We’re coming towards the end of tomato season which is so sad! Tomatoes are in the height of their harvest from August to about mid-September, maybe through the month if the weather keeps warm. I went to the farmers market this morning and it was obvious the end is near. Heirlooms are bountiful right now but all the other tomato varieties are starting to phase out. It’s the only time of the year you’ll see me bite into a tomato the same way you would an apple. A little salt and that’s all it needs, if anything. From colorful, rustic heirlooms to the delightful mini cherry tomatoes, there are a million things you can do with tomatoes. Cook a fresh pot of tomato sauce, make a cold gazpacho on a hot late summer day, puree a bowl of steaming classic tomato soup to pair with a crispy, gooey grilled cheese sandwiches on fall-like September days...the options are endless! This particular recipe is a hearty version of summertime flavor combination that is one of my personal favorites: Caprese.
Caprese is an Italian salad consisting of tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and fresh basil. It’s also served as a pizza, sandwich and more. It’s fresh and delicious. Something about the combination of these three ingredients is dynamite. I wanted to do something similar for this time of year because the tomatoes are perfect but I wanted it to be a little more substantial for dinner. So I thought...add chicken! To really bump up the flavor of the basil, I also threw together a quick and easy pesto to schmear the bread with. The end result had great flavors and left everyone completely satisfied.
The chicken should not be enormous. Unless I’m planning to cut the chicken into strips or cubes myself, I always go to the butcher to order my chicken breasts. It gives me a little more control over the size of the meat. This particular recipe only needs thin-cut chicken breasts which are easier to eyeball in the packaged meat section. You can also buy two regular sized chicken breasts and slice them in half yourself. It’s much easier than it might seem. The trick is to have a really sharp, thin knife. It gives you the control you need to make a nice cut easily. There will be plenty of flavor from the pesto and the tomatoes so the chicken only needs to be seasoned simply with salt and pepper. Thin-cut breasts will cook rapidly over a higher heat which is what you want. No dry chicken in this kitchen! Sear it on both sides for a few minutes and let it rest while preparing the sandwiches.
Roasting tomatoes, especially cherry tomatoes, brings out all their natural sweetness. It’s my favorite way to cook them and it couldn’t be easier. Because you just want to melt the cheese after assembling the sandwiches, all the ingredients should be ready to go before assembly. In other words, the tomatoes need to be roasted. Drizzle a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and slide into the oven while you cook the chicken. Once everything is ready, schmear the bread with some pesto, top with the chicken, add a little more pesto, top with the roasted tomatoes and cheese. I don’t feel like this needs anything to go alongside it but a simple salad or roasted potatoes would pair nicely.
Open-Face Chicken Caprese Sandwiches
2 cups fresh Basil + ½ cup torn
1 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
2 Garlic Cloves
¼ cup Olive Oil, divided
1 pint Multi-Color Cherry Tomatoes, halved
4 thin-cut boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 thick-cut slices Country or Italian Bread
4 slices Mozzarella Cheese
Salt & Pepper
1 - In a food processor, combine the basil, parmesan, garlic, salt and pepper until chopped. Slowly stream in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil until a paste forms.
2 - Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with tin foil. Place the tomatoes on the sheet. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast 20-30 minutes until skins are blistered and tomatoes have softened.
3 - Meanwhile, heat a grill pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper. Cook 3-4 minutes per side until cooked through and no longer pink.
4 - Assemble the sandwiches. Brush 1 tablespoon of pesto on each bread slice. Lay the chicken on top and spoon a little more pesto. Top with the tomatoes and mozzarella slice. Place back in the oven for 5 minutes until cheese melts.
5 - Top with torn basil for garnish and serve.