Pan Seared Chicken and Panzanella

Chicken…you already know what that is but what the heck is panzanella you ask? Well let me tell ya! Panzanella is an Italian bread salad. In an effort to use every last bit of food, those crafty folks from the boot-shaped country thought of a way to use up stale, left over bread by tossing it with a few other ingredients to create a delightfully tangy, savory salad. Originally a bread and onion salad, panzanella today is made primarily with tomatoes and some onion. Purists might scoff at the use of other ingredients such as olives or even cucumbers but I particularly love the saltiness of the olive and the cool crunch of the cucumber. That’s my two peas about that! I hope you enjoy the recipe!!

Serves 4
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:
Chicken –
• 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
• 1 Tbsp of EVOO for frying
• 1 lemon
• 1 Tbsp flat leaf parsley
• S&P – ½ tsp salt and ½ tsp of fresh cracked pepper

Panzanella –
• 1 Day old baguette loaf (this should come to about 4 -5 cups of croutons)
• 2 roma/plum tomatoes
• ½ cucumber
• 1 small red onion
• ¼ cup kalamata olives (pitted)
• 2 cloves garlic (you can use 1 if you prefer less but I don’t call myself Aly GarlicHands for nothing)
• ¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp of EVOO separated – ¼ cup EVOO for the salad and 2 Tbsp for the croutons
• ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
• S&P – ½ tsp salt and ½ tsp fresh cracked pepper

Prep It:
Panzanella – Note: Panzanella can be made up to a day in advance. The longer it sits the better the flavors get. Leftovers of this stuff are always welcome in our household
• Preheat the oven to 400F and make sure the rack is placed in the middle slot in the oven.
• Break up (or cut) the day old baguette into 1 – 1 ½ inch cubes. This is a rustic salad so there’s no need to get fancy. We usually just tear it with our hands.
• Place the bread chunks (or cubes) on the baking sheet.
• Drizzle the EVOO (2 Tbsp) on the bread and lightly toss it with your hands (Yep! This is the fun part) to evenly coat all the pieces.
• Spread out the pieces into a single layer and bake for approximately 7 minutes or until they’re golden brown. Be sure to check them after 5 so they don’t accidentally burn. Especially if you’re cooking at a high altitude!
• Take them out of the oven and let them cool while you prep the rest of the ingredients.
• Wash and dice the tomatoes. We like a smaller dice so you get a bit tomato in each bite.
• Peel the cucumber, slice it in half and remove the seeds using a small spoon. Dice it just as you did the tomato.
• Slice the olives about ¼ in. thick are perfect so, again, you get a bit of olive in each bite.
• Peel the onion, cut off the top and bottom and slice it in half. Place half the onion cut side down on your cutting board and thinly slice it. Repeat with the other half.
• Mince the garlic.
• In a large bowl, combine all the veggies (tomatoes, cucumber, olives, onions and garlic), the bread and the S&P. Drizzle the EVOO and balsamic (1/4 cup of each) and toss it all to combine. Taste it and adjust the seasonings to your liking! Note: if you made this in advance make sure you cover the bowl with plastic or foil and place it in the fridge to chillax.

Chicken –
• Mince the parsley. Nothing fancy or too fine; just run your knife through it a few times.
• Slice the lemon into wedges.
• Butterfly the chicken breasts. Basically this is just slicing the meat in halt, not nearly all the way through but just enough to be able to open it like a book and have if lay flat like one piece. Cutting techniques will be another blog. You can also pound them until they’re about ½ in. thick.
• Sprinkle some S&P on each side of the breast

Cook It:
• In a large sauté pan Heat 1 Tbsp of EVOO over medium heat
• Once the oil starts to ripple – but not smoke – lay the chicken breasts in the pan.
• Cook them for approximately 10 minutes, or until cooked through, turning them once after 5 minutes. The cooking time and will vary depending on your stove and altitude. You basically want them seared to a golden brown on each side. If you’re unsure about whether they’re done, cut one of the breasts in the thickest part. The juices should run clear and you shouldn’t see any pink.

Serve it:
• Spoon about 1 to 1 ½ cups of panzanella onto a plate.
• Lay one chicken breast on top
• Sprinkle with a bit of parsley
• Serve with a wedge of lemon.

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