Simple. That's what I think of when warm weather and sunshine roll around this way again. Once the temperatures climb and soft breezes stir the leaves in the trees, I want nothing more after a long weekend day of working in the yard than to chill on the deck. Honestly, after a long weekday of sitting and squinting at the computer, I want the exact same thing!
Dinner? Simple food. Pop a few veggies onto the grill with burgers or chicken or a nice thick steak and add a crisp green salad and sliced sweet watermelon or juicy pineapple. I want clean, fresh flavors. Which brought this recipe to fruition last Sunday.
Chicken tenders were marinated in a bright combination of fresh basil, serrano pepper, garlic, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Then the grill was fired up, the chicken threaded onto one set of metal skewers and tomatoes onto another, while a few first of the season, new-to-the-market Vidalia onions and sweet red peppers roasted beside. Once the chicken and veggies came off the grill, thick baguette slices brushed with basil-serrano-garlic oil went on the grates to take on a golden hue...well, except for those two that incinerated on one side. Oops!
The result? An early taste of summer. Using the beautifully browned baguette crostinis as a base, a grilled tomato was smooshed on top of each, then a whole bright green basil leaf, next a thin slice of creamy fresh mozzarella and finally pieces of warm, basil-y, garlic-y, slightly spicy chicken. Easy, simple, fresh and just right for dinner on the deck, listening to the birds and the leaves and the gurgling of the pond. This is the life...the simple life!
With Grilled Basil Serrano Chicken
- 2 large fresh basil leaves
- 2 slices of a fresh serrano pepper - or jalapeno for a little less heat (Not a fan of heat at all? Leave the hot peppers out!)
- 1/4 C good extra virgin olive oil
- balsamic vinegar - see below for amount
- 1/2 t Kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 clove minced garlic
- 1 1/2 pounds chicken tenders or thinly sliced boneless chicken breast - this is more than you need, but I make extra for salads during the week
- Extra large cherry or grape tomatoes - I used small Marzano tomatoes I found at the store...so sweet!
- fresh mozzarella
- fresh basil leaves
- 1 baguette, sliced diagonally about 1" thick, brushed with the reserved marinade on both sides (do NOT use the marinade the chicken was in!) - I used Udi's gluten free baguette - to make this GF (BTW, this is a fabulous gluten-free product...good old-fashioned hoagies, here I come!)
Marinade: In a see-through liquid measuring cup, add slices of serrano chilis (or jalapeno if you want a little less heat...or leave out completely if you don't want any heat at all), 2 large basil leaves, good extra virgin olive oil up to the 1/4 C line and muddle the oil, chilies and basil nicely. Then add balsamic vinegar up to 1/3 C line.
To the same measuring cup, add 1 minced garlic clove, 1/2 t Kosher salt and a hefty grinding of black peppercorns. Whisk well, pour 1/4 of the mixture into a small dish (this is the reserved marinade), then pour the rest into a quart-sized zip top bag. Add the chicken tenders, squeeze out all the air and zip securely. Squeeze the bag and moosh everything around until the marinade surrounds all the chicken; put the bag into a bowl that holds it securely to prevent any leaks from going all over your fridge (yuck!) and refrigerate for 2-4 hours.
When you're ready for dinner, fire up the grill. Thread the chicken on metal skewers, thread the tomatoes long-ways onto separate metal skewers (if you don't have metal skewers, use wooden or bamboo skewers and soak them in water for at least an hour before grilling to keep them from going up in flames!) Turn the heat down to medium and grill the chicken on both sides until cooked through. Grill the tomatoes until they blister and soften, but take them off before they're so soft they fall of the skewers!
Once the chicken and tomatoes are done, that's when I put the baguette slices on the grill - watch them carefully so they don't burn - and grill to golden on both sides.
Assembly: Take a grilled baguette slice and smoosh a grilled tomato on top with a sprinkle of Kosher salt, then a nice basil leaf, a slice of fresh mozzarella, then a piece of grilled chicken and finish with another sprinkle of Kosher salt and a grind of black pepper.
A few crostini, a few grilled veggies, a simple green salad, a glass of wine...aaaahhhhhhh....summer grilling season is here!!!!!
NOTE: This makes a festive appetizer or starter for deck parties, too!