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Spicy Grilled Chicken Salad with Peppers and Tomatoes

In Italy, this salad is called pollo forte, meaning "strong chicken," a name derived from the fiery hot peppers that season the bird. The amount of heat is up to you: Add or subtract the chili peppers as you wish. The salad serves six as a light first course or as an accompaniment to a bowl of chilled gazpacho. As a luncheon main course, the recipe serves four.

Ingredients:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves,
      each about 6 oz.
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 red, green, yellow or orange bell peppers,
      or a mixture, seeded, deribbed and very thinly
      sliced
  • 1 fresh pasilla chili pepper, seeded and very
      thinly sliced
  • 1/2 fresh jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 3 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbs. aged balsamic vinegar
  • 5 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 lb. assorted cherry tomatoes, such as
      red, yellow, green, orange and yellow pear,
      halved
  • 1/2 cup brine-cured black olives, preferably
      niçoise or Kalamata
  • 40 small fresh basil leaves

Directions:

Prepare a fire in a grill.

Brush the chicken breasts with the 1 Tbs. olive oil. Place the chicken breasts on the grill rack about 4 inches from the fire and grill until golden brown on one side, 4 to 5 minutes. Turn the chicken and continue to grill until golden brown on the other side and opaque in the center, 4 to 5 minutes more. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool for 20 minutes, then cut across the grain into very thin strips.

Place the chicken strips in a large bowl and add the bell, pasilla and jalapeño peppers and the onion. Mix well and season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, red pepper flakes, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over the chicken mixture, toss to mix and return to the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

To serve, add the cherry tomatoes, olives and basil to the chicken mixture. Toss well and transfer to a serving bowl or individual plates. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Serves  4 to 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Seasonal Celebration Series, Summer, by Joanne Weir (Time-Life Books, 1997).