No-fuss, flavorful chicken is your go-to meal

Along about now, the grill as a culinary appliance begins to pall. Not that grilling isn't still the preferred summertime cooking method, both for everyday meals and for deck parties. But, still, we get a little nostalgic for fixing a quick supper inside — in the air conditioning. And, perhaps we even long to hark back to the good old days and fix something that's a perennial favorite with the gang.

When in that mood, when we're seeking something fast, and relatively light, and "acceptable" to everybody's palates, at our house we tend to turn to chicken. Again.

Our exercise du jour, then, is to proffer some recipes that have become perennial favorites at our house, doing dinner time duty during all four seasons. They feature boneless, skinless white meat chicken done up with a minimum of fuss but a maximum of flavor.

Maybe they'll become favorites at your house too.

Sesame chicken strips

The accompanying tahini-lemon dipping sauce gives these quick strips a tropical feel. Serve with a rice pilaf (carrots, zucchini) and some chilled pineapple and honeydew chunks.

P.S. You can make extra sesame chicken strips (or use leftovers) to create a main dish salad. Use whole Bibb lettuce leaves as a base for the salad. Combine mixed spring greens (with radicchio), some shredded carrots, some green bell pepper strips and/or julienne zucchini pieces with a favorite balsamic vinaigrette. Add some sliced strawberries and toss gently again. Compose salads on the Bibb lettuce, top with the sesame chicken strips, then drizzle with a bit more balsamic vinaigrette.

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size strips

2 eggs

1/4 cup salad dressing (or reduced-fat mayonnaise)

About 1 1/4 cups fine dry bread crumbs

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/3 cup toasted sesame seeds (a combination of black and white ones is fun)

1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

About 1 cup peanut oil

Tahini sauce

1/2 cup salad dressing of reduced-fat mayonnaise

3 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste)

3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds (black)

1 teaspoon each, fresh lemon and lime juice

For the sauce, combine all ingredients. Chill if not using in the near future.

For the chicken, in a small bowl, beat eggs, then stir in salad dressing/mayo. In a shallow pie plate, combine bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, the 1/3 cup toasted sesame seeds and pepper. Dip each chicken strip into egg mixture, then into crumb mixture, shaking off excess.

In a large, deep skillet, over medium-high, heat about half the peanut oil to 350 degrees. Fry chicken strips in batches, about 5 minutes per batch, turning frequently, until done. Remove each batch to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet, tent loosely with foil and place in a 300 degree oven until ready to serve. Add more oil to skillet if needed. Garnish at will at serving time. Don't forget the tahini dipping sauce. Makes 6 or more servings.

Lemon-caper chicken

We like to serve this with hot buttered farfalle noodles sprinkled with plenty of shredded Parmesan. And a mixed green salad — just a few different lettuces, some scallion greens, fresh tomatoes and a light vinaigrette.

1 cup thinly sliced baby bella mushrooms

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil

6 (4-ounces or so) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, trimmed, if needed and lightly pounded to make a bit thinner

1/2 cup extra-dry vermouth

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

3 tablespoons small capers, patted dry

3 tablespoons chopped, fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 tablespoon minced, fresh basil

In a large, non-stick skillet, over medium-high, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add mushrooms and garlic and cook just until mushrooms are "wilted," about 3 minutes.

Sprinkle pepper over chicken breasts; add salt if you feel you must. Push mushrooms/garlic to sides of skillet. Add remaining olive oil if needed. Add chicken breasts (you may have to do this in batches). Cook about 5 minutes per side. Remove mushrooms/garlic and chicken from skillet; if cooking in two batches, remove mushrooms/garlic from skillet along with first batch of chicken. Arrange in a serving platter. Tent loosely with foil to keep warm; continue with second batch of chicken if necessary.

When all chicken is cooked and in the platter, add vermouth, lemon juice and capers to the skillet and simmer to reduce liquid to about 1/3 cup. Stir in parsley and basil briefly. Spoon over chicken in platter. Makes 6 servings.

Ginger chicken

This Asian approach features orange marmalade, which helps mellow the ginger and chili oil, and thicken the pan "gravy." Serve with our lo mein style noodles. And our cucumber salad on the side.

For the lo mein, try this free-form approach. Cook about 6 ounces vermicelli to al dente. Drain and run under cold water to remove starch. Drain well. Place in a bowl and add some peanut oil and some dark sesame oil. Toss well. Add a little peanut oil to a large, non-stick wok or skillet set over medium heat. Stir-fry noodles, in batches, until just heated through. Add some slivered snow peas, shredded carrots, paper-thin garlic slices, finely sliced scallions and stir-fry 3 minutes. Add some reduced-sodium soy sauce and a bit of rice wine. Heat through. Serve warm.

For the salad, use 1 large English (hot house) or 2 medium "regular" cucumbers. Wash cukes and use a fork to score the skins lengthwise. Cut crosswise into thin slices. Place in a medium bowl, along with 3/4 cup shredded carrots (see your supermarket salad bar). In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup rice vinegar, 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar, a scant 1/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes and a generous tablespoon chopped, fresh cilantro. Pour over sliced cucumbers/carrot shreds and toss gently. Cover and let stand about 15 minutes before servings.

Ginger chicken

2 tablespoons peanut oil

2 teaspoons dark sesame oil

3/4 teaspoon chili oil

6 (4-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, trimmed, if needed, lightly pounded to make slightly thinner

3/4 cup orange marmalade

1/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce

5 teaspoons peeled, minced fresh gingerroot

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons dry white wine

Chopped fresh dry roasted peanuts, garnish

Fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs, garnish

In a large, non-stick skillet, over medium, heat canola oil, sesame oil and chili oil. Add chicken and cook about 5 minutes per side. Remove to a serving platter. Add marmalade, soy sauce, gingerroot, garlic and dry white wine. Cook about 2 minutes, until thick and bubbly. Drizzle over chicken in platter. Sprinkle on the peanuts and add the parsley sprigs. Makes 6 servings.

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