My husband Jesse comes from a large Italian family. He was raised on homemade pasta, lots and lots of cheese and of course every meal was accompanied by enough bread to feed a small country. Jesse is a major bread lover. Theres a photo of him as a toddler that I adore, where he’s fallen asleep on the couch clutching onto a whole loaf of bread. I’ll never know if he was actually eating it when he fell asleep, or if he loved it so much he wanted to hold onto it forever—either scenario is equally as cute.
When we first met I think we shared about two meals before I discovered that our eating habits were quite different. I had recently begun eating very healthy, and my interest in cooking had reached a new high, so naturally I was the cook among us.
I always gravitated toward light meals with lots of veggies which wasn’t exactly what he was used to. So, as it goes with every aspect of a relationship, we learned to compromise. About once a week I’d make a gooey, cheesy pasta dish and it would be a treat for us both, but most of the time I’d just cook what I wanted and he could take it or leave it.
Slowly but surely he grew to enjoy my healthier style of cooking and was able to recognize a significant change in his energy through the day.
Learning to cook somewhere in the middle of our two eating styles was beneficial for us both. Not only did it teach Jesse to eat lighter and enjoy healthier food, but it also taught me how to make food that was flavorful, delicious and fully satisfying without inducing a food coma.
This recipe is one I made for the first time a few years ago when Jesse was feeling a little carb starved. I like this dish best served immediately while the ingredients are slightly warm, but you can also refrigerate it for a few hours to let the flavors marinate. Better yet, just make the dressing beforehand to marry the flavors and dress while warm.
- 1 pint of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (about 20 tomatoes)
- 3 cups baby spinach, washed and dried
- 1 cup halved fresh mozzarella balls
- 1 cup Israeli Couscous
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil + 2 tbsp (1 tbsp for toasting couscous and 1 tbsp for roasting chicken breasts)
- 1.5 tsp dijon mustard
- 1 tsp white wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp chopped dill
- 1 tbsp diced shallot
- 1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt + 1/4 tsp for roasting chicken breasts
(prep time 15 minutes, active cooking time 25-35 minutes)
- Preheat the oven to 350.
- Rinse and dry the chicken breasts and sprinkle with half of the salt (1/4 tsp) and a few turns of fresh cracked black pepper.
- In a deep stainless steel skillet, heat 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil over med-high heat. As soon as you begin to smell the fragrance of the olive oil, place the chicken breasts in the pan seasoned side down, and turn down to medium heat. You should hear a loud sizzle when you place the chicken in the pan, this is normal and what we’re going for when searing.
- Sear the chicken breasts until browned on one side (about 3-4 minutes) and flip.
- Place the entire pan in the oven and roast for 15-20 minutes. Cooking time will vary depending on the size of your chicken breasts, if they’re huge, roast 3-5 min longer. *Note: you must use a completely stainless steel pan for this, some skillets have a plastic or rubber handle which cannot go in the oven. If you don’t have a completely stainless steel pan you can transfer the chicken breasts to a roasting dish after searing and place in the oven. When finished cooking, remove from oven and set aside to rest.
- Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat.
- Add 1 cup of uncooked couscous and cook about 3-4 minutes, allowing the couscous to become golden brown. Finish cooking couscous according to directions on the package.
- Slice the tomatoes in half lengthwise.
- Slice fresh mozzarella in half.
- Dice 1 tbsp shallot and place in a small mixing bowl.
- Chop 1 tbsp dill and add to the same mixing bowl along with 1/2 tsp kosher salt, 1 tsp white vinegar and 1.5 tsp dijon mustard and whisk together.
- Slowly drizzle 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil into bowl while whisking to emulsify the vinaigrette.
- Cube chicken breasts and transfer to a large serving bowl. Add spinach, mozzarella, tomatoes and couscous.
- Pour vinaigrette over top and toss until all ingredients are dressed and combined. Finish with a squeeze of lemon.