salad grilling

“We should eat outside.”

The husband has come in from mowing the yard. I’m folding the laundry that multiplies like dust bunnies under our bed. I’m thinking that maybe takeout pizza will be the default dinner tonight.

“It’s not raining,” the big boy says.

“We could grill!” says the little boy.

And with that, visions of takeout stop dancing in my head. The laundry gets thrown on the chair, and I’m riffling through the refrigerator for dinnertime options.

Every spring, we count the days until it’s warm and/or dry enough to eat dinner on the porch. We wait with baited breath until it’s time to strip the cover off the Weber and inaugurate the grilling season.

And tonight — ta da! — is the night. With a cut-up chicken in the fridge, a beautiful loaf of ciabatta bread and some amazing yellow peppers from our local market, a dinner menu practically creates itself:

Grilled chicken and a Panzanella salad (grilled, of course).

It takes a couple of hours to get this on the table. And once we sit down, a breeze kicks up. Clouds begin scuttling overhead.

“I felt a raindrop,” the little boy says.

No you didn’t.

“I think it’s going to rain,” the husband says.

No it’s not.

And — blessedly — it doesn’t. We make it through the whole meal without having to get jackets or pack up and move indoors.

It’s official. Takeout pizza, we’ll see you next fall. Grilling season has begun.

Indian-Spiced Chicken & Panzanella Salad

I used whole spices for this marinade, but feel free to use ground. You may not have all of these in your spice cabinet or pantry, but they’re definitely worth the investment.

For the chicken:

  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • chicken21 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 Chile de Arbol, broken
  • 20-30 grinds of fresh black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Zest of a small lemon
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 chicken (preferably organic), cut-up

For the salad:

  • 4 to 5 1-inch-thick slices of ciabatta bread
  • 2 yellow peppers
  • salad ingredients5 scallions, both white and green parts
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 3 oz. feta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons fresh herbs (I used a mix or oregano, dill and cilantro)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • A pinch of sugar

Place the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, fennel seeds and Chile de Arbol in a spice grinder. Grind for a few seconds, until most of the seeds are pulverized. Place in a bowl and add the next five ingredients:

chicken rub

Place the cut-up chicken on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Slather the marinade over the chicken and let it sit at room temperature for an hour:

chicken sitting

Meanwhile, prepare your grill. As it’s heating, half the yellow peppers, seed them, then cut each half in half again. Assemble the peppers, scallions and bread on a sheet and take them to the grill.

salad breadWhen the grill is hot, brush it with canola oil and place the bread, peppers and scallions on it. Grill until the bread and vegetables are slightly charred, turning once. Remove and let them cool slightly.

Oil the grill again. Place the chicken pieces on it, and sear the pieces on both sides. Then, move the chicken to a spot on the grill where they get indirect heat. Cover the grill. Cook for about 40 minutes, checking the heat and turning the chicken occasionally.

While the chicken grills, coarsely chop the tomatoes, peppers and scallions. Tear the bread into 1-inch pieces. Place everything in a bowl, along with the herbs and feta cheese.

new salad1Combine the garlic, lemon juice and red wine vinegar in a small bowl. Whisk in the olive oil. Add the pinch of sugar, plus salt and pepper. Taste. If the dressing tastes too vinegary for you, add a bit more olive oil. Pour the dressing over the salad, and toss to combine.

Remove the chicken from the grill when it’s done. Serve with the salad.