As we round out August, I cling to these last days of summer, spending more time outside and less in the kitchen.

Our evenings are open-ended and dinners are hard to predict. It could just be my husband and me, or the friends who stop by for a drink might stay on for a meal. But, how to stock up for such sweet spontaneity?

Having roasted chicken on hand ensures there will always be something to eat. When I'm at the market I'll look for rotisserie chicken, one that's nicely bronzed and dripping juices. As long as I'm there, I'll bring home two; one to eat the first night, the other to turn into salads, pastas and rice bowls sparked with the season's bounty — tomatoes, beans, corn, cucumbers and those brilliant peppers, both hot and sweet.

Peppers offer a range of options, especially when roasted in good oil. Roasting intensifies their flavors, and the seasoned oil is whisked into the vinaigrette. Toss together a simple salad of crunchy cucumbers, chopped scallions, plenty of the garden's basil, mint and cilantro, and top with sliced or shredded cooked chicken. Add a side of potato salad (from your favorite deli) or just a few hunks of crusty multigrain bread and sharp cheese. Dinner for one or many is done in minutes.

This no-recipe recipe invites improvisation: Swap out the tender lettuces for sturdy romaine or shredded cabbage, vary the vegetables and add in shredded carrots, blanched green beans, leftover roasted corn. Always season to taste — salt will heighten flavors and balance sweetness and acidity; freshly ground pepper adds that nice floral bite. Easy and breezy, this is a meal of bright summer pleasures. Grab them now, before they fade to fall.

Chicken Salad with Pan Roasted Peppers

Serves 4.

Pan-roasting peppers coaxes forth their sweet and hot flavors and yields a boldly season oil for the vinaigrette. Double the batch to have on hand, they will keep up to 5 days in the refrigerator, ready to toss into pasta or top burgers and brats. From Beth Dooley.

• 3 red, yellow or orange bell pepper (or a mix), seeded, cored and thinly sliced

• 1 jalapeño chile, seeded, cored and thinly sliced

• 3 tbsp. olive oil

• Generous pinch coarse salt

• Generous pinch freshly ground black pepper

• 1 tbsp. lemon or lime juice, or more to taste

• 10 c. baby lettuces

• 1 medium cucumber, sliced into 1/4-in. pieces

• 1/4 c. sliced green onions, mostly white part

• 1/4 c. chopped mixed fresh herbs (cilantro, basil, mint)

• 1 to 1 1/2 lb. cooked, sliced chicken meat (breast or thigh)


Generously film a medium skillet with the oil and set over medium-high heat. Toss in the sliced sweet and hot peppers, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until they become tender and begin to brown. Remove from the heat. Transfer the leftover oil into a small bowl. Whisk in the lemon or lime juice into the oil, season to taste with salt and pepper. If the vinaigrette is too harsh, whisk in a little more oil.

In a medium bowl, toss together the lettuces, cucumber, onions and herbs. Arrange on a serving platter or individual plates. Place the chicken on the greens followed by the cooked peppers. Drizzle the vinaigrette over all. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Beth Dooley is the author of "The Perennial Kitchen." Find her at