Thursday, February 24, 2011

Chicken Parmesan Sandwiches with Tomato Basil Jam

I love February.

It's the time of year when everything in the produce section at the grocery store is either months old (storage veggies like potatoes, onions, and root veggies) or imported from a warmer climate (all of which are bajillions of miles away from Wisconsin). 

It's the season in Wisconsin when the idea of fresh locally grown herbs is a complete anomaly -- unless your green thumb allowed you to get a pot of them to grow in a warm, sunny window at the southeastern corner of your house.

It's the time of year when all the plants outside look dead.  The grass is covered in dirty snow.  And the only thing that looks remotely green are the evergreen shrubs planted in front of most houses on my block.

Ah, yes... despite these things, I really do love February.

You think I'm joking, don't you?
But, I'm not.  The reason I love this time of the year so much is because I'm pretty well prepared for it.  I have a hat to wear when it's cold outside.  And warm, waterproof boots that allow me to tromp through the snow without a care in the world.  And, best of all, my basement pantry and freezer are stocked with items that, when opened, take me back to the days when a sunny day meant a warm day.  When vegetables were in season and at their prime right in my backyard.  And the farmer's market was teeming with new delights each week...   tomatillo salsa, roasted tomatoes and peppers,

And one jar of tomato basil jam -- gifted to me by my friend Rena, whose generosity is surpassed only by her ability to make my day better just by being around.  She gave me the jar of jam last summer, after the tomato harvest, and I've been simultaneously hoarding it and waiting to break into it ever since.

Fortunately, a particular craving inspired me to break it open.  Peef was hankering for a panini.  And I was thinking about summer.  I also happened to have chicken breasts on hand, along with a bit of Wisconsin Sartori Reserve Sarvecchio Parmesan cheese, and a delicious loaf of sourdough bread.

It didn't take much effort to get my creative juices flowing.  First, I took the chicken breasts and pounded them nice and flat between two sheets of waxed paper.
Then we seasoned them up with some Historic Third Ward Seasoning (a delicious Italian blend from our local Spice House), and browned them up in a bit of olive oil.

A few slices of cheese, a spread of tomato basil jam, and a handful of winter greens from Growing Power (an awesome urban farm in Milwaukee that grows fresh micro-greens & salad mixes all winter long-- read more here), and we had ourselves a pretty amazing sandwich.
The tomato basil jam smells of the essence of tomato.  And its flavor followed suit -- reminiscent of a sweet tomato concentrate with just the right hint of fresh basil lingering on the finish.  Although I might ordinarily think that it was a bit too sweet for a sandwich, I really enjoyed how the fresh tasting jam played off of the saltiness of the cheese and the Italian seasonings of the chicken, coming together almost like the sweet/salty combination of a delicious Italian salad dressing.

All in all, opening that jar was like opening a perfectly preserved jar of summer.  Just the sort of thing to cure your February blues.

And just in case you'd like a link to bookmark this jam for next year's summer tomato harvest:
Tomato Basil Jam

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Want more? Read Lo's latest ruminations at FOODCrush, her Milwaukee Magazine blog.


  1. YUUUMMMM! This looks awesome--so simple and delicious. It might be a good time to bust out our panini maker ...

  2. I was always kind of a "Parmesan Cheese Snob", but really loved that Wisconsin version when I tried it! I now actually prefer it for certain things... The tomato jam looks awesome, too - a great combination for a cold day. I enlisted my Mom to make a version for us to split, and I hoard my jar, too - tho it is open and awesome on everything!

  3. I need to take your advice and procure myself a hat AND a friend who makes tomato basil jam! This sounds delicious!

  4. Ah! How I'd love a jar of this jam for myself. The sandwich isn't too shabby either. I love February because it's kind of like the turning point in seasons - once you get past it, Spring is straight ahead! 8-)

  5. Hi! I have really been enjoying your blog, so I added you to my list of "foodie blog shoutouts" on my own blog! I have a great group of dedicated readers that really enjoy the recipes I post, but I can't possibly link all of the ones you have that make my mouth water. If you include blogs from Illinois on your WI blog page , I'd love to be on it (if you enjoy my blog as well). Thanks again for the wonderful recipes!

  6. I'm glad one of us likes February. It's this time of year that has me itching for longer days and better weather.

    You know what would cure me? If you sent along a sandwich.

  7. So pleasing to the eyes and definitely pleasing to taste. Love it!


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