Monday, August 13, 2012

Italian Chicken Salad

Heirloom tomatoes are in stores! I can't stop buying them, and while I enjoy them prepared very simply, I also like to mix things up a bit. Since huge logs of mozzarella were on sale this week, I decided a heaping Italian salad was in order. If you don't have a bountiful basil plant like me or are just feeling lazy, feel free to just buy pesto (same with the roasted red pepper).

Italian Chicken Salad

1 heirloom tomato
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup farro
1 red bell pepper
Olive oil
2 chicken breasts
Salt and pepper to taste
15 pitted olives, halved
1 1/2 ounces mozzarella cheese, cubed (I love Crave Brothers mozzarella. The 16oz log was on sale at WFM this week - score!)
8 ounces spinach
Pesto (recipe below)

Spinach Basil Pesto

4 ounces spinach
16 basil leaves
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano
1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

Slice tomato into 1/2 inch thick pieces. Place in a shallow dish and top with balsamic vinegar. Let marinate at least 20 minutes, flipping over every 5 minutes or so.

Prepare farro by bringing it to a boil in a medium saucepan with at least 4 cups water, then let lightly boil about 15 minutes and strain. Meanwhile, heat a cast iron skillet on high heat. Place the red bell pepper and cook, rotating every 2 minutes, until deep char marks appear. Place in a paper bag and let sit for 10 minutes. Peel off skin then slice into bite-sized pieces.

Warm 1 tablespoon olive oil in cast iron skillet. Season chicken with salt and pepper to taste, then cook in the cast iron until cooked through - about 5-6 minutes per side for 1 inch thick chicken breast. Set aside to slightly cool a few minutes, then slice.

To make the pesto, add spinach, basil, garlic, Parmigiano Reggiano, pine nuts and salt and pepper to a food processor and pulse a few times. Then leave on and stream in olive oil through the mouth until it has a dressing consistency - this calls for about 1/4 cup olive oil.

Slice olives and mozzarella cheese and place in a large bowl with spinach. Add in sliced chicken and bell pepper, then drizzle with pesto.Toss to combine. To plate, place several tomato slices on the bottom then top with salad and serve with extra pesto on the side for drizzling. Enjoy!

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