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Bulgur Salad With Grilled Chicken and Parsley Pesto

Here in New York, this is how I know that fall is “officially” here:

The leaves are turning.

I have a pumpkin outside my front door.

I’ve participated in a hayride.

Check. Check. Check.

But the weather lately begs to differ. It’s sunny — almost balmy — and though I’ve put away my tanks and flip flops, it’s definitely not sweater/boot season yet.

This confusion has found its way into my kitchen as well. I’m itching to start making stews and casseroles, but it doesn’t feel quite right. And yet the lighter, more “summery” meals I’m in the mood for prove challenging, as most of those ingredients are long gone.

So what to do?

Fake it!

grilled chicken with bulgur and parsley pesto

This dinner is a family favorite — simply grilled chicken topped with a dollop of pesto, which is also used to dress the bulgur. We’re trying to eat more whole grains these days and bulgur is tops on our list. It cooks quickly and simply, and pairs beautifully with almost any dressing or seasoning.

This super easy pesto is made with parsley — not the traditional basil — so you can whip it up year round. And it uses almonds instead of more expensive (and sometimes hard to source) pine nuts. Best of all, there is no cheese, which makes this a perfect side for my vegan daughter (who has some baked tofu while we eat the chicken).

I finished it here with some grilled canned apricot halves. Grilling fruit brings out its natural sweetness, and imparts a “summery” flavor, now that fresh stone fruits are long gone. This is a great trick I learned years ago.

Feel free to change things up! The pesto is delicious over orzo or brown rice, and you can substitute the chicken with fish or even some grilled skirt steak.

And enjoy these fleeting warm days!

Bulgur Salad with Grilled Chicken and Parsley Pesto
adapted from Bon Appetit

1 1/2 c. quick-cooking bulgur
1 1/2 c. packed Italian parsley (leaves and tender stems)
3/4 c. slivered almonds
1/4 c. coarsely chopped shallots
3 T. fresh lemon juice, divided
1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for brushing

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
16 canned apricot halves, drained

Place 3 cups of water and the bulgur in a medium saucepan; sprinkle with salt. Bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until bulgur is tender but still slightly chewy, stirring occasionally, 11 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a strainer or colander and rinse under cold water till cool. Drain well and transfer to a large bowl.

While bulgur is cooking, make pesto:  place parsley, almonds, shallots, and 1 T. lemon juice in your food processor. Using on/off turns, process until parsley is coarsely chopped. With the machine running, gradually add 1/2 c. oil and process to a coarse puree. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Stir 3/4 c. pesto and remaining 2 T. lemon juice into drained bulgur. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pre-heat barbecue.

Place chicken and apricot halves on a foil-lined baking sheet brush with oil and season with salt and pepper.

Grill chicken and apricot halves until chicken is cooked through and apricots are slightly charred, 7 to 8 minutes per side for chicken and 2 minutes per side for apricots.

Divide bulgur among plates. Place 1 grilled chicken breast and 2 apricot halves on each plate. Spoon a dollop of pesto atop chicken. Serve with bulgur.

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