In the summertime, we crave good Panzanella salad. We can eat our weight in summer tomatoes every single day, and having tomatoes with bread and basil only elevates the experience. But we’re in the midst of an Upstate New York winter, and summer is as far away as the moon.
Not to be discouraged, we put together a healthier version of the summer salad, and we have to say, it was outstanding! Our market carries these little gems:
Flavor Bombs cherry tomatoes are my sunshine in the midst of a Buffalo blizzard. Eaten at room temperature, (don’t refrigerate your tomatoes!) they rival a summer beefsteak tomato. They’re a little pricey, but if you compare them to the taste of those sad little winter tomatoes, they are totally worth it.
We halved all the tomatoes, quartered and sliced some cucumber, and charred two ears of corn on the outdoor grill. (You can do this under the broiler or over a gas flame as well.)
For our bread, we purchased a whole grain organic baguette. We halved it lengthwise and tossed it in the oven on a sheet pan at 275º for about 45 minutes to dry it out. Used 1/4 of the baguette for our salad. The other 3/4 became croutons for soup and salads in the future.
The dressing made the salad. We minced a large shallot, added it to 1/4C olive oil, 2 minced garlic cloves, some Dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, and coarsely ground pepper. Remember those herbs we froze in olive oil back in September? Tossed in two of those oregano cubes, too. We gave the dressing a run through the blender, and bam! Amazing dressing! You can use dried oregano if you don’t have fresh.
We mixed everything together and dinner was ready! It was equally loved by both our 26-year-old daughter as it was by her father.
A little fresh sliced basil pulled it all together. It may not be summertime, but we can close our eyes and pretend, can’t we? Spring arrives in 31 days! Keep your eye on the prize!
Healthier Panzanella Salad
- 1 lb skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
- 1 pint ripe, sweet cherry tomatoes
- 1 large cucumber
- 2 ears corn
- 30 leaves romaine lettuce
- 4 ounces whole grain baguette about 1/4 of baguette
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 large shallot
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 Tbsp Apple Cider vinegar
- 2 tsp fresh oregano (or 1 tsp dried oregano)
- 1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
- ¼ cup water
- Preheat the oven to 275º. Slice off a quarter of the baguette, and wrap the rest for future use. Halve the bread lengthwise and place in the oven for about 45 minutes to dry out.
- To make the chicken, start with filling a large saucepan halfway with water. Add some aromatics, of you have them: a smashed clove of garlic, a bay leaf, 1/2C of white wine … whatever you think might elevate poached chicken to the next level. Once the water is boiling, add the 4 chicken breasts. Bring back to a boil, and turn down heat to a simmer. Cover, and simmer 10-15 minutes until chicken is cooked and no longer pink inside.
- Grill corn to char some of the kernels, (outdoors on the grill, or under broiler) and cut it off the cob when cooled.
- Slice cherry tomatoes in half; quarter the cucumbers lengthwise, and slice into pieces.
- Make the dressing: combine shallots, oil, apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, minced garlic, water, ground pepper and oregano to the vessel of a blender and mix well to emulsify.
- Mix everything together in a large bowl. Let rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes to soak bread and bring all the flavors together.
- Plate each serving with 5 lettuce leaves and the salad in the center.