Saturday, July 10, 2010

Summertime Cherry Nectarine Chicken

A friend called me recently because she was looking for recipe ideas. Very specific recipe ideas. She comes home late and has to cook, but since it's late, she doesn't feel like starting up the grill. She wants dishes she can make fast, or even cook in advance so they're ready. She complained that it has become all too easy to swing by a takeout window, but that means eating food that isn't always healthy. She's looking for light summer fare, that is heart healthy and not loaded with fat.

Whew! Quite an order. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought it would be a shame to miss out on all the wonderful fresh fruits and veggies that summer offers.

So then there came a day when I was beat. I'd been out running errands all day. It was already late, and I didn't want to cook on the grill because the air felt like a sauna. While running those errands, I had picked up boneless chicken breasts, gorgeous cherries, and nectarines. Could I do something with those? My first thought was to grill the chicken and make a little cherry nectarine salsa to go with it. That, of course, brought the grill and the heat back into the picture, so I nixed that thought.

Could I make a cherry nectarine sauce for the chicken? I gave it a shot. Had I made this in the winter, I would have used frozen cherries, wouldn't have had nectarines, and would have added brandy and maybe some rosemary. But this time, even though I was cooking the fruit, I wanted to preserve that fresh fruit flavor of summer. To be honest, I wasn't sure it would work, but the chicken was, to quote my mother, "like butter" and the fruit sauce had that intense fresh fruity flavor I sought. This is super easy and very fast. And note that, except for the fat that naturally occurs in the chicken breast, there is no added fat. No oil, or butter, or cream, so it's very heart healthy but still packs a punch of flavor. BTW, I should mention that on these soupy summer days when we're all thinking of iced tea and ice cream, this chicken and sauce is pretty good cold, too!

Normally, it's advisable to pound chicken breasts to a uniform thickness so the narrow end doesn't dry out. I didn't bother, and frankly, it made no difference. My chicken breasts were fairly thick, though, so you may find you need a bit less cooking time.

Summertime Cherry Nectarine Chicken

1 1/2 cups fresh cherries, pitted and sliced in half
2 fresh nectarines
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup water

3-4 boneless chicken breasts

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Dice the nectarines and place in a large oven-safe pan with the cherries, balsamic vinegar and water. Bring to a boil and let simmer, uncovered, about ten minutes. The liquid should be a little bit thick.
Arrange the raw chicken breasts in the sauce, turning to coat. Cover the pan and slide into oven. Bake for about 15 minutes, turning once or twice and checking on doneness.
Slice each chicken breast and serve with the sauce.


  1. Your friend wasn't ME by any chance? :) I do have the same kind of recipe needs sometimes--not always, but frequently. You're a good friend!

    I love this cherry-nectarine chicken recipe! Thanks for sharing it, Krista!

  2. This sounds really, really good ... I'm trying to think of how I could make it vegetarian. Hmmm.

    Ack! I've got it! I've got these tasty little chickpea patties (made with mushed chickpeas, chickpea flour, and a little gluten ...) that are really basic. I usually do them with red sauce and mozz, but for the summer, those patties with this sauce might be awesome. Will try this week and report back!

  3. How simply delicious!!!! Yum. What a great way to use summer fruits and easy. Can't wait to try this.


  4. Elizabeth, I'm pretty sure it wasn't you. ; ) I suspect a lot of people feel the same way, though. When life gets busy, drive-through take-out is just too convenient.

    Oh, Wendy. A vegetarian version is tough with this recipe. The sauce would be very good with a crepe or over ice cream, but those sound a little bit too dessert-ish. It might liven up soy "turkey."

    ~ Krista

  5. Avery, I think it would be right up your alley. You can probably even figure out a way to serve it with cheese. Maybe over baked brie?

    ~ Krista

  6. Mmmm. Baked brie. Yum! And it would be an excellent "chutney" with tofurkey. Maybe on a tofurkey and brie sandwich on really crusty bread?

    Can you tell how motivated I am to get this dish into my belly? I love cherries. :)

  7. Another winner, Krista! The flavors here are absolutely mouth-watering for summertime -- and ironically festive for fall holidays, too. Great idea to keep this recipe around and use it with frozen cherries closer to chilly December when (no doubt) we'll be complaining about the cold! :)

    ~ Cleo
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  8. And won't this bring the taste of summer right into December! Frozen peaches would probably blend with the frozen cherries and remind us of sunny days (while we conveniently forget we complained about them).

    Kudos, Krista. Great thinking on this one!

  9. Wendy, I think the sauce would be great with Tofurky! I love cranberries on a turkey sandwich, and this would be similar, but less tart.

    Cleo, it's hard to imagine that we'll be complaining about the cold again soon!

    Laineshots, frozen peaches are a great idea for making it in the winter. I suspect that the sauce would have to cook longer, though, before adding the chicken if frozen fruit was used.

    ~ Krista

  10. Wendy, I just had to try this another vegetarian way. I sliced tofu thinly, then covered it with the mixed fruits and let it stand for 2 hours. I removed the tofu, carefully scraping off all the fruit yumminess, patted it dry, and browned it crisply in a tiny bit of oil. Then I added the fruit mixture and let it simmer for five minutes. It was delicious.