Caprese Chicken

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I don’t know who originally invented the caprese salad, but I would just like to say “thank you”! I cannot get enough of the delicious combination of ripe tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil leaves, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. It just might be best flavor combination ever invented . . . seriously.

Here’s what I’ll be eating this summer. A lot.

Caprese Chicken

So good, and so simple! Take a sautéed chicken breast and top it with delectable caprese salad with a balsamic reduction, and you have beautiful Caprese Chicken.

To make a good caprese salad, you must have the proper ingredients. This means fresh basil (not dried), fresh mozzarella (not that string cheese stuff), and the ripest tomatoes you can find. This is definitely a dish to make during the summer when tomatoes are at their peak. Quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar are important too. Reducing the balsamic vinegar concentrates the flavor and really makes this dish, so don’t skip that step.

The best way to keep fresh basil on hand is to buy a basil plant or two. I have a couple of basil plants by my kitchen window, so I can simply pluck off a few leaves whenever I need to (try adding basil leaves and a slice of lemon to your water).

Fresh basil

Unfortunately, California is going through a drought, so I decided not to plant any tomatoes this year (sniff), but I should be able to get some awesome tomatoes from the local farmers market.

This should feed about 2 people, but we had very large chicken breasts, so we were able to feed 2 adults and 2 kids with this recipe.

Ingredients
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2-3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 cups ripe tomatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup fresh mozzarella
Fresh basil leaves
Salt and pepper, to taste

First, pound the chicken breasts with a meat mallet (or your weapon of choice) until uniformly thick. Season with salt and pepper, and then set aside.

Add the balsamic vinegar to a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to a high-simmer (or low boil) and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the vinegar is reduced by half. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. When the olive oil is hot (you should start to see small ripples in the oil), add the chicken breasts and let cook, undisturbed, for 3-5 minutes. Reduce heat, if needed. When properly browned, the chicken will release from the pan with little effort. Flip the chicken and cook for another 3-5 minutes, or until cooked through. (Note: adding a lid to the pan during the last few minutes of cooking will help the middle of the chicken get done faster.) Remove the chicken to a cutting board and let rest a few minutes before cutting.

To serve, cut the chicken into slices on the diagonal (or however you like) and carefully transfer the chicken to the dinner plates. Top with the tomatoes, and then tear the mozzarella into small pieces and place on top of the tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil and the balsamic reduction, scatter a few basil leaves on top, and then add fresh ground pepper, if desired. Enjoy!

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Chicken Caprese Panini

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Summer is here and my garden is finally producing some ripe, red tomatoes! I love the taste of fresh tomatoes off the vine, and one of my favorite ways to eat them is the Caprese Salad, which is simply tomatoes combined with fresh basil, mozzarella cheese, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

This panini has all the wonderful flavors of Caprese Salad, with chicken added to make this sandwich hearty enough for a main dish. Feel free to experiment with different ingredients (maybe add some pesto, procuitto, crushed red peppers, or spinach). Fresh mozzarella cheese is best, but I was out, so I had to use Colby-jack instead.

Ingredients
1 loaf Italian bread (ciabatta, etc), sliced 1-inch thick
Mayonnaise
Olive oil
2 large tomatoes, sliced and de-seeded (try heirlooms)
Handful of fresh basil leaves
Salt and pepper
Balsamic vinegar
Chicken, cooked and sliced
Mozzarella cheese, sliced

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Spread mayo on one side of a slice of bread, and spray the other side of the slice with olive oil (I use a Misto for this, but you can also brush the olive oil on with a pastry brush). Lay the bread in the skillet, olive oil side down. Place a tomato slice on top of the bread, then a few basil leaves, sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with balsamic vinegar, top with a slice or two of chicken, and finally cheese. Place a second bread slice on top of the cheese.

Reduce the heat to low, if needed. Using a cast iron pan, or other heavy dish, press down on the sandwich for about 1 minute to flatten it. Spray the top slice of bread with olive oil. Flip the sandwich and then use the pan to press down on the sandwich again until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted.

Remove to a plate and repeat for the remaining sandwiches. Serve warm and enjoy!

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Tomatoes with Fresh Basil

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I am blessed to have a husband with a green thumb. In early spring, he nurtured a variety of tiny plants from seed and we have been enjoying the fruits of his labor all summer. We’ve had more lettuce and collard greens than we could ever eat, and plenty of snap peas, squash, onions, and garlic. After a long wait, our tomato bushes are finally beginning to turn scarlet with ripening tomatoes. If you have never enjoyed a home-grown tomato, I strongly encourage you to try to grown your own, or find someone that does. There is nothing like a ripe, juicy tomato right off the vine. Here is a quick recipe for a healthy and easy snack, appetizer, or side dish.

Ingredients
Ripe tomatoes (use several different varieties; heirlooms are especially delicious)
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar (choose a bottle from Modena, Italy)
Fresh basil leaves (small basil plants are inexpensive and will thrive in a sunny window)
Pepper

Chop tomatoes in bite-sized pieces (no need to remove the seeds) and place in a bowl. Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the tomatoes (enough to coat the tomatoes), then add the fresh basil leaves. Stir to coat the tomatoes, then let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes (or longer, if you can stand to wait). Serve with fresh cracked pepper, to taste, and enjoy! This dish is also excellent with fresh mozzarella or shredded parmesan.

 

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