Chicken Bruschetta Panini

As a kid, I hated tomatoes. I absolutely despised them. (Although I loooooved ketchup. Turkey sandwiches with ketchup, green beans dipped in ketchup, pickles dipped in ketchup. Yes, I was strange.) But actual tomatoes? Gross. Whenever my  mom served up BLT's, I was served a bacon & cheese sandwich. So it definitely surprised me last summer when I decided to try a few grape tomatoes at a barbecue - and liked them! More than liked them, I LOVED them! Grape tomatoes dipped in ranch or hummus is now one of my all-time favorite summer snacks. When I came across this recipe for Easy Tomato Bruschetta made with grape tomatoes, I knew it would be a winner. Bruschetta is an Italian appetizer made from toasted bread with roasted garlic, and topped with a mixture of fresh tomatoes, basil, garlic, and spices. The fact that it's made with grape tomatoes makes it that much better. (And easier to prepare!) Not only can you enjoy Easy Tomato Bruschetta as a delicious appetizer atop toasted bread, but it also makes a delicious Chicken Bruschetta Panini, which is how my husband and I enjoyed it. Chewy artisan bread, stuffed with grilled chicken, fresh tomatoes, basil, & garlic, and gooey mozzarella cheese made for a fresh dinner on a hot summer day.     Start with the Easy Tomato Bruschetta. Saute 2 tablespoons of minced garlic in 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat for about a minute, just until golden. The aroma is out of this world! Once it has become golden-brown, place it in a separate bowl. [caption id="attachment_737" align="aligncenter" width="366"] Careful! It might splatter![/caption] Now it's time for the fresh stuff. You need 2 pints of grape tomatoes, and 12-16 leaves of fresh basil. You can find fresh herbs in the produce section, and they're way better than the dried stuff.

  Next, you're going to chiffonade the basil. (Chiffo-what?!) Chiffonade is a technique for cutting fresh herbs into thin, long strips that would be difficult to cut otherwise. Start by stacking all the basil leaves on top of each other.  

  Then, roll them all up tightly into a little cylinder. (Almost like you might roll up a rug.)  

  Then, take your knife through and cut thin little strips.  

  Ta-da! Basil chiffonade!  

Combine the basil and halved cherry tomatoes with roasted garlic & oil that you sauteed earlier. Add a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and salt & pepper to taste.


At this point, the Easy Tomato Bruschetta is ready. If you have time, let it sit for 1-2 hours to blend flavors. Even if you don't, it's still fabulous as is. Toast up some good Italian bread and serve it with the tomatoes and you have a killer appetizer.

I went a step further and turned the bruschetta into a panini. I started with a hearty loaf of fresh-baked ciabatta bread from the bakery section. You want a bread that is pretty dense & chewy, so that it will hold up to the liquid of the tomatoes. Focaccia would be a good choice as well.

Then, mix up a pesto mayo. Just equal parts basil pesto (found in the Italian section near the tomato sauce) and mayonnaise. Pesto is a great thing to have on hand - great with pasta, on sandwiches, or as a dipping sauce for fresh bread.

Spread the pesto mayo on your bottom piece of bread, and top with some grilled chicken. I threw on some leftover chicken I had in the fridge. (That's something I love about paninis - they help you clean out the fridge!)

Then, load on the Easy Tomato Bruschetta. Don't skimp here, this is what makes the sandwich.


Then, some sliced mozzarella cheese. Because what's a panini without cheese? (I apologize to all the vegans out there, but I couldn't do it.)

Place the top layer of bread on, and place the sandwich on a panini grill or George Foreman grill. If you don't have either of those, you can certainly use a skillet over medium heat; just place another skillet on top, and put something heavy inside it to weigh it down.

About 5 minutes later, you have a piping hot, hand-crafted sandwich bursting with mozzarella and bruschetta.



Easy Tomato Bruschetta

Servings/Yield: 4 cups
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 12-16 leaves fresh basil, chiffonade
  • 2 pints grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • salt & pepper, to taste
Method Heat olive oil in small saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook 1 minute, just until golden. Remove from heat and place in mixing bowl. Add basil, tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper. Mix to combine. Let sit 1-2 hours for best flavor. Serve on toasted bread. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Chicken Bruschetta Panini

Servings/Yield: 4 sandwiches
  • 1 loaf ciabatta bread, sliced
  • ¼ cup prepared pesto
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise (light is fine)
  • 1-2 cups diced cooked chicken
  • 4-oz. sliced mozzarella cheese
  • Easy Tomato Bruschetta
Method Prepare Easy Tomato Bruschetta. Set aside. To make pesto mayo, combine pesto and mayonnaise in small bowl until smooth. To assemble sandwiches, spread a small amount of pesto mayo onto a piece of bread. Top with some diced chicken. Top with a generous amount of Easy Tomato Bruschetta. Top with sliced mozzarella, and another piece of bread for the top of the sandwich. Cook in a panini or sandwich press on HIGH for 5-7 minutes, until golden brown and cheese is melted. Or, cook in a buttered skillet, with another skillet on top, pressing down as it cooks. Source: Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

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