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Chicken Panzanella Salad with Flax Seed Croutons

Flax seed croutons in a panzanella salad? Yes please.

For years I wished I liked wheat bread. I know how good it is compared to white bread, but the taste just turned me off. Jedd loves wheat bread, my parents love it, even my grandmother, who’s in an assisted living facility, grimaces when they serve her white bread instead of the “dark bread” she prefers.

Grammy likes her bread nutritional and full of flavor.

But somehow the acorn fell far, far, far, from the tree when it comes to me and wheat bread. I’m a white bread fan.

Jedd and I divide grocery shopping duties, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized that the “good wheat bread” he’d been buying was more than I was happy to spend.

I’m frugal, y’all.

So, I started making wheat bread “toot sweet.”

And then something surprising happened. I liked it. A lot.

Granted that was after a few tries. Originally I made it totally with wheat, which was far too dense. And then I made it with a combination of white and wheat flour, and fell in love with it.

Maybe I just like “wheat-ish” bread. But it’s a start! And my family can’t get enough of this bread either.

The flax seeds bump up the nutritional value, too, and they give it a nice, sweet and nutty flavor.

With so much bread around, it only made sense to make a panzanella salad with it. On a hot summer night, the combination of toasted bread, chicken, vegetables and cheese is perfect for when you want to avoid the oven at all costs.

Flax Seed Bread

Flax seed bread teeny sized

Makes 2 loaves.

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon active dry yeast

3 cups warm water, divided

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

3 cups wheat flour

3 cups unbleached white flour

½ cup flax seed

1 tablespoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon white pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

Instructions:

Stir the yeast and sugar together in a medium bowl. Add ½ cup of warm water. Let sit for 10 minutes, so that it becomes foamy.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, add the yeast, remaining water, salt, pepper, and 2 cups of the white flour and 2 cups of the wheat flour. Start the mixer on 1 and gradually increase the speed to 3 or 4 or until the dough is well incorporated. Add flax seed and remaining flour by ½ cup increments. Knead in the mixer for 7-10 minutes, or until the dough is stiff.

wheat and flax seed

Grease a large bowl with the olive oil. Roll the dough around in the bowl, until it’s covered with the oil.

Cover the bowl with a clean towel or plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled, about 1 ½ hours.

Punch the dough down. Divide into 2 pieces and shape them into large rectangles, about 8-inches wide.

Place them on a cookie sheet and cover with a towel.

Let them rise for 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven 375 degrees. Bake for approximately 40 minutes, or until the bread sounds hollow when you tap it.

Place the bread on cooling racks.

Fun tip: Once the bread has cooled, slice one of the loaves into pieces and freeze. That way you have bread ready to make toast with.

Chicken Panzanella Salad

Panzanella

6-8 slices flax seed bread

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 teaspoons dijon mustard

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon white or black pepper

2 cooked chicken breasts

2 chopped tomatoes

2 scallions (white and green parts) roughly chopped

Fresh mozzarella

Arugula

Instructions:

Slice the bread into crouton-sized pieces.

Heat the olive and butter in a frying pan over medium heat. When hot, but not smoking add the bread. (You may need to do this in batches.) Cook on one side until golden brown, about 1 ½ minutes. Flip and cook on the other side.

Place the hot croutons on paper towels to cool.

Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, dijon, salt and pepper.

Divide chicken, tomatoes, scallions and croutons between 2 plates. Top with desired amount of mozzarella and arugula. Divide dressing between the 2 salads.

(Photos by Launie Kettler)

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