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Summer Improvisation

An easy riff on summer themes, or, one way to clean out the summer bounty aging in your fridge:  Braised chicken and summer vegetables.

The players: 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts; 1 medium (and in my case, rapidly softening) zucchini – cut however you like it; most of a pint of cherry tomatoes (also going soft) – red and sweet orange ones that I left mostly whole, although I did halve the larger ones; 2 scallions (chopped); a handful of shriveled basil leaves;  butter; 1/2 cup of chicken stock, and a generous pour of sherry vinegar;

The motif: an improvisation from something like this delightful template a la Blue Kitchen.

Dredge the chicken breasts in flour, brown in a pan of hot canola oil for about 4 minutes per side. As an extra flourish, I added in the stems from the basil leaves to give the oil some flavor. Place the browned chicken on a plate and let sit while you add some butter to the pan. Oh, and remove the basil stems and discard. Once the butter is done foaming, add the scallions and let them brown a bit. I also threw in two large basil leaves at this point.

The zucchini go in next, with a bit of salt and any spices you feel like – I added some cayenne. Let the zucchini brown a while, to get some good color on it before adding in the tomatoes. Toss everything around a bit, then add the chicken back in along with any juices, and the stock and vinegar. Let come to a slight boil, put the lid on the pan and let it braise for about 10 minutes or so.

Once the chicken is pretty much done, add in the rest of the basil (torn or chopped), and perhaps let the sauce cook down a bit.

For the final touch, toast some day-old ciabatta bread and serve alongside to mop up the lovely braising sauce; if there are leftovers in the pan, cut the leftover chicken into smaller pieces, toast some more bread, cut it into cubes, and toss it in the veggies and sauce for a sort of panzanella salad (bread salad) for later.

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