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Lydia (The Perfect Pantry)
A small city kitchen in Boston's South End
Since 2006, food blogging at The Perfect Pantry®, for the first 9 years from my log house kitchen, and now from my city apartment. Publishing e-cookbooks from The Perfect Pantry® kitchen.
Interests: travel, cooking, reading, photography, art (seeing and making), trying to get tomatoes to grow in my herb garden.
Recent Activity
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A creative cook needs only two methods of cooking leftovers, two master recipes that disguise those bits and pieces and presto-change-o them into something completely new and exciting. These days we might call them kitchen hacks, but these kitchen "tricks" been around forever: toss leftovers into a soup pot, or wrap them in eggs. Fold any leftovers into any basic soup or egg recipe, and you've got a reliably wonderful "new" dish to put on the table. And that is the genesis of this frittata. I started with a single slice of smoked salmon, and half an avocado. A large fennel bulb intended for something else gave up part of its outer stalk and a leafy frond, and added a bit of crunchy, anise undertone.... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at The Perfect Pantry®
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In the house where I grew up, mustard was yellow, neon-bright yellow, and we squirted it on hot dogs. Period. In my own kitchen, I stock at least half a dozen types of mustard, but none gets used as often as Dijon mustard. It's tangy, yet not strident. A spoonful of Dijon goes into every spaghetti sauce I make; I know it sounds odd, but you have to trust me and try it. Dijon adds character. Mix a little bit of Dijon into your egg salad or potato salad. Add it to meatloaf. And don't forget vinaigrette dressings for your salads. Sometimes I use the country Dijon, made with coarsely-ground mustard seed; other times, I use the smooth mustard. Over the years I've written a... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at The Perfect Pantry®
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It takes a village to make a plate of collard greens. Well, it took my village to make this plate of collards. Stephen, a regular user of our Little Free Library, loves to cook and has a large garden in the Fenway near the Museum of Fine Arts. Recently he brought me a wonderful gift of a huge bag of collards fresh from the garden. Believe it or not, I've never cooked collards, because I've never really loved them (too slimy, and usually made with ham hocks, which I don't eat). So I asked for recipe advice, and Stephen suggested the typical long cook time of 2-3 hours, with smoked turkey in place of the ham, or maybe smoked paprika. I knew I wouldn't like... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at The Perfect Pantry®
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When we moved from the log house last year, we left behind our over-the-hill grill. Now that grilling season approaches, all I can think about is buying a new grill for our backyard, because dishes like this chicken bulgogi are calling to me. I pressed the broiler into service to make this recipe for you, because I'm sure I'm the only person who doesn't already have a grill cleaned and ready to go. The broiler made truly crisp-juicy chicken bulgogi, so I don't hesitate to recommend this method. Korean barbecue is all the rage, and for good reason. While the outside of the salty-sweet meat crisps over (or under) the fire, the inside remains tender, thanks to the addition of Asian pear or kiwi in... Continue reading
Posted May 14, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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Happy Saturday! Let's talk about films that have food as a key player, or a supporting actor, or a setting or a prop. In the comments below, please share your favorites, old or new, funny or weird, popular or obscure. Documentaries or mockumentaries. Films for children or adults (but please, no adult films). Babette's Feast? Ratatouille? Chef (my current favorite; I've watched it at least half a dozen times)? Big Night (I've probably watched this one a dozen times.)? Dinner Rush? Mostly Martha? Like Water for Chocolate? Bottle Shock? La Grande Bouffe? Tampopo? Next up, on my to-see list: The Lunchbox. What's on your list? I'll publish a big list of food movies from all of your suggestions. Thanks! Continue reading
Posted May 13, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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It's only taken eight years (gulp) for me to update this April 2008 recipe post for grilled tofu wraps, stuffed with avocado, bell peppers and onions, rolled into a tortilla slathered with honey mustard. Honestly, I can't imagine why I waited so long. The combination of ingredients sounds weird, I know -- tofu and avocado, and honey mustard -- but it makes a really great sandwich. I know, because my husband Ted ate two of them for lunch. Montreal Steak Seasoning is the magic ingredient here. It gives the tofu a salty-peppery-garlicky-herby crust. Nobody knows the exact formulation of the original Montreal Steak Seasoning (available by mail from Schwartz's deli in Montreal, where it was invented to spice up grilled meats), but every version builds... Continue reading
Posted May 10, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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When something is really, really good, it doesn't have to be fancy. These baked potato wedges are really, really good, as good as they were when I first published the recipe back in June 2006. Actually, maybe they're better now, because they're a very occasional treat. As comfort food goes, potatoes hardly ever fail to please. These potatoes require minimal preparation, and they come out of the oven crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, buttery and slightly salty. In short, these potato wedges are perfect, and they don't even need to be dipped in ketchup or fry sauce or anything. All I can tell you is that I'm glad my husband Ted was out of town when I made them to take new... Continue reading
Posted May 7, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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So, this is funny, or not funny, but weird, and absolutely true. Last week my computer suffered a "catastrophic software failure" (three words no one wants to hear), and spent some time with the geniuses at the Apple Store, searching for a cure. The good news is that they did find a cure. The bad news is that it cost me some files here and there, and one of those files wiped out the emails in which you shared what's new in your pantry. If your "what's new" hasn't appeared here, I am so sorry. I promise to make it up to you, with a bit of a prowl through my own pantry. When my husband Ted and I moved to our small Boston apartment,... Continue reading
Posted May 6, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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For most of my life, I didn't love broccoli, so a recipe with double broccoli would have been unthinkable. Then, a few years ago, I discovered broccoli slaw in the grocery store, and I fell in love. Turns out that I had texture issues, not taste issues, all along. I still don't love the fluffy florets of broccoli, but I could eat the stems forever, and that's what broccoli slaw is made of: stems. Don't be misled by the name. Slaw doesn't mean salad only; I use broccoli slaw in stir-fries and slow cooker dishes, soups and stews. And risotto, where it doesn't even need to be cooked ahead of time. The little slivers of carrots and cabbage in the slaw mix you buy in... Continue reading
Posted May 3, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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Is mac and cheese, or a grilled rib-eye steak, or a big bowl of chocolate ice cream, your ultimate comfort food? Mine is asparagus soup. Call me crazy, but I could eat asparagus soup -- the greener, the better -- every day during the brief six weeks we get farm-fresh asparagus at the open markets and farmsteads here in New England. A few years ago, I learned that you can freeze asparagus. I never knew that, but it has changed my asparagus buying routine. Now, I try to buy several pounds direct from the farm on the day the asparagus is picked, and freeze it immediately in a zip lock bag with most of the air removed. The texture of frozen fresh asparagus spears is... Continue reading
Posted Apr 30, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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From Kathie, in Rhode Island: My favorite quick and easy go to seasoning during grilling season. [Lydia's Notes] Yep, I have Montreal Steak Seasoning on my spice rack, too (I haven't tried the others in Kathie's pantry). In fact, this post reminded me that there's a grilled tofu recipe here on the blog that I've been meaning to update and share with you, so watch for that one soon. According to Wikipedia, Montreal steak spice had its beginnings in Schwartz's deli in Montreal, where a grill man added the spices used in Montreal smoked meat to flavor his meats on the grill. The mix usually contains garlic, coriander, pepper and cayenne pepper, dill, and salt. It imparts a distinctive flavor to any meat you toss... Continue reading
Posted Apr 29, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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When it comes to slow cooker cooking, I consider myself a newbie. While my college friends were experimenting with slow cookers in their dorm rooms, I lived on tuna sandwiches. In fact, I bought my first slow cooker less than five years ago. So I've spent more time reading recipes for slow cooker dishes than actually cooking them. Now that I'm more comfortable with my slow cooker (my favorite is the Ninja Cooking System, a six-quart easy-to-clean marvel that's a crock-pot and also can do "stovetop" cooking, which means I can brown meat right in the pot), I'm paying more attention to technique, and this recipe is all about technique. Rice requires special handling in a slow cooker. To start, you need special rice, i.e.,... Continue reading
Posted Apr 26, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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Got leftovers? A little bit of grilled salmon or chicken? Some cooked lentils, or beans or quinoa? Have I got a salad for you! This summery salad takes all comers. A cup of lentils, a cup of peppers, a cup of salmon: the secret to a balanced salad is to give each of the main components equal weight. Salmon keeps the salad light, but if fish isn't your thing, feel free to use grilled or broiled chicken (you'll need just one-quarter of a pound), or to leave out the meat or fish altogether. The salad will keep for two days in the refrigerator, and makes a colorful and easy contribution to a potluck or picnic. Lentil salad with bell peppers, salmon, and maple-mustard dressing {can... Continue reading
Posted Apr 23, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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From Julia, in Cambridge, MA: If you can believe it, Sweet Smoked Spanish Paprika is new to my pantry in the last 10 years. I had always thought of paprika as just a bland spice added primarily for color. A few years ago, while visiting a friend, he served fried okra with a smoked paprika mayo dip -- it was a revelation; especially since the dip consisted of only smoked paprika and mayo. Since then, I've used it in deviled eggs (total game changer) and also Yotam Ottolenghi's Chicken Sofrito (from the cookbook Jerusalem). I'm out of my favorite brand, but have 3 other kinds of smoked paprika in the pantry which I need to go through. [Note: the photo above is mine, and the... Continue reading
Posted Apr 22, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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For a few years, I shared lots of soup recipes on my second blog, called Soup Chick. (Although I stopped publishing recipes there in 2014, you can still access those recipes online.) Many of those soups never found their way here, to The Perfect Pantry, and I pretty much forgot about most of them. One day, Susan, a devoted reader of both blogs, reminded me of all the good slurpiness on the Soup Chick site, and she suggested I bring some of it here to share with you. This chowder, thick and oh-so-spicy, is one of my favorites. The smoky heat comes from chipotle peppers tempered a bit by the cream. If hot and spicy isn't the way you roll, you can cut the amount... Continue reading
Posted Apr 19, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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First published in 2012, this updated collection of great asparagus recipes now includes recipes from the past four years that are more than worthy of a place on any "best of" list. Once upon a time, I had a friend named Mary who ate only the tips of asparagus. I've always been more of a stem gal, so we were the perfect dinner companions. I thought our friendship might last forever, but as things turned out, asparagus preferences weren't enough to keep us together. Just as well, actually, as I've come to love every bit of the asparagus, and now I'd be reluctant to behead all of my spears for the sake of friendship. Asparagus season here in New England lasts for only six or... Continue reading
Posted Apr 16, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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From Clara, in Westford, Massachusetts: The enclosed picture means that I have expanded my cooking repertoire in the last 10 years to include Thai, or at least Thai style or influenced, dishes. [Lydia's Notes] I've expanded my repertoire of Thai-inspired dishes in the past 10 years, too, so coconut milk is a must-have in my pantry. I've also learned that there's so much more to cook with coconut milk, and I've just scratched the surface. In addition to Thai curries (my favorite), coconut milk forms the base for curries of all cuisines, from India to South Africa. It makes great soups, and you can even bake with it. Do you have coconut milk in your pantry? How do you use it? Here are some recipe... Continue reading
Posted Apr 15, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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I know what you're thinking: how can this be barbecue chicken without the drippy brown barbecue sauce? Trust me. This chicken "drips" with all of the sweet, salty, smoky flavors of barbecue, without drowning in sauce, and that makes it perfect for tacos and burritos and quesadillas. Add your own favorite salsa on top, to make this spicy or not. Adapted from my slow cooker barbecue beef brisket recipe, this version, which my grandkids stuffed in burritos, passed the kid-friendly test with flying colors (i.e., they asked for seconds!). I cut down on both sugar and spice, but left all of the things nice: a little hint of adobo sauce from the chipotle, and some chili powder for rich flavor. If you're making this for... Continue reading
Posted Apr 12, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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Potatoes and artichokes don't often go hand in hand, though you might find them side by side. In a composed salad, like a Salade Nicoise, neat lines of artichoke hearts would nestle up to neat slices of potato, tomato, green beans, hard-cooked eggs, and more. This potato and artichoke salad is the opposite of composed. What would that be -- chaotic, or disorganized, or discombobulated? Whatever you call it, the combination of potatoes and artichokes balances texture with taste. If you prefer, use tart Kalamata olives. The pine nuts keep it Mediterranean, and balsamic vinaigrette brings everything together. If you have fresh basil in your garden this summer, add a few torn leaves to the dish. This salad would be perfect alongside roast or grilled... Continue reading
Posted Apr 9, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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From Connie, in Rhode Island: There's a lovely little olive oil/balsamic vinegar tasting shop, Olive del Mondo, on Hope Street in Providence, diagonally across from Seven Stars Bakery. They have a wonderful selection and a knowledgeable, friendly staff. Here you see Traditional Balsamic Vinegar, with white truffle oil on the left, and Tuscan Herb olive oil. My favorite, my special treat, is front and center: Lavender Balsamic. Heavenly. Especially on sliced fresh strawberries. [Lydia's note] Okay, Connie, you got me. Lavender balsamic?! Until I get a bottle for my own pantry, I can only imagine how amazing this tastes and smells. I love the idea of drizzling it on strawberries. Readers, do you have this in your pantry? How do you use it? Here are... Continue reading
Posted Apr 8, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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When I travel, I love to buy locally-published cookbooks, the ones you'll never find on Amazon.com. I hold on to those books forever, and look through them often. Flipping through a circa 1992 book I brought home from Malaysia, I found a page torn out of an issue of New York magazine, also circa 1992. On that page were several recipes; I can't tell you which ones appealed to me nearly 25 years ago, because they all look great now. This chicken, baked or cooked on the grill after marinating overnight in Thai-inspired flavors, caught my eye, because grilling season is just around the corner. When I finally got in the kitchen to cook, however, I decided to bake rather than grill, though I did... Continue reading
Posted Apr 5, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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What goes into a good soup? First, and most important, fearlessness! Open the refrigerator door and look around. Grab some protein (leftover cooked chicken, or sausage or tofu or hamburger meat), last night's vegetables or scraps a heartbeat away from the compost pile, some homemade broth. Root around in the pantry for canned beans, hot peppers, spices. Chop an onion. Toss everything into a pot, let it simmer for a while, and taste. Adjust with more of one ingredient or another. Have faith, because everyone can make great soup. My favorite soups come from countries where the weather is hot, and the food is hotter. In this recipe inspired by dishes I've enjoyed throughout Mexico, black beans, chile peppers, and lime take center stage. If... Continue reading
Posted Apr 2, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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From Ken, in Hawaii: I am trying to duplicate “Jane’s Healthy Kitchen Recipe for Vegan/Paleo Dairy Free Parmesan Cheese" which you freeze into a block and you can then shave or grate like regular Parmesan cheese and have the same taste and texture. The trick is making your own coconut butter as the base from the shredded coconut and the lemon juice, nutritional yeast and vitamin-C gives it the color and that sharp aged taste. I have friends that are Lactose Intolerant, Vegetarians and Vegans so I as a Carnivore am trying to expand my recipe repertoire to be inclusive of my friends' special needs when I cook. [Lydia's notes] I've never cooked with nutritional yeast, so this one's completely new to me. My friends... Continue reading
Posted Apr 1, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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Sweet potatoes can be a tough sell in my house, as I'm the only one who really loves them. (I don't understand...who doesn't crave sweet potato fries with curry sauce, which was a specialty at a few restaurants near our log house in Rhode Island?) However, I don't give up easily, and when I came across a recipe for sweet potato curry, made in the slow cooker, I knew might be a hit with at least one of my resident sweet potato skeptics. I was right. The dish has just enough heat to balance out the sweet. It will keep for two days in the refrigerator, and any leftovers also can be turned into soup with a quick zap from an immersion blender (or potato... Continue reading
Posted Mar 29, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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Is your house Party Central for your family celebrations, or the place where your friends gather to watch football/basketball/hockey playoffs or cheer on your alma mater in a college bowl? If your house is the place to be, these Tex-Mex turkey meatball sliders should be there, too. They're tasty and easy, and can be made far ahead of when you need them. Everyone loves meatballs, and these sliders are no more than that -- giant meatballs packed with your favorite Tex-Mex seasonings (and with sour cream inside). Even with a little bit of cayenne pepper, these are not spicy. However, they are a little bit messy, as the mashed avocado tends to squirt out with the first bite, so be sure to have plenty of... Continue reading
Posted Mar 26, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®