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Summer in winter: Enjoy the warm tastes and colors of summer

By Wolfgang Puck, Tribune Content Agency on

In the middle of winter, summer can seem like a very long time away. As you read this, you're probably hearing of record snowfall somewhere, possibly right where you live.

It's only natural for many home cooks to want to combat the chilly surroundings by cooking foods that are robust and warming, including thick soups, slow-simmered braises and stews, deep-dish apple pies and other pastry-based desserts. And dishes like that do go a long way toward comforting us during the cold months.

But people also crave variety. So, sometimes it's a good idea to take a more psychological approach to overcoming the tiresome effects of winter. How about changing the mood around your table and in your home by switching things up and occasionally preparing foods that feel like summer?

I'm not saying, of course, that you have to go on a treasure hunt for rare ingredients that are out of season. Thanks to modern agriculture and efficient shipping, supermarkets today always have a selection of vegetables and fruits that seem kissed by warm sunshine. And I'd like to share a recipe that highlights exactly those kinds of ingredients. It is for roasted chicken breasts stuffed with yellow and red bell peppers served atop a sweet scallion sauce.

Bell peppers are typically a summer crop if you grow them yourself. But you can find them year-round in just about any supermarket, often in a variety of colors besides the typical green ones. I especially like the ripened, sweeter yellow, red and orange varieties, any combination of which will taste delicious and look beautiful in this recipe; and you could also use green bell peppers if one or more of the other colors aren't available. Scallions, or green onions, are another perennial supermarket staple, and another name they go by expresses the warmer months with which they are associated: spring onions.

Precooked -- the peppers by roasting under the broiler, the scallion greens by briefly boiling -- to make the textures tender and their flavors sweeter and milder, these warm-weather vegetables are then rolled up inside pieces of flattened chicken breast, which are then browned on the stovetop and quickly finish cooking in the oven. Sliced before serving on top of a simply made sauce of sauteed scallions flavored with rice vinegar and sherry and enriched with a little butter and cream, the vegetables form a brightly colored pattern on each plate as cheerful as a summertime bouquet.

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I hope you'll give this easy recipe a try very soon, then go on enjoying it throughout the progression of seasons.


Serves 4

4 large boneless chicken breast halves, cut crosswise in half


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