Wow. Readers, we asked you to take the “Chopped”-inspired Seattle Times Pantry Kitchen Challenge, and you did not disappoint! We got almost 40 entries that incorporated creative uses of the four prescribed ingredients: canned or frozen green beans, tomato paste, an egg and a potato.

The most popular dishes from that combo were gnocchi (four submissions) and some variation of potato pancakes or latkes (five submissions). Reading your entries took me on a food voyage that included Japanese, Mediterranean, Argentinian, Italian, Mexican, Irish and Jewish cuisines, and it was just fun to hear your stories about how you arrived at each recipe.

Without tasting the dishes, if I had to declare a winner from recipe and presentation alone, I’d pick Steve Venard and Cathy Martin’s green bean pesto pizza — because who thinks to make pesto out of green beans? Genius! Runners-up: Sarah Holt’s Argentinian empanadas and Alea Abrams’ gnocchi with crispy green beans and a cured egg yolk.

Here’s a sampling of some of your most innovative submissions. Thanks for playing (and see below for details on Round 2)!

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Next up: Round 2 of The Seattle Times Pantry Kitchen Challenge

New ingredients: Pancake mix, olives, cheese and your choice of herbs.

Rules: You have to use all four ingredients; you can, however, add as many additional ingredients as you choose.

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Deadline: Create a dish, tell us how successful you were and email photos and a description of your dish to food editor Stefanie Loh (sloh@seattletimes.com) by May 15. We’ll pick several of the most interesting submissions we receive to run in a future edition of The Mix.


Pantry Kitchen Challenge’s Best Reader Submissions

*For brevity, we decided not run full recipes, but if you would like recipes to any of these dishes submitted by readers, email me and I will send them to you. 

Argentinian empanadas

Seattle Times reader Sarah Holt made Argentinian empanadas for her “Chopped” kitchen challenge and reports that they paired excellently with wine sipped over a Zoom hangout with sommelier friends. (Sarah Holt)
Seattle Times reader Sarah Holt made Argentinian empanadas for her “Chopped” kitchen challenge and reports that they paired excellently with wine sipped over a Zoom hangout with sommelier friends. (Sarah Holt)

“I love figuring out what to make from my fridge in the best of times, so this challenge was super fun. I made Argentinian empanadas. The egg is in the dough and the filling had the tomato paste, green beans and potatoes. The filling also had caramelized onions, green olives, Anaheim peppers, cotija cheese and a ton of spices. … My husband was dubious but admitted thought they were super tasty. We grew up in the ’70s, when people loved themselves some canned green beans, so now we try to avoid them at all costs. He has fond memories of deserted dinner tables and being told to sit there until you clean your plate. … But the beans worked well and I would make this again for sure. My 17-year-old son ate three before I could even take pictures.”

— Sarah Holt

Harissa-spiced shakshuka with potato pancakes

Seattle Times reader Meghan Stuart made shakshuka with potato pancakes. Bonus points for the fact that the shakshuka was so good that her veggie-averse toddler ate it even though it contained green beans. (Meghan Stuart)
Seattle Times reader Meghan Stuart made shakshuka with potato pancakes. Bonus points for the fact that the shakshuka was so good that her veggie-averse toddler ate it even though it contained green beans. (Meghan Stuart)

“My meat-loving husband, picky toddler and I all enjoyed it. It’s the first time I’ve seen a green bean go in my toddler’s mouth and not get spit out. … I would probably use fresh green beans next time, or spinach or kale, and maybe add 1-2 more cloves of garlic. The frozen green beans were fine, but a little extra watery. I was worried I would miss bread with shakshuka, but the potato pancakes were SO GOOD, I did not really care. … My husband’s thoughts: This is good! It’s savory, well balanced and has depth. The only improvement he suggested was adding meat. He gave it a score of 8/10 as a main course and 9/10 as a side (he was still kind of hungry after dinner). Upon seeing all the potato pancakes, he said, ‘It must be my latke day’ (he’s the king of puns/dad jokes).”

— Meghan Stuart

Green bean pesto pizza

Steve Venard and Cathy Martin get creativity points for using their green beans to make a pesto that they used atop pizza dough. The verdict? Canned green beans “make a very nice pesto … at a fraction of the cost of fresh basil” they said.  (Steve Venard)
Steve Venard and Cathy Martin get creativity points for using their green beans to make a pesto that they used atop pizza dough. The verdict? Canned green beans “make a very nice pesto … at a fraction of the cost of fresh basil” they said. (Steve Venard)

“Coming up with a dish that included the four ingredients was a challenge and frankly a lot of fun. After a lengthy discussion weighing the pros and cons, a decision was finalized and our green bean pesto pizza was born. Does this need to be pizza? Not really, you could use commercial pizza dough, a thick slice of French bread, naan, pita or even a tortilla. … It was a great-tasting pizza, nice cheese-to-sauce balance with a nice garlicky taste from the pesto. … A little background, we don’t follow recipes, making it up as we cook; as we often say, you will like the meal, just don’t expect to have the same thing again.”

— Steve Venard and Cathy Martin

Milano egg

In Round 1, Seattle Times reader Paul Shapiro put his own spin on a Scotch egg and even pickled the requisite green beans. Voila, Milano egg! (Paul Shapiro)
In Round 1, Seattle Times reader Paul Shapiro put his own spin on a Scotch egg and even pickled the requisite green beans. Voila, Milano egg! (Paul Shapiro)

“I made a twist on a Scotch egg by using the Italian sausage I had and pickling the green beans with Mama Lil’s peppers that were in the back of the fridge. I thought it would just make a good visual, but it was actually pretty tasty.”

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— Paul Shapiro

Miniature quiche 

Readers Amanda Woo and Jesse Akes saw “potatoes” and “egg” and thought, “quiche”! Mini, potato-crusted green bean-and-tomato quiche! (Amanda Woo)
Readers Amanda Woo and Jesse Akes saw “potatoes” and “egg” and thought, “quiche”! Mini, potato-crusted green bean-and-tomato quiche! (Amanda Woo)

“My friend and I would like to submit our entry for the “Chopped” Challenge using a potato, an egg, tomato paste and green beans. We made mini potato-crusted green bean-and-tomato quiches! This was a lot of fun!”

— Amanda Woo and Jesse Akes

Trentino rustic gnocchi with tomato sauce

Many readers made gnocchi with the Pantry Kitchen Challenge ingredients, but Keri Segna’s stood out because her rustic gnocchi comes from her Italian grandparents’ “old world” recipe. (Keri Segna)
Many readers made gnocchi with the Pantry Kitchen Challenge ingredients, but Keri Segna’s stood out because her rustic gnocchi comes from her Italian grandparents’ “old world” recipe. (Keri Segna)

“I saw the challenge ingredients and knew that an altered version of my family’s gnocchi recipe from the ‘old country’ would be perfect to make. My grandparents brought five dishes with them from Val di Non (in the Trentino region of Italy) that they kept alive. My mom continued the tradition and so have I. Whenever we go back to that region it is always so amazing to eat these same dishes in small-town restaurants — dishes we always ate at home! Normally, “our” rustic gnocchi is made with fresh grated potatoes, egg, flour and spinach. Topped with browned butter and Parmesan cheese. For the Pantry Kitchen Challenge, green beans are used instead of spinach. Tomato paste deepens a bed of fresh tomato sauce.”

— Keri Segna

Gnocchi with vodka sauce and crispy green beans, topped with shredded cured egg yolk

Alea Abrams also thought to make gnocchi, but her version was paired with vodka sauce and a fancy cured egg yolk. (Alea Abrams)
Alea Abrams also thought to make gnocchi, but her version was paired with vodka sauce and a fancy cured egg yolk. (Alea Abrams)

“I made homemade gnocchi with vodka sauce topped with crispy green beans, shallots and grated cured egg yolk. When I read the article last weekend I knew I wanted to do something creative and new with these ingredients. I wanted the dish to represent me and my cooking style, which is a mix of new, innovative techniques and honed classics. New to me was the cured egg. I had seen a Bon Appétit article a couple of weeks ago about curing egg yolks to add a kick of salt and umami to dishes and I have been wanting to try it. … This dish tasted amazing! I made it for my fiancé and myself for dinner last night and we both went back for thirds. It was very rich, but in times like these I think its good to treat yo’self. It definitely beat my expectations, since I did not know how the egg yolk would turn out, and I was a little wary of using frozen green beans. But it all came together so well. I could taste each element individually, but they also added to the dish as a whole and came together quite cohesively. The green beans became crispy when fried and this added a nice textural element against the soft gnocchi. They took on a nutty flavor and really brought the dish together. … The cured egg yolk was salty and very flavorful. I often top my pasta dishes with Parmesan cheese and this served as a unique alternative. The gnocchi were soft and pillowy and the sauce was deliciously creamy!”

Alea Abrams

Shepherd’s pie tater tots

Inspired by something she saw on “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,” Darci Rogojin decided to combine her shepherd’s pie recipe with taters. The result? Shepherd’s pie tater tots.  (Darci Rogojin)
Inspired by something she saw on “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,” Darci Rogojin decided to combine her shepherd’s pie recipe with taters. The result? Shepherd’s pie tater tots. (Darci Rogojin)

“When I saw that potatoes and tomato paste were in the ‘basket,’ I immediately thought of the shepherd’s pie I make from time to time. But I wanted to do something more fun and had just watched a Guy Fieri episode of ‘Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives’ where a chef made these amazing tater tots using an ice cream scoop. Why not add in some filling and do a stuffed tater tot?! Here’s my attempt at that. … I was going to fry these up in oil but my husband suggested to use our air fryer, which we did. I think oil-frying would’ve made them outstanding, as my husband’s feedback was the air-fried version ‘needed ketchup’ or [was] slightly dry. We both thought they were flavorful though, so good first attempt.”

— Darci Rogojin

“Dona-be” Goin’ Out soup with a soy sauce-marinated egg

Jennifer Wallace used her Japanese donabe soup pot to turn the four ingredients into a soup with a marinated egg. (Jennifer Wallace)
Jennifer Wallace used her Japanese donabe soup pot to turn the four ingredients into a soup with a marinated egg. (Jennifer Wallace)

“My spouse and I have been experimenting a lot with our new donabe, so when I saw the list of ingredients, my thoughts went immediately to the rich, brothy Asian soups that incorporate a soft-boiled egg. I also find this type of dish really comforting these days. … The tomato paste threw me at first, but I thought it wound up complementing the sauce I concocted pretty nicely. … Other feedback was to increase the portion of green onion (which is reflected in recipe provided). Also suggested was that shredded cabbage and/or julienne carrot would work in this as well – but again I think you can throw in whatever you like. While it seems like I used very little of the tomato paste (1 teaspoon), it overwhelms easily. That being said … if the heat were dialed up with more red pepper sauce (1 teaspoon), more tomato paste might work. … I used a traditional Japanese donabe pot for this recipe, but you can use any heavy soup pot.”

— Jennifer Wallace

Grilled pork chop hash with peppers and green beans

Eric Heit turned the challenge into a one-pot meal to feed his family. The hash of green beans, potatoes and tomato paste — which he made into a sauce with Worcestershire, honey, beef broth, salt and cayenne pepper. It was topped with baked eggs.  (Eric Heit)
Eric Heit turned the challenge into a one-pot meal to feed his family. The hash of green beans, potatoes and tomato paste — which he made into a sauce with Worcestershire, honey, beef broth, salt and cayenne pepper. It was topped with baked eggs. (Eric Heit)

“What a wonderful idea. I am not sure my idea is very original, but with busy schedules (in normal times) and three children, aged 17, 15 and 10, we are big on the one-pot meals, so the first thing I thought of was hash. The major problem is I hardly ever measure anything — it is all done to taste. … It was a huge hit and we had no leftovers.”

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— Eric Heit

Okonomiyaki: Japanese “pancake”

Miceala Ellison was inspired by the okonomiyaki she had while traveling in Japan. Essentially, this is an egg-based Japanese “pancake” that you can top with any variety of ingredients. (Miceala Ellison)
Miceala Ellison was inspired by the okonomiyaki she had while traveling in Japan. Essentially, this is an egg-based Japanese “pancake” that you can top with any variety of ingredients. (Miceala Ellison)

“My husband and I just finished eating our okonomiyaki-inspired lunch based on The Seattle Times-chosen ingredients. We have been lucky to travel around Northeast Asia, and one of the foods we discovered on our first trip to Japan was okonomiyaki — described to me as the Japanese pizza. While I thought this was weird because it had neither cheese nor bread, I see now that you can top it with whatever you want. Hence the name. Anyway, I don’t claim this is authentic … but I like that this dish is infinitely variable in both ingredients and flavors. I made everything from scratch because I don’t have mayo or okonomiyaki sauce (or tomato paste), but both are optional. In fact, most of the ingredients are optional, which makes it perfect for lockdown cooking. My husband loved it. Not surprising because he loves Japanese food and raves every time I try to re-create flavors from our travels. … Besides the okonomiyaki sauce, I added mayonnaise, bonito flakes, dried seaweed, fresh horseradish, chives, watercress and radishes.”

— Micaela Ellison

Vegetable beef pie

Paula Mikkelsen combined her chicken pot pie recipe with her grandmother’s beef stew to turn our ingredients into vegetable beef pie. (Paula Mikkelsen)
Paula Mikkelsen combined her chicken pot pie recipe with her grandmother’s beef stew to turn our ingredients into vegetable beef pie. (Paula Mikkelsen)

“Letting my mind wander, I landed on my grandmother’s beef stew. Potatoes, tomatoes and green beans all present. But what to do with that pesky egg?  Thought longer, and [figured] a stew cooked to something thicker and thrown in a pie — I could use the egg as a wash on pie dough. Bingo! I have an easy chicken potpie recipe that uses bread cubes for the crust; I used it to guide my proportions for vegetables and gravy development.  And some leftover chuck roast that needed a home. Results: not bad. Not great yet, but shows promise. My husband and I both went back for seconds. Perfect recipe for using up rib roast, pot roast, chuck roast, brisket or steak.”

— Paula Mikkelsen

Egg in a hole

Connor Simpson, 13, made egg in a hole in Round 1, and while his parents thought his potatoes were a little undercooked, the junior chef begs to differ. (Connor Simpson)
Connor Simpson, 13, made egg in a hole in Round 1, and while his parents thought his potatoes were a little undercooked, the junior chef begs to differ. (Connor Simpson)

“My dish was an egg in a hole, with a tomato sauce, and seasoned potatoes with chopped green beans. My mom and dad were the ‘judges’ and they said that the potatoes were a little harder than they like, but the sauce was well seasoned, the egg-in-the-hole was well cooked and the bread was perfectly crispy. I agreed with their comments, but I like my potatoes not-too-soft.”

— Connor Simpson; age 13