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3 Simple Sheet-Pan Dinners That Get a Big Boost From the Pantry

In her monthly column, Dinner's Ready, Food52 contributor Emily Connor shares three recipes that all make use of her superhero kitchen tool: the humble sheet pan.

by:
March 19, 2020
Photo by Ty Mecham. Food stylist: Anna Billingskog. Prop stylist: Megan Hedgpeth.

It's the end of the long workday (or the start of an extra-long week) and we're hungry. Like, "can't-think-straight" hungry. Luckily, Food52 contributor EmilyC wants to do all the thinking for us. In Dinner's Ready, her monthly column on weeknight wonders, she shares three simple, flavor-packed recipes that are connected by a single idea or ingredient. Stick with Emily, and you'll have a good dinner on the table in no time. Today, Emily's favorite tool in the kitchen saves the day (and dinner).


Sheet-pan dinners are weeknight staples for so many of us, and for good reason: They’re simple, reliable paths from kitchen to table—no matter the night of the week, or what’s going on around us. They don’t require expensive equipment or precise techniques, and they’re riffable based on what’s on hand. Pile some combo of protein, vegetables, and starch on a sheet pan, slide it into a hot oven, and come back to a warm, satisfying meal.

In the winter, my sheet-pan dinners lean heavily on cozy mainstays, like caramelized sweet potatoes and butternut squash, spiced chickpeas, and crispy chicken thighs. But come spring, just as I’m shedding my wooly sweaters for cotton shirts, my sheet-pan style changes, too. This is precisely the time of year I turn to sheet-pan salads: In which one or more ingredients is cooked on a sheet pan, dressed before cooking, and tossed with just a few fresh ingredients (plus more dressing) right after the pan comes out of the oven.

This style of cooking feels particularly welcome right now as we’re hunkering down and looking for meals that are pantry-friendly, comforting, and nourishing—a kind of salve to the uncertainty around us. And below are three of my favorite, tried-and-true sheet-pan meals that have all of these traits in spades.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“This type of cooking doesn't really appeal to me, but I do like the top picture; so many writers and TV chefs would have you believe that you can habitually drizzle oil on a pan and bake it and somehow still have gleaming, just like new sheet pans.”
— Smaug
Comment

The greatest thing about these recipes is that they practically beg for improvisation. Don’t have any farro? Use another grain. Don’t have fresh citrus? Use vinegar instead. The same applies for herbs, spices, cheese, and even the starring protein, which can be easily changed up based on what you have on hand. They’re a low-stress, completely flexible way to approach dinner.


Toasted Farro & Antipasto Salad

First up is this sheet-pan farro salad, which is essentially a snack plate turned into a warm, dinner-worthy meal. Combine cooked farro with chopped artichoke hearts and castelvetrano olives (or any jarred briny things in your pantry), thinly sliced salami, and a tangy red wine-anchovy vinaigrette.

But instead of mounding your salad into a serving bowl, spread it out on a half-sheet pan and slide it under the broiler. In just a few minutes, the farro gets toasty, the salami starts to crisp and render its fat, the olives and artichokes get a little charred in spots, and the flavor of the vinaigrette deepens. Add a few fresh ingredients, if you have them (cherry tomatoes, crumbled provolone, and arugula are my favorites) when the pan comes out of the oven for even more texture, color, and flavor. It'll make you wonder why you haven't been toasting your grain salads under the broiler all along.


Sheet-Pan Broccoli & Chorizo Salad With Tortilla-Chip Gremolata

This sheet-pan salad is a perfect example of how to transform roasted vegetables (in this case, broccoli) into an entirely new dinner. Inspired by taco salad, it combines crispy bits of Mexican-style chorizo with roasted fresh broccoli (though frozen works great, too!) and olives—and then out of the oven, a few fresh toppings. Two of my go-tos are crumbled cotija cheese and sour cream, but feel free to customize the accoutrements however you like.

But the star of the pan—the thing that’ll keep you coming back for seconds or thirds? The tortilla chip gremolata: a mix of crushed tortilla chips, sliced scallions, cilantro, and lime zest. This take on gremolata—an Italian condiment traditionally made with chopped parsley, garlic, and lemon zest—was a lightbulb moment I had after the Super Bowl when I had tons of tortilla chips leftover from nacho-making. It not only boosts the flavor and texture of the salad, it’s the perfect excuse to have chips for dinner (you’re welcome).


Sheet-Pan Za’atar Chicken with Carrot & Avocado Salad

Ever since trying this salad, courtesy of ABC Kitchen in New York City, years ago, I’ve been a big fan of the combination of roasted carrots and avocado—so I created a hearty springtime meal around this duo, plus boneless chicken thighs. First, I slice the carrots thinly along the bias so they’ll cook at the same rate as the chicken thighs and slices of red onion. Second, I toss all of these components into the same marinade—a simple, flavor-packed mix of za’atar, honey, lemon zest, and olive oil.

While they roast, there’s plenty of time to slice an avocado, wash and dry some greens, and mix together crumbled feta with crushed pistachios and a drizzle of olive oil. (This last step is one of my favorite tricks for making feta and other soft cheeses a texturally more cohesive part of salads.) From there, it’s all about tossing everything together and admiring your beautiful creation before digging in.


Another sheet-pan salad idea

What sheet-pan salads are you making with your pantry and fridge ingredients? Let us know in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Julie Fiddick
    Julie Fiddick
  • Deborah Lumendal
    Deborah Lumendal
  • Debbie
    Debbie
  • Smaug
    Smaug
  • EmilyC
    EmilyC
EmilyC

Written by: EmilyC

I'm a home cook. I love salads. Two things you'll always find in my refrigerator are lemons and butter, and in my pantry good quality chocolate and the makings for chocolate chip cookies.

9 Comments

Julie F. June 20, 2020
Welp, I got all excited and was fixin' to make this wonderful-looking salad for dinner....but no figs :(. Prunes, apricots, dried cherries? Regardless, I'll figure it out!
 
Deborah L. April 10, 2020
I just fixed the Sheet Pan Chicken Drumsticks with Figs and Bread Salad. I didn't have dummies, but cut up a whole chicken. Amazingly yummy and relatively easy. Highly recommend this recipe.
 
Author Comment
EmilyC April 11, 2020
So glad that you liked it, Deborah!
 
Debbie April 10, 2020
Oh I’m super excited to do this! I needed Some fresh spring veggie ideas! Now if only I could just run to the farmer’s market this weekend . . .
 
Author Comment
EmilyC April 10, 2020
Oh gosh I hear you on the farmer's market, Debbie! I'm also craving spring vegetables, so I've been stocking up on radishes and carrots lately because they have long lasting power, and then typically some spring greens and/or herbs. These few things will get you a long way with these recipes! Feel free to shoot me questions about substitutions if you have any! Happy cooking, and stay well!
 
Smaug March 20, 2020
This type of cooking doesn't really appeal to me, but I do like the top picture; so many writers and TV chefs would have you believe that you can habitually drizzle oil on a pan and bake it and somehow still have gleaming, just like new sheet pans.
 
Author Comment
EmilyC March 20, 2020
My sheet pans were getting so beat-up that my husband and kids got me a few new ones for Christmas. They already have stains and built-up oil residue. But I kind of love them that way! (And yes, that first pic is lovely, isn’t it?!)
 
Trishington April 10, 2020
I make sheet pan dinners frequently and to “save” my pans, I line them first with parchment paper (just watch that you don’t exceed 450F or whatever is the max your brand of paper will allow). This not only keeps your pans looking good, it makes for a super easy cleanup!
 
Chris April 10, 2020
I avoid all this by using bake paper or silicone paper baking sheets