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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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At this time of year -- beautiful springtime in New England -- I get asked often whether I miss living in the log house in rural northwest Rhode Island. To be honest, I don't miss the pollen clouds, the stink bugs, the carpenter bees. I don't miss mowing the lawn, or weeding the large herb garden, or fending off deer, squirrels and rabbits, just to save a few tomatoes on the vine. Another thing I do not miss is the limited access to a wide range of ingredients. Now that we're living The Downsized Life here in Boston, we can get anything. Our regular grocery store carries a variety of produce used in Caribbean and Latino cooking, to meet the needs of those large populations.... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at The Perfect Pantry®
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Another droolworthy pantry, Mary's Pantry #7 in Texas, made me want to build a new house just to hold one of these rooms! Visit the original post to see more photos of the entire pantry. Then, come back and let us know: do you love Pantry #7 as much as I do? Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at The Perfect Pantry®
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Turkey burgers, the lighter and leaner cousin of hamburgers, always need a helping hand to keep them from drying out and turning to hockey pucks on the grill. You can blend some grated zucchini with the meat, or add yogurt, as I do in my turkey meatballs, or try a different strategy as I've done here. For this burger, I put the cheese inside, and tucked in some diced green chile peppers, too, because there was plenty of room. Canned green chiles are not very spicy, but you can use half the amount if you prefer. While the grill is hot, throw on some onion rings, and pile those on the burgers with slices of juicy tomatoes. And if lots of cheese is your thing,... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at The Perfect Pantry®
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By now, if you're a regular reader of more than one food blog, you've read plenty of anniversary posts, celebrating one year, five years, and sometimes more. You've probably read some of those posts here, too. A few days ago, this blog turned 10, and the occasion calls for some words. Ah, but what kind of words? Aspirational, or inspirational? I considered telling the truth: I spend many hours writing blog posts in my pajamas while watching shelter shows on HGTV, which means I might be even better at home renovation now than I am at cooking. Instead, I decided to look back through the archives, and as I did, I realized that not only has my blogging changed, but my cooking also has changed:... Continue reading
Posted Jun 18, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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Every Saturday for four years, beginning in February 2008, The Perfect Pantry peeked into Other People's Pantries from all around the world, as readers shared their best tips and personal touches in wonderful photographs. Pantry #1, from Mae in Michigan, showed us her spice storage and collection of Mona Lisa objects, and that set the tone for what became a favorite feature on this blog. Over the next few weeks, I invite you to revisit some of my favorite pantries, to celebrate your creativity and inventiveness, eclectic and practical storage solutions, and just plain over-the-top fabulousness. You can always browse through the entire collection of pantry photos by clicking on the Pantries link at the top of the page. If you're still dreaming of creating... Continue reading
Posted Jun 17, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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My friend Lucia married her sweetheart, Sandy, a couple of weeks ago, and when people marry in midlife, it's always a happy affair. The celebration, a potluck, demanded a festive and elegant contribution, and for that, nothing fit the bill better than Chicken Marbella. With all of the extra bits of ingredients out on the kitchen counter, and a few leftovers in the fridge, I mixed up this gorgeous salad, and it was a total winner, wedding-worthy in its own right. If you're a fan of rice and beans, or of Chicken Marbella, you'll love this salad, because it marries the two dishes. Use leftover cooked rice, canned beans, a little bit of chicken breast (or store-bought rotisserie chicken), and lots of olives, capers and... Continue reading
Posted Jun 14, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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When the weather heats up, my little kitchen does, too. One way to beat the heat is by using the slow cooker. No need to turn on the stove, or stand over it to stir-fry or sauté. In fact, no need to pay any attention at all for most of the day, save a few minutes of prep, and a few minutes of shredding at the end of the cooking. You can spend the rest of the day at the beach, in the pool, or reading a book. I love one-dish meals, and I love beef brisket (you might have guessed that by now), so you know how much I love this slow cooker shredded beef brisket that's salty, tangy, with a little bit of... Continue reading
Posted Jun 11, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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Have you had time to watch all of the food flicks from last week's list? No? I'm not surprised, as there were so many good films on the list. Here are some more recent favorites (made since the year 2000) in which food plays a role. (We didn't include documentaries. We'll do that another time.) How many have you seen? Which ones are new to you? Did we forget any? Ratatouille Chef The Lunch Box The Hundred Foot Journey Bon Appetit Haute Cuisine Julie and Julia It's Complicated Pieces of April Soul Kitchen Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs Tortilla Soup No Reservations Le Grand Chef Waitress Today's Special Tasting Menu Le Chef The Chef's Wife Romantics Anonymous Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the remake,... Continue reading
Posted Jun 10, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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This season, I'm grilling greens. Not just the typical asparagus and zucchini, but the leafy greens usually reserved for salads. Cabbage and bok choy and kale. And now, lettuce. Something wonderful happens to greens on the grill. They get warm and a little bit smoky, and they taste sweeter, too. Chop your grilled greens and add them to salads like this grilled lettuce salad with tomato, cucumber, bacon, cheese, and a creamy dressing. Or use them as wraps, replacing tortillas or rice paper wrappers. For something new at your next barbecue, toss your greens with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, and throw them on the grill. You're going to love it. Grilled lettuce salad with creamy Dijon dressing From the pantry, you'll... Continue reading
Posted Jun 7, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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Do your taste buds tingle whenever you think of lemon? Mine do, and sometimes, that tingling is the sensation I crave, more than salty chips, more than rich chocolate, more than fiery hot sauce. Lemon in any form will calm the craving, but lemon in this form, lemon scones with a lemon glaze, takes the prize. Scones are casual, and if you have all of the ingredients on hand, these scones take less than an hour, start to finish. You can make pat the dough out and cut it into perfect little triangles or squares, but I like this method, large balls of dough formed with the aid of an ice cream scoop. The result is ten good-sized scones, perfect for a weekend brunch. And... Continue reading
Posted Jun 4, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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You can't say that The Perfect Pantry doesn't try to keep you entertained! There are so many great movies where food plays a part that we had to split the list in two. Get ready to start searching; most are available on Netflix or Amazon Prime, but for some of the older films, you'll have to hit the library. Today, food-related flicks up to the year 2000. (See our list of films since the year 2000 here.) How many have you seen? Which ones are new to you? Did we forget any? Babette's Feast Dinner Rush Mostly Martha Like Water for Chocolate Le Grande Bouffe Tampopo Eat Drink Man Woman Chocolat My Dinner with Andre Toast Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? Willy... Continue reading
Posted Jun 3, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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In the summer, you want things to be simple. Throw some tandoori spiced grilled lamb, flank steak with ponzu and honey glaze or chicken bulgogi -- or hamburgers and hot dogs -- on the grill, and spend 5 minutes whipping up this sweet and easy cole slaw. It keeps for three days in the refrigerator, and deserves a place on any picnic table. Recently, there's been some sort of cole slaw shortage around my neighborhood. The supermarket deli sections don't have it in stock, which seems crazy as cookout and picnic season is upon us. No need to worry, though, because cole slaw is so easy to make at home. Save yourself time and effort by starting with store-bought cole slaw mix (shredded cabbage and... Continue reading
Posted May 31, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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This is my summer of thighs. No, not my thighs, the ones I don't want to show in a bathing suit: I'm talking about chicken thighs. My freezer runneth over with packages of boneless, skinless chicken thighs. (Consider yourselves warned.) If you are reading this in the morning, you could be eating this for lunch or dinner. The grilled chicken requires a quick marinade, made from ingredients you probably always have in the pantry (and can buy at the regular grocery store). And once cooked, the chicken tastes good hot or cold, which makes it a great make-ahead dish for summer entertaining. If you don't have a grill, go ahead and cook this under the broiler. I love to serve the chicken sliced and wrapped... Continue reading
Posted May 28, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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Serial introduced me to podcasts. On one weekend drive to New York City, my husband Ted and I binge-listened to the entire first season. I wanted more. Debbie Millman's Design Matters podcast kept me hooked; I even watched a telecast of her podcast. I wanted more. Public television brought us Julia Child, and public radio brought us The Splendid Table, hosted by Lynn Rossetto Kasper, more than 20 years ago and still going strong. They also brought us Radiolab, one of my granddaughter's delightful addictions. I never listened to food podcasts very much until I met Janice and Liz, the Meal Makeover Moms, and discovered their great podcast. Now I enjoy listening to my friend Jane's This Week for Dinner, which features interviews with food... Continue reading
Posted May 27, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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When it comes to revisiting old recipes, things don't always work out the way I plan. A post from 2008 needed updating with new photographs -- easy enough -- but when it came time to make the recipe, I realized that this was another case of how my cooking style and tastes have changed. Perfect for the broiler or grill and ideal for Meatless Mondays (and vegan friends), this tofu and asparagus dish with a rich, salty hoisin and sesame sauce bears slight resemblance to the original. I've simplified the number of ingredients, and eliminated the noodles, which I seldom eat these days. The grill lends a slightly smoky taste to the tofu, which is lovely but not entirely necessary if, like me, you don't... Continue reading
Posted May 24, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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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 May 21, 2016 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 May 20, 2016 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 May 17, 2016 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®