There will be bread

I love me a recipe that offers shortcuts and still tastes amazing. So, even though I don’t mind kneading bread, I still eagerly bookmarked the no-knead recipe from Jim Lahey as soon as I came across it.

No-knead bread ingredients. No, the Sodastream water is not bubbly.

Then, I discovered the caveat. There may not be kneading, but it still takes time and a little bit of getting your hands dirty (with sticky dough).

After going through it the first time, I shrugged and said I wasn’t really saving all that much so I wouldn’t make it again. That is, until I tasted it. Readers, it’s worth the time and effort.

And the more I’ve made it, the less the time and minor effort bothers me. I just plan better.

This is also a quintessentially Dutch oven dish.

Part of why the crust crunches so well is you preheat the Dutch oven for long enough that your dough goes into a nice and hot container. (I will admit, however, that I have used this recipe to make a couple of baguettes and it turns out well, just not as crunchy.)

It’s also pretty hard to mess up, since there are so few ingredients. The key is using bread flour, but I have — and I did this time on a whim — thrown in some amount of wheat flour and it’s worked. It’s not quite as fluffy but fiber does a body good.

Now, you can time things out how you want, but with a 12 to 18 hour rise time on the first go, my planning schedule is this:

*Before bed: Mix together the yeast, salt, water, and flour, and stir until blended.

*The next day/evening: When I get home from work, or the afternoon on a weekend, scrape the edges of the mixture and ensure it’s risen; then, turn out onto a lightly floured surface, shape into a boule, and wrap in a well-floured or cornmeal-coated towel, and let rise another 1 to 2 hours, before preparing to bake.

If you’re an early morning riser or an insomniac, a different schedule may work for you. But I’d rather get it started before bed and then deal with it later in the day. And a few hours extra rise time, if it’s a work day, hasn’t made a difference.

Again, it’s pretty hard to mess this up, even if there is an optimal way to make it that will maximize its awesomeness.

My boule isn’t the prettiest and it didn’t rise as much as I thought it would, but it tastes forking great.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • ¼ t. active dry yeast
  • 1 ⅓ c. cool water
  • 1 ¼ t. salt (I estimate)
  • 3 c. bread flour (OR, 2 c. bread flour, 1 c. wheat flour — which may require slightly more water)
  • Bran, cornmeal, or additional flour, for dusting

Directions

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and yeast, and then add the water. Use a wooden spoon, rubber dough scraper, or your hands to mix together until a wet, sticky dough forms, about 30 seconds. If it’s not wet and sticky, add more water or flour as necessary.

Cover the bowl — either a tea towel or plastic wrap or a loose lid will work. Let rise in a cool place, out of direct sunlight, for 12 to 18 hours.

When small bubbles dot the surface of the dough and it’s at least doubled in size, dust a work surface with additional flour. Scrape the dough onto the work surface. Use your hands — lightly floured — to shape the dough into a round.

Dust a (non-terry cloth) tea towel with flour or cornmeal, and then place the dough, seam-side down, in the towel, and then gently wrap together. Let the dough rise for another 1 to 2 hours. (It’s ready when it has almost doubled and/or you can poke it with a finger and it holds the impression.)

About a half-hour before the second rise has finished, heat the oven to 475 degrees with a rack in the lower third of the oven. Place the Dutch oven, covered,  in the center of the rack.

When the dough is ready, carefully remove the preheated pot from the oven. Uncover it, and add some cornmeal or wheat bran if desired, to the bottom of the pot. Then, unfold the dough and quickly but gently invert it into the pot with the seam-side up. Cover the pot again.

Bake the dough for 30 minutes.

Remove the lid and continue to bake until the bread is browned but not burnt, another 15 to 30 minutes.

Once the bread is done, carefully remove the loaf from the Dutch oven, and place it on a rack to cool. Let cool for at least an hour before slicing, and enjoy with soup, butter, or all by itself!

My favorite mistake

I’m going to say right up front that I forked this one up royally from beginning to end. So, I can’t say that it was a great recipe, but I do think that it’s salvageable, as in, the blame lies with me.

And, to be honest, I still had a lot of fun making it.

It’s been a stressful week, and I came home grumpy. But once I started to make this week’s poppy seed streusel and listening to podcasts about “Doctor Who” (*nerd alert*), I felt immensely better. I didn’t even really care that I was forking up.

Streusel ingredients. Notably not pictured is the milk I should have used.

I have loved my Amy Thielen “The New Midwestern Table” cookbook, so the fact that this recipe didn’t turn out I think is a fluke. I have made a lot of things from it, including hand pies this year.

And, seriously, it has a butt-ton of butter, sugar, and flour, so it should have been perfect.

Also, while her recipe said to bake for a half hour, I knew it looked done about 7 minutes early, and instead of trusting my gut, I let it go for another 5.

So, the fact that it’s hard as a rock, is on me.

Then, the second page of the recipe really spends a lot of time on the importance of grinding the poppy seeds well. This was after I had, uh, not done that. See, I bought a bunch of cream and figured there was not harm in replacing whole milk with cream. Except that, obviously, cream whips quite quickly. So, when I mixed them together in the blender, there was whipped cream well before poppy seed broke and bruised.

I made up for it by adding water instead of more cream later … but the damage (or lack thereof to the poppy seeds) was done.

So, the fact that the poppy seeds are intact and the innards of the streusel didn’t turn out as expected, is also on me.

Again, though, it was an adventure to make, and I’m pretty sure if I follow the recipe, and trust my gut, I’ll nail it next time.

It doesn’t look that bad until you noticed the blackened edges and that that ain’t *lightly* golden.

Here’s what I did. Actually, scratch that, here’s what I should have done:

Ingredients

  • ¾ c. poppy seeds
  • ¾ c. whole milk (DO NOT SUBSTITUTE)
  • 1 c. raisins
  • 3 c. sugar, divided
  • ½ c. heavy cream
  • 2 t. apple cider vinegar
  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • ½ t. sea salt
  • 3 sticks butter (the recipe calls for salted; I used un- so hopefully that didn’t mess things up), and more for coating the pan, all at room temperature

Directions

Combine poppy seeds and MILK in a blender and process on high until the poppy seeds have broken down down. Add the raisins, 1 c. sugar, the cream, and the vinegar. Process until smooth.

Pour the mixture into a medium skillet and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir often to prevent it from sticking, and continue reducing heat to keep the mixture at a slow bubble. Keep cooking until the mixture thickens to like jam, about 30 minutes. I’d say a little less but that might just be because I overcooked the thing from top to bottom in the oven.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 375 degrees, and lightly butter a 9-inch by 13-inch sheet pan.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, the remaining 2 c. sugar, salt, and the butter. Use your fingers to work the butter into the flour mixture until well combined, and the mixture holds its shape when squeezed together.

Scoop 5 loose cups of the butter mixture onto the sheet pan, and use your hands to spread evenly, and then gently press down. Bake for about 10 minutes, and then let cool for about 10 minutes.

Then, pour the poppy seed mixture on top, and spread until smooth. Then squeeze the remaining butter mixture on top of the poppy seed mix to make decorative nuggets, leaving some space for the filling to show through.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until LIGHTLY golden brown, *checking often*, and then cool in the pan before cutting into squares. Enjoy, if you got this far and succeeded!

 

Beautiful briny bread

The checkout girl at Target told me not to tell anyone that the bread I made this week had anchovies on it. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I’d be telling everyone through this blog post. So, let me get it out of the way at the front.

This bread is not for the faint-hearted.

If you can think of everything flavorful and potentially off-putting, this bread has it. Anchovies. Capers. Kalamata olives. Onions (lots of ‘em). Garlic.

Briny bread* ingredients. *Actually called “pissaladiere.”

It’s also got tomatoes, a butt-load of olive oil, and a no-knead yeasty bread.

Basically, me and my sweetie thought it would be perfect. And the recipe didn’t let us down. It’s been amazing.

The recipe comes from the cookbook my brother turned me on to about bread: “Bread, Toast, Crumbs” by Alexandra Stafford. I finally got myself a copy.

Unlike last time, my deviations from the original recipe worked just fine. I mostly stuck to it — including all those delicious toppings — but I have regular yeast, not instant, and I figured there was no harm in swapping. Especially since I spent a year making bread.

To correct, I just upped the amount of yeast and added a little honey to get it kickstarted, but otherwise I stuck close to the original.

My only complaint — and it’s expected — is that it took a long time and dirtied quite a few dishes, including the pain-in-the-ass-to-clean food processor. But I knew all that going in, and a lot of the time is pretty passive and a great time to rewatch this amazing season of “Doctor Who.”

It looks so pretty, and it’s tasty too.

Here’s what I did (with notes to use instant yeast):

Ingredients

For the dough

  • 4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 t. salt
  • 2 ½ t. active dry yeast (1 t. If using instant)
  • 2 c. lukewarm water
  • 1 T. honey, optional

For the bread

  • 6 T. olive oil, divided
  • 3 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 anchovies
  • 1 T. capers (I didn’t measure, I love capers)
  • ½ c. kalamata olives, halved
  • 1 c. cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered

Directions

Make the dough. If using active dry yeast, mix together the yeast, warm water, and honey, and let sit for about 10 minutes before stirring in the flour and salt. If using instant, the recipe says to mix together the dry ingredients, and then add the water (and honey). Either way, use a rubber spatula to stir until the mixture combined and you have a sticky dough that’s sort of ball-shaped. Cover the mixture with oiled plastic wrap, and let rise for about 1 ½ hours until the dough has doubled in size.

Just before the dough is ready, heat a large pan on high heat. Add 1 T. olive oil, and then add the onions. Cook on medium heat, stirring every few minutes, until the onions are golden, about 15 minutes. Set aside.

In a food processor, mix together the garlic and anchovies with 2 T. olive oil until pureed. Add the capers and pulse till chopped. Set aside.

Heat the oven to 425 degrees, and set the rack in the middle of the oven. Line a large rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper, and pour on the remaining 3 T. olive oil. Use two forks to deflate the dough by releasing it from the sides of the bowl and pulling it toward the center until you get a rough ball. Lift the dough with the forks or pour it onto the oiled sheet pan. Roll the dough ball in oil to coat it all over, and then let it rest for 20 minutes.

With greased hands, push the dough to stretch it to the edges of the sheet pan, and use fingers to dimple it. When the dough resists stretching, let it rest for about 5 minutes and then stretch again until it fits most of the sheet pan.

To assemble, spread the anchovy paste on the dough. Scatter on the olives, and then the carmelized onions. Top with the tomatoes. Use fingers again to dimple the dough and stretch more if necessary.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the underside of the dough is golden and crisp. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting into squares, and enjoy!

Meatball mashup

It’s 6 days until Thanksgiving, and so I decided to take it easy this week by going simple and safe. But still delicious.

I’ve already made meatballs this year but they were quite different, and I already made a similar recipe that I turned into individual meatloaves. So, this isn’t a unique recipe to this year; however, it’s a new twist.

Meatball ingredients, minus the garlic I decided to add at the last second. Also, in the background, next week’s recipe and spices!

Mostly, I love this meatball recipe because it’s quick and easy. It takes 5 to 10 minutes of prep, and 15 to 20 in the oven, so it’s quick. And it’s made of things I mostly already have on hand, except the beef, so it’s easy.

But it has the added benefit of being very versatile. It can be made into spaghetti and meatballs, or it can be a meatball hoagie, or just eat them on their own or with a little sauce. My sweetie and I tend to prefer hoagies with cheese and sauce, but I always have spaghetti just in case.

It’s nothing fancy but it’s always a treat.

Many mini meatballs.

Here’s what I did, building off a Betty Crocker recipe:

Ingredients

  • 12 oz. lean ground beef
  • ⅔ c. dry bread crumbs
  • ⅓ c. milk
  • 1 t. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 t. dried basil
  • ½ t. rosemary chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (I used the jarred stuff)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Oil, for coating

Directions

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Lightly grease a large rimmed sheet pan.

Mix together all the remaining ingredients in a large bowl, using your hands, until well combined. Shape into about 1-inch balls, and place on the prepared sheet pan. You should get about 24 with this amount.

Bake the meatballs for 15 to 20 minutes until cooked through.

Serve with warmed red sauce of your choice and cooked spaghetti or hoagies with provolone or mozzarella cheese, all to your tastes and liking, and enjoy!

*Programming note: I’ll plan to post early next week for Thanksgiving. If you want to shop in advance so you can have them over the holiday, here’s the ingredients list for pumpkin cookies:

  • ½ c. Crisco
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 c. Libby’s pumpkin
  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 4 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. salt
  • 2 ½ t. cinnamon
  • ½ t. nutmeg
  • ¼ t. ground ginger (I’ll probably use more)
  • 1 ½ c. chocolate chips (I’ll use semisweet)

 

Happy birthday hot wings

It’s my birthday and I’ll make hot wings if I want to.

OK, my birthday was on Tuesday, and OK, I made the wings last weekend for a pre-planned get-together. BUT they were my little treat to myself, that something extra I would normally say is too much time and effort, but it’s my birthday, dammit, and I wanted to treat myself.

I made the sauces separately, so no ingredients photo this week.

Most people may not think of wings as their treat to themselves, but I’ve always had different birthday wishes. Growing up I remember two birthday foodie requests; we’d either go out for Chinese food, or I’d want Mom’s porcupine meatballs (they had rice in them, and weren’t actually spiky, but that was the name). So, hot wings suited me just fine.

Also, I had found two different recipes — one spicy, one mild — from Homesick Texan that I wanted to try, and figured this was as good of a time as any to try out her two recipes. Then, I realized that though they both used wingettes and drummettes, the recipes were vastly different.

So, I meshed them together. Look, it may have been my birthday, but I am not messing around with different oven temperatures and different cooking times, and methods.

And, whew, they both turned out perfectly. I was quite partial to the spicier ones that registered at about a 6 on my scale of spicy, but the milder creamy salsa verde ones also tasted just lovely, and worked well as a sauce to complement either variety.

These may be best served for a crowd if you make both, or pick your favorite.

Speaking of picking your favorite — segues are for amateurs, as my lovely father says — you still have time to VOTE. Please do so. Pick your favorite. Pick the one who’s not the one who you hate. Pick the person who will make it easier for you to vote (*nudge*). But mostly, just get out there and make your voice heard.

Finished, plated product. The spicy ones are in the back but this photo had me drooling for the milder ones.

And now, here’s what I did, adapting the cooking method but little else saucewise, from Homesick Texan’s recipe:

Ingredients

For the wings:

  • 2 lbs. wingettes and drummettes mix (AKA wings from here on out)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • One of the two sauce mixes, below, divided

Sauce 1 Spicy ingredients:

  • 10 chiles de arbol, stemmed and seeded (I didn’t seed much)
  • 6 guajillo chiles or other milder chiles (I used dried Hatch peppers we had on hand, but ancho are easy to find), seeded and stemmed (I didn’t seed much)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 t. ground cumin
  • 1 t. oregano
  • ¼ t. ground allspice
  • ¾ c. water, and more as needed
  • 1 T. vegetable oil
  • ½ c. white vinegar, plus more as needed
  • Salt, to taste

Sauce 2 Milder ingredients:

  • 2 jalapenos, cut in half lengthwise and seeded (I did seed these)
  • 4-5 tomatillos (I used 5 because they were smaller), husked and cut in half
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • ½ to 1 c. cilantro
  • ½ c. sour cream
  • ¼ c. mayonnaise
  • 1 t. ground cumin
  • 1 t. cayenne

Directions

Sauce 1 Spicy:

Place both types of chiles in a large bowl of boiling water, and let sit for 30 minutes. Rinse the peppers well, and place in blender. Add the garlic, spices, and water. Blend for 5 minutes until smooth (it seems like a lot, but you want it to be thin, not chunky). Then, heat the oil in a skillet and add the sauce mixture. Cook for 5 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, and add the vinegar. Add more vinegar or water until the sauce reaches desired thickness.

Sauce 2 Milder:

Place the jalapenos, tomatillos, and garlic in a medium saucepan. Cover with water, bring to a boil, and then simmer for 7 to 10 minutes until the tomatillos have darkened and softened. Use a slotted spoon to remove the items from the boiling water, and place them in a blender. Add the cilantro, and blend until smooth, adding water if necessary.

Scrape the mixture into a large bowl, and add the sour cream, mayonnaise, and spices. Stir until combined.

For the wings:

Salt and pepper the chicken wings to taste. Place wings in a gallon-sized plastic bag or other large Tupperware. Add ½ c. of the sauce, mix well, and marinate for 1 to 2 hours.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees, and line a large rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper.

Place the marinated wings on the sheet pan, and bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and brush with another ¼ c. of the sauce on both sides of the wings, and return to oven with them turned so that the formerly top side is now on the bottom. Bake for another 20 to 25 minutes until cooked through and the wings seem mostly dried.

Let cool slightly and serve with the remaining sauce on the side, and enjoy!

A mostly muffaletta

I had been thinking about ways of making a grilled sandwich on a sheet pan when I came across the perfect recipe. As in, Delish had a recipe for sheet pan subs.

But, of course, I wasn’t content with the ingredients that made up the Italian submarine. I waffled for a few days over whether to make it anyway or do reubens/rachels instead, or a combination of each since the sheet pan could fit both. That’s when I remembered the Italian meat-using New Orleans favorite that my brother is enamored with: the muffaletta.

Sheet pan muffaletta ingredients.

It was like the Italian sub, what with Italian meats, some pickled relish, and cheese. But, you know, better. And while the bread appropriate for sheet pans wouldn’t be the traditional muffaletta kind, it was at least pressed to mimic the scooped out recipe of the original. Either way, it’d really let the insides of the sandwich shine.

So, with a pound and half of meat, a pound of cheese, and more than enough pickled items, I set about making the sandwich. I otherwise mostly followed the recipe, using a second sheet pan and an oven-proof weight to press the sandwich together.

It turned out almost perfect. I would say in hindsight that the sandwich could have cooked a while longer just to get the tops more browned. But otherwise, the cheese was melted, the meat was warm, and the sammies tasted great.

I did bring it to a friendly get-together because, well, look at how much meat and cheese it used. Even with eight people eating it — admittedly with other snacks and drinks throughout the day — I still took home about half. I’d say you could skimp on some meat, but the whole point of the sheet pan sandwich seems to be overindulgence, so go ahead and live a little.

Oh, but if the muffaletta doesn’t strike your fancy, I do truly believe this would have worked as a reuben/rachel or any grilled sandwich, just replace the meats and cheeses with your favorites and skip the relish or replace it with something more to your liking.

You mostly see bread, but trust me, there’s a whole lotta delicious meat and cheese inside.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 1 stick of melted butter, divided
  • 1 ½ to 2 loaves of sliced bread, I opted for sourdough but pick what works best with your sammy (like, I’d use a seeded rye if making a reuben)
  • 1 ½ lbs. Italian meats, sliced (I did a combination of salamis, capicola, and mortadella, which is traditional, but I’m already stepping on tradition so who am I to judge?)
  • 1 lb. provolone, sliced
  • 8 oz. (about half a jar) of giardiniera, chopped
  • 6 to 8 oz. mix of capers, sliced black olives, and sliced green olives

Directions

Heat an oven to 400 degrees.

Brush about half the butter onto a large rimmed sheet pan. Top with bread, it can be slightly overlapping like shingles, and use your fingers to press it down slightly. Add the giardiniera to the top of the bread. Add half the cheese on top of that. Top the cheese with the meat slices. Add the remaining cheese on top, and then top with the olive, caper mixture, to taste. Place bread on top until covered, again can be slightly overlapping. Brush the bread with the remaining butter.

Place another large baking sheet on top (mine was slightly smaller, which worked fine), and use a cast-iron skillet or the like on top to press down on the bread.

Bake for about 10 minutes until the sandwich is starting to brown. Then, remove the weight and the top sheet pan. Bake for another 15 to 20 minutes or so until the top bread is golden too. Let cool slightly and then cut into sandwich-size servings (friends suggested a pizza cutter would work well here) and enjoy!

On S’mores and stupid, stupid ideas

So, one year on a whim, and because it was summer, I made a S’mores pie to share with my sweets-loving family. It was so well received that I decided to do it again the next year.

Since I’m doing sheet pans this year, I wanted to try something different. Pretty early in the year, well before cookout season, I Googled to ensure that sheet pan S’mores recipes abounded. No surprise, they did.

My plan was set. When we had our Crippes clan get together, I would surprise everyone — particularly my cousin Madison who raves about the S’mores pie — with sheet pan S’mores.

Sheet pan S’mores ingredients, except I think I skipped the salt.

When I finally started looking before the mini-family reunion, I of course, saw several recipes that were simply laying graham crackers onto a sheet pan, topping with Hershey’s, and a marshmallow, and calling it good. I couldn’t do that. I had to impress. So, I found something that was a little more effort. A pseudo graham cracker crust, semi-sweet chocolate chips for ease of melting, and a beautiful broil to make the mallows just right.

What an idiot.

I was nervous from the outset. Despite following the recipe — a random site I won’t link to so as not to besmirch a recipe that didn’t work for me or to discredit them where I deviated slightly from the recipe — the crust didn’t seem like it came together all that well. Oh well, I said, once it bakes, it’ll probably be better. I baked it, and it looked fine. So far, so good.

Then, I added the chips, and let them sit. They didn’t melt well. Then, I put them back in the oven to melt better and for ease of spreading. No dice. OK, use up some more mini chips from my Aunt Sue’s supply. Give up on spreading when still nothing worked.

Finally, broil the marshmallows on top. Perfection.

Cut into the monstrosity I’d created, and &#*S@%#, the crust didn’t really work after all.

The good news is that no one cared. My aunt who is a professional caterer and foodie like myself gave encouraging tips and troubleshooting advice. My cousin Maddy couldn’t have been more pleased no matter how messy, and everyone else, enjoyed them as well.

I guess it turns out that no matter how badly you mess up S’mores, they’re impossible to screw up. For that, I’m quite grateful. But next time, I’ll stick to the campfire.

OK, OK, it looks pretty good, and OK, it tastes pretty good too. But it’s even more messy than the ones made by campfire.

Here’s what I did for any adventuring souls, or those who want to figure out what I did wrong:

Ingredients

  • 1 (13.5 oz.) box graham cracker crumbs
  • ¼ c. (½ stick) unsalted butter
  • ½ t. cinnamon
  • ¼ c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ (~12 oz.) bags semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 36 marshmallows (they make square S’mores-specific ones now!)

Directions

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together the graham cracker crumbs, butter, cinnamon, sugar, and the two eggs. Pour and press mixture into a large, rimmed sheet pan. Bake for about 10 minutes until golden.

Spread on the chocolate chip pieces, and allow to melt. Perhaps by putting in the oven if spreading isn’t going well?

Let cool for 30 minutes or until close to ready to serve.

Heat oven to broil.

Place marshmallows on top of the chocolate, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until the mallows are cooked to desired brownness, watching constantly. Serve immediately, and enjoy the mess!

Energizing eggplant Parm

I know at one point I had a recipe for chicken Parmesan. It’s how I learned to cook it, as it wasn’t a traditional family recipe I learned by osmosis. But anymore, I just wing it.

The recipe is easy enough to mostly remember, and I like it and its partner in crime, eggplant Parmesan, enough that I make it fairly regularly. So, somewhere along the way, I just stopped consulting whatever recipe it was I used, and it always turns out fine.

*All* of the ingredients for eggplant Parmesan.

Well, OK, I actually usually forget one ingredient, but it’s the ones that are served with the dish, i.e., pasta or pasta sauce. And, OK, one special time where I forgot mozzarella.

But a quick trip to the grocery store later and I’m back on track.

This time was no exception. I, of course, forgot pasta sauce, but it otherwise worked out well.

I was a little nervous because I usually saute the eggplant (or the chicken) before a short time in the oven to melt the cheese. This time, though, it was all sheet pan.

My experience in — holy cow! — more than six months of working with sheet pans, however, prepared me quite well for the endeavor. While it took a long time, it was more or less the amount of time I expected. And, yeah, it was pretty great.

Tastes great any way you slice it, and any way you serve it. Generally, pretty great.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 1 large eggplant, sliced about ¼-inch thick
  • 1 c. whole wheat bread crumbs
  • ½ c. Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1 T. dried basil
  • 1 T. dried oregano
  • 1 t. onion powder
  • 1 t. garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Olive oil, preferably the spray kind
  • 1 c. mozzarella, shredded
  • Pasta sauce, such as marinara, to taste
  • Pasta or bread, for serving

Directions

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and spray or coat lightly with oil.

On a large plate, mix together the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, herbs, and spices, and salt and pepper. Add a little water to the beaten eggs, and stir to combine in a small bowl. Set up a workstation so you can easily go from dipping the eggplant in the beaten eggs to coating them with the bread crumb mixture. Then, individually dip the eggplant slices in the egg mixture, and then coat in the bread crumb mixture before placing on the sheet pan. Repeat until you’ve used up all the eggplant.

Spray or coat with more oil.

Bake for about 45 minutes, turning halfway through, until the eggplant is fully cooked through and the bread crumbs have browned. Add the sauce (we used about ½ a 24 oz container), and then top with the mozzarella. Bake for another 15 minutes until the mozzarella is melted and the sauce is warm.

Serve with pasta and some additional sauce, or serve on hoagie buns for a warm sandwich, and enjoy!

Fun with falafel

I can’t tell you the first time I had falafel but I know that it was love at first taste. And the love affair has been ongoing ever since.

I like any kind too. There’s not a boxed falafel I haven’t enjoyed, and I will go out of my way to get it in stores. Literally. Almost any time I’m in Iowa City, I’ll make a stop at Oasis. Heck, one time I made my family go to Canada (from Montana) to get a falafel dog (and hot dogs, which I also love).

Baked falafel ingredients.

So, it’s not a surprise that when I found a homemade recipe for it years ago, I had to try it. And once again, I’ve been making it ever since.

My tastes have evolved over the years, so it’s probably just my current palate that makes me say this, but I think this time is the best I’ve made it.

It comes from a snarky vegan cookbook that I’ve only made a handful of recipes from and mostly ignored the annoying pleas for using coconut oil, and I’m sure I’ve made other things where I straight up just added real cheese. Not to snark on vegans but, man, cool it sometimes.

So, suffice to say, I’ve amended the original (though mine is still vegan. Until I top it with tzatziki.).

Since I don’t have a good food processor, I used my very wonderful Ninja blender. That made it a little hard to bring the mixture together so I added a little water, and this made the mix look a little like cookies when I finally baked them. But don’t let that fool you, they were still amazing and perfect, and I honestly recommend making them with a few splashes of water even if you have a food processor so they turn out this delightful.

While they’re not as simple as pouring from a box, they are baked instead of fried and still pretty frickin’ easy, and did I mention, amazing?!

These aren’t cookies, but they are savory treats that won’t make you falafel. 😉

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 1 (15 oz.) can garbanzo beans/chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 2 T. panko crumbs
  • 2 T. whole wheat flour
  • Chopped parsley, to taste (it calls for 2 T. but I like more)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 t. ground cumin, or to taste
  • 1 t. ground coriander, or to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Olive oil, preferably spray

Directions

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and spray or lightly coat with oil.

In a food processor or blender, combine the garbanzo beans, onion, panko, flour, parsley, garlic, spices, and a splash of water and blend. Pulse until smooth, adding tablespoons of water as necessary. Once mixed, flatten into about a dozen rounds and place on the lined sheet pan. Spray or brush lightly with more oil.

Bake for about 45 minutes, turning halfway through, and enjoy with tzatziki and pita!

Serendipitous simple spinach swirls

I was not expecting to make this week’s dish, but I just happened to have all but one of the ingredients on hand. So, one Sunday morning before a get-together with friends, I whipped together spanakopita-like spinach swirls.

Spinach swirls ingredients.

And they’re a real Frankenstein’s monster of my previous sheet pan recipes.

I had left over one sheet of puff pastry from the sausage “sandwich” I made earlier this year. I had bought a gigantic block of feta for the chicken meatballs, because it called for the brine too, and had quite a bit leftover. I had the basic idea of what it’d take to make it work from when I actually did make spanakopita. We even just happened to have dill around for some reason, and everything but spinach is a regular pantry item. So, I sought spinach.

While I made this frantically, because as usual I was running late for said get-together, it was super simple and comes together quick. Mine didn’t look as pretty as a similar-ish recipe on the back of the puff pastry box but still tasty.

My only issue is I took the back-of-the-box advice to brush on an egg wash on the dough before baking, which was fine, but it made the swirls stick to the pan, so I wish I had used parchment paper for easy cleanup. Oh, and I probably should’ve strained the spinach a bit. Other than that, simple and delicious.

So simple and so delicious.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 1 (10 oz.) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 1 sheet puff pastry
  • ~1 c. crumbled feta (I’d bet a 4 oz. container of crumbled feta would be a fine amount)
  • ½ c. Parmesan, shredded
  • 2 eggs, divided
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Dill, to taste
  • Flour, for rolling pastry dough

Directions

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Line a large rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper.

Squeeze out water from handfuls of spinach and place in a large bowl. Add feta, Parmesan, garlic, 1 egg, salt, pepper, and dill to the spinach, and stir well to combine.

Place a small handful of flour on a clean surface, and unroll the puff pastry sheet. Sprinkle with more flour, and then roll out to about 12 inches by 10 inches or so.

Place the spinach mix along the long side of the puff pastry. Roll up like a jelly roll. Cut into about 12 slices.

Place face up on the lined sheet pan.

Mix together the remaining egg with about 1 T. of water. Stir the egg wash on the edges of the puff pastry to coat.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the puff pastry is golden brown, and enjoy!