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Tomato and Bread Salad with Deep-Fried Chicken Bites

Tomato and Bread Salad with Deep-Fried Chicken Bites
To make dried bread cubes, cut leftover coarse bread or baguette into 1-inch cubes before it dries out. (If it has already dried, it will break into irregular pieces when you try to cut it.) Let the cubes sit out for another day or two. To make dried bread crumbs, let any bread a few days past its peak of freshness dry out in a 200°F oven for about 1 hour. Break the bread into bite-size pieces and then process the pieces in a blender or food processor until fine crumbs form.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups dried bread cubes
  • 5 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, 2 unpeeled and 1 crushed
      and minced
  • 6 large, ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 3 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

For the chicken bites:

  • 1 cup dried bread crumbs
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves,
      cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Vegetable oil for deep-frying
  • 1⁄2 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 400°F.

Spread the bread cubes on a baking sheet and drizzle with 2 Tbs. of the olive oil. Bake, turning once, until lightly golden, about 15 minutes. Remove from the pan, let cool and rub with the 2 unpeeled garlic cloves. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, minced garlic, the remaining 3 Tbs. olive oil, the vinegar, salt and pepper and mix well.

To prepare the chicken bites, spread the bread crumbs on waxed paper or a plate. Roll the chicken pieces, a few at a time, in the bread crumbs to coat evenly. Set aside.

In a deep frying pan, pour in vegetable oil to a depth of 2 inches and heat to 375°F on a deep-frying thermometer. Add the chicken pieces and fry, turning them as needed, until golden and opaque throughout, about 4 minutes total. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain briefly.

Add the hot chicken bites, bread cubes and basil to the tomatoes and mix to distribute all the ingredients evenly. Serve immediately. Serves 4 or 5.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Salad, by Georgeanne Brennan (Simon & Schuster, 2001).