I am not a chef or a recipe writer. I’m also not usually the kind of cook that prepares a meal without a recipe. Occasionally, though, circumstances force me to flex culinary muscles I didn’t know I had...
It was Friday night. I was burnt out after a rough week at work, and I didn’t feel like grocery shopping on my way home. I also didn’t have a plan for dinner.
I didn’t feel like eating out, or ordering in. So as I rode the subway home, I thought to myself, “What the hell am I going to make for dinner?”
In moments of desperation, I like to channel my inner culinary MacGyver.
I started rifling through my mental inventory. I knew I had a few pieces of pita bread left. Maybe they could become a flatbread of some kind? Hadn’t I just seen that on another food blog somewhere?
I just wasn’t sure what to put on them (or how to make them yummy, for that matter). Once home, I pulled out whatever veggie bits I had left over from the week. It totaled up to 1 zucchini, half a red onion, and a small red pepper. I figured I could roast everything, since roasting was basically magic.
And I kept thinking about a recipe I had made a while back from Melissa Clark’s cookbook, Dinner: Changing the Game. It was an unassuming recipe for smashed white beans on toast with roasted asparagus, so simple that I had bypassed it on a number of occasions. But when I did eventually get around to trying it, I absolutely melted over how flavorful it was.
I held my breath until I confirmed that I did, in fact, have a can of white beans stashed in my cupboards. And as soon as it hit the counter, I had a plan for how to adapt the recipe for a flatbread iteration. Suddenly feeling energized and excited, I started to embellish. I pulled out a bag of frozen broccoli to add more heft, and I juiced my last lime, reassuring myself that it would do just what a lemon does in Melissa’s recipe.
I gave the broccoli a head start, then added the rest of my veggies to the sheet pan to roast. While they were roasting, I smashed the beans, mixed in fresh garlic, olive oil, my lime juice and some zest.
Once the veggies were just about finished, I took them out for assembly. I spread dollops of the bean mixture onto each pita, then piled them high with roasted veggies. Feeling extra fancy at this point, I sprinkled on some dried thyme and oregano, and some parmesan cheese. I popped them back into the oven for just a few minutes, so that the beans and pita could warm up.
I was so proud of myself! Not all of my experiments go well, but these turned out to be exactly what I was looking for. They were quick to assemble, hearty, and I love that they can be infinitely modified to accommodate whatever odd bits and bobs I need to use up.
And so, I hesitate to call it a recipe, but below are my notes should you ever be asking yourself, “What the hell am I going to make for dinner?”
RECIPE FOR WHITE BEAN VEGGIES FLATBREADS
- 4 pieces of pita bread
- 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1 zucchini*
- 1/2 red onion
- 1 small red pepper*
- 1 bag of frozen broccoli*
- 1 can white beans (also called cannellini beans), drained and rinsed
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 lime, zest and juice (1 lemon is even better!)
- 1/4 tsp dried thyme
- 1/4 tsp dried oregano
- Salt and pepper
- Parmesan cheese for sprinkling (optional)
- Preheat the oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Toss the frozen broccoli onto a rimmed baking sheet, and let it thaw a bit in the oven. I think I left it in for about 5 minutes or so.
- Slice the red onion, and dice up the zucchini and red pepper. Once done, just add them to the sheet pan with the broccoli. I drizzled everything with some olive oil, at this point, and tossed it all with some salt and pepper.
- Put all of the veggies back in the oven to roast for around 15 minutes. While they’re roasting prep the bean spread.
- Place the white beans in a medium-sized bowl. I used a microplane to grate in 1 clove of garlic, but you can also finely mince it.
- Stir in 1/4 cup of olive oil, the lime zest and juice, and some salt. Use a fork or a potato masher to coarsely mash it all together. Be sure to taste it afterwards, and add any more salt, pepper or lime juice to taste.
- Divide the bean paste evenly between the 4 pieces of pita bread, and loosely spread it to cover most of the pita. I like to leave a 1/4 inch of uncoated “crust” at the edges.
- Once the veggies are done roasting, divide them evenly between the 4 pieces of pita bread as well. I piled mine pretty high.
- Sprinkle with the dried thyme and oregano, and pop them back in the oven for another 5 minutes or so – just long enough for the pita and the bean mash to warm up, and the flavors to combine.
- Serve and enjoy!
*Feel free to substitute whatever vegetables you have around! This is just what I happened to have left over from a week of cooking, so there’s no need to feel restricted to what I have listed here.