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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One-Skillet Chicken Thighs with Buttery Orzo

I had saved this recipe a couple of months ago just waiting for my CSA box fennel to arrive. As soon as I saw it on my list of veggies to expect, I knew exactly what I was going to make. 🙂 I love how the orzo is cooked like risotto in this dish- the results were amazing.

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit, contributed by Claire Saffitz. I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of bone-in. I also increased the amount of fennel and used a sweet onion instead of a leek. We ate it with sautéed collard greens as well as sautéed yellow summer squash, also from my CSA box, of course. Easy, fresh, and delicious.

Yield: 4 to 5 servings
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 5 to 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, patted dry
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 fennel bulb, chopped, plus fronds, chopped (I used 1 1/2 bulbs)
  • 1/2 Vidalia onion or 1 leek, white and pale green parts only, chopped
  • 8 ounces orzo
  • â…“ cup dry white wine
  • 2½ cups chicken stock, divided
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  1. Preheat oven to 400°, preferably on convection.
  2. Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides.
  3. Heat 2 T butter in a medium cast-iron skillet (I used a 10-inch skillet) over medium-high.
  4. Nestle chicken, skin side down, in skillet in a single layer with no gaps (if you can’t quite fit them all, wait until chicken shrinks slightly, then puzzle in the remaining pieces). Cook until meat is opaque around the edges, about 4-5 minutes.
  5. Turn chicken browned side up and transfer skillet to oven; bake, uncovered, until chicken is cooked through, about 4 additional minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate.
  6. Set same skillet over medium; combine chopped fennel bulb and leek/onion in skillet and sprinkle in some salt and pepper. Cook, tossing occasionally, until leek is looking golden around the edges, about 5 minutes.
  7. Add orzo and cook until pasta is darkened (it will take on a brown hue) to a nice nutty brown in spots and toasty smelling, about 3 minutes.
  8. Pour in wine and cook, stirring, until liquid is evaporated, about 1 minute.
  9. Add broth ½ cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting broth absorb before adding more, until orzo is tender and broth is mostly absorbed but pan is not dry, 10–15 minutes.
  10. Remove skillet from heat, taste and adjust seasoning. Mix in lemon juice and remaining 1 T butter, then chopped fennel fronds.
  11. Nestle and pile chicken on top and finish with lemon zest.
One Year Ago:

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Four Years Ago:

Watermelon Sangria

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This is a sweet and festive summer punch- fun for a crowd. I loved the presentation with the skewered watermelon too. This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Andrew Zimmerman of Del Toro Café in Chicago. Chef Zimmerman created a summer version of this traditional Spanish punch with vodka instead of brandy. Cheers to summer & Happy Fiesta Friday #24 at The Novice Gardener! 🙂

Yield: Makes 6 to 8 drinks

  • 2 pounds seedless watermelon, peeled and cubed, plus 1/2 pound watermelon cut into balls with a melon baller and skewered on picks
  • 1 bottle dry white wine
  • 6 ounces citrus vodka
  • 4 ounces Cointreau or triple sec
  • 4 ounces Citrus Syrup, recipe below
  • Ice
  1. Make the Citrus Syrup: Combine 3/4 cup water, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 2 1-inch strips lemon zest, and 2 1-inch strips orange zest in a small saucepan. Cook until sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a blender, puree the watermelon cubes. Pour through a fine strainer into a pitcher. (Makes approximately 4 cups.)
  3. Add the white wine, vodka, Cointreau and cooled Citrus Syrup. Stir and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Stir again, then pour the sangria into ice-filled white wine glasses and garnish with the skewered watermelon balls.

One year ago:

Mustard Chicken with Shallots

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My husband and I LOVE mustard chicken. I am surprised that we don’t eat it once a week! We ate this delicious version with roasted asparagus and rice to soak up the sauce. Crusty bread would also be nice.  This recipe was adapted from the New York Times. I substituted boneless, skinless chicken thighs and, therefore, also altered the cooking times. A wonderful one-pot meal!

Yield: 4 servings

  • 10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 15 whole medium shallots, peeled
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 sprigs tarragon
  • 2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  1. Place the chicken thighs on a plate. Sprinkle the flour, salt and pepper mixture over them.
  2. Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot or skillet set over medium-high heat. When the butter foams, cook the chicken, in batches if necessary, until well browned and crisp on all sides, about 3 to 5 minutes per side. Set aside.
  3. Add the whole shallots to the pot and sauté them in the butter and chicken fat until they begin to soften, caramelize, and darken, approximately 5 to 8 minutes.
  4. Add the wine to deglaze the pot, stir with a large spoon, then add the mustard and tarragon, then the chicken thighs. Cover the pot, turn the heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes.
  5. Remove the lid, increase the heat slightly, and allow the sauce to reduce and thicken, 15 to 20 minutes.
  6. Add the cherry tomatoes to the pot, stir lightly to combine and serve immediately.

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One Year Ago:

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Shrimp & Grits with Tomatoes

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We have a few Easter traditions in our home… the neighborhood Easter Egg Hunt, writing a family member’s name on each Easter egg before dyeing it, following the string left by the Easter Bunny, and eating a classic Charleston dish, Shrimp and Grits, on Easter day. A newer tradition has been to attend the sunrise Easter mass at our beach- which starts at 5:30am!! We have only made it 3 or 4 times… the problem is that everyone is exhausted for the rest of the day. We will see how long that tradition lasts! 🙂 This year my kids also made bunny “peep-ka-bobs” or “shish-ka-peeps” (the name is still being worked out…) as an Easter treat. So cute & sweet! This new project is likely to become an annual tradition. 🙂

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This version of shrimp and grits has a wonderful tomato sauce served over parmesan cheese grits. I usually make cheese grits with sharp cheddar cheese and this was such a fabulous alternative. We preferred it! The cheese added just the perfect amount of salty deliciousness. This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living. I used Bob’s Red Mill Organic Coarse Ground Yellow Grits. Although a simple dish, the preparation usually requires a group effort because everything is done at the last minute for the best result. I suppose another one of our Easter traditions is to cook this meal together! 🙂

Yield: Serves 8

  • 4 cups milk
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 4 teaspoons coarse salt, plus more to taste
  • 2 cups coarse ground yellow grits
  • 2 sweet onions, coarsely chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 cans (28 ounces each) whole tomatoes, coarsely chopped, juices reserved
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 2 pounds large shrimp, shells removed, tails intact
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus a bit more shaved for garnish, if desired
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh herbs, such as parsley, oregano, and thyme, coarsely chopped in a food processor
  1. For the grits: Heat 4 cups water, milk, 2 tablespoons butter, and salt to a gentle boil in a medium saucepan. Sprinkle in the grits. Reduce the heat to simmer, and cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until the mixture is smooth, thick, and falls easily from a spoon, 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare tomatoes: Add 2 tablespoons butter to the skillet. Saute onion and garlic until soft and translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Pour in white wine, and cook until dry, 2 to 3 minutes. Add bay leaves, and stir in tomatoes and reserved juice. Season with cayenne pepper. Reduce the heat, and simmer until slightly thickened and the tomatoes have broken down, about 10 minutes.
  3. For the shrimp: Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat to sizzling. Add shrimp, season with salt and black pepper, and saute to sear on both sides, about 2 minutes per side.
  4. When grits are thickened, stir in heavy cream and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Keep covered with a tight-fitting lid until ready to serve. When tomatoes are ready, remove the skillet from the heat, and stir in the chopped herbs. Cover, and keep warm until shrimp are cooked.
  5. To serve, put a heaping spoonful of grits onto a soup plate. Top with the tomatoes, and arrange the shrimp around the plate. Garnish with freshly shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, if desired.

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One Year Ago:

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Pork Tenderloin with Mustard-Wine Sauce

This is the perfect quick dinner. I had beautiful vegetables from my CSA share that were just asking to be served with a protein. My husband said “What about mustard sauce?”… We LOVE mustard sauce (I love mustard ANYTHING actually!). Mustard-Wine sauce, even better!

This recipe was adapted from Everyday Food. Easy and great.

  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 pork tenderloin (about 1 pound each)
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 T potato or corn starch, if desired, to thicken sauce
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Whisk together wine, water, and mustard.
  3. Season pork on all sides with salt and pepper.
  4. Heat a 12-inch ovenproof sauté pan over medium-high heat; add oil. Sear pork until browned on all sides, about 6 minutes total. Remove from heat.
  5. Carefully add mustard-wine mixture. Transfer pan to oven.
  6. Roast pork, spooning sauce over meat about halfway through, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of meat registers 145 degrees, about 15 minutes.
  7. Let pork rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
  8. Meanwhile, thicken the sauce. Mix starch with 2 tablespoons of sauce and dissolve. Add mixture to pan and bring sauce to a boil. Cook until desired thickness is achieved.
  9. Serve pork drizzled with sauce.

One Year Ago:

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