Raquel Pelzel, a native Chicagoan who moved to Brooklyn in 2002, has always had a palate for the tastier things in life. A job opening at Cook’s Illustrated marked the transition from professional kitchen to test kitchen and laid down an ideal foundation for a future of cookbook writing and recipe development. Pelzel’s original recipes have been featured in Saveur, The Wall Street Journal, and Epicurious, to name a few, and she was formerly the senior food editor and test kitchen director for Tasting Table.
Sheet Pan Suppers Meatless is one of more than 20 cookbooks written by Pelzel. It is a wonderful, comprehensive guide to creating easy and satisfying meals using just the humble sheet pan. The sheet pan’s versatility and practicality shines through the 100 versatile and meat-free recipes and bright, colorful photographs.
From appetizers, salads, and hearty breakfasts to soups, desserts, and pastas, you will find yourself turning the oven on for some surprisingly delicious sheet pan meals.
Recipe featured in the book include:
The Daily Meal: What is your philosophy of cooking (and/or eating)?
Raquel Pelzel: I am a conscious cook and eater. I try to eat low-impact foods — lots of plants and green foods, lots of vegetables, pulses and beans. I think it's the most responsible way to eat these days. I feel so out of control with what is happening politically and environmentally in the world, so I guess I am using my wallet as my vote these days. The less meat I buy, the less plastic I use, the less petroleum-based products I purchase, the better it is for everyone. Not just for environmental reasons, but also for human ones — it takes up way less energy and less water to grow a lentil than to raise a chicken. So even though it feels like we are backpedaling into the Dark Ages from an environmental and humanistic perspective, I can feel like I am making good decisions that count because I am not contributing my dollars to products that do more harm than good.
That said, I think there's a time and a place for everything — including Doritos and Coke and Texas-style barbecue brisket. But like I tell my kids, those aren't "always" things, they're "sometimes" things. It's super-important for me that my kids never feel like they can't have something they want. You can have anything, but it's up to you to make better choices more than most of the time.
I'm not a vegetarian, but at home I cook 75 percent vegan, 15 percent vegetarian, 8 percent pescatarian, 2 percent meat. I have two sons — one is a vegetarian and one is a "meat-a-tarian." That said, my meat-loving son will, nine times out of 10, choose a homemade veggie burger over a beef burger, and if there's tofu on the table, stake your claim early because he's all in!
How did it inspire the recipes you chose to include in this book?
I wanted to create a book that had not only "workhorse" recipes like granola and rice and beans and sheet pan chili (!) but also really creative ways to get your meatless on. Making everything on a sheet pan really pushed me into new creative territory and it was so fun. My experience as an editor and recipe developer at Cook's Illustrated taught me to question every move and addition when writing and creating recipes, but also to ask myself, "Why not?" Sheet pan poutine? Why not? Sheet pan risotto? Let's try it! Some of them are more complicated than others because sometimes I use the sheet pan like a skillet, pre-heating it so I let vegetables sear, let wine reduce, or roast off some veg to create fond and caramelization and a delicious flavor base.
What is your favorite recipe in the book and why?
Okay, c'mon. Impossible question!! I love the Caramelized Onion Dip because you can't keep me away from a bowl of onion dip — in the photo it looks all fancy with crudités and root veg chips, but IMHO all you need with onion dip are ruffled potato chips. Period. I also love the Blissed-Out Cheesy Broccoli Gratin because I love watching my kids eat it and it's so fast, easy, and weeknight do-able. A Perfect Avocado Toast because I'm an addict and wrote a cookbook dedicated to toast, and I eat avocado toast probably three times a week! The Eggplant and White Bean Meatballs are super-killer too — so good as meatballs with pasta, on a sandwich, or crumbled up for "meat sauce" or chili!
What are some of the foods you can’t live without?
Guacamole. Salt. Hot sauce. Good bread with something to dip it into (olive oil, drippings of any kind, the juice that collects in the bottom of a salad bowl). Beans and rice with fried tostones and fried yucca. My dad's smoky eggplant salad. Pizza — any style, any way, any toppings. Peanut M&Ms (because I'm only human).
Would you rather dine out or cook at home?
I love both. I love the ease of eating out and get so much inspiration from restaurants and chefs, but cooking at home always gives me the most satisfaction and brings me genuine joy. My boys always thank me for cooking, which is super sweet and gratifying.
What is your favorite go-to meal or drink?
Tacos! You can make anything into a taco — even leftover sheet pan mac and cheese! I'm addicted to this coriander chutney I get at Kalustyans — it's spicy and herby in all the right ways. It goes with any taco filling you can think of and I always have a bottle in the fridge.
How do you hope readers will use this book? What do you hope they take away?
I hope it opens them up to all of the options of a meatless meal — rather than thinking of a meatless dinner as a meal without meat, I hope readers see all the opportunities for eating delicious and healthy dishes that tread lightly on the environment and are healthy too. And that making dinner doesn't have to be an event requiring a massive investment in kitchen equipment. With a $20 sheet pan you can make 100 different meals, snacks, breakfasts, and desserts. Healthy and cheap — win/win right?
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I wish someone would invent an adjustable sheet pan. It could change sizes depending on your needs — I mean, how awesome would that be?