JOPLIN, Mo. —
There's such beauty in simplicity. This comes from the perspective of a mom without a dishwasher. One-pan meals are especially attractive.
It all started with a tiny nail in my bathroom wall. I pulled the nail out, along with a chunk of surrounding plaster. No problem. I simply smoothed the crater out with spackle. Then, while searching an army of paint cans for the correct touch-up, I ran across a half gallon of high-quality paint that I didn't want to go to waste.
On a coffee-induced whim, I decided to paint the bathroom real quick. I remembered that a friend had given me a beautiful piece of fabric that would make the perfect curtain for my new paint job. As evening approached, my fella arrived home from work. Our child was running wild and I had a project that had spiraled out of control. Dinnertime quickly approached.
I have a standard fallback menu when I don't feel like thinking about dinner, and it always involves using only one dish. I had a wrecked bathroom, and I didn't want to add a sink full of dishes to my frenzied mental plate. I like to make a sheet-pan supper by roasting chunked sweet potatoes and cauliflower drizzled with olive oil, then throwing on some salmon for the final 10 minutes of cooking time. Sprinkle everything with salt and pepper, and dinner is done. It definitely beats ordering pizza.
An iron skillet is also a great way to keep a meal in one pan. Make a frittata by whisking together everything you would want in an omelet. Pour it in an oiled iron skillet and bake it at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes. It's beautiful, simple and seems so much fancier than an omelet. Or switch things up by making a pizza in your cast iron skillet. Oil the pan and dust it with cornmeal. Stretch out your dough and arrange it in your skillet. Cook it over medium heat for about 2 minutes, then add your toppings and bake at 450 degrees for 18 minutes. Fancy and fun.
Parchment packets are an impressive way to make a simple, healthy meal. There are nearly no dishes to wash, and they can be made ahead of time and refrigerated, which are the parts I find particularly impressive. Chicken or fish, vegetables and seasonings are sealed up in a pretty little package and popped in the oven. Crimp the package well, because steam is what actually cooks the food, so don't peek! I recommend watching a quick video on YouTube for tips on sealing a parchment packet. It's serious business.
Whether you're busy, don't want to do a bunch of dishes or just want to simplify a healthy dinner, one-pan meals are a great change of pace.
Parmesan chicken with Caesar roasted romaine
4 (7-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breasts
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, pecorino or asiago cheese (about 11/2 ounces)
1/2 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 garlic cloves, chopped, divided
2 large hearts of romaine, halved lengthwise
4 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained, chopped
1 lemon, cut into 8 wedges
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil. Season chicken with salt and pepper; place on prepared sheet. Combine cheese, panko, 2 tablespoons oil, parsley and 1 garlic clove in a medium bowl; season with salt and pepper. Pat panko mixture onto breasts. Roast chicken until crumbs begin to turn golden, about 10 minutes.
Drizzle romaine with 1 tablespoon oil and sprinkle with remaining 1 chopped garlic clove. Season with salt and pepper. Remove sheet from oven; place romaine around chicken. Roast until chicken is cooked through and lettuce is browned at edges, about 5 minutes. Divide among plates. Top lettuce with anchovies; garnish with lemon wedges for squeezing over. If the anchovies scare you, omit them. I do. It is still delicious.
Barley Hoppin' John
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (14-ounce) can vegetable broth
1 cup quick-cooking barley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 (15-ounce) cans black-eyed peas, rinsed
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper and celery. Cook until the vegetables soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add broth, barley, thyme, lemon juice, crushed red pepper and salt; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until the barley is done, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in black-eyed peas. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Serve hot.
Fish fillets in parchment with asparagus and orange
4 (15-by-15-inch) squares parchment paper
4 (5- to 6-ounce) fish fillets (such as halibut or cod; each about 1 inch thick)
12 fresh tarragon leaves (I like to use whatever herbs I have on hand)
2 tablespoons butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 pound slender asparagus spears, trimmed, cut into 11/2-inch pieces
4 tablespoons orange juice
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place parchment squares on work surface. Generously butter half of each parchment square; top buttered half of each with 1 fish fillet. Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper; top each fillet with 3 tarragon leaves, then 1 piece of butter. Arrange asparagus around each fish fillet; pour 1 tablespoon orange juice over each. Fold parchment over fish and asparagus, folding and crimping edges tightly to seal and enclose filling completely. Place on 2 rimmed baking sheets, spacing apart. Chill. Can be made 4 hours ahead.
Bake fish packets 17 minutes. Slide packets onto plates and serve.
Have questions? Email them to email@example.com or mail her c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.