Sumac is a delightfully exotic spice, coarse to the texture, tangy to the taste..and it happens to go beautifully with chicken. And it’s in this recipe!
Panzanella is another name for an Italian bread salad… which is traditionally eaten in the summer months and includes tomatoes and other ingredients you might have on hand. My bread salad uses sourdough and chicken in this instance & is a hearty meal in itself. You could use a ciabatta loaf or something similar (preferably day-old and not pillow-soft).
All you have to do is bake some sumac-coated chicken thigh fillets over the top of large bread cubes with other basic ingredients. The bread pieces become big, rustic croutons.. with bits of crunch soaking in moisture & flavour from the chicken that have been baked on top. I love lebanese cucumbers, so I’ve included them.. but if you don’t like them.. leave them out and try capsicums or various kinds of lettuce. The flavours are amazing.. you shouldn’t have to wait until summer to eat this. P.s . Believe it or not I once found a large jar of sumac at Rays Tent City, like the jar you see below. Camping spices, no less.
Italian Chicken and Bread Salad
Serves 3 to 4 as a main meal
-6 Chicken Thigh Fillets (skin off)
-3 small red onions (about 250grams when peeled & thickly sliced)
-About 200-250grams of sweet tomatoes (I used some mini truss roma’s still on the vine from ‘Moraitis’ -Check the small print on the packets/tubs in Safeway/Woolworths. I find them to be an excellent tomato supplier) – Home grown would be ideal!
-1 to 1.5 large lebanese cucumbers – around 200grams, quartered lengthwise & then chopped into chunks
-Sourdough bread or baguette (ends cut off), cut into large cubes (about 250grams) *I used a multigrain sourdough
-2 tablespoons of sumac
-1 large clove of fresh garlic, crushed
-2 tablespoons of fresh parsley, chopped
-Salt & Pepper to taste
-2 tablespoons of oil
-Fresh Lemon wedge (juice) to dress the salad
-Preheat oven to 180 celsius or 170 degrees if fan forced
-Sprinkle salt & pepper over both sides of chicken thigh fillets and rub in
-Sprinkle sumac over thigh fillets on both sides and rub in with 1 tablespoon of oil -evenly coating the fillets & set aside
-Slice onions thickly and saute with 1 tablespoon of oil & a sprinkle of salt in a medium-hot pan for 8 to 10 minutes
-In the meantime, prepare your bread (cutting off the ends & into chunks) and place in a big salad bowl
-Add crushed garlic & parsley to pan with onions & cook/stirring for about a minute
-Add onion/garlic/parsley mix to bread and mix together
-Pour bread & onion mix into a baking dish (I used a Pyrex rectangular dish) – spread out evenly
-Lay the sumac-coated chicken thigh fillets over the bread & put into oven
-Bake chicken & bread for around 30 to 40 minutes, until chicken is cooked through (try to avoid drying it out)
-Remove chicken from the oven dish, give the bread & onion mix a stir with tongs and place back into the oven for another 10 minutes
-Some of the large croutons will be crunchy, some will be chewy and some will be a little moist from the lovely chicken juices.. this is normal and provides a variety of textures and tastes to the Panzanella
-While the bread is back in the oven, prepare your tomatoes & cucumbers if you haven’t already
-Chop cooked & slightly cooled chicken to your liking.. large or small chunks or even shredded!
-Cool baked bread for about 10min’s before mixing with all other ingredients
-When serving, you will have a mixture of the baked sumac chicken, bread, softened onions/parsley/garlic, tomatoes & cucumbers. Placing the chicken on top is a more traditional presentation. Garnish with a sprig of continental (flat leaf) parsley & a lemon cheek.
-The bread salad comes into its own with fresh lemon juice squeezed over it right before serving.
Thigh fillets seasoned first with salt & pepper, then a little oil and sumac.