Grilled Chicken and Peach Panzanella with Bacon, Mozzarella and Basil

August 1, 2011 9:57:29 AM PDT
Panzanella is a Tuscan bread salad that is wonderful anytime, but we love it with the summer flavors of fresh grilled peaches and grilled chicken.

Don't be put off by the various steps in this recipe. Many of the components of this dish can be made ahead for quick assembly. After you taste this dish, we think you'll agree that it's worth the extra effort.


Two 6-ounce skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

Two skinless, boneless chicken thighs

Two ripe peaches, cut in half and pitted

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

For the Herb Oil

1/4 cup basil leaves

1/4 cup parsley leaves, chopped

1 cup grapeseed oil (or any neutral oil)

For the Herb Croutons

1/2 pound Ciabatta bread, preferably day-old, medium diced

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Panzanella

2 thick slices bacon

2 shallots, sliced thin

1 fresh Fresno chili, sliced thin

3 stalks celery, sliced

¼ cup dark chicken stock

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

1 tablespoon chopped basil

Celery leaves from 3 stalks, chopped

4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cubed

Juice of 1 lemon (about 1 tablespoon)

3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Prepare a fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill to medium-high. Coat the chicken with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange on the grill and cook until an instant read thermometer registers 165 degrees F when inserted into the thickest part, 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Remove from the grill. When cool enough to handle, chop the chicken into chunks. Set aside until ready to use. Note: This can be made ahead. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to one day.

While the fire is medium hot, grill the peach halves. Toss the peach halves in Extra Virgin Olive Oil and season with salt. Arrange on the grill and cook until softened slightly, 3 to 4 minutes, turning every so often. Remove to cool, then dice. Note: This can be made ahead. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to one day.

Make herb oil: Have ready a bowl of ice water. In a small pot, bring 2 cups water to boil. Add the basil leaves and blanch for 10 seconds. With a slotted spoon, remove the basil leaves and quickly plunge in the ice bath. When cool enough to handle, remove and squeeze out the excess water and transfer to a blender or food processor. Combine with the chopped parsley, grape seed oil, and pinch of salt. Puree until smooth. Note: this will yield more than needed for this recipe, so save for another use. Store leftover oil covered in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before using.

Make herb croutons: Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees F. On a flat baking dish/sheet tray, toss bread pieces with herb oil to coat, sea salt and black pepper. Bake in the pre-heated oven until crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Set aside until ready to use.

Cook bacon/vegetables: In a medium sauté pan, over medium-high heat, cook bacon until crisp, about 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. In the same sauté pan, add the shallot, chili and celery, season with salt and cook for 3-4 minutes until slight softening occurs. Add chicken stock and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Remove from heat and mix with chopped herbs, and celery leaves. When cooled, cut the bacon into bite-sized pieces.

To serve: In a large mixing bowl combine the grilled chicken, grilled peaches, croutons, bacon, vegetable-herb mixture and mozzarella. Add lemon juice and Extra Virgin Olive Oil and toss gently to coat. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Let the salad sit for 10 minutes to allow the dressing to soak into the croutons, Divide the salad among 4 plates and serve.