Delicious, easy, and great to pack on a picnic this dish is a treat to share. Other benefits are a day free to lounge away from a hot stove on a gorgeous Summer day. This dish is also a wonderful basic recipe that can be used again for several other meals including a fabulous pasta salad or even a simple tossed salad with the extra romaine.
homemade buttermilk ranch dressing (see note)
homemade pesto (see note)
Herb infused olive oil
four chicken breasts
several slices Monterrey jack, mozzarella, or pepper jack cheese
half a white onion
crusty French baguette
I guess this recipe could be a slight homage to Costco. Earlier I was fortunate enough to be gifted some wonderful food staples from my parents, including these delectable mini mozzarella balls stored in a tub of olive oil infused with cilantro and other fresh herbs. Delicious! Now the cheese itself was long gone–devoured on several other occasions–but I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of the wonderful oil. So it had been sitting in a tub taking up way too much space in my NYC refrigerator until today. What a perfect base marinade for my chicken breasts and some wonderful vegetables just begging for a grilling.
So, as my George Forman Grill was warming up I dunked the chicken in the oil and stirred it around to catch the flecks of parsley and other herbs. Then it was a quick journey from the oil in the tub to the heated grill. Chicken in, I quickly sliced my zuchini lengthwise into narrow strips, then dunked them in the oil awaiting their turn at the grill. Onward to the yellow pepper and onion I went, slicing, marinating, and grilling.
As my last vegetables were grilling to perfection on the Forman, I quartered a long French Baguette and sliced each quarter in half again to toast upright in my mini toaster oven. Nothing better than warm, crusty, French bread.
Always a stickler for time–I decided to melt the cheese on top of the chicken in the microwave instead of risking burning the bread. This is such a quick solution that makes the cheese nice and gooey and only dirties one extra plate.
As the toasted baguettes were ready, I smeared one side with homemade pesto (which I make in batches when I have extra basil and freeze–it is so great to have around for pasta, sandwiches, or even over eggs in the morning).
The recipe is very simple. I thoroughly wash basil leaves–the worst thing is a grainy pesto and basil leaves from the store often contain a lot of dirt in the leaves. Then I blended the leaves in a Cuisinart with a good olive oil–I love extra virgin- next I toss in pine nuts, and Parmesan cheese. More oil makes the pesto thinner and less keeps it more dense–I usually err on the side of a thicker pesto because it is nicer to freeze and it is very easy to add olive oil later.
Buttermilk Ranch Dressing:
As for the buttermilk Ranch, this couldn’t be simpler but couldn’t taste more divine and decadent. Take a hidden valley ranch packet and mix with one cup buttermilk (I do the lower fat version), half a cup of mayonnaise, and half a cup non-fat sour cream (I love non-fat sour cream because it is so rich tasting that you don’t miss the extra fat). And that’s it. Now you have a delicious salad dressing or even in this case a delicious spread for a yummy sandwich.
Now–spread one side of your baguette with ranch and the other side with pesto. Then start to lay down your chicken breast with its lovely melted cheese, next layer your grilled onion, zucchini, yellow pepper, and top with a crisp leaf of romaine lettuce–taken from the heart of the lettuce is best.
Take that first bite–savor the creamy ranch, the warm herbed chicken and its melted cheese, the crunch of the romaine and the toasted baguette and the sumptuous vegetable hints that change with each bite.
Save extra chicken–I often grill up several breasts more than I need because if I cook on the weekends it is so easy to add chicken to salads or sandwiches throughout the week. And definitely save the extra vegetables–with the addition of pesto and some cooked penne–you have a delicious summer pasta salad. Add chicken and you are coming closer to another full and delicious meal.
I made fresh guacamole to go with my sandwich and if I wasn’t so full I would have gone back for seconds. I did scrape my plate clean though–down to the last drop of buttermilk ranch.