Panzanella (I think this should be a Chef Super Hero name)

Panzanella Salad with a Twist

What is better then one Italian dish? THREE Italian dishes in ONE. This salad is bursting with flavors that taste so well together you won’t miss the bowl of pasta. I am also pretending this is super healthy since it is in fact a salad and not the bowl of pasta…

It’s salty, crunchy, juicy, and acidic, what more could you ask for in a bite?

Recently I have been making Instagram stories ( @Paiges_frommyfoodjournal) and asking my friends what are some of their favorite dishes. I wanted to be able to turn them into something else and preferably quick for week night meals. This past IG story was a blend of some of the answers I got for fave dishes; Chicken Picatta, Chicken Saltimbocca, Chicken Milanese.

These classic dishes were turned into one of my new favorite salads. I wanted to do a panzanella salad specifically so this dish would not be TOO salty. There are a lot of flavors going on in this dish and the bread salad was a great route to go to soak up all the goodness of the flavors from all three of these iconic dishes.

I started my dish by baking the crouton.

I preheated my oven to 425 while I cubed up thick chunks of a stale baguette I had on hand. A panzanella (or any) salad is a great way to use up older bread.

I simply tossed lemon juice, a clove of garlic, parsley, and olive oil with the bread cubes in a large bowl and spread them onto a sheet pan to bake until golden brown.

Next I cut up some veggies. You want larger chops for a salad like this, it’s an entree, not a side salad!

I used artichokes, tomatoes, red onion, and added some arugula (for the milanese idea). Most panzanella salads stick to the chunks of veggies and don’t add a lot of greens and lettuce. It is a BREAD salad.

I mixed all these guys together with a dash of olive oil and lemon juice and let them hang out in my mixing bowl with the toasted croutons. You want to let this dish rest a little to really absorb the flavors AND not break your teeth on the crunchy bread. The croutons soften some as you let it rest in the juices of the veggies and the vinaigrette we will be making.

Just before I prepare the chicken, I added a couple of slices of prosciutto to a baking sheet to get crispy so I can top the panzanella salad. This is an added crunch and really accents the dish well. The prosciutto is also an ode to the saltimbocca dish, a thin piece of chicken or veal rolled up with prosciutto and cooked in wine and butter (yum…)

In a large skillet, heat some butter and olive oil over medium high heat. In the mean-time, cut your chicken breast in half and season with salt and pepper. Place a couple tablespoons of flour on a plate or in a shallow dish and coat the chicken breast. Shake off the excess flour, this is dredging! Great for browning your chicken and keeping the meat tender.

Add the chicken breast halves to the hot pan and brown on each side, about 3 mins depending on the thickness. Once browned and cooked through, place chicken on a plate to rest. Do not clean out the pan.

Now, time for the vinaigrette. I like a warm vinaigrette for this salad, it makes it feel more like a dinner dish to me and I think it really ties everything together quite nicely.

Lemon and Caper Vinaigrette

For the Lemon Caper Vinaigrette

With the hot pan off the heat, I squeezed half a lemon to scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the chicken pan. Doing this really adds more depth of flavor, plus who wants to clean the pan or dirty another dish in the process of cooking? No thanks.

I returned the heat to low and added a clove of chopped garlic and a spoonful of capers. I just whisked for a few seconds so the garlic softened, you don’t want burnt garlic (too bitter). Once softened and the capers slightly warmed, I added a heaping tablespoon of dijon mustard, some dashes of white vinegar, and olive oil to thin out the vinaigrette.

I did not add salt because the capers are plenty of salt. Add more lemon, vinegar, or olive oil as you like until you get a consistency you prefer. I kept this vinaigrette on the more viscous and thick side. You can always add more olive oil or vinegar when you toss everything together.

Lastly, I cut the chicken breasts into chunks and added them to the resting bowl of croutons and veggies. Scoop the warm caper vinaigrette into the bowl as well and gently toss all together. Top with your crispy prosciutto and there ya have it! A chicken saltimbocca milanese picatta PANZANELLA salad! Say that 5 times fast.

Yummy.

These sort of salads are great because you can use up a lot of goodies from your fridge and pantry. As well as, they can be made in advance and are SO good for lunch the next day. You can add and subtract whatever your taste buds prefer.

A panzanella salad is amazing with the addition of beans, cucumber, basil and other fresh herbs, bell peppers, roasted red pepper, sundried tomatoes…the list goes on. Substitute different oils and vinegars as well, or just stick to a good ole’ lemon. You can use anything as long as your croutons soak it up! I would steer clear of store bought creamy dressings ( in my opinion) but any vinegary (is that a word?) dressing is OK.

You can make it a “themed” panzanella and create a Mexican style salad with a cilantro, sour cream vinaigrette, chopped tomatoes, black beans, avocado hunks, corn, and red onion. Or maybe a little asian flare with the addition of cabbage, shredded carrots, celery, mushrooms, and a soy lime vinaigrette topped with salmon. Options are endless, get creative! Salads do not have to be boring and can make a great delicious entree.

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