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Fresh herbs, peppers make a colorful Provencal palette

Thursday, June 21, 2001

By Betsy Kline, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Here's a main-dish skillet meal that's as flavorful as it is colorful. And did we mention aromatic?

Fresh sweet bell peppers and assorted herbs work their Mediterranean magic on this delicious Chicken Provencal from what is becoming my favorite summertime cookbook, "The Gardeners' Community Cookbook" by Victoria Wise.

I'm told the next-day leftovers were even more intensely flavored -- but I'll never know because my honey didn't leave any for me.

Note: If you don't have your own herb garden or pots, you'll have plenty of herbs left from the bunches you buy. To use them up, stock up on butter. Soften the butter and whirl in different chopped herbs, label and refrigerate. Now you have wonderful herb butters to top off any cooked vegetable, poultry or fish.

Chicken Provencal

1 cup dried tomatoes (not oil-packed), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil
6 boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 2 1/2 pounds)
4 large shallots, cut into rings, or 1 medium red onion, cut into 1-inch cubes (we used the shallots for their sweet, mild flavor)
1 pound assorted red, yellow and green bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1- inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup chicken broth or white wine (we used wine)
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Place the dried tomato pieces in a small bowl, cover with warm water and set aside to soak for 5 minutes. Drain before using.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large saute pan or skillet. Add as many chicken cubes as will fit in one uncrowded layer and saute over high heat until browned all around and cooked through, about 3 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and continue with another batch, adding more oil as needed, until all the chicken is cooked.

Stir the shallots into the pan and saute until nicely browned, about 4 minutes. Transfer the shallots to the plate with the chicken.

Add the peppers to the pan and saute until wilted but still a little crunchy, about 5 minutes. Transfer the peppers to the platter.

Add the garlic, herbs and tomatoes to the pan and stir to mix. Add the broth or wine and stir to scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Return the chicken and vegetables, along with any collected juices, to the pan. Season with salt and pepper, stir to mix and serve right away. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

If you have a fruit or vegetable that you would like to see, please call food editor Suzanne Martinson at 412-263-1760 or e-mail us at aburnett@post-gazette.com or bkline@post-gazette.com . We're also looking for easy-to-make, quick recipes that highlight the fabulous flavors of fresh produce. Send to Farm Fresh, PG Food, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222.

Thursday, June 21, 2001

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