Some friends and I wanted to have dinner together. It’s been a rough couple weeks. A car wreck, an earthquake, a pretty bad cut, a hurricane. Someone make it stop.
We were going to go out for dinner, but see, I’m sort of a home body. And I’m a little cash flow-less these days. So I said hey, why don’t you come over for dinner instead. Going out for dinner — what I think of first is paying a LOT for a glass of wine. I mean, with a glass of wine and the tip, you’re pretty much at $12 (at least) without even ordering food.
So they brought wine and we cooked. Yes, we. I was a little sneaky and made them help when they got here. It’s always nice when you can get someone else to peel the roasted red peppers for you. Ahh, now I see the appeal of the sous chef. As we were cooking, we decided we needed gin and tonics. So we went out for gin, Rose’s lime juice and tonic. (The Rose’s is really the key, I think.)
Kim’s a vegetarian, so I had to factor that in while I was planning. But hey, I love vegetables, so no trouble there. A while back, I’d made the Onion Pan Bread from Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything,” thinking I’d get a focaccia-like bread that I could use for roasted-veggie sandwiches. It didn’t turn out the way I thought it would. And thank God because it ended up being so much better! I love it when that happens. I’d been looking for an excuse to make that again. When I made it the first time, it was kind of an open-faced sandwich. A wedge of bread, some pesto, roasted veggies and then lacy swiss cheese melted over it. Mmm. This time, it was more a pizza, but with a softer crust. Almost the consistency of cake, but savory instead of sweet.
But wait. Let’s back up a little. First off, I made some roasted artichokes with olive oil, garlic and lemon.
I got the idea from Pinch My Salt and her photos and instructions are so great, I won’t try to recreate them. So go here if you’d like to know how to do it. It was pretty simple and I’d never done it. Actually, I’d never even eaten artichokes before.
I would definitely eat this again.
I’d maybe make some kind of dipping sauce next time, but it wasn’t essential. They were delicious on their own, as evidenced by the aftermath.
The remaining parts are very interesting to me. My first artichoke? A success, I think.
Now for the main course. This is kind of a multi-stepped process, but it’s not hard. First off, you prep the veggies you want to roast.
Preheat the oven to 450. Split the red peppers and remove the seeds, stems and membranes.
Put them sliced-side down on a jelly roll pan and flatten them with the heel of your hand. Then brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Scatter some unpeeled garlic cloves on the pan too.
Get another pan for the mushrooms and red onion.
Just look at these shrooms. Aren’t they gorgeous?
Cut those up and some red onion. I don’t know what I was doing when I was cutting the onion. Since I was roasting it, usually I would have cut them into wedges so they’d be bigger.
Put them on a pan and drizzle some olive oil over everything and give it a good toss with your hands. Try to keep the mushrooms in one layer. I put some salt and pepper on the onion, but not the mushrooms because I don’t want to draw the water out of them.
When your pans of veggies are ready, put them into the oven. The mushrooms and onions will take about 20 minutes. The peppers and garlic need about 40. When the mushrooms are done, remove them from the oven. After cooling a few minutes, toss them into a bowl. When the peppers are done, take them out of the oven, put them on a plate and cover with plastic wrap so the skins will steam a little. That’ll make it easier to remove the skins.
Chop them up and add them to the bowl with the rest of the veggies. I should have taken photos of that, but I was a little distracted by the girl talk. Also, when the garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze them into the bowl with the other veggies.
Start the pan bread. Reduce the oven to 350. Melt butter in a large ovenproof skillet.
Slice two vidalia onions. The recipe says large and I’ve seen really really large vidalias. Mine came in a bag and they weren’t huge. More regular-sized onions.
Add them to the pan with the melted butter and caramelize them.
Add some brown sugar to the onions, stir. Then make the batter for the bread. Then pour the batter over the onions and bake for 35 minutes.
When it comes out of the oven, you need to flip the bread. Remember the handles of the skillet are HOT. Put a plate over the skillet and turn it over, then slide the bread back into the pan so the onions are on top.
Spread some pesto over the bread. Start adding the veggies.
If you’re like my friend Lauren, who worked for a pizza shop, you’ll have exceptional distribution skills. Just look how even the pesto is! And the veggies!
And the cheese!
Then pop it into the oven for about 10 minutes till the cheese is melted.
Then cut into wedges and serve.
This shot is from the first time I made this. I wanted you to see the bread.
- 2 red peppers
- 8 ounces baby bella mushrooms, sliced
- 1 red onion, sliced
- Garlic cloves, unpeeled (as many as you want)
- Olive oil
- Salt, pepper to taste
Heat oven to 450. Cut the red peppers in half and remove the seeds and white membranes. Put the red peppers cut side down on a jelly roll pan and squash them flat with the heel of your hand. Brush with some olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add the unpeeled cloves of garlic to the pan.
On another pan, put the mushrooms and onions. Drizzle with oil and mix with your hands. Sprinkle the onion with salt and pepper. I don’t salt the mushrooms because I don’t want to draw out all the water. I don’t know if that’s right or wrong. It’s just what I do.
Put both pans in the oven, the red peppers on the bottom and the onions and mushrooms on the upper rack. Check the onions and mushrooms after about 20 minutes. If they’re done, remove them. Continue roasting the peppers and garlic for another 20 minutes, or until the peppers are collapsed and the skins are blackened. Remove from oven and put the red peppers on a plate. Cover with plastic wrap, which will make it easier to remove the skins. Let them rest while preparing the rest of the veggies.
Put the mushrooms and the onions into a mixing bowl. Squeeze the garlic into the bowl. Add a little salt and pepper. Stir.
Remove the plastic from the peppers and peel off the skins. Cut into chunks and put them into the bowl. Mix it all up, cover and set aside. Make the Onion Pan Bread.
Onion Pan Bread
Adapted from Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything”
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 2 large onions, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 cups flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 cup milk
- 1/4 cup neutral oil like grapeseed or corn
Preheat oven to 350. Put 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat. When the butter is melted, add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes.
Use the remaining butter to coat the edges of the pan. Sprinkle the brown sugar on top of the onions and stir to combine.
In a a mixing bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. In another bowl, beat together the egg, milk and neutral oil, add to the dry ingredients and stir together quickly.
Spread the batter over the onions and bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry. Let stand for 5 minutes before cutting into wedges.
To assemble the dish:
- 1/2 cup pesto
- 1/3 pound of lacy swiss cheese
After flipping the bread in the pan to have the onions on the top, spread the pesto. Distribute the veggies evenly, then top evenly with cheese. Return the skillet to the oven for 10 to 15 minutes until cheese is melted. Remove from oven, cut into wedges and serve.