How to inspire (read: force) creativity among Seattle’s eager amateur chefs? Ask everyone to play with phyllo dough. It’s not easy to conceive something other than a “pocket” when working with phyllo. But, as usual, you all rose to the challenge! Some grudgingly participated only because they had a box of phyllo dough trying to stave off freezer burn in the back of the icebox. At least one of you cheerily wrote that you cursed me many times while trying to construct your dish. But, your ingenuity prevailed. Behold — your dinner creations made with phyllo dough, a can of beans, dried fruit and kale.

Lisa Sieberson wins this round with her cannellini bean and kale cassoulet with phyllo nests that looks both daintily pretty and fun to eat. Tapasya Khatri earned second place with a phyllo bowl with saffron rice, kidney bean curry and mango chutney that impressively showcased all four ingredients to great effect. Coming up behind her in third place was Laura Jones with this kale spanakopita tart that looks like something you’d see on the Food Network.

Here are the top 12 submissions! Thanks for playing. See below for details on Round 3 and news of our special guest judge!

Season 2, Round 3: The “Halloween meets ramen” Challenge

At Pantry Kitchen Challenge (Remote) HQ, we’re in the business of not wasting food! So don’t let that leftover Halloween candy wither in its bowl!

But to make things even more interesting, we’re calling in Kamonegi chef Mutsuko Soma to pick the top three winners of this next round.

Kamonegi chef Mutsuko Soma will pick the top three finishers for the Pantry Kitchen Challenge’s “Halloween meets ramen” round. (Erika Schultz/The Seattle Times)
Kamonegi chef Mutsuko Soma will pick the top three finishers for the Pantry Kitchen Challenge’s “Halloween meets ramen” round. (Erika Schultz/The Seattle Times)
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Soma inspired this challenge’s main ingredient. A self-confessed lover of Top Ramen, she has challenged herself to make 50 recipes this month that feature dried ramen noodles. It’s all part of Top Ramen’s “How do you Top Ramen” challenge to commemorate the brand’s 50th anniversary. Check out Soma’s Instagram account (instagram.com/somamutsuko) to see some of her recipes.

Now, the question is, can you wow her with your ramen creativity?

Ingredients:

  • At least one dried noodle cake of ramen (or cake of rice noodles, if you prefer). Any brand is fine. But to be clear, we’re not talking about fresh noodles. You have to use the dried kind that comes in instant ramen packets.
  • Leftover Halloween candy of your choice
  • Sesame seeds
  • Avocado

Rules:

  • You have to use all four ingredients. You can use as many additional ingredients as you desire.
  • Wild card rule for Round 3: Your mission is to transform and elevate the humble ramen noodle cake. The dried noodle cake of ramen (or other similar cake of dried rice noodles, if you’re gluten-intolerant) has to be prominently featured in your recipe!
  • Deadline: Create a dish, tell us how successful you were and email photos (JPG files!), your recipe and a description of your dish to food editor Stefanie Loh (sloh@seattletimes.com) by Friday, Oct. 30. 
  • Judging will be based on creativity, how well you incorporated the three ingredients, presentation and adherence to the wild card rule. Chef Soma will name the top three entries. As usual, we’ll select several of the most interesting submissions to be published in a future edition of The Mix.
More from The Seattle Times Pantry Kitchen Challenge

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Pantry Kitchen Challenge Season 2 Round 2 Best Reader Submissions

To download a PDF of recipes from this round, click here.

Cannellini bean and kale cassoulet with phyllo nests

Lisa Sieberson’s crispy nests made out of shredded phyllo straw creatively incorporated the phyllo and all the other ingredients for a casserole with a twist. (Courtesy of Lisa Sieberson)
Lisa Sieberson’s crispy nests made out of shredded phyllo straw creatively incorporated the phyllo and all the other ingredients for a casserole with a twist. (Courtesy of Lisa Sieberson)

This was so fun to make! I love cassoulet as a cozy fall or winter dish, so in this version, I’ve added kale and then used the phyllo straw in lieu of the traditional breadcrumbs to top it. The cranberries got nicely caramelized in the oven and gave some lovely bites that added a beautiful sweetness to this savory and homey dish. The final product was attractive as well as tasty. My kids absolutely loved it, particularly the presentation with the nests on top.

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Lisa Sieberson

Phyllo bowl with saffron rice, kidney bean curry, kale kebabs and raw mango chutney

Tapasya Khatri combined traditional Indian flavors with nontraditional ingredients and transformed rice and phyllo into this phyllo bowl filled with many interesting components.  (Courtesy of Tapasya Khatri)
Tapasya Khatri combined traditional Indian flavors with nontraditional ingredients and transformed rice and phyllo into this phyllo bowl filled with many interesting components. (Courtesy of Tapasya Khatri)

For the Entree Challenge, I wanted to get creative with the staple rice-and-beans combination. We know that rice and beans together make up a balanced, nutrition-packed meal. I have tried to add a variety of flavors and textures to this by combining authentic Indian herbs and spices with some nontraditional ingredients in India, such as kale. My husband had the idea to give it a modern twist by turning it into a phyllo bowl.

— Tapasya Khatri

Kale spanakopita tart

Laura Jones transformed the can of garbanzo beans sitting on her shelf into a yogurt hummus that brought this kale spanakopita tart to life. (Courtesy of Laura Jones)
Laura Jones transformed the can of garbanzo beans sitting on her shelf into a yogurt hummus that brought this kale spanakopita tart to life. (Courtesy of Laura Jones)

The secret ingredient in this tart (which lies somewhere between spanakopita and quiche) is the yogurt hummus that is a healthier, tastier swap for the cream in the custard filling. The hummus was also a tasty transformation for the can of garbanzo beans that has been lingering on the pantry shelf since March! The phyllo was the spark for this dish because it is so much fun to play with and so very forgiving. If you tear it, just crumple it up and make a decorative top layer, or simply add another sheet because you can never have too many layers of olive oil and phyllo! I don’t use kale very often because my husband does not like the flavor. So, my hope was that if I surrounded the kale with enough feta cheese and layers of phyllo he might actually enjoy it. I really wanted to use dried cherries, but currants melded better with the lemony flavors of the kale and feta mixture and yogurt hummus filling. Finally, while the kale added a deeper, earthier flavor than spinach (my husband even asked for seconds!), I am planning to tweak the recipe using a variety of greens that may add spicier notes.

Laura Jones

Kale and hummus phyllo torte with dried cherry tomatoes

Kris Iverson, from Ballard, stuck their whole phyllo-tomato-hummus-kale concoction into an angel food cake pan and displayed it prettily here. (Courtesy of Kris Iverson)
Kris Iverson, from Ballard, stuck their whole phyllo-tomato-hummus-kale concoction into an angel food cake pan and displayed it prettily here. (Courtesy of Kris Iverson)

I knew right away what I would make when I read these challenge ingredients. I love spanakopita and I love hummus. How great it would be to combine them together. The dried fruit had me stumped until I remembered tomatoes are a fruit! I had a jar of dried cherry tomatoes from my garden begging to be included in this recipe. I used a pan meant for angel food cake, but a Bundt pan would turn out an even more attractive result.

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Kris Iverson

Bean and kale pie roll with dried cranberries

The key to success on this dish, says Tomoko Tsugane, is to make sure to remove as much water from the vegetables as possible before you assemble it in the phyllo roll. (Courtesy of Tomoko Tsugane)
The key to success on this dish, says Tomoko Tsugane, is to make sure to remove as much water from the vegetables as possible before you assemble it in the phyllo roll. (Courtesy of Tomoko Tsugane)

I took this opportunity to get rid of a can of black beans in my pantry which had been sitting there for several months. … I was very skeptical about using a can of beans with the phyllo, I would never think about putting beans in any pies, but with the right amount of spices and sustaining (the) vegetables’ texture (with beans that are just roughly cut), it became a surprisingly tasty main dish. The key is to get rid of liquid content from all vegetables so that the end product will not be soggy in the phyllo sheets. I added a variety of spices and condiments, added Worcestershire sauce and mayonnaise to add another taste dimension to the dish. For plating, I sprinkled cranberries and dry kale. 

— Tomoko Tsugane

Kale, mushroom and sun-dried tomato quiche with garbanzo crumble in a sunflower phyllo cup

It took Jeff Abrams several attempts to get his delicate phyllo cup to take shape. The end result: this gorgeous dish. (Courtesy of Jeff Abrams)
It took Jeff Abrams several attempts to get his delicate phyllo cup to take shape. The end result: this gorgeous dish. (Courtesy of Jeff Abrams)

The fiendishly tricky nature of phyllo dough made this the most difficult challenge so far. Without my wife Libby’s help, this would have been a dismal failure. As it was, of the three phyllo cups I attempted, two crumbled as I was trying to loosen them from their mold. While this was frustrating, eating the shards of phyllo made for nice treats. When I started thinking about this challenge, my mind settled on breakfast. As such, the addition of dried orange powder was my attempt to complete the meal with an homage to orange juice. It also allowed me to use a second dried fruit, the first being sun-dried tomatoes.

Jeff Abrams

Persian pie

Steve Venard and Cathy Martin transformed phyllo from sheets into a cornmeal pie crust. How’s that for creative? (Courtesy of Steve Venard and Cathy Martin)
Steve Venard and Cathy Martin transformed phyllo from sheets into a cornmeal pie crust. How’s that for creative? (Courtesy of Steve Venard and Cathy Martin)

These challenge ingredients seemed to us to be on the bland side and screamed for exotic flavors. Using phyllo in its traditional form was a little too easy. Inspired by a Parmesan cornmeal biscotti recipe, we dried a can of garbanzo beans, grinding them into cornmeal consistency. Then we added torn phyllo, Parmesan and butter to make a crunchy crust. Warm spices, chopped kale, briny olives, lightly sweet apricots and sun-dried tomatoes (also a fruit) added a Middle Eastern flavor to our chicken potpie filling. A new family fall favorite.

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Steve Venard and Cathy Martin

Black bean burger with phyllo fries

Paul Shapiro decided to use the phyllo dough for a unique take on french fries. Arguably crispier than your average taters! (Courtesy of Paul Shapiro)
Paul Shapiro decided to use the phyllo dough for a unique take on french fries. Arguably crispier than your average taters! (Courtesy of Paul Shapiro)

The phyllo dough sent me for a loop. What to do with phyllo dough besides wrapping something in it, and it needed to be an entree. … This one was perplexing. Then we went out to dinner and my wife had a burger and fries. Bingo! Bar food. Burger and fries. As I raise tomatoes at a community P-Patch, I knew tomatoes were a fruit, and I have oodles of dried tomatoes from the season’s harvest. So dried tomatoes in the black bean burger, along with fries and tomato ketchup. I added kale to the burger mix and made a savory kale salad to top the burger. The really odd thing is this is the only entry that I actually served to my family. We had this for dinner tonight and my wife and stepdaughter (who is vegetarian) thought the dinner was terrific. This may become a dinner staple at our house. 

Paul Shapiro

Vegan “physh” tacos

When the Pantry Kitchen Challenge mandate gives you something crispy and flaky to work with, make taco shells with it, says Sada Adams! (Courtesy of Sada Adams)
When the Pantry Kitchen Challenge mandate gives you something crispy and flaky to work with, make taco shells with it, says Sada Adams! (Courtesy of Sada Adams)

I have so many vegan friends, and even though I am not vegan I love cooking and creating recipes we can all enjoy together. Vegan food is for everyone! This “physh” taco is a play on a classic Baja-style fish taco with both a vegan and a phyllo dough twist! The phyllo shell was crunchy, flaky and delicious like any good taco shell, and the spiced garbanzo beans added a great punch of protein with a little bit of heat. The kale coleslaw and dried mango crema really brought the whole dish together! I recommend these tacos for vegans and nonvegans alike! Don’t forget a nice cold margarita on the side!

Sada Adams

Chicken breast stuffed with phyllo dough stuffing, served with chicken gravy

Instead of using the phyllo externally, Patty Gray Whann used it to stuff a chicken breast! And she paired it with yummy chicken gravy. (Courtesy of Patty Gray Whann)
Instead of using the phyllo externally, Patty Gray Whann used it to stuff a chicken breast! And she paired it with yummy chicken gravy. (Courtesy of Patty Gray Whann)

This was a hard one. I made a pizza the first time and it was tasty, but ugly.

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Patty Gray Whann

Not your mom’s hotdish!

Vicki Schuman’s hotdish tells a story. One of a Minnesota native who’s now a Seattle resident, who misses her family in Minnesota. Oh and you betcha it tastes good! (Courtesy of Vicki Schuman)
Vicki Schuman’s hotdish tells a story. One of a Minnesota native who’s now a Seattle resident, who misses her family in Minnesota. Oh and you betcha it tastes good! (Courtesy of Vicki Schuman)

I miss my parents in Minnesota and traveling! My recipe is an homage to my Minnesotan parents and my travels. But boy, this is not your mom’s hotdish! First of all, no ground beef; secondly, more than seven ingredients; and lastly, too many dishes to wash! Hotdish is the best with Old Dutch potato chips, but I can’t get those in Seattle, so I substituted with phyllo chips and kale chips. I just love a good tajine so I used that for my main base in the hotdish. The tastiest hotdish mashup for Washingtonians and all those Minnesota transplants here! In case you’re wondering what those shapes are from left to right: Washington state, an airplane and Minnesota state. I would soooo love to fly to Minneapolis!

— Vicki “you betcha!” Schuman

Pastilla (or, B’stilla)

Mary Beth Smith made pastilla, a Moroccan-inspired dish that she learned about from her daughter’s brief stint in Morocco. (Courtesy of Mary Beth Smith)
Mary Beth Smith made pastilla, a Moroccan-inspired dish that she learned about from her daughter’s brief stint in Morocco. (Courtesy of Mary Beth Smith)

I had tons of fun with this Pantry Kitchen Challenge. My adult vegetarian children made this recipe with me virtually online. My daughter, Rose, lives in Vancouver, B.C., and my son, Devin, lives in Issaquah. We made pastilla and used phyllo dough, kale, garbanzo beans, dried apricots, golden raisins, dates, ricotta cheese, mint, lemon and butternut squash. My daughter studied in Morocco in college. As a vegetarian she was sad that pastilla normally included meat. She befriended a local cook there who started making her a vegetarian version. When she came home that winter she shared this story and it inspired me to make it for Christmas dinner. We have enjoyed it for a Christmas entree ever since, for the past decade. It was so nice to connect through this family cooking session across the map with my kids! 

— Mary Beth Smith