Do you sometimes feel as though you are on food information overload? I certainly do, but that does not stop me from devouring the work of the countless talented chefs, bloggers, and culinary enthusiasts out there. Inspiration is everywhere – the markets, restaurants, blogs, social media postings, newspapers and cookbooks. Grilled Chicken Breasts with Lentil Salad is a recipe born of the brilliance of two acclaimed food professionals which I have followed for some time.
If you are not familiar with Yotam Ottolenghi, stop what you are doing and immediately order all of his cookbooks – talk about inspirational. An acclaimed London restaurateur Ottolenghi grew up in Israel; influenced by the flavors, sights and sounds of the Middle East. Ottolenghi’s cookbooks are chock full of vibrant photos which always seem to get my creative juices flowing. A phenomenal source for vegetarian dishes, the lentil salad for Grilled Chicken with Lentil Salad was adapted from his book Plenty.
I have been pouring over the food section the New York Times since my teenage years, reading the columns of all of the respected food writers and chefs with equal zeal. Melissa Clark brings a contemporary fresh edge to her articles and instructional videos. Although I have grilled many a chicken breast, her instructions for easily grilling present a valuable technique for just about anyone. It’s totally sensible approach, a foolproof guide for juicy grilled chicken breasts.
The original recipe for the Ottolenghi lentil salad includes gorgonzola cheese, but it is equally flavorful without the cheese making a wonderful stand alone dish or accompaniment for chicken or fish. The lentils are easy to prepare and may be done a day ahead. The recipe reflects Ottolenghi’s commitment to quality seasonal ingredients and layering of intense flavors; it is the treatment of these ingredients before bringing them together that creates an unbelievable symphony of flavor.
Grilled Chicken Breast with Lentil Salad can be composed in stages, beginning with the roasted tomatoes. The lentils can be cooked and combined with all of the additional ingredients except the freshly chopped herbs a day or two in advance. The chicken breasts can be sliced and pounded early in the day and grilled just before serving. The recipe can be scaled up for a crowd or scaled down for two. Grilled Chicken Breast with Lentil Salad makes wonderful leftovers, so keep that in mind when you set out to prepare it.
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- 10 Roma tomatoes, sliced vertically into 6 segments
- 12 thyme sprigs
- 3 Tbs. olive oil
- 3 Tbs. Balsamic vinegar
- Salt & Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
- 3 Tbs. high quality red wine vinegar
- 4 Tbs. olive oil
- ⅓ cup Italian parsley leaves, chopped
- ½ cup chives, chopped
- 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
- 4 Tbs. Exra Virgin Olive Oil
- 17½ ounce package of Umbrian lentils
- 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, 2 to 2½ pounds
- Salt & Freshly ground black pepper
- Vegetable oil to prepare the grill
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil to drizzle
- Preheat the oven to 250º and line a heavy duty baking sheet with cooking parchment
- Lay the tomato segments on the the parchment cut side up, spreading them as to not crowd the baking sheet. Scatter the thyme sprigs over the tomatoes, drizzle with the olive oil & balsamic vinegar and season generously with salt & freshly ground pepper.
- Place the tray in the preheated oven and gently roast for 2 hours or until the tomatoes begin to color and shrivel. During that time, stir the tomatoes twice to insure that they are evenly roasted. Remove from the oven, discard the thyme sprigs and allow to cool. The tomatoes may be prepared two days in advance, placed in a container along with any residual liquid and refrigerated.
- Combine the thinly sliced red onion and red wine vinegar in a small bowl to marinate for 15 minutes. Combine the marinated onions, garlic, and 4 tablespoons of the olive oil in a bowl large enough to accommodate the cooked lentils.
- In the meantime, rinse the lentils in a colander with cold water. Place the rinsed lentils in a large heavy duty pot and cover them with fresh cool water reaching about 1½ inches over the lentils. Bring the lentils to a boil, reduce the heat to a strong simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes until tender, stirring several times. The tiny Umbrian lentils cook quickly, so check the degree of doneness at about the 12 minute mark. Once the lentils are cooked, drain them in a colander, make sure that they are well drained. Add the warm cooked lentils to the bowl with the onion, garlic and olive oil; stir well and set aside. This may be done a day in advance, cooled and refrigerated.
- Remove the chicken breast to a cutting board which is devoted to chicken and can be sanitized in the dishwasher. Working with one breast at a time, cover the meat with plastic wrap and using a meat pounder or small cast iron skillet, pound the breast to create a uniform thickened of between ¾ and ½ an inch thick. Repeat with the remaining chicken breasts and season both sides with salt & freshly ground black pepper. Reserve on a plate and refrigerate until a half hour before grilling.
- Take the lentil salad out of the refrigerator about 2 to 3 hours before serving, mixing in all but 1 tablespoon each of the chives and parsley. Arrange the lentil salad on a large serving platter and cover with plastic wrap.
- Remove the seasoned chicken breasts from the refrigerator and heat the grill until red hot. The grill should be perfectly clean of any residual material at this point. Using the vegetable oil, lightly oil the grates with a heat proof brush.
- Place the chicken breasts on the prepared grill and grill about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Do not attempt to move the breast before the two minute mark.
- Remove the chicken breasts directly to the plattered lentil salad. Drizzle the breasts with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle the remaining chives & parsley over them. The dish can be served immediately however is delicious at room temperature