Pesto chicken, panzanella, and peanut butter pie

This recipe idea came to me from Saveur magazine. The first thing that I thought was “Great! I can use up the rest of the pesto I have left in the refrigerator!” Of course, I went to smell the pesto and realized it had better days. Since I still had it in my mind to make it, I went ahead and made a small batch of walnut basil pesto.

Doesn’t pesto grilled chicken and panzanella salad scream summer to you? Fresh flavors, cooking outdoors…

That was going to be all I was planning to make that night, but as I read more blogs about a fellow blogger’s (Jennie Perillo) husband Mikey, I felt that I had to make peanut butter pie. I had never even read her blog and didn’t know her or her husband. But the story of his sudden heart attack sent shock waves through the food blog community. She blogged about his death and how she kept telling herself she was going to make him a peanut butter pie (his favorite) and didn’t get around to it. She asked everyone to make a peanut butter pie and share it with someone you love.

I have never felt inclined to make one before, but I made it…and Sophie licked the spoon many times. Mark and I ate some that night…then my brother and his girlfriend had some with us the next night.  There was more to last a few more days. So that pie spread a lot of love and calories for days! You can go here to get the recipe for the pie. Note, I used half the sugar and about 3/4 of the condensed milk and it was really sweet like that. So, maybe add little by little and taste as you go to see how much you want to add.

Pesto chicken and panzanella
adapted from Saveur

1 3- to 4-lb. chicken, cut into 6 pieces
3/4 cup pesto (i made a walnut basil pesto)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 1-lb. loaf country-style white bread, cut into 1 1/2″ slices
1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for brushing
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 red bell pepper
2 cups packed baby arugula
1/2 cup oil-cured black olives
1/4 cup roughly chopped parsley
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 small cucumber, thinly sliced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 cloves roasted garlic, mashed
Zest and juice of 1 lemon


I bought my chicken already cut up so that I didn’t have to worry about messing with that. Using your fingers, loosen skin from meat on chicken and spread 1/2 cup pesto in between skin and meat. Transfer chicken to a baking sheet and season generously with salt and pepper (on top of and under the skin); set aside.

Make the panzanella: Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium-high. (Alternatively, arrange an oven rack 4″ from broiler element and heat broiler to high.) Brush bread slices with oil and toss tomatoes and bell pepper with 2 tbsp. oil; season all with salt and pepper. Place bread and vegetables on grill and cook, turning as needed, until bread is toasted and tomatoes begin to burst, about 5 minutes. Remove bread and tomatoes, and continue cooking bell pepper until it is charred all over, about 7 minutes more. Let pepper cool, and then peel and remove seeds; thinly slice and transfer to a large bowl along with tomatoes, arugula, olives, parsley, onion, and cucumber. Cut bread slices into 1 1/2″ cubes and add to salad.

Heat grill to 425°. Place chicken skin side down on grill and cook, covered and turning once, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thigh reads 165°, about 25 minutes. Rub with remaining pesto and cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thigh reads 165°, about 5 minutes more. (Alternatively, heat an oven to 475°, and cook chicken, skin side up, for 25 minutes; rub with remaining pesto and cook until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°.) Transfer chicken to a plate and tent with foil; rest for 20 minutes.

To serve, whisk together remaining oil, vinegar, roasted garlic, lemon juice, and zest in a small bowl; pour over bread salad, toss to combine, and season with salt and pepper. Transfer panzanella to a large serving platter, and place chicken over top; pour any juices that accumulated on the plate over salad.

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