Happy 50th birthday, dad! I hope it’s a good one! (Wish I could be there.)
I created a recipe inspired by panzanella, caprese and chicken salad. I wanted to make a lighter version for the days I can’t “calorically” afford to have an entire sandwich so I thought panzanella with pieces of crusty, toasted bread and small pieces of cheese (mozzarella) and some protein, chicken, tuna or turkey and not a drop of mayo…which I’m not fond of as it is. (Let me clarify, not fond of in salads.)
Then again, when I feel like a sandwich I can convert this and either way, I’m happy as a clam. To save some time, I used store-bought artichoke hearts and rotisserie chicken but if you have the time you can make your own. If you are super gung-ho, you can make the bread, chicken or turkey, cooked artichoke pieces, pesto, mozzarella and well you get the idea. I envy you and would be pretty impressed if anyone did this. I have a few pesto recipes on this site that go a bit sideways of the norm so check those out if you want to make a cilantro, parsley, spinach, olive or almond-based pesto.
Chicken and Artichoke Pesto Panzanella or Sandwich
½ to 1 loaf of bread of your choice (I used a mix of Tuscan and wheat)
* Use ¼ to ½ loaf for salad and a full loaf for 4 sandwiches
Chicken, Turkey or Tuna Mix
1- 1 ½ cups cooked rotisserie chicken, turkey or tuna, shredded (I used leftover rotisserie chicken.)
¼-1/2 cup pesto (recipe below or use store-bought although I think it’s much better homemade)
14 oz. canned artichoke hearts
a handful of chopped sun-dried tomatoes- optional
¼ cup red onion, diced
2 tbsp kalamata olives-optional
2- 4 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced for sandwich or cut into bite-sized pieces for salad
sprinkle some golden raisins for a hint of sweetness-optional but highly recommended
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tbsp capers, smashed- optional
3 tbsp balsamic or white wine vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
3 cups basil leaves
½ cup Parmesan
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
½ to 3/4 cup olive oil
Place all but the olive oil in a food processor. Pulse until combined and then add olive oil and pulse again to desired consistency. Save the leftovers for sandwiches, dip or whatever you wish.
Bread for Salad:
Preheat the oven to 350. Cut ½ loaf of bread into bite-sized pieces and place on baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes, until golden and allow to cool and become crisp. If not serving within a half hour, place in an airtight container and set aside. If serving within a half an hour, make dressing and allow bread to soak it up before tossing with mix.
If making your own pesto, do this first. Then, toss, in a large bowl, all the mix ingredients and refrigerate or set aside if serving soon (while bread is soaking up dressing). When ready to serve, add mix to bread soaked in dressing. If you don’t think you will eat all of this salad, keep bread, dressing and mix separate until 30 minutes before serving the remainder. The bread will be too soggy if you don’t do this. I add the bread in individual servings or keep the remaining mix for sandwiches (see below).
Preheat the oven to 350. Cut loaf in half and add sliced mozzarella and bake for 10-15 minutes, until cheese is melted. The dressing is not used for the sandwich. While this is toasting, make pesto (if making your own) and mix. Add the mix to the sandwich when it comes out of the oven and serve right away.
Enjoy your weekend!