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Tenders Mercy

November 17, 1994|MARIE SIMMONS

Faced recently with making dinner--and no plan how to do it--I searched the refrigerator, then the pantry. This is what I found: One package of chicken tenders, a few sprigs of basil sitting in a glass of water and covered with a plastic food bag, a lemon and a half bunch of broccoli. In the pantry, I found my usual staples of olive oil and rice. I decided that these few ingredients could make a decent meal.

I'm never very daring when it comes to dessert, but the pint of ice cream and bag of pecans in the freezer triggered the memory of a favorite sundae I loved as a college kid: ice cream, pecans and maple syrup. In the refrigerator, I found a bottle of maple syrup--and a jar of applesauce. Oh, yes! Warm applesauce with vanilla ice cream melting down would be perfect with the crunchy pecans and the rich maple syrup.

Gremolata is a mixture of finely chopped parsley, lemon and garlic used as a seasoning in the classic Italian dish of slow-cooked veal shanks called osso buco. I like the fresh clean taste of gremolata and use it often to season soups or to sprinkle over baked fish fillets. It added just the right amount of zing to the sauteed chicken tenders.

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Chicken tenders are the thick strip of chicken removed from the underside of each half chicken breast when the breasts are made into cutlets. I used to call these "fillets" when I removed them myself. But they are now conveniently packaged and sold already separated from the chicken breasts. If unavailable, substitute 1/2-inch-wide strips of boneless and skinless chicken breast.

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If basil is unavailable, use parsley to make the gremolata.

CHICKEN TENDERS WITH BASIL GREMOLATA

1 garlic clove, chopped

1 strip lemon zest, chopped

1/4 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 (16-ounce) package chicken tenders

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Make gremolata by placing garlic, lemon zest and basil on cutting board and chop until very fine. Set aside.

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet until hot enough to sizzle when drop of water is added. Add chicken tenders, few at time, and adjust heat so that chicken will cook steadily. Arrange chicken in single layer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook chicken until lightly browned on 1 side, about 3 minutes. Turn chicken over and cook until lightly browned on other side, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add gremolata and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in lemon juice. Makes 4 servings.

PIGNOLI-RICE PILAF

2 tablespoons pignoli (pine nuts)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 cup imported or American basmati-style rice

1 (13 3/4-ounce) can reduced-sodium chicken broth

Toast pignoli in small skillet over low heat, stirring constantly, until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Set aside.

Combine olive oil and onion in 10-inch skillet with tight-fitting lid. Cook, stirring, over low heat, until onion is golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in rice and cook 1 minute. Add broth and bring to boil.

Stir once. Cover and cook without stirring until broth is absorbed and rice is tender and dry, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts. Makes 4 servings.

WARM APPLESAUCE AND MAPLE SYRUP SUNDAES

1/4 cup broken pecans or walnuts

1 (16-ounce) jar applesauce or homemade

1 pint vanilla ice cream

1/2 cup maple syrup

Heat pecans in small skillet over low heat just until toasted, about 3 minutes. Set aside.

Heat applesauce in saucepan or in glass measuring cup in microwave just until warm, about 2 minutes. Divide applesauce among 4 dessert bowls. Add 1 scoop vanilla ice cream to each bowl. Top with toasted nuts and drizzle with maple syrup, dividing evenly. Makes 4 servings.

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