April 14, 2024
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April 14, 2024
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Summer Salad With Roast Vegetables, Dijon Chicken and Orzo

Refreshing cold platters are perfect for dinner on a hot July evening. But one easily forgets that many of the components of great summer salads have to be roasted, grilled, poached, baked or steamed before making it to the table. So as often as possible, I try to prep standard summer ingredients in advance, piggybacking in an oven or even on a grill.

Big, sweet onions are easy to prepare this way, rendering them soft and sweet without standing over a hot stove. Fennel also does beautifully in the oven, though it takes longer. Peppers are another perfect example of colorful and flavorful fresh produce that lends itself to advance oven preparation.

Hot Weather Strategy for the Vegetables:

While using your oven to bake a chicken or a roast, utilize the available heat to prep key ingredients for a refreshing summer platter.

Arrange the oven racks in a way that frees one rack with several inches of clearance.

Add to the hot oven a foil wrapped packet of sliced, sweet onions, cut about a quarter of an inch thick. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on them, then fold and seal the foil.

Onions will take about 25 minutes to soften and become sweet.

Create a larger package for an assortment of halved and seeded peppers. Yellow, orange, red and green beauties will add color as well as bright flavors to any dish.

Peppers will take about 45 minutes.

Prepare another packet with fennel, sliced even thinner as it does take longer to soften. Again, drizzle some olive oil onto the slices and seal the package tightly.

Fennel will take up to an hour to soften.

When the vegetables are done, tip the contents of each foil packet into a Pyrex or Corning Ware baking dish with a tight fitting snap-on lid. Pop it in the refrigerator, and use as needed.


One of each, red pepper, green pepper, orange pepper, yellow pepper

One bulb fennel

One large sweet onion

Four to eight thinly sliced chicken breasts

Two cloves garlic

Freshly ground pepper


Fresh lemon juice

Orzo or bulgar wheat or quinoa

Chicken stock or half a teaspoon of strong bouillon/pareve soupbase

Olive oil

Extra heavy duty aluminum foil

Fresh scallions

Fresh herbs from garnish: basil, parsley, chives or oregano, or all of the above


Strategy for preparing the chicken breast:

Choose thinly sliced chicken breast, usually available in packages of four. For a family of four, use two packages. If you have boys, double it. I have seen teenage boys eat and it is both mind-boggling as well as impressive.

On the morning (or several hours before) you wish to serve the dish, prep the chicken in the following manner: Place the chicken breast in a Pyrex dish. Add enough Dijon mustard to liberally coat the chicken. Add a generous amount of freshly ground pepper, and one or two large cloves of fresh garlic, crushed. Sprinkle with fresh lemon juice, and add about half a teaspoon of salt (Dijon can be salty so I limit additional salt until adjusting the flavors upon serving.)

Cover the dish and refrigerate.

Prepare the orzo. I often use bulgar wheat or quinoa for variety.

Before preparing the grain, take the roast vegetables out of the fridge to lose some of the chill.

Use some chicken stock to prepare your grain. It adds a richness. When the grain is cooked, toss in a handful of fresh, finely chopped scallions, salt and pepper to taste.

Broil the chicken breasts for about five minutes per side. If they are not very thin, broil for longer on each side.

When the chicken is done, remove from oven. Shut off oven and put the Pyrex dish—with the lid—with the roast vegetables into the still-warm oven for several minutes. This is to render the vegetables closer to room temperature to enhance the flavors.

On a platter, arrange the roast vegetables, except for the onions, in an alternating circle that highlights the variety of colors. Put the grain in the center. Top the grain with the onions. Arrange the slices of chicken on top of the grain and roast vegetables. Drizzle the platter with a good olive oil, or if you prefer, use a bit of truffle oil. Before serving, adjust salt and pepper and sprinkle with fresh chopped herbs of your choice: basil, chives, parsley, even fresh oregano.

This dish can be made without chicken. Instead, select a good fresh mozzarella or burrata and place it in the center. Make sure the mozzarella or burrata has been standing at room temperature for several hours. For a dairy meal, omit the chicken stock in the grain, use a pareve vegetable broth or soup base instead and serve with garlic toast.

By Lisa Reitman-Dobi

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