Thursday, September 2, 2010

Chicken Caprese & Homemade Croutons

Finally...a picture of a meal! It only took me about 2 months to remember to take a picture (pretty pathetic learning curve, I'd say). But this dinner was so pretty with such vibrant colors, how could I forget?

After serving my husband eggplant curry and spanakopita for back-to-back dinners, I figured I'd have to tone it down a bit for the next meal (not to mention finally add some meat). So although we had never tried this dish, when I saw it, I knew he would like it. It's basically an insalata caprese (an Italian salad made from sliced tomato, fresh mozzarella and fresh basil drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil) on top of marinated chicken. The chicken is actually marinated in the balsamic vinegar and olive oil and baked, adding the mozzarella at the very end so it melts nicely on top of the chicken.

Since this recipe only has a few ingredients, it's always good to try to get the best ingredients within your budget. I'll admit, we didn't have the nicest balsamic vinegar but it still tasted delicious. However, we did have wonderful farmers market tomatoes (if at all possible, get them from a farmers market or steal them from someone's store tomatoes just don't compare). And although I'm not much of a cheese person, I love fresh mozzarella. It's very mild tasting and creamy; also, it has a low fat content and is still fairly high in protein and calcium. I'm already planning to use the leftovers for homemade pizza, paninis (and maybe even an actual insalata caprese!). I'm learning more and more to build my menu plan around what we already have in our pantry and fridge and trying to resist the temptation to just make any recipes that sounds good. It cuts down on waste and you're obviously getting a lot more for your money that way!

As far as croutons go, I have never liked them. I found them to be dry and unnecessary on a salad. Also, I figured that they couldn't be that good for you, either. However, I've found a recipe to make my own whole-wheat version and I can't stop eating them! I made them out of whole-wheat hamburger buns that I had purchased for burgers. You could also use bread or a baguette but if you can, whole-wheat hamburger or hot dog buns are less dense than bread which makes a great crouton. All you have to do is toss the pieces in olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper and bake for about 10 minutes; they can even be made several days ahead of time!

Chicken Caprese
Taken from: A Hint of Honey
  • 0.75-1 lb. skinless boneless chicken breast halves (to shorten the cooking time, cut the chicken breast into thinner strips before marinating)
  • 1/2-1 tomato, sliced
  • fresh mozzarella, sliced (I used about 4 thin slices)
  • 4 leaves fresh basil
  • balsamic vinegar, to drizzle
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Balsamic Vinaigrette Marinade (if you have a balsamic vinaigrette already, feel free to use that!):
  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh basil, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • dash of salt and pepper
-Combine olive oil, vinegar, mustard, basil, garlic, salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Pour the marinade over the chicken, cover, and marinate in the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours.
-Bake chicken in the oven at 375 F for about 20-30 minutes, until juices run clear (will depend on the thickness of the chicken). If you have an instant-read thermometer, make sure the chicken registers at 165 degrees in the thickest part. For the last 5 minutes, top with fresh mozzarella and continue baking until melted.
-Arrange chicken on a serving platter. Place basil leaves on top of the cheese and cover with slices of tomato. Drizzle balsamic vinegar over the platter.

Homemade Croutons
Taken from: Everyday Food
  • 1 whole-wheat hamburger bun, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (makes about 2 cups)
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • pinch of salt and ground pepper
  • -Preheat oven to 375. -Toss bread cubes in olive oil and add a pinch of salt and pepper. -On a foil lined baking sheet, spread cubes in a single layer. Cook for about 5 minutes and then toss. Cook for 3-7 more minutes until croutons are golden brown and crunchy. -They can also be easily warmed in a 375-degree oven for a minute or two before serving, if desired. -Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.


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