Sheet Pan Orzo with Roasted Tomatoes, Lemon, & Mozzarella

I realize that many people avoid using the oven in warm weather, but I have a couple of quick sheet pan meals that make using the oven completely worth the extra summer heat.

In this dish, the pasta even cooks in the oven! It was super creamy as a result. The roasted lemon added incredible brightness. This recipe is from Meatless Sheet Pan Suppers: 100 Surprising Vegetarian Meals Straight from the Oven by Raquel Pelzel. The cheese can be omitted for a vegan version. Delicious!

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 pound grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 medium-size lemon, thinly sliced into rounds, seeds removed
  • 3 large garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry vermouth or dry white wine
  • 16 oz orzo pasta
  • 3 3/4 cups boiling water
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves, stacked, rolled, and thinly sliced crosswise into ribbons
  • 6 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, roughly torn by hand
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, place a sheet pan on the rack, and preheat the oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  2. Place the tomatoes, lemon, garlic, 1 tsp salt, pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, and the olive oil in a medium-size bowl and toss to combine.
  3. Carefully turn the tomato mixture out onto the heated sheet pan, spread it in an even layer, and roast for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove the sheet pan from the oven and stir the vermouth into the tomato mixture.
  5. Using a spatula, press down on the tomatoes and lemon slices to extract their juices.
  6. Stir in the orzo.
  7. Pull the oven rack partway out of the oven and place the sheet pan on it. Carefully pour the boiling water into the orzo, stirring to combine and distribute evenly.
  8. Wearing oven mitts, cover the sheet pan with aluminum foil (you may need 2 sheets), crimping it tightly around the edges to seal. Bake the pasta for 15 minutes.
  9. Uncover the pan, add the remaining 1 tsp salt, stir, and cook, uncovered, to allow the juices to thicken and any partially cooked pasta from the top layer to absorb more liquid, about 5 minutes more.
  10. Preheat the broiler to high.
  11. Stir most of the basil into the pasta, then scatter the mozzarella cheese over the top. Sprinkle the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese over the mozzarella and broil until the cheese is melted and golden, 3 to 5 minutes more. Watch carefully!
  12. Remove from the oven and let stand for a few minutes.
  13. Sprinkle the remaining basil over the top just before serving.
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Pinchos Morunos: Spanish Spice-Crusted Pork Tenderloin Bites

My non-pork tenderloin-eating son gobbled up these bites of meat! The sauce and seasoning were absolutely delicious.

This recipe was adapted from Milk Street: The New Home Cooking by Christopher Kimball. I doubled the recipe to use two pork tenderloin. We ate it with Basmati rice and green salad. Fabulous.

Yield: Serves 6

  • 1 T ground coriander
  • 1 T ground cumin
  • 1 T smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 one-pound pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 T lemon juice, plus lemon wedges for serving
  • 2 T honey
  • 3 large garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 2-3 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1-2 T chopped fresh oregano
  1. In a medium bowl, combine the coriander, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper.
  2. Add the pork and toss to coat evenly, massaging the spices into the meat until no dry rub remains.
  3. Let the meat sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.
  4. Meanwhile, in another small bowl, combine the lemon juice, honey, and garlic. Set aside.
  5. In a large skillet (I used a 14-inch skillet) over medium-high, heat 2 T of the oil until just smoking. Add the meat in a single layer and cook without moving until deeply browned on one side, about 3 minutes.
  6. Using tongs, flip the pork and cook, turning occasionally, until cooked through and browned all over, another 2 to 3 minutes, or until the internal temperature is 140 degrees.
  7. Off the heat, pour the lemon juice-garlic mixture over the meat and toss to evenly coat, then transfer to a serving dish. (I tossed the sauce with the meat in my serving dish.)
  8. Sprinkle the oregano over the pork and drizzle with the remaining 1 T of oil, if desired. (I omitted the additional oil.)
  9. Serve with lemon wedges.

Strawberry Pie Bars

I had my eye on this recipe way before I even went strawberry picking…and these pie bars met every expectation. 🙂 This recipe is from Joy the Baker. Wonderful!

For the Crust:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the Strawberry Filling:

  • 2 pints fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced into bite-size chunks (about 4 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons minute tapioca
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for topping
  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Line an 8×8-inch square pan with parchment paper so that the paper hangs over two edges of the pan about two inches. This will make the pie bars easier to remove after it’s baked. Lightly spray the pan with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
  3. For the crust, place the butter, sugars, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light and fluffy.
  4. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the flour, salt, and cinnamon and mix on low-speed until just combined.
  5. Scatter two-thirds of the dough into clumps in the prepared pan, flour your fingers and press the dough across the bottom of the pan and up the sides of the pan about 1/2-inch. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  6. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and set aside to cool while you prepare the topping and filling.
  7. In a small bowl combine the remaining crust and pecans. Stir until combined and set aside.
  8. In a medium bowl toss together the sliced strawberries, lemon juice, sugar, and spices. Allow to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes until some juices develop in the bottom of the bowl.
  9. After the juices have developed, add the melted butter and the instant tapioca. Stir to combine. The tapioca will look coarse within the mixture but it will dissolve in the oven.
  10. Spread the strawberries evenly over the crust.
  11. Pinch medium pieces of remaining dough with your fingers and drop them evenly over the top of the strawberry mixture (they won’t cover the top completely but do your best to cover).
  12. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the topping is brown and the strawberry mixture is bubbling. (If there are still tapioca bits, take the pan out of the oven and gently stir those berries in so the tapioca gets moistened.)
  13. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
  14. Chill in the refrigerator to easily remove the bars from the pan. Once cooled, remove from the pan and dust with powdered sugar just before serving.

Note: The bars can be stored, wrapped individually or covered in plastic wrap, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Strawberry Ice Cream

Speaking of strawberry cocktails… the added bonus of this amazing fresh strawberry ice cream is that the sweetened vodka-based macerating liquid makes a wonderful base for a celebratory summer cocktail. Nice! 🙂

The texture and color of this ice cream was absolutely incredible. It was the perfect use for my precious, freshly-picked strawberries. The ice cream recipe is from Martha Stewart Living; I included a recipe for the bonus cocktail below.

For the Ice Cream:

Yield: 1 1/2 quarts

  • 1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved (about 3 cups), plus 8 ounces more, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup low-fat milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup sugar, plus 1/2 cup more for macerating
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup vodka or silver tequila
  1. In a blender or Vitamix, puree halved strawberries with lemon juice and salt. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve. (You should have 1 1/2 cups of puree; reserve any excess for another use.)
  2. Combine milk, cream, 2/3 cup sugar, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer 2 minutes.
  3. Strain mixture into a bowl set in an ice bath and let stand, stirring occasionally, until cold, about 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in strawberry puree. Refrigerate, covered, at least 2 hours and up to overnight.
  5. Stir together remaining 1/2 cup sugar and vodka. Add chopped strawberries and macerate at room temperature at least 2 hours, or in the refrigerator, covered, up to 12 hours.
  6. Process puree mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. When it has the texture of soft serve, drain macerated berries (reserving syrup for another use) and fold into ice cream.
  7. Transfer to a loaf pan and freeze, wrapped in plastic, at least 4 hours and up to 1 week.
  8. Let stand at room temperature 10 minutes before serving.

For the Bonus Cocktail:

Yield: 1 cocktail

  • fresh juice from 1/4 large lime
  • 3 oz strawberry-vodka-sugar macerating syrup
  • tonic (for a sweeter cocktail) or seltzer (less sweet), as desired
  1. Combine lime juice and macerated strawberry syrup in a glass.
  2. Fill with ice and top with tonic or seltzer, as desired.

Ottolenghi’s Red Lentil Soup with Chard, Cilantro, & Lemon

Red lentil soup is definitely one of my cold weather favorites. I have made all sorts of versions but all have been relatively smooth in texture. This version has spoonfuls with different consistencies from caramelized red onions, chopped rainbow chard, and cilantro. Incredible.

This recipe was adapted from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. I doubled the recipe below, used ground coriander, and added more fresh lemon juice. The authors declared that the squeeze of fresh lemon juice just prior to eating is essential. We ate it with sourdough baguette slices and a green salad.

Yield: Serves 6

  • 2 1/2 cups (500 g) split red lentils
  • 2 1/2 quarts (2.5 liters) cold water
  • 2 medium red onions
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 7 oz (200 g) Swiss chard (I used rainbow chard)
  • 3 cups (50 g) cilantro leaves
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 T coriander seeds or 1 T ground coriander
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 1/2 T (50 g) unsalted butter
  • grated zest of 1/2 lemon
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • sourdough bread, for serving
  • 4 lemons, cut into wedges, for serving
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Rinse the lentils in cold water.
  2. Place lentils in a saucepan with the water, bring to a boil, and simmer for 35 minutes, until soft. Skim off any scum that rises to the surface during cooking.
  3. Using a slotted spoon, remove about half the lentils from the cooking liquid and set aside in a bowl.
  4. Add a generous pinch of salt to the lentils and water int he pan and process with an immersion blender (or in a food processor).
  5. Return the reserved lentil to the soup.
  6. Peel the red onions, halve, and thinly slice them.
  7. Place onions in a frying pan over medium heat, add the olive oil and onions, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 to 5 minutes, until the onions soften and become translucent. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. Remove the large stems from the Swiss chard and reserve for another use. Wash and rinse the leaves, then chop coarsely.
  9. Remove the large stems from the cilantro and discard. Wash and rinse the leaves, reserve a few leaves for garnish, and coarsely chop the remainder.
  10. Mix the cooked onions, chard leaves, and chopped cilantro into the lentil soup.
  11. Season the soup with the cumin, cinnamon, and some salt and pepper to taste. Reheat the soup and simmer gently for 5 minutes.
  12. With a mortar and pestle, or using the flat blade of a large knife, crush the cilantro seeds and garlic together.
  13. Melt the butter gently in a small saucepan over medium heat, add the garlic and coriander seeds, and fry for 2 minutes, until the garlic starts to color slightly.
  14. Stir the butter mixture and the lemon juice into the soup, remove the pot from the stove, and cover with a lid. Leave the soup to infuse for 5 minutes prior to serving.
  15. Serve garnished with lemon zest and cilantro with lemon wedges and sourdough bread on the side. Make sure everybody squeezes the lemon into their soup.

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Potato, Broccoli, & Cheddar Soup with Cheese Toasts

My husband likes soups that have a thicker consistency. As he loves our gold standard Cauliflower Cheese Soup, I knew that he would love this one too; I just used more potatoes to give it a heartier consistency. It was perfect. It would also be difficult to argue about eating a soup that is garnished with garlic-cheese toasts! The roasted broccoli floret topping was another bonus. 🙂

This soup is quick enough to prepare and serve on a weeknight, but is even more wonderful if made in advance. The recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living. I used some chicken stock for water and increased the amount of garlic, potatoes (unpeeled!), and lemon juice. I also used a sourdough baguette to make the cheese toasts instead of Italian bread. Great.

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 large shallots, halved and thinly sliced (1/4 cup)
  • 6 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 pounds broccoli, stems peeled and chopped, florets cut into 1-inch pieces (about 5 cups florets, divided)
  • 1 pound small Yukon Gold potatoes, chopped
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 packed cups grated sharp white cheddar (from an 8-ounce block), divided
  • freshly squeezed juice from 1 lemon, plus grated zest for serving, or to taste
  • 8 slices (each 1/2 inch thick) sourdough baguette, sliced on a diagonal or 4 slices (each 1/2 inch thick) rustic Italian bread
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium-high. Add shallots, 4 cloves of garlic, broccoli stems, potatoes, and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Add stock with 3 cups water; season with salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.
  4. Add 3 cups broccoli florets; cook until tender, 8 to 10 minutes more. Let cool slightly. Transfer to a blender with 1 cup cheese; puree until smooth. (I used an immersion blender instead.)
  5. Season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice.
  6. Stir together remaining cheese and garlic. Place bread on one side of a rimmed baking sheet, and remaining broccoli florets on other. Drizzle both with oil; season with salt and pepper. Top bread with cheese mixture.
  7. Roast broccoli and cheese toasts for 15 minutes, tossing florets halfway through.
  8. Serve soup topped with toasts, florets, and zest, as desired.

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Sheet Pan Roasted Chicken with Za’atar, Potatoes, & Greens

This sheet pan meal was a healthy and delicious weeknight dish. I especially loved that the kale was even wilted under a broiler on a sheet pan. The entire dish is made in one oven on two sheet pans- great.

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living. I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of bone-in and adapted the cooking method.

Yield: Serves 4

  • 4 teaspoons za’atar
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 10 boneless, skinless (about 2.5 to 3 pounds) chicken thighs and drumsticks
  • 1 pound fingerling potatoes, cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 medium red onion, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • 1 bunch (8 to 10 ounces) laminate or Tuscan kale (cut into 2-inch pieces), or baby kale, spinach, or arugula (about 4 packed cups)
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  2. In a small bowl, mix za’atar with 2 tablespoons oil and 2 teaspoons salt.
  3. Rub za’atar mixture all over chicken. Place on a rimmed baking sheet. Add lemon halves
  4. Toss onion wedges with 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper; add to baking sheet along with chicken pieces and lemon halves.
  5. Roast in the center of the oven until a thermometer inserted into thickest parts of chicken registers about 150 degrees, about 20 minutes, flipping half way through the cooking process.
  6. On a second parchment paper-lined, rimmed baking sheet, toss potatoes with 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper.
  7. Roast simultaneously in the lower third of oven, stirring once, until starting to brown, about 20 minutes.
  8. Remove potatoes from the oven.
  9. Switch oven to broiler setting. (I put my oven on Convection-Broil-Max at 450 degrees.)
  10. Move baking sheet to upper third of oven; broil until chicken is browned, 2 to 3 minutes.
  11. Drizzle kale lightly with oil; season with salt and pepper. Scatter kale over chicken and broil until just wilted and thermometer inserted into thickest parts of chicken registers 165 degrees, 1 to 2 minutes more.
  12. Let cool slightly, then squeeze lemon halves over chicken.
  13. Remove kale to a platter, place chicken on top; toss remaining vegetables together and serve alongside.

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