Bruschetta Chicken

bruschetta chicken

Two of my most favorite foods are fresh basil pesto and fresh bruschetta. They are both light, flavorful and SCREAM summer!! Pair them with a nice piece of grilled chicken, a thick slab of fresh mozzarella and a crusty slice of oiled bread and you have yourself the perfect meal.

The inspiration for this dish came from a meal I had at a cute local restaurant by my house called “Pasta, Pasta“. After having it just once, I was craving it for days so I decided to come up with my own version which turned out fantastic. The key to this meal is fresh ingredients, well cooked chicken and a nice sturdy, crusty bread. I served it alongside pesto pasta which I know might be a tad bit of carb overload but sometimes you just need a little pasta!

This is a nice quick meal to pull together, especially if you already have your pesto prepared ahead of time. I always like to make a big batch of pesto and then freeze it in an ice cube tray. When you’re ready to use it, just pop a few cubes out and warm them up. As for Italian bread, I always buy extra when I am in the store so I can wrap and freeze a few loaves. Just take the bread out a little before you plan on eating dinner and allow it to defrost, it can be easily grilled (as I did in this recipe) or warmed in the oven. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs skinless boneless chicken breast, pounded thin
  • 1 lb fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • Italian bread, sliced thick and brushed with olive oil
  • Bruschetta
  • Basil Pesto
  • Balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions

If not made ahead of time, prepare the basil pesto and bruschetta.

In a large skillet, warm up 2-3 tbs of olive oil over medium heat. Portion out a few teaspoons of the basil pesto and rub it all over the chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Gently place the chicken into the hot oil and cook for about 3-4 minutes, flip the chicken and cook until done, about 4 minutes depending on thickness. You may need to cook the chicken in batches depending on the size of your skillet. Keep the cooked chicken warm on a plate and bring the oil back up to heat before cooking the next batch. Once all of the chicken is cooked, set aside and cover.

Discard the oil and wipe out the pan OR use a raised griddle pan and warm over medium heat. Brush each side of the sliced bread with a little oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the slices face down into the pan and grill until browned and crusty, flip and toast the other side.

Set oven broiler. In a 9X13 pan place the slices of toasted bread and layer with a piece of grilled chicken and a thick slice of fresh mozzarella. Broil for 3-4 minutes or until the cheese is melted and very slightly browned. Remove from the oven.

On a plate, place a portion of the bread/chicken/cheese combo, top with a heaping spoonful of fresh bruschetta and a little bit of basil pesto. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Serve warm.

 

Fresh Homemade Bruschetta

bruschetta

There is nothing I love more in the summertime than fresh homemade bruschetta. It’s light, healthy, flavorful and goes great with so many different foods such as chicken, crusty crostini, fresh mozzarella and more! It’s also one of the easiest things to make and doesn’t require any hard and fast measurements. Everything is done to taste and you really cannot get this wrong, I promise!

The key to really good bruschetta is to start with fresh, perfectly ripe ingredients. You want to choose beautifully ripened, juicy, red tomatoes as well as crisp red onions and fresh, bright basil. The better the ingredients, the better the bruschetta! Once you have your veggies the only other ingredients you’ll need are Kosher salt, ground black pepper, extra-virgin olive oil and a good balsamic vinegar. That’s it! Super simple, super delicious. If I have it on hand, I will sometimes stir in a few teaspoons of homemade pesto too!

I LOVE to eat bruschetta on top of a good, crusty crostini brushed with olive oil and fresh garlic. It is so good and flavorful and a great summer appetizer! I also love it on top of grilled chicken or on thick slices of fresh mozzarella. It’s even delicious tossed with a little fresh pasta and served chilled. Bruschetta is the perfect accompaniment to so many of your summer dishes, it’ll really brighten almost any meal. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 4-5 ripened tomatoes, any variety 
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • handful of fresh basil, torn
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, to taste
  • Balsamic vinegar, to taste
  • few teaspoons of fresh pesto, optional

Instructions

Dice the fresh tomatoes and place in a large bowl. Add the diced red onion and torn basil. Add Kosher salt, ground black pepper, a little drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a little drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Gently toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Can be served cold or at room temperature.

**Tip – The longer you let the bruschetta sit, the more the flavors will come together resulting in a more flavorful bite.**

Chicken Caprese

Chicken Caprese

One of life’s greatest pleasures is biting into a caprese salad. Sweet, vine ripened tomatoes bursting with flavor are layered with creamy mozzarella, sweet basil and then generously sprinkled with Kosher salt and pepper. The final touch is a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a flavorful balsamic. It’s truly a perfect, yet simple, dish. All of these lovely flavors also pair well with chicken so it was only logical to turn this beloved salad into a heartier dish of Chicken Caprese.

Simplicity is key with this meal. You will want to keep the flavors clean and bright so that the caprese salad shines and isn’t overpowered by a piece of chicken that is too bold and over seasoned. A basic salt and pepper rub with a drizzle of balsamic is all the chicken needs to be perfect. The fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil will pack the flavor punch once it all comes together. I served this dish alongside Garlic Parmesan Pasta   which was a perfect accompaniment to this meal.

To intensify the flavor in this dish, opt for a balsamic reduction* in place of just straight vinegar. Drizzling vinegar straight from the bottle is more than fine however, reducing it down first will create a richer and more flavorful profile. It will also thicken considerably making it more likely to cling to the chicken. Take care when choosing your vinegar, there are many cheap options out there but for the best flavor, it’s worth investing a few extra dollars for a quality vinegar. I get all of my vinegar (and oil) at The Amazing Olive  in Port Jefferson, NY. They have an exceptional collection of oil and vinegar in so many unique and delicious flavors. If you’re not local, no worries, you can order right online! For this recipe I used their Traditional Balsamic which is excellent.

*To reduce vinegar – On the stovetop bring the vinegar to a simmer over medium-high heat then turn the heat down to low to keep it simmering. It will take about 15 minutes for the vinegar to reduce down, watch it carefully towards the end so it does not burn. You will know the vinegar is ready when it becomes thick and can coat the back of a spoon.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast, halved and then halved horizontally 
  • 3-4 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed for browning
  • Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 tbs balsamic vinegar, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes, sliced very thin and sprinkled with Kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 lb fresh mozzarella, sliced thin
  • handful of fresh basil, cut into ribbons

Instructions

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Rub the chicken with salt, pepper, and minced garlic until coated. Drizzle the balsamic over the chicken and lightly rub it in.

Place olive oil in a skillet set over medium heat. When the oil is hot and shimmering add the chicken. Cook until lightly browned on each side, about 3-4 minutes per side. Be sure not to overcrowd the pan, work in batches until all of the chicken has been browned. Place the chicken in a 9X13 baking dish coated lightly with cooking spray and drizzle with the remaining pan juices. Drizzle additional balsamic to taste.

Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until the juices run clear and the chicken is cooked through. In the last 5 minutes of cooking, remove the chicken from the oven and place 1-2 slices of tomato on each piece of chicken followed by 1-2 slices of fresh mozzarella. Lightly sprinkle the tops with Kosher salt and pepper. Return the pan to the oven and finish off the chicken. To melt and brown the cheese a little more, place the pan under the broiler for 2-4 minutes, watch closely so that the cheese doesn’t burn.

Remove from the oven. Using a spoon, drizzle each piece of chicken with the pan juices. Garnish with the basil ribbons. Serve hot.

Chicken Caprese2

Pizza Margherita

pizzamargh1

I was dying for my favorite margherita pizza in Port Jefferson however, it’s Monday, it’s kind of yucky out, and I am just flat out too lazy to drag the kids there this evening. Instead, I decided to make my own! Granted, it’s not quite the perfection of my favorite place but it was pretty damn delicious. When the kids ask for thirds and your husband can’t stop eating it, you know you did good.

I found this recipe on Epicurious, it was the Pizza Margherita by Melissa Roberts and Maggie Ruggiero. I didn’t deviate at all from the recipe except to use San Marzano tomatoes in place of regular whole tomatoes. I also doubled both the sauce and the dough so that I could make two pizzas. I used my large, round pizza stone to bake the pizzas and they came out excellent. The recipe suggested to use parchment paper on the pizza peel and then transferring that directly to the stone. What a fantastic idea!! It made the transfer of the pizza from the counter to the stone to the cutting board a cinch. I was also able to assemble both pizzas at one time which was very convenient so as one pizza came out of the oven I was able to slide the next one right in. Easy peasy.

Overall, this recipe made a delicious pizza that was pretty easy to make. The only “trouble” you might encounter is when making the dough, getting it to be less sticky requires that you keep adding extra flour. That usually makes me a little nervous because I don’t want to end up with a brick in the end but if you don’t add a little as needed, you will have a giant, sticky mess on your hands. I used my stand mixer with the dough hook to bring the dough together and then proofed it in my oven as I have a “proof” setting. If you do not have that feature, just be sure to allow the dough to rise in a warm area free of drafts.

Ingredients

For the dough

  • 1 (1/4 oz) package of active dry yeast
  • 1 3/4 unbleached all purpose flour, divided (plus more for dusting)
  • 3/4 cup warm water, divided
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tbs olive oil

For the sauce

  • 1 (14-15 oz) can of whole tomatoes in juice
  • 2 large garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 4 basil leaves, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/4 tsp sugar

For the pizza

  • 6-8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced

Instructions

In a large bowl, stir together the yeast, 1 tbs flour, and a 1/4 cup warm  water (105 – 110 degrees). Let stand until the surface appears creamy, about 5 minutes. (If the mixture does not appear creamy, throw it out and start over with new yeast)

Add 1 1/4 cups flour, remaining 1/2 cup of warm water, salt, and oil and stir until smooth. Stir in enough flour (1/4 to 1/3 cup) so that the dough begins to pull away from the side of the bowl. Dough will be slightly wet.

Knead on a floured surface or use the dough hook of your stand mixer and work the dough until smooth, soft, and elastic. About 8 minutes. Form a ball, place into an oiled bowl and dust with flour. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a draft free place for about 1 1/4 hours. Dough should double in size.

While the dough is rising, make the tomato sauce. Pulse the tomatoes with the juice in a blender to make a chunky puree. (You can also just squeeze the tomatoes in their juices as well and avoid the blender.) Cook the garlic in oil over medium low heat until fragrant and pale golden, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, basil, sugar, and 1/8 tsp salt and simmer until thickened and reduced to about 3/4 cup, about 40 minutes. Season with salt as needed and cool.

At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, heat the stone in a 500 degree oven on the lower third rack.

While the stone is heating, shape the dough. Do NOT punch the dough down. Dust with flour and transfer to a parchment lined pizza peel or large baking sheet. Pat out the dough evenly with your fingers and stretch into a 14″ round.

Spread sauce over dough, leaving a 1″ border. Arrange the cheese. Keep the pizza on the parchment and slide right onto the hot stone. Bake until the dough is crisp and browned and the cheese is golden and bubbling, about 13-16 minutes. When the pizza is done, use the peel to transfer to a cutting board. Cool 5 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh basil, slice, and serve hot.

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