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The Chicken in Summer

August 12, 1993|MARIE SIMMONS

Summertime. The farm stands are brimming with fresh-picked local produce, just waiting to become tonight's dinner, and the grill is primed and ready to do the cooking.

Boneless and skinless chicken breasts are quick-cooking and effortless to cook on the grill. They taste even better topped with a farm stand melange of tomatoes, zucchini, red onion and sweet red pepper. The addition of Sherry vinegar dressing lends a particularly pleasant spark.

Serve the grilled chicken on a bed of arugula leaves. If arugula isn't available, use red leaf lettuce that has been cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips. Add a side dish of just-cooked red-skinned potatoes that have been tossed with sliced celery, chopped Italian parsley and a jigger of extra-virgin olive oil. Top the potatoes with freshly ground black pepper to taste.

For dessert, pass a bowl of sliced unpeeled fresh peaches that have been tossed with fresh lime juice, a spoonful of sugar and a dash of ground cinnamon.

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If a grill isn't available, quickly sear chicken breasts in a heavy non-stick skillet that has been preheated over medium-high heat. Do not add fat to skillet. The marinade and non-stick surface will cook the chicken to a golden brown without sticking.

GRILLED CHICKEN BREASTS WITH FARM-STAND MELANGE 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 2 cloves garlic, crushed 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves Salt Freshly ground pepper 4 boned and skinless chicken breasts 1/4 cup diced sweet red pepper 1/4 cup diced red onion 1/4 cup diced zucchini 1 cup diced seeded and drained plum tomatoes 2 tablespoons Sherry wine vinegar 1 to 2 bunches arugula, rinsed and trimmed, or 1 head red leaf lettuce, rinsed, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch strips

Combine 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 crushed garlic clove, thyme and salt and pepper to taste in plate. Add chicken breasts and rub mixture into flesh. Set aside until ready to grill.

Place remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and sweet red pepper, red onion, zucchini and remaining 1 garlic clove in medium skillet. Cook, stirring, over medium heat, until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring, until heated through, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.

Grill chicken on hot grill until browned on outside and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side, depending on thickness of chicken. Arrange some arugula on platter or large shallow bowl. Place chicken on top and spoon vegetables over, either warm or room-temperature. Garnish with strips of arugula. Makes 4 servings.

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