Probably every third freezer in town is stocked with pesto by now, basil having become the garden staple next to tomatoes. Once you have blended and processed all the pesto you could possibly use over the winter, though, a thriving basil bush may still leave plenty for other uses. Combine it with another prodigious garden staple, eggplant, for an end-of-summer salad that is a welcome change from--dare we even mention it?--ratatouille.
Make the salad first thing, to give it a chance to cool to room temperature, and just a few minutes before dinner tackle the chicken breasts. It's a dinner short on preparation time, long on seasoning, a kind of last rose of summer. All it takes is a turn through the express lane of your market plus salt, pepper and oil--make that olive oil--on your shelves. EXPRESS LANE LIST: eggplant, garlic, onions, basil, lemons, chicken breasts, gruyere or swiss cheese, imported mustard. EGGPLANT SALAD WITH BASIL (4 servings) 2 medium eggplants, about 3 pounds total, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes (do not peel) 2/3 cup olive oil 2 teaspoons salt 2 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced 2 medium onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced Freshly ground pepper to taste 2/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves Juice of 1 to 1 1/2 lemons, to taste
Line a roasting pan with foil and add eggplant. Toss with half the olive oil, the salt and the garlic. Bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes or until eggplant is soft but not mushy. Cool slightly and transfer to a large bowl.
Heat remaining olive oil in a large skillet. Add sliced onions and cook, covered, over low heat until tender, about 15 minutes. Add onions to the eggplant. Season generously with black pepper; add fresh basil and lemon juice. Toss together and adjust seasonings. Let cool to room temperature and serve. Adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins MUSTARD CHICKEN (4 servings) 2 whole chicken breasts, split, boned and skinned 3 tablespoons oil 4 slices gruyere or Swiss cheese 2 tablespoons imported mustard (pommery or another not-too-strong French, German or English mustard)
Saute' chicken breasts in oil for a few minutes on each side just until cooked through. Be careful not to overcook. Remove to a broiler pan. Spread chicken breasts with mustard and top each breast half with a slice of cheese. Broil until cheese is bubbly and serve immediately.