Sourdough Panzanella with Grilled Chicken

I absolutely love a good salad. I’d gladly eat one every day if I didn’t hate making them so much. It’s a rare occasion indeed when I do actually prepare a salad at home. Call me crazy, but it just tastes better when someone else makes it :) Even when I do buy the ingredients with the best of intentions, all too often I end up throwing them away a week later when it’s time to clean out the produce drawer. So frustrating!

The little pizza place down the street from our house makes the best grilled chicken salad so a lot of times I’ll just pick up the phone and call them when a salad craving strikes. That can definitely get expensive though, and I’ve really been trying to break myself of the habit. Plus, with the way my tomato plants are exploding, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to have a few recipes I could look forward to using them in!

Sourdough Panzanella with Grilled Chicken

This sourdough panzanella has become a big time favorite in the past few weeks. When I was going through my sourdough phase a few months ago I stashed about 4 loaves of bread in the freezer, and I’m loving that this salad is also helping me work through that. The bread is grilled along with the chicken, then both are combined with tomatoes and cucumbers, red onion and fresh herbs and tossed with a simple, but flavorful vinaigrette. It’s a really satisfying lunch or even dinner, and since everything is grilled, there’s no need turn on the oven and heat up the house – perfect for the dog days of August!

Quick note – you really want to eat the salad the day you make it, otherwise the bread gets soggy. The first time I made this I stored leftovers in the fridge overnight without giving much thought to what would happen to the bread. I was so looking forward to eating the salad I wound up picking out all of the icky bread, and replacing it with freshly grilled bread. It was still delicious, but in the future I scaled back to make only as much as I’d eat that day, which is what I’d recommend.

Sourdough Panzanella with Grilled Chicken

Sourdough Panzanella with Grilled Chicken
from Fine Cooking

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 3/4-inch-thick slices sourdough bread
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 anchovy fillet, rinsed
1 small garlic clove
4 medium tomatoes, cut into 3/4 inch pieces (about 3 cups)
1 medium cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut into 3/4 inch pieces (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh mixed herbs (I used parsley and basil)

Preheat your grill to medium-high heat. Oil the grates lightly (I use the tongs to hold a paper towel that’s been dipped in oil and rub it over the grates).

Use two tablespoons of the oil to brush both sides of the slices of bread. Grill the bread for 1-2 minutes per side, or until they’re golden and develop grill marks. Cut the bread into 3/4-inch cubes, and set aside.

Stir the oregano, paprika, salt and pepper together in a small bowl. Sprinkle evenly over the chicken breasts. Place the chicken on the grill and cook, flipping once, until cooked through (165 F on an instant read thermometer), about 10-12 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes, then cut into 3/4-inch cubes.

Add the remaining six tablespoons of oil and the vinegar to a large serving bowl. Press the anchovy and garlic through a garlic press (or finely mince by hand) into the bowl. Whisk to combine until thick and emulsified. Add the bread, chicken, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, and the herbs to the bowl and toss to coat with the vinaigrette. Season the salad to taste with salt and pepper then serve.

(Note: this salad is really best served the day you make it. The bread gets pretty soggy if you let it sit too long.)