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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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From my living room window, I have an unimpeded view of one of the best pizzerias in Boston. In the early mornings, before the neighborhood is fully awake, I watch the lights go on when the bakers arrive to start the dough. Over the past ten years, I've eaten countless wood-oven pizzas with every imaginable topping on their crispy, sometimes puffy, always ethereal crust. These days, pizza is an occasional indulgence, mostly because of that amazing crust. So, to keep the carbs down, I've been making flatbread pizzas at home using this low-carb flatbread from the supermarket. Whatever shape of flatbread you use, make sure it will fit into an oven-safe frying pan (if your pan has a removeable rubber handle, be sure to slide... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at The Perfect Pantry®
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Every parent fantasizes about the perfect vegetable dish, the one children will adore and eat without protest (and ask for seconds). Maybe, just maybe, this cheesy broccoli brown rice will be that dish for your family. Maybe not, but I guarantee you will lick the bowl clean, even if your kids don't. This is a great base dish. For vegetarians, it's hearty enough to be a main course. Stir in some leftover rotisserie chicken, or grilled shrimp, to stretch it into an easy weeknight dinner for the whole family. The cashews on top are completely optional, but add a nice crunch. I make the whole recipe in my rice cooker, which is a small three-cup model, because it's just so much easier to make brown... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at The Perfect Pantry®
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My husband Ted, who doesn't eat pickles, supports my habit by biking to the farmers market every week to buy a big bag of cucumbers and a bunch of fresh dill. I whack off the top four or five inches of the dill fronds and layer them in a container with the cucumbers. Then, I wrap the rest of the dill in a plastic bag, and often forget about it until it withers and turns googly. Last week Ted rescued the forgotten dill, and combined it with lemon zest, yogurt and Greek seasoning to flavor a batch of turkey meatballs. A mix of regular dry breadcrumbs and flaky panko yielded a lighter texture that allowed the dill flavor to come through. In place of plain... Continue reading
Posted Sep 17, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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Comfort food, plain and simple. Even though this skillet supper of turkey sausage, potatoes, mushrooms and peppers might look like cold weather food, when you need it, you need it. And I needed it a couple of weeks ago, on one of the hottest days of the summer. I can't explain why, but as I stood, sweltering, over the stove, the aroma coming up from the pan made me happy, and that's what comfort food is supposed to do. My supermarket carries several brands of smoked lean turkey sausage, which is fully cooked, and I'm sure yours does, too. Choose your favorite for this dish. Add more potatoes, or more sausage, or more mushrooms, whatever you like. Proportions are not terribly important, as Julia Child... Continue reading
Posted Sep 13, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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The summer of 2016 might go down as the hottest summer on record, but in my kitchen, it will be known forever as The Summer of Pickles. If I laid all of the dill pickles I've made end-to-end, they'd probably reach all the way down the block! Alas, I can't do that, because I've eaten every one of them. This summer I've been making quick pickles from carrots and green beans, too. And today it's cabbage -- actually store-bought cole slaw mix -- given a quick pickling in a vinegar brine, then tossed with jalapeño pepper and cilantro, perfect for topping fish, shrimp, or chicken tacos. The cabbage stays crunchy and tart if eaten on the day it's made, but leave it overnight in the... Continue reading
Posted Sep 10, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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Soon after we moved to the log house, my husband Ted and I, with help from our friends Candy and Dave, planted a large herb garden right outside the front door. Over the years, the garden grew and grew, and we expanded our basil patch from three plants to a dozen. Two or three times each summer, we harvested our basil. We would pile the stalks on the kitchen table, and patiently strip the leaves. And then I would turn those leaves into pesto, some to use right away, the rest to go into the freezer for winter. That was then, and this is now. We live in the city, with no garden, and no easy access to the abundant and flavorful basil we used... Continue reading
Posted Sep 6, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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Here in Boston, tomato season passes in the blink of an eye. For a few weeks in August and early September, we overdose on tomatoes from the garden, tomatoes at the farmers markets, tomatoes from generous friends. For the rest of the year, we face the choice of buying plastic tomatoes in the supermarket, or moving to California. Most of our summer tomatoes go into salads, or on top of toasted bread with a slather of mayonnaise. Some morph into slow-roasted tomatoes to freeze and enjoy during the winter. Here are some of our favorite ways to savor tomatoes in all of their glory. When tomatoes are at their absolute peak, you need not do more than slice them, and savor them, in the world's... Continue reading
Posted Sep 3, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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My cousin Sandra deserves all the credit for bringing these amazing Thai chicken satay skewers into our lives. Neiman Marcus deserves credit, too, because the recipe originally appeared in one of their cookbooks, but to me, these will always be Sandra's skewers, because she introduced us to them. The chicken in this recipe marinates in a bold mixture of fish sauce, soy sauce, and herbs. Most satay marinades feature coconut milk, which mutes the power of the herbs a bit, but this one does not. The only changes I made were to reduce the amount of brown sugar, and to substitute lemongrass paste for a stalk of fresh lemongrass. We like to serve the skewers with light and easy sliced cucumber salad, and with our... Continue reading
Posted Aug 30, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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If there were a contest for the world's greatest cucumber lover, I'm one-hundred percent certain -- or even more, if that's possible -- that I would win, or at least be a strong contender for the title. I can't seem to get my fill of cucumbers these days. Every week this summer I've made dill pickles, or a batch of gazpacho, or cucumber smoothies. And when I can find the small pickling cucumbers, I munch on them for afternoon snacks, for a quick pick-me-up. Cucumber salads make the perfect accompaniment to Thai food, like the satay skewers in the photo below (I'll share that recipe in my next post), and this version uses ingredients you always have on hand in the pantry. To make very... Continue reading
Posted Aug 27, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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Does this ever happen to you? You assemble all of the ingredients for a particular recipe on your countertop, but somehow, you end up cooking something completely different? I won't tell you what I was planning to do with this salmon and corn, except to say it was, well, the opposite of soup, but the day demanded a chowder, and it couldn't have turned out better. Spontaneous changes in the menu require creative use of whatever is in the pantry, or, as in this case, what's not in the pantry. I had no chicken or fish stock in the freezer or on the cupboard shelves, so I used the universal substitute -- water -- and added a bit of half-and-half. To keep the chowder gluten-free,... Continue reading
Posted Aug 23, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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To be honest, I'm not crazy about green beans, at least not when they're overcooked, mushy and limp. However, this is the summer of "if it's green, I'm grilling it," so it seemed only fair that I test out green beans on the grill last week. Who knew that grilled beans would stay fresh and still crispy, with just a hint of smoke from the grill? And they made perfect dippers for a spicy peanut-harissa sauce that also would be great with steak or slices of toasted bread. If you haven't tried green beans on the grill, I urge you to get out a grill basket and give it a try. You can make these beans on the panini press, too. I promise that once... Continue reading
Posted Aug 20, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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Which ingredients absolutely, positively, have to be in the perfect potato salad? I think we can all agree on potatoes, but what else? Celery? Pickles? Eggs? Sugar? Onions? When it comes to the perfect potato salad, I'm a potatoes-only purist. For me, it's more about the sauce that binds it all together, and I prefer tangy to sweet. However, I'm not against adding a good handful of garden-fresh herbs when I'm lucky enough to have some. This summer, I've been making lots of dill pickles, and there's always a good bit of fresh dill weed left over, so this creamy dilly potato salad has become the standard variation for the season. Don't skimp on the dill; it's an ingredient in its own right, and not... Continue reading
Posted Aug 16, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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Ah, turkey meatballs. It's no secret that my husband Ted and I love turkey meatballs seasoned any which way, and we have fun mixing up big batches and stashing them in the freezer for salads and meatball sandwiches. This summer I've fallen in love with salsa verde -- spicy green tomatillo-based salsa -- so it was inevitable that salsa would find its way into our most recent meatball variation. The key to these meatballs is to drain the salsa of excess liquid, so that what you add to the meatball mix is mostly the solids that carry all of the salsa spices. It takes just a few minutes, and you can set the salsa in a sieve to drain while you assemble the remaining ingredients.... Continue reading
Posted Aug 13, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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Whenever I buy a quart-size bottle of buttermilk (and why is there is no other size available?), I use some for baking, some for salad dressing, and the rest for marinades. Buttermilk is a great tenderizer, as any fried-chicken lover knows, and that's especially handy for grilled boneless, skinless chicken breasts, which can dry out quickly on the hot grill unless they've been marinated first. This recipe calls for a quick marinade, of one hour but not more than two hours, so with buttermilk and chicken breasts on hand, you can start this when you get home from work, and have it on the grill in time for dinner. Add a side of potato salad, some grilled vegetables brushed with olive oil and seasoned with... Continue reading
Posted Aug 9, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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I love farmers market season, when every variety of every vegetable is available, fresh picked on the day it comes to market. If you find multi-colored carrots at the market, buy them for this recipe, but if you don't, choose the most beautiful orange carrots you can find. The colors all taste the same. Slice them very thinly with a sharp knife or, preferably, on a mandoline. When you put together a picnic, cookout or spur-of-the-moment summer dinner, a few quick and easy side dishes in your repertoire can fill in the blanks between the protein on the grill, and cookies or brownies for dessert. These pickled carrots take less than an hour to prepare, including the time it takes to find the mandoline that... Continue reading
Posted Aug 6, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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We haven't actually gone fishing, like these folks we saw on a recent walk around Pleasure Bay in Boston, but we're taking Saturdays off for the month of August. See you in September with a new Saturday fun feature! Continue reading
Posted Aug 5, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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My slow cooker summers on the countertop, seeing even more action in my little kitchen than it does in the cold weather months. I'm much more willing to flip a switch on the cooker than I am to endure the heat of the oven or stove. That does not mean I'm averse to hot food, especially hot and spicy food, the kind of food that originates in hot-weather countries. For this shredded beef, I use my favorite flat-cut brisket, covered with a dry rub, then simmered in a sauce made entirely of tart green salsa verde (made with tomatillos rather than tomatoes). What could be easier? You can find salsa verde in fiery or mild varieties, so please choose your favorite. Though I often use... Continue reading
Posted Aug 2, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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When the zucchini come in, there's almost no way to keep up. A few are bound to get too big, or too old, before you get around to harvesting or cooking them. You can carve those over-the-top zucchini into boats, and stuff them (or float them!), or you can spiralize them into noodles. I love zucchini noodles, which are, somehow, a lighter version of diced or sliced zucchini. They hold less water, so they don't need to be salted and drained before you use them. I like to give zucchini noodles (also called, charmingly, zoodles) a quick sauté before adding them to this egg casserole, along with the onion and bell pepper, just to make sure they don't leave any excess liquid in the final... Continue reading
Posted Jul 30, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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I love old houses, and all the nooks and crannies built into them by generations of owners. So it stands to reason that I love old house pantries, like Amy's Virginia Pantry #129. Visit the original post to see what's behind the doors, and how she filled all of those wonderful old spaces and shelves. Then, come back and let us know if you love Pantry #129 as much as I do. Continue reading
Posted Jul 29, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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When I see pickling cucumbers at the farmers market, I am the moth drawn to the flame. I must have them. And when I see fresh dill, I must have that, too. And then I make dill pickles, lots and lots of them. Sometimes, however, I find cucumbers but no dill, and for those times, I have my friend Pauline's bread and butter pickle recipe. Pauline, who left us for the great kitchen in the sky last year, taught me many complicated dishes, from her French-Canadian heritage and her stints living in other parts of the country, and she taught me this simple one. The only change I've made is to cut down on the sugar (and even at that, most of the sugar remains... Continue reading
Posted Jul 26, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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Years ago, while shopping at one of my favorite Latino grocery stores, Tropical Foods in Boston's Roxbury neighborhood, I bought a bottle of something labeled "Naranja Agria", sour orange juice. It was sour, alright -- I found out the hard way -- not a juice for drinking, but a juice to use as a marinade. Until recently, I'd forgotten all about sour orange. A few days ago, I had some regular orange juice in the refrigerator, and a pile of limes on the countertop, and the combination of the two approximates the flavor of that sour orange juice. It's not a concoction you'd want to drink for breakfast, but it does make a bright, fresh, quick marinade for chicken on the grill. Add a few... Continue reading
Posted Jul 23, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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When Barbara from California shared this photo of her built-in spice rack in Pantry #81, readers of The Perfect Pantry collectively sighed. This was indeed a perfect pantry! We all wanted one. Please visit the original post to learn more about Barbara's spice rack. Then, come back and let us know if you love Pantry #81 as much as I do. Continue reading
Posted Jul 22, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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While I don't buy much prepared food -- too much salt, too many additives -- I have absolutely no problem buying convenience foods when they're going to save me time in the kitchen. One of those products, broccoli slaw, tops the list, and I use it in salads all summer long. Just like cabbage-based cole slaw mix, broccoli slaw (a blend of julienned carrots and broccoli stems) absorbs almost any dressing. And it loves mix-ins, like nuts, fruit, shrimp or tofu. Toss broccoli slaw with a vinaigrette, yogurt, or some lemon or lime; all are tenderizers and will soften the broccoli the longer the salad sits in the dressing. Use your imagination, and poke around in the pantry; you're sure to come up with your... Continue reading
Posted Jul 19, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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For some reason, I seldom make couscous in cold weather, except when I cook a long-simmering tagine, for which couscous is the best possible base. I can't explain why, but I think of couscous more as a summer mix-in. It's quick to prepare (the instant variety, that is) and light, yet provides body to vegetable dishes and salads. In this recipe for couscous with shrimp, avocado, tomato and mint, the couscous fills in the little spaces in between, and it absorbs a bit of the lemon dressing that pulls everything together. It's a perfect picnic main course that you can make several hours ahead, and you can prepare some with shrimp and some without, for your vegan friends. Lemony couscous with shrimp, avocado, tomato and... Continue reading
Posted Jul 16, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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In my next life, I will marry a carpenter. Look at the wonderful shelving in Lili's Minnesota Pantry #74! I have shelf envy. Visit the original post to see more photos of these storage ideas, as well as more cubby holes, and more slots, and more drawers. Then, come back and let us know: do you love Pantry #74 as much as I do? Continue reading
Posted Jul 15, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®