Lunchtime. As a stay-at-home-mom, I’m always looking for easy meals to make for lunch that my daughter and I can share. It needs to be easy and healthy! And because we have no dietary restrictions, I felt obligated to include cheese because, why not? When my GF/DF husband, David, is around, we definitely don’t have cheese, so we eat it when we can! When the husband’s away, the girls will eat cheese!
I love caprese salad, which is the winning combination of tomatoes, fresh basil, fresh mozzarella cheese, and balsamic vinegar reduction. I could eat it every day. But for me, eating a simple caprese salad isn’t filling enough to hold me over until dinner. To fix this predicament, I decided to incorporate chicken breasts.
First things first, I preheated the oven to 350º F. I took 2 chicken breasts and seasoned them on both sides with salt and pepper. Then I browned them in a cast iron skillet. You need to do this in some vessel that you can also use in the oven.
When the chicken was browned on one side, I flipped it over and put it in the oven. My chicken breasts were quite thick, so oven cooking was the best way to make sure they were cooked all the way through without burning the outsides. I cooked the chicken for 30 minutes total, but half-way through the cooking process, I added my fresh mozzarella cheese and tomato slices, and some salt and pepper. Then I put the skillet back in the oven until the chicken was cooked perfectly. The tomatoes were lightly roasted and the cheese was ooey and gooey, just the way I like it!
While the chicken was in the oven for the last 15 minutes, I poured my balsamic vinegar in a small sauce pan to reduce. I brought it to a slight boil over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10-15 minutes, until it was a nice syrup consistency.
I decided to get fancy with my plating, so I drizzled my balsamic reduction on the plate and put my chicken on top. Then I sprinkled my chiffonade of basil on top.
Culinary lesson of the day: The julienne and the chiffonade are two common techniques for slicing vegetables and herbs into long, thin pieces. Julienning is generally used to cut vegetables, such as carrots, zucchini or potatoes, when matchstick-like pieces are desired. **A chiffonade is more commonly used to slice leafy greens or herbs into thin ribbons. To do this, stack individual basil leaves on top of each other, then roll them up like a cigar. Then simply use your knife to cut it into little ribbons.
- 2 chicken breasts
- 1 ball of fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
- 2 plum tomatoes, sliced
- 5-6 fresh basil leaves, sliced into ribbons (chiffonade)
- 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
Preheat oven to 350º F.
Salt chicken breasts on both sides. In a cast iron skillet, brown chicken on one side (about 5 minutes). Turn the chicken to its other side, and put skillet in the oven. The chicken will cook for about 20-30 minutes, depending on thickness.
When the chicken is about half-way done (about 15 minutes in the oven), top with slices of fresh mozzarella and tomatoes and additional salt and pepper. Put chicken back in the oven for the last 15 minutes.
While the chicken is on it’s last 15 minutes of baking, pour balsamic vinegar into a small sauce pan. Over medium-low heat, bring balsamic vinegar to a low boil and allow it to cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it has reduced into a nice, thick syrup consistency.
When the chicken is done cooking, top it with a chiffonade of basil and balsamic vinegar reduction. Enjoy!
That’s what I call a filling and healthy lunch for me and the kiddo!