May 19th, 2013

Grilled Lemon-Thyme Chicken Salad, and we’re headed for Rome


A cool, wet spring has made it positively lush in our little part of the world. Our backyard is a crazy jungle of vines, great leafed-out maples and catalpas, a plum tree dripping with the promise of a bountiful harvest. We’ve got knock-out roses living up to their name in a riot of red. Fragrant peony blossoms so huge they’ve tumbled over, spilling their petals onto the stone patio.

Perennial herbs, my kitchen delight—sage, rosemary, oregano, thyme—are all in profuse bloom too. In our garden, early crops of lettuces, spinach, arugula, scallions, and sugar snaps have taken hold.


It’s been a beautiful time of year, so alive, so fleeting, that I’ve stopped to soak up whenever I could–before summer’s heat sets in.

It hasn’t been as easy as other years; commitments of work, travel, family, community have had our household on the move. Trust me, this is not a complaint. It’s simply how this cycle in life is spinning right now.

I do have some exciting pieces of news to share.
This week, I am happy to report, I clicked “SEND” and my cookbook manuscript whooshed off to the publisher.
Another step, complete. I will keep you posted as the process continues to unfold.

Next week, Bill and I leave for Rome. Fourteen days on an adventure that has little construct! It is rather unlike our other trips, where we’ve had A Plan. This time, we are surrendering to the moment, and we’ll see where it takes us. In a city steeped in history, the arts, cuisine, we’ll have no shortage of things to explore and experience.

What we do know: We have American friends, living there since 2008, with whom we’ll be staying. So, we have a most hospitable base of operations.

And, I will meet Rachel–food writer extraordinaire, Roman resident of nine years, creator of racheleats, –”in real life” as I used say as a child. We’ve come to know each other through our respective blogs. Now, we get the chance to expand that friendship. The world is an amazing place, isn’t it?


Before I start packing for the Eternal City, I want to share a recipe that you might enjoy making for a picnic. In the States, Memorial Day is coming up–when many of us fire up the grill and indulge in those fleeting tastes of spring–and harbingers of summer.

The inspiration for this dish comes from Cooking Light, the food magazine devoted to healthy delicious eating. The folks at CL have invited me to be a part of their blogging community, and as our philosophies about food and health align, I am pleased to join.

The recipe uses ingredients of the season, many flourishing in my garden: sugar snaps, spinach, green garlic, and thyme.


The success of this dish relies on a wealth of fresh lemon juice and thyme leaves, which both marinate the chicken, and infuse the vinaigrette. Don’t skimp! It doesn’t take long for the lemon and herb to permeate the meat. It’s pretty easy to place the breasts into a ziplock bag, add the marinade, swish, seal, and refrigerate—for about an hour.


After a sear on the grill, that juicy chicken gets sliced, then tossed with baby spinach, yellow bell peppers and sugar snap peas. A pour of vinaigrette brings together simple vibrant tastes, appealing colors, and a harmony of textures. If you want to bulk it up a bit for a crowd, as I did for our Third Thursday Potluck, add some mezze penne–a smaller ridged pasta.

When I return from this adventure, I’m sure I’ll have some good food tales to tell. Stay tuned! If you have a Roman Tip to share—something you deem a “Can’t Miss”—art, food, culture, anything!–please let me know in the comments below.




adapted from Cooking Light

Marinade for Chicken:
3/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (3-4 large lemons, 6-8 small lemons)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
zest from 1 large lemon
2 heaping tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

3.5 lbs boneless chicken breasts (6-8 pieces)

Other Salad Ingredients:
1 lb. sugar snap peas
1 lb. yellow and orange bell peppers
1 1/2 cups dry penne pasta
1 lb. baby spinach


Lemon-Thyme Vinaigrette
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 clove roasted garlic
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Place marinade ingredients into a bowl and whisk well. Place chicken breasts into a one gallon ziplock bag. Pour in marinade, swishing it around to coat all of the pieces.
Seal and refrigerate for one hour. Don’t marinate more than an hour—the acid in the lemon will “cook” the meat.

Prepare grill.
Remove chicken from the ziplock bag, discarding marinade.
When coals are ashen, place the chicken onto the grill. Cook approximately 7 minutes per side, or until done.

Cook penne pasta according to package directions in lightly salted water. Drain well. Place in large bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Heat a large skillet. Add one tablespoon olive oil. Saute sugar snap peas, in batches, until bright green–about two minutes.
Place in large bowl with penne.

Saute julienned bell pepper strips until caramelized–or–if using baby sweet bells, place them in the skillet whole and let them char on all sides. Remove and cut into julienned strips when cool. Add strips to large bowl with penne and sugar snaps.
Slice chicken breasts into 1/4″ thick strips.

Make Lemon-Thyme Vinaigrette: Place all ingredients in a blender and mix until emulsified, or place ingredients in a small bowl and use an immersion blender to mix.

Place spinach leaves in a large mixing bowl. Add penne, sugar snaps, sweet yellow bell pepper strips, and grilled chicken strips.
Pour lemon-thyme vinaigrette over the ingredients and toss well so that all of the salad elements are lightly coated with dressing.

Mound in a salad bowl. Garnish with lemon twists and fresh thyme, if desired.

Serves 10


Posted in Meats/Poultry, Recipes, Salads

25 Responses to “Grilled Lemon-Thyme Chicken Salad, and we’re headed for Rome”
  1. Denise | Chez Danisse Says:

    Gosh that salad looks scrumptious! Home seems so fantastic for you it is almost a shame to leave for Rome, but I’m sure you will have a fabulous time. Say hello to Rachel for me! My “Can’t Miss” for you is my favorite hill walk in Rome, Gianicolo Have a great time, Nancy!

  2. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Hi Denise–I will pass along your greetings to Rachel for sure. Thanks for sharing your favorite hill walk, too. Wonderful—with appreciation, Nancy

  3. heather Says:

    CONGRATULATIONS!!! on finishing your book! I can’t wait to read it!

  4. ernestine lawson Says:

    Oh my
    your lush garden and plants sounds like my country garden that resembles a rain forest. The recipe, can’t wait to duplicate and it looks so tasty and easy for this one.
    The trip to Rome, can I be envious.
    Such a part of me that wants to travel and really hardly leaves home.
    Would be a joy if there was a travel companion and also
    maybe 10 years younger :)
    Safe travel wishes to you….

  5. Nancy M, Says:

    Love Rome, sigh…. the food was disappointing though. Tremendously expensive everywhere and not as good as your recipe you posted today. The best was pasta fazole in a little cafe across the street from the entrance to the vatican museum, topped off with gelato. Enjoy your trip!!!

  6. Teresa, Says:

    Nance, Bon Voyage and congrats on being a part of the Cooking Light community. Life is grand indeed!

  7. Tammy Says:

    Congrats on the cookbook! Can’t wait to get my own copy. Have a wonderful time in Rome!

  8. Michele | Cooking At Home Says:

    Nancy, how gratifying it must have been to hit that send button. Congrats on the book and on being part of the Cooking Light blogging community. Can’t wait to try this dish.If you get to Piazza del Popolo, my favorite piazza in Rome, be sure to climb the steps to the Pincio Gardens.From the terrace, you will see a panoramic view of Rome, especially stunning at sunset. Another favorite of mine is to stroll down the Via Giulia, one of Rome’s most beautiful streets.Give Rachel a hug from me, and have a glorious trip!

  9. goodfoodmatters Says:

    wonderful recommendations, Michele. many, many thanks!

  10. goodfoodmatters Says:

    thanks, Nancy M. I am hoping that my friends living there will know some great places. and, I feel sure that we will get our hands on terrific ingredients, and cook!

  11. Diana Says:

    This looks unbelievably delicious!!

  12. Renee Says:

    Delicious! I can’t wait to hear all about your Roman Holiday, the progress of your book, and the scoop on this cooking light community. In the meantime, I will be cooking and using recipes from Good Food Matters.

  13. Barbara Says:

    A beautiful, healthy salad, Nancy. Just the kind I like for dinner.
    So excited for you and your book! Can’t wait to hear more about it.
    Have a lovely time in Rome…one of our favorite meals there was at Checchino del 1877…the cab driver was amazed we even knew about it.

  14. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Barbara–I really appreciate the tip! We’ll check it out…

  15. Barbara Greene Says:

    Hi Nance,
    We are sooo happy for you & Bill to get away to Roma! As I said. In jest of course, please bring me a Sacred Heart of Jesus card if you do go near the Holy City!
    Your nephew Alex will love this recipe and I am going to forward this to him. From a diet of cereal & pizza to health conscious, all organic, and loves leafy greens now, I can finally relax & know he is eating well. I look forward to preparing this as well.
    Ciao Bella!

  16. Beth Says:

    Your salad looks terrific. And Rome! Have an awesome time! Looking forward to reading about it when you get back.

  17. Kitchen Belleicious Says:

    this just screams summer and I love thyme with chicken- it just brings out the best flavor in both ingredients to me. I am beyond jealous of your trip to Rome but I am at the same time beyond excited for you! We must see pics when you get back!

  18. Rach Says:

    I can’t wait. This looks absolutely delicious (the pictures are glorious today). I think we should book Da Cesare. xxx

  19. Rach Says:

    Oh and cheer cheers cheers about the book. Real glass to glass, wine within cheers very soon.

  20. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Rach–yes, I think we should too.

  21. Juliana Says:

    The salad looks delicious, I would love to have this for lunch!
    Enjoy Rome and congratulations on your book :)

  22. Tracy Says:

    I am very happy for you and your book. It will be wonderful to have it on my bookshelf. I’m eager to try the lemon-thyme vinaigrette. It’s sounds perfectly summer to me. I hope you’re having a lovely time in Italy.

  23. Ginger Barron Says:

    Here is the other recipe I tried:Prep Time:10 minTotal Time:1 hr 25 minMakes:4 servings-3/4 cup SEVEN SEAS VIVA Italian Dressing, divided-1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips-2 Tbsp. crunchy peanut butter-2 Tbsp. honey-2 Tbsp. soy sauce-1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper-1 bag (8 oz.) fresh sugar snap peas, rinsed, drained-8 oz. thin spaghetti, cooked, drained ( I used WHOLE WHEAT and it tasted GREAT!)POUR 1/4 cup of the dressing over chicken in medium bowl; toss to coat. Cover. Refrigerate 1 hour to marinate. Remove chicken from marinade; discard marinade.MIX remaining 1/2 cup dressing, peanut butter, honey, soy sauce and crushed red pepper with wire whisk until well blended; set aside.COOK and stir chicken in large skillet on medium-high heat 5 minutes. Add snap peas; cook and stir an additional 3 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Remove skillet from heat. Add dressing mixture and spaghetti; toss lightly. Serve immediately. Or, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.Yummy!

  24. Kelli Bratton Says:

    Made this delicious dish for dinner last night. I had to make some modifications due to lack of equipment (chicken in slow cooker rather than grill – cooked in my office at work :) ). I did add a little bit of sugar to the vinaigrette, as it was quite tart to my less-than-refined palate. But once the salad was dressed, the vinaigrette “mellowed out” and was the perfect compliment. I would definitely make this again and look forward to having more for dinner tonight.

  25. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Hi Kelli–thanks so much for sharing your experience with the recipe–and kudos to you for modifying it to suit your equipment–and taste. My best, Nancy

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