Is there anything better than vine ripe tomatoes so full of flavor they’re bursting at the seams, (sometimes quite literally)! I never get enough of homegrown tomatoes, their season is so fleeting and the flavor is incomparable to their pale supermarket counterparts, which I often compare to the texture of styrofoam.
Not that I don’t buy out of season tomatoes or anything, (because I do, an embarrassing amount really). I just really appreciate the real thing when I have it. And… as a side note when you are buying out of season tomatoes, cherry tomatoes always have the most flavor and best texture.
One of my favorite ways to celebrate tomato season is the classic Caprese Salad. This time I’ve taken my usual recipe, and transformed it into a topping for a simple grilled chicken with some garden zucchini.
Can we talk zucchini for a minute? We’re finally getting to that stage where the zucchini is taking over the garden, I mean it’s sending out vines in all directions, and they’re all bearing fruit. If you’re having similar ‘problems’ be sure to check back later this week because I’m putting together all my best ways to use up the abundance of summer squash!
But… back to the topic at hand, this simple meal with minimal prep and all the best flavors of summer has quickly become a household favorite. With all the bright colors, it makes for great presentation if you’re having company over, but true to my usual style it’s so simple you could make it on a weeknight.
I always like to let my caprese salad ‘marinate’ a bit before serving it. I just think it tastes a bit better once the olive oil has had a bit of time to soak in. You can also add the chopped basil if the salad topping is only sitting for 15 minutes or so, but if you’re storing it in the fridge for any length of time be sure to add the basil before serving (it has a tendency to turn brown quickly). Another quick tip, is to make sure the salad is at room temperature for serving because the flavor will be much more intense. In the ideal world, the tomatoes would never set foot inside the refrigerator and just go straight from sun warmed to salad!
I like to marinate the chicken overnight for the best flavor, but I also tried it out with a 2 hour marinade and that worked as well. It’s really important to control the heat when you’re grilling chicken that’s been marinated, if the grill gets too hot the chicken will burn before it cooks all the way through.
For a final flourish, I like to drizzle the whole plate with a balsamic reduction and a sprinkle of flaked finishing sea salt. If you’re interested in making your own balsamic reduction, I gave a quick run down in my Watermelon Feta Spinach Salad. The little finishing touches make a dish seem special, (and they really add to the flavor) but it only takes a couple extra seconds to achieve a gorgeous restaurant worthy plate!
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, 1½ pounds
- 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon maple syrup, I used Grade A
- ½ Teaspoon sea salt
- 1 pound of cherry tomatoes, halved equaling 4 cups
- 6 ounce fresh mozzarella pearls, drained
- 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 8 large leaves of basil, ¼ ounce
- Flaked finishing sea salt to taste
- Balsamic reduction or balsamic vinegar
- For the grilled zucchini I used 8 ounces per person for a total of 2 pounds
- Place the chicken breasts in a glass container and add the marinade ingredients. Mix everything together well, cover and refrigerate overnight or at least 2 hours.
- After the chicken is marinated, preheat the grill over medium high heat.
- While the grill heats prepare the Caprese Salad Topping by mixing together the cherry tomatoes, mozzarella pearls, and olive oil.
- Slice the basil by stacking all the leaves together. Then roll them up and slice them as thinly as possible to create a chiffonade. Mix the basil into the salad and let it sit while the chicken cooks.
- When the grill temperature has reached 400ºF, place the chicken on the grill and immediately lower the heat to medium. Discard any leftover marinade. Grill for 8-10 minutes or until the chicken loosens up from the grill and is easy to turn over. Continue cooking for another 8-10 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink in the center. The cooking time will always vary depending on the size of your meat.
- When the chicken is done remove it from the grill and let it set for a couple of minutes on a cutting board. Slice the chicken and serve it topped with the Caprese Salad. Drizzle the whole plate with balsamic reduction and sprinkle to taste with the finishing sea salt.
If you want to add zucchini to the meal, slice off both ends and cut them in half lengthwise. Place them flat side down on the grill when you put the chicken on and turn them when you turn the chicken. This works well for medium sized zucchini, for smaller ones the cooking time will be shorter.
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