube as you process. (You may need to take off the lid and scrape the sides with a rubber scraper if you have a hard time getting the basil all chopped.)
Add pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, and lemon juice to the chopped basil mixture and process 1-2 minutes more, until the pesto is mostly pureed and well mixed. (I like to keep it slightly chunky, but you can make it as finely pureed as you wish.)
Season to taste with salt and fresh ground black pepper and pulse a few times more.
Store basil pesto in the refrigerator in a glass jar, where it will keep for more than a week. Pesto can also be frozen. Many cooking experts recommend leaving out the cheese if you're going to freeze it, and then adding the cheese when you thaw the pesto. (I've done it both ways and haven't noticed that much difference.)
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