First time for everything

The cookbook we got for Christmas, British chef Jamie Oliver’s “5 Ingredients,” has some interesting ingredients and in the case of sheet pan-like recipes, an interesting choice of preparation dishes.

It’s kind of like that Eddie Izzard joke about the difference between American English and British English, only less funny. But it is fun to suss out the differences in British cuisine and American, and sometimes challenging.

Saffron rice ingredients. Thankfully, easy to find.

Mostly in the US it’s getting easier to find the ingredients (yay rogan josh curry!) or find substitutes (no double cream, no problem, just mix sour cream with cream). But I’ll admit I’ve been kind of stumped by his use of a “roasting tray.”

It seems quite a bit like a rimmed sheet pan, but as with this week’s recipe, it calls for cooking ingredients on the stove in the tray before baking. As far as I know my sheet pan shouldn’t be used the same and I wasn’t willing to risk ruining my main shtick to test it out.

Given this difference between British cooking and American cooking, I’m not sure it made a ton of sense to prepare this week’s meal on a sheet pan, but part of me just wanted to prove that it was possible to do it.

See, it was baked saffron rice, and I’ve never baked rice and wanted to see if it worked.

It maybe wasn’t practical but it did work and made a nice side dish for some lamb kofta. And because it wasn’t made like normal rice, it had a little more texture.

All in all, I think it was pretty worth it. And since it was only 5 ingredients (plus some pantry items), it was pretty easy. And tasty!

Baked rice, who’d have guessed?!

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 2 medium red onions, or 1 large
  • 2 pinches of saffron
  • 1 (5.3 oz.) container plain yogurt
  • 1 (2.8 oz.) tube of sun-dried tomato paste
  • 1 ⅓ to 1 ½ c. white basmati rice (it actually calls for 300 grams, and I have a scale so I measured 300 grams, but for those that don’t, the Internet gave me a cup equivalent)
  • 1 to 2 T. olive oil
  • 2 ½ c. boiling water (again, this is 600 milliliters, which should be on a measuring cup, but just in case, this is the conversion)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Chop the onions, and fry with olive oil in a large pan for about 4 minutes. Meanwhile, place half the saffron in the boiling water. In a small bowl, cover the remaining saffron with 1 T. boiling water, steep for a short while (he recommends 10 seconds, I did mine for minutes)  and then mix it with the yogurt. Set aside the yogurt mix.

Once the onions are ready, stir in the tomato paste, rice, salt and pepper, and then pour on the saffron water. Bring to a boil, and then transfer to a large rimmed sheet pan (about 15 inches by 12 inches). Bake rice in the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the rice has absorbed the water and fluffed up.

Spoon the yogurt mixture onto the rice, and enjoy!

More sheet pan pasta goodness

I got a hankering again for one of my earlier recipes — the spicy broccoli pasta — but knew I couldn’t just make the same recipe again, so I scoured for a second sheet pan pasta recipe.

Thankfully, those aren’t hard to find. I’m not the only one who loves cheesy carbs.

(So many) Sheet pan pasta ingredients.

The recipe was a bit more involved than the last one, and a bit heartier, but it was worth it.

Having shared this one with friends, I can say that it was well liked by a variety of people, and half the reason to make a good dish is to get the compliment. The other half is getting to eat in 10 minutes what took 1 hour or more to prepare. And this one didn’t take nearly that long to prepare.

But at least there’s plenty of leftovers; even if you share with a half-dozen friends, you may have more to take home. So, the extra work isn’t as bothersome since it fills so many bellies or a couple bellies so many times.

It’s nothing fancy but who doesn’t love a hearty pasta dish?

So much cheese. *drool*

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 1 box (16 oz.) penne pasta or similar, prepared according to package instructions (and reserving ½ c. pasta water)
  • 1 c. panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 c. grated Parmesan, divided
  • 4 T. olive oil, divided
  • 1 bunch chard, stems removed and roughly chopped
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 c. sour cream
  • 1 T. Dijon mustard
  • 4 c. shredded cooked chicken (I used 4 chicken breasts I pre-cooked but you can buy a pre-made rotisserie if that’s your thing)
  • 2 c. shredded mozzarella, divided
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Heat oven to 450 degrees.

In a medium bowl, mix together the panko, ¼ c. Parmesan, 2 T. oil, salt and pepper.

On a large rimmed sheet pan (15 inches by 12 inches or so), toss together the chard and tomatoes with the remaining olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper.

When the pasta’s ready, drain it but reserve about ½ c. pasta water, and return the pasta to the pot. Mix in sour cream, mustard, the remaining ¾ c. Parmesan, salt and pepper, and about ¼ c. of the pasta cooking liquid, and stir to blend. Stir in the chicken and half the mozzarella. Add more pasta water if necessary to get to desired creaminess.

Once mixed, spread on the prepared sheet pan and stir carefully to mix with vegetables.

Top the mixture with the panko/Parmesan mix and the remaining mozzarella.

Bake for about 5 to 7 minutes until the cheese is melted and the mixture on top is lightly browned. Let cool slightly, and enjoy!

Beware the Ides of March

Mid-March offers so many awesome opportunities for food, what with Pi(e) Day, the Ides of March, and St. Patty’s Day. I’ve made a key lime pie (green!) with a Pi symbol topping, and I’ve made Irish soda bread. Last year, I had it super easy, making salads and soups. Sure, the classic Caesar salad isn’t named for *that* Caesar but it’s a good excuse for an even better meal.

I didn’t have any good ideas this year, and then I happened on the perfect sheet pan recipe for the Ides. I scoured and found that Epicurious had a sheet pan Caesar salad that I could make just in time (well, almost) for March 15. It obviously wasn’t the traditional dish, but it did have about all the same ingredients — chicken, anchovies, lettuce, Parmesan, lemon juice, and croutons, or something very like them.

Sheet pan Caesar salad ingredients

I know those flavors aren’t for everyone, and the anchovies are likely to scare some people off, but believe me, there’s a reason this is a classic dish. The flavors meld into something truly unique and delicious. And that was no less true when it was deconstructed and put together on a sheet pan.

Even better, it took a little more than 30 minutes to bring together, which is great because I found this recipe with little time to spare for getting it together this week.

Wait, there’s still leftovers of this one. BRB.

Here’s what I did, following the recipe pretty closely:

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • ½ c. grated Parmesan
  • ½ c. panko breadcrumbs
  • 4 T. olive oil, divided
  • 2 T. chopped parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped, divided (I used the jarred stuff and didn’t measure exactly because I like garlic)
  • 2 hearts of romaine, halved lengthwise
  • 4 anchovy fillets, packed in oil, and chopped
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Line a rimmed sheet pan with foil. Season chicken with salt and pepper on prepared sheet, set aside. In a medium bowl, combine Parmesan, panko, 2 T. olive oil, parsley, half the garlic, and salt and pepper. Pat the mixture on top of the chicken breasts until used up. Place the chicken in the oven for about 10 minutes until the panko mixture starts to brown, and meanwhile, prepare the remaining ingredients.

Drizzle romaine with remaining olive oil; sprinkle on the chopped garlic; and season with salt and pepper (I did this when the chicken came out of the oven but it does make for a less even mix, but it meant one less dish to do). Place lettuce on the sheet pan after 10 minutes and cook another 5 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the lettuce is brown at the edges.

Divide the chicken and lettuce among 4 plates (or 2 and 2 tupperware for leftovers). Top the lettuce with the anchovies, garnish with lemon slices for squeezing over the dish, and enjoy!

Thank god for a family of foodies

This year for Christmas we got a cooking utensil and a cookbook from my brother and his wife. They know us so well.

At first I wasn’t sure why a Jamie Oliver cookbook was the one my brother chose. But, of course, he is the type to read through a cookbook like a book, and therefore, understand cooking better. And this book is perfect for that.

It’s the British chef’s “5 Ingredients,” and as its name implies is cooking with just 5 ingredients (and OK, also 5 pantry items that you likely have lying around if you have this book, and full disclosure, we do). And because of that, it’s perfect for both its simplicity but also understanding how flavors interact and how to build from just 5 ingredients.

So far, we have only made a handful of things out of it, but every single one of them has been my new favorite dish.

This week’s recipe here is no exception.

It’s got 5 ingredients, plus two I added (one that’s optional and one that amends a hard-to-find item), and one pantry item (pepper, which I hope most people have in their pantry), and a bit of water. It took time only because it roasted potatoes, fennel and artichokes for a long time, and then had a cheesy cream sauce.

Vegetables covered in cream and oil, so you know it’s delicious

It’s pretty healthy, though I did add more of the unhealthy bits than Oliver’s original calls for. And other than the time, it takes just cutting potatoes and fennel for prep.

So, yeah, this is a good one. Here’s what I did to amend the original:

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. yellow potatoes, quartered or eighthed depending on size (His recipe was in grams)
  • 2 bulbs fennel, sliced thinly, and including the clean stalks
  • 1 jar (14 oz) marinated artichoke hearts, quartered (including the oil!)
  • 1 sprig rosemary (optional)
  • 1 c. heavy cream (the recipe called for double cream, which I think is thicker so I mixed in sour cream too)
  • ½ c. sour cream
  • ⅔ c. grated Parmesan, divided
  • Pepper
  • 1 c. water

Directions

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Spread the potatoes and fennel on a large, sided sheet pan (about 15 ½ x 12 inches). Add the quartered artichoke hearts and their oil. Season with rosemary and pepper. Pour over the water.

Cover the vegetable mix with olive oil and bake for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the heavy cream, sour cream and ½ the Parmesan cheese. When the vegetables have baked for an hour, remove the foil and dot the vegetables with the cream mixture, and sprinkle on the remaining Parmesan cheese.

Bake uncovered for another 20 minutes until the cheese has browned. Let cool slightly and enjoy!

Extra Post: Let’s celebrate Casimir Pulaski Day

So, I didn’t make this recipe recently, but I couldn’t resist a Polish post to celebrate Casimir Pulaski Day.

Since I grew up in Illinois, there were two extra holidays we got each year. They were Abraham Lincoln’s birthday (of course in the Land of Lincoln, we celebrated the 16th president individually), and Casimir Pulaski Day.

Pulaski isn’t celebrated much outside of Illinois, but he was a Revolutionary War hero from Poland and is credited as a founder of the U.S. cavalry. And he seems like a pretty cool and worldly dude.

Usually I try to make something each year to celebrate my Polish roots and celebrate the Illinois holiday. This year I didn’t have my [expletive deleted] together to get something Polish together in time for today’s holiday.

Fortunately, I made bialys a few years ago in my previous life as a newspaper reporter, and the little not-bagels are made on a sheet pan.

Bialys, a tasty Polish treat

So, here’s a little recipe extra for lyal readers:

Ingredients

For the starter or polish

  • ½ c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 c. water
  • ¼ t. active dry yeast

For the bialy dough            

  • 1 starter
  • 1 ½ c. warm water
  • 2 ½ t. active dry yeast (or one package)
  • 1 ½ T. honey
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 ½ t. salt
  • 3 c. bread flour
  • 1 c. all purpose flour

For the bialy filling

  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 T. oil
  • 2 T. poppy seeds
  • Salt, to taste

Directions

The night before you plan to make the bread, make the starter before going to bed. Stir together the flour and yeast. Mix in the water until a sticky dough forms. Cover and let rest overnight.

When ready to make the dough, mix together the yeast, water and honey. Let the yeast activate for about 15 minutes. Then, add the starter, olive oil, salt, all-purpose flour and about 2 c. of the bread flour.

Turn out on a floured surface, and knead, adding in the remainder of the bread flour as necessary. Knead for about 5 to 10 minutes.

Place dough in a large bowl that has been coated with oil. Over with oiled plastic wrap and let rise in a cool place for about 2 hours.

Once dough has about doubled in size, punch it down in the bowl and then divide it into about 20 even pieces. Roll each dough piece into a ball and then stretch out to about a 3-inch round. Place round on floured baking sheet and indent around the middle, leaving about a 1-inch lip around the edge. Repeat with remaining dough pieces, leaving enough space in between dough rounds so the bialy can rise a second time.

Cover with oiled plastic wrap or a tea towel and let rise for about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

During second rise, mince garlic and chop onion. Pour oil into large cast-iron skillet and let warm over medium heat. Once hot, add in onions and garlic and cook for a few minutes before turning heat to medium low. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until caramelized. Once browned, remove from heat and add in the salt and poppy seeds.

Once second rise is complete, add ½ to 1 T. of the filling into each of the bialy indentations until it’s all used up. Place baking sheet (or sheets) into oven and cook for 12 to 15 minutes. Enjoy warm and with cream cheese!

Nachos for everyone!

I wasn’t sure about this week’s recipe for a lot of reasons.

First, are they nachos or chilaquiles? Second, I wasn’t following any real recipe, so I had no idea the amounts to use or how long to bake it. And that meant I had no idea if it would turn out well.

So, it was a good thing I decided to try it out on some friends.

Sheet pan nachos ingredients.

As for the name, eh, whatever.

Fortunately, it was too easy to fail, and they turned out great. Frankly, I think part of the reason there’s no recipe for sheet pan nachos — or no need for one anyway — is it’s all about what you like best. I even saved a little side to be onion-free so my onion-hating friend could still enjoy this snack.

That means that while I will lay out below what I did to make this treat for friends, there’s no reason you have to do the same thing. For instance, I used fake beef seasoned with taco seasoning, but you could use shredded chicken or skip the meat altogether.

Yummy loaded nachos

I’d say the recipe below offers a good guide on how much of each item to add, but again, maybe you don’t like cheese as much as me or you’re another onion-hater. So, you do you, but in case you have the same tastes as me, here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 1 (15 oz) party-size bag tortilla chips
  • 1 lb. prepared and seasoned taco meat (1 lb. meat of your choice and 1 package of taco seasoning of your choice)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 2 (15 oz) cans black refried beans
  • 1 (16 oz) jar salsa
  • 3 c. shredded Mexican cheese.

Directions

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, spread the tortilla chips onto a large sheet pan with sides (about 15 ½ x 12 inches). Full disclosure, I reserved some of the chips so I could use those to scoop up any extra food left behind, but you can spread them all.

Top with the beans, meat, peppers and onions, salsa, and finally top with the cheese.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the other ingredients are warm. Let cool slightly and enjoy with friends!