August brings such an abundance of fresh produce that one rarely needs to even turn on the stove for dinner to happen. I've been known to make dinner a grazing affair that involves a trip to the garden shortly before whipping up a batch of hummus and slicing some chunks of chewy bread. But if you were going to spend a bit of time cooking this time of the year, you might wish to favor fairly quick meals that feature the flavors of the season.
For me, that means giving more than just a nod to the flavors featured in caprese salads. This simple salad featuring ripe tomatoes, fresh basil, and buffalo mozzarella is one of my favorite summertime salads and those ingredients work well in other meals as well. This time around, they get paired with zucchini — because I know I'm not the only one out there that could use more ways to use it this time of the year — and chicken to make a quick and delicious summertime dinner.
Buffalo mozzarella is a soft, fresh mozzarella that can be just as easily torn as it is sliced. It is appreciated for its versatility and elastic texture and often called "the queen of the Mediterranean cuisine", "white gold" or "the pearl of the table". As the folks at your market for "buffalo mozzarella" or "fresh mozzarella" — they will be able to help you.
I like to keep things simple with meals like this. Some kind of bread for sopping up the pan juices is nearly necessary — I like chunks of tender French bread. Then I pour a glass of chilled white wine and linger over a bowl of this dish inspired by the best of summer and appreciate the warmth of the month. Before you know it, we'll be looking at falling leaves!
- 4-5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 1 T. Italian seasoning
- 1 tsp. coarse salt
- 1/2 tsp. ground pepper
- 1 T. cooking fat (I used olive oil)
- 1 medium zucchini, coarsely chopped
- 2 ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
- 1 generous bunch basil, some leaves reserved for garnish
- 8 oz. buffalo mozzarella, torn or cut into bite-sized pieces
Generously season the chicken thighs with the Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Feel free to add more seasoning if the amounts listed don't seem to coat the chicken well. Heat the cooking fat in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the seasoned chicken and sauté until well-browned. Remove to a pan and allow to rest.
Add the zucchini to the skillet and cook at medium-high heat until a bit of color has appeared on the edges of the squash and it has softened slightly. Add the tomatoes, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. While that cooks, set the basil leaves reserved for garnish aside and coarsely chop the remaining basil. Cut the cooked chicken into bite-sized pieces. After 10 minutes of simmering time has elapsed, add the basil and chicken back to the to skillet. Stir well to combine.
Add the pieces of buffalo mozzarella to the top of the skillet and place under the broiler for 3-4 minutes or until the cheese has melted and is slightly bubbly. Serve hot with crusty bread for dipping in the flavorful pan juices.
- Yields: 4 servings
- Preparation Time: 40 minutes