Sarah said that she wanted to cook dinner at least once while she was visiting. I agreed. Who wouldn’t want an award-winning chef cooking in the kitchen. The limit set for the adventure was that it had to follow her High protein/low carb regimen. The other thing was that I didn’t want to go to the store again, so she decided to use what was in the pantry and the refrigerator.
She chose to make chicken panzanella. I reminded her that the dish referred to a traditional Italian bread salad. She said, “Just don’t eat the bread.” Point made.
I have not been too specific about quantities except for the chicken breasts – we only had two – and the bread – we had already started eating a pound-and-a-half loaf. Adjust the quantities of the various other ingredients to your particular likes and to the size of the group you plan to serve.
Some of the keys to success include making certain that the bread cubes are completely dried out and firm. Otherwise, they will absorb too much of the juice from the vegetables and wind up being soggy. The seedless grapes are a surprise: they make a sweet foil for the other acidic and bitter components of the salad. The avocado is also not a usual ingredient in a traditional Panzanella, but it makes a tasty addition. You can add more lettuce, but it might overwhelm the other flavors of the salad. You can use your favorite vinaigrette, but simple oil and vinegar allow you to adjust the acidity just as you prefer.
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- Greek yogurt
- scallions, chopped coarsely
- 1 pound (2/3 loaf) farm-style bread, (Sage Bakehouse), cut into ¾-inch cubes, crust on
- extra virgin olive oil
- snacking peppers, seeded, coarsely chopped, and lightly sautéed so that they are still crunchy
- butter lettuce (about 1/3 head)
- cherry tomatoes, halved
- snacking cucumbers, peeled and cut into ½ inch circles
- red seedless grapes, halved
- avocado, diced
- fresh garden herbs (parsley, mint, oregano, tarragon)
- white wine vinegar
- extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper
- Marinate the chicken breasts for 2 hours in a mixture of equal parts of buttermilk and Greek yogurt with sliced scallions. Turn frequently.
- While the chicken breasts are marinating, toss the bread cubes with olive oil and salt, and dry in a 250°F oven until they are completely dry. Set aside.
- Lightly sauté the peppers in a hot skillet until they are slightly wilted, but still crisp.
- Wash, dry, and cut the lettuce into bite-sized pieces. Prepare the tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes and avocado. Wash the herbs, remove the leaves from the stems, and chop finely. Set everything aside.
- Drain extra marinade from the chicken breasts and grill over a hot flame until the chicken is cooked through and the marinade has turned into a golden glaze. Let the grilled chicken rest for 5 minutes, and then cut into ½ inch cubes.
- In a large serving bowl, combine the chicken, bread cubes, peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, avocado, and herbs. Dress with white wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil to taste. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Let sit for 30 minutes to allow the bread to absorb some of the juices from the vegetables. Serve.