I’ve had my old reliable bread-and-tomato salad recipe for more than a decade now, but there’s always room for innovation. I usually serve my panzanella alongside grilled chicken, so when I saw a Serious Eats recipe that just put the chicken right into the salad, it seemed like the logical next step. I do so love a one-dish meal.
Through three rounds of trial and (not very much) error, I’ve evolved the perfect hybrid between old and new. From my previous version, I kept the herb mixture (cilantro and dill as well as basil) and the trick of adding a couple of tablespoons of water to extend the dressing without making it too oily. I also swiped a simple grilled-chicken marinade from other recipes in my arsenal, and used my usual stovetop method of toasting the croutons. The new recipe not only adds the chicken, but also crisp cucumbers and a sweet hit of balsamic in the red-wine vinaigrette. The result might be one of my favorite summer salads, colorful, juicy, deeply flavorful and perfectly filling.
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 large garlic cloves, smashed, plus 1 small garlic clove, minced
12 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 to 1½ pounds boneless, skinless, chicken breasts (about 2 large), halved lengthwise
4 cups 1-inch cubed French bread
3 to 4 large ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 large Persian cucumbers, halved and cut into ½-inch-thick half-moons
½ small red onion, sliced thinly
½ cup chopped basil
¼ cup chopped cilantro
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- In a large zip-top bag or a large glass bowl with a lid, mix together the lemon juice, 2 smashed cloves garlic, ¼ cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Add the chicken breasts, make sure they get thoroughly coated with the marinade, and let them marinate at least one hour.
- Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add bread cubes, toss well, and sauté until lightly toasted, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper, and let cool to room temperature.
- Grill the chicken until cooked through, let cool to room temperature, and cut into 1-inch cubes.
- Place tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, herbs, and chicken in a large bowl.
- Whisk remaining 6 tablespoons oil, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, 1 small clove minced garlic, 2-3 tablespoons water, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste in a medium bowl until combined.
- Pour about ¾ of the dressing over the salad and toss thoroughly to moisten. Add bread cubes, toss well, add remaining dressing if needed, season to taste with salt and pepper, and let sit for about 15 minutes before eating.
Time: 1½ hours
Leftover potential: Good, but store bread cubes separately, adding to the leftover portions about 15 minutes before you eat them.