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Grill

Finally, summer is here! Hopefully we all have, or make, the time to relax a little, enjoy the outdoors and cook on the grill most of the time, meaning no stove to clean after cooking. Just a little wire brushing before cooking and a light wipe after, followed by an oil-drenched paper towel to coat the grill so food won't stick. All of which takes about two minutes to accomplish.

Grill cooking, to me, is much easier without filling your house with smells from frying or oven drippings. To me, it's fun rather than work, as I make it as simple as possible by following a routine and setting the timer to indicate when something has to be turned over, followed by resetting the timer until dinner is cooked.

Many foods we prepare in the summer require nothing more than turning the meat, foul or seafood over when one side is done. Then you can either combine it with a grill-cooked baked potato or corn still in the husk, or for this month's recipe, lay it on top of a healthy salad base.

As I frequently do, this month's selection is in keeping with my roots: Tuscan chicken salad, which gives you an easy dinner with little preparation, healthy food to keep it light, and little cleanup. My kind of cooking!

Salute and buon appetito!

Tuscan chicken salad

• 1 6-ounce boneless skinless chicken breasts

• 2 tablespoons oil for chicken and grill

• 1 handful of mixed greens

• 2 ounces Italian dressing

• 3 or 4 asparagus spears, blanched

• 1 tomato, diced

• 1 red pepper, diced

• 1 yellow pepper, diced

• 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, shredded or shaved

Wash and all veggies. Clean grill with wire brush and wipe clean with a dry paper towel, followed by a few wipes with a clean paper towel dipped in oil of your choice.

Brush chicken breast with oil on both sides, or brush cooked side when it is turned. Grill each side of chicken until golden brown and after turning. It depends on the thickness, but normally cook over medium heat for about maybe three to five minutes per side, until cooked with no raw chicken left in center. (If using a meat thermometer, internal cooking temperature must reach a minimum of 165 degrees.)

I usually combine romaine, escarole and endive for my salad mix, tossed with dressing. Then arrange it in the center of your serving plate. This recipe is for one serving, but you can expand it by using one 4- to 6-ounce breast per person, and adjusting the balance of ingredients accordingly.

You can buy Italian dressing or make your own: 2/3 olive oil, 1/3 red wine vinegar plus a pinch each of Italian dried herbs, such as oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary and sage.

When done, slice the grilled chicken breast on a bias and place it on top of the gourmet greens. Place the asparagus spears on top of the greens. Sprinkle with the diced tomato, red and yellow peppers and shredded Parmesan cheese.

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Bob Leonardi was born and raised in Weedsport, but spent summers on Owasco Lake in Auburn. After graduating from St. Lawrence University, where he cooked for other students to earn extra money, he moved to Florida and started a fine wine and gourmet food store. In a matter of a few years he added a restaurant, upscale catering and event planning to his business, which he ran in Fort Lauderdale for 15 years. He bought and restored Green Shutters restaurant in 1999, running it for 12 years. He now writes for a society newspaper as a restaurant critic in Florida and has written his column for The Citizen since 2005. He continues his catering and event planning business while living in Boca Raton with his wife, Veronica, and son Geoffrey during the winter months. He can be reached by contacting The Citizen or via email at raleonardi@roadrunner.com.

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