The basil is sweet. The tomatoes are hot. Having this every summer once or twice (or a hundred times) is just part of loving what happens in our world when it’s hot enough to fry an egg on an east deck (in Colorado) in the morning. The basic salad requires no cooking, but just a layering of fresh mozzerella, buttery tomatoes and basil topped with maybe a balsamic vinaigrette or even just some balsamic vinegar. Lemon is another typical Italian flavor, and a lemon vinaigrette (perhaps with a little lemon basil mixed in) is another option. One night, it looked like hunger was demanding something a little more substantial than just tomatoes and cheese, and thus the chicken-pasta version was born. You can try it with pulled deli chicken, too, if you just can’t turn the grill on tonight.
This dish originated in the Campania region of Italy, but our version was born right here in Colorado Springs up on the mesa overlooking Sonderman Park.
Grilled Chicken Pasta Caprese Salad serves 2
1/4# whole wheat rotini pasta, cooked al dente
1-2 c fresh greens
1 large chicken breast, grilled and sliced*
2 large, ripe tomatoes, sliced
8 oz fresh mozzerella sliced
12 fresh basil leaves
1/2 fresh lemon
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
On a large platter, put down a light layer of the whole wheat pasta, followed by a layer of fresh greens around the edges of the platter. In the center, overlap pieces of sliced grilled chicken, tomatoes, mozzerella and fresh basil. Dust the entire salad with a liberal dose of kosher salt and pepper. Squeeze the lemon over all. Drizzle with vinegar or balsamic vinaigrette. (If you’d like just vinegar, let it reduce and thicken a little by placing 1/2 c balsamic vinegar in a small sauce pan and heating over low heat until vinegar is somewhat gooey and as thick as you’d like. It’ll keep in the refrigerator for weeks that way.)
*To grill chicken, brush on about a teaspoon of canola oil on each side of chicken and salt and pepper well. Set over hot grill for l minute; turn and cook for 1 minute on the other side. Reduce heat or move chicken to a cooler section of grill and continue grilling until no pink is left (turning as needed) and chicken is firm. BETTER HOMES BIG GRILL COOKBOOK says it takes about 12 minutes total to grill a 4-6 oz chicken breast. Check earlier if you like a juicier breast.
**Balsamic vinaigrette: 1/2 t dijon-style mustard, 1 t finely chopped shallot, 1 T balsamic vinegar, 2T extra virgin olive oil, 1/4t each kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Whisk together dijon, shallot and vinegar. Slowly drizzle in olive oil, whisking until well-blended. Add salt and pepper. Taste to adjust seasonings.
For more info:
Another balsamic vinaigrette
Basic caprese recipe
Wine: Pinot Grigio or Viognier. If you’d like a red, settle for a dry rose.