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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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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 yesterday 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 4 days ago 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 5 days ago 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®
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My friend Sarah has the greenest thumb of anyone I have ever known. On a small plot of land in the local community garden, she grows a lush variety of flowers, herbs and vegetables. Recently a big bunch of her mint, newly trimmed, found its way to my kitchen -- thank you, thank you -- so much, so fragrant, that I wanted to keep it forever. Well, not forever, but for the summer, and I think I found a way. In the freezer, I found a bag of chopped walnut pieces, intended for baking in cookies. Into the food processor went the large bunch of mint leaves, plus walnuts and a few more things from the pantry. Voila! A mild-tasting, yet garlicky, pesto that's perfect... Continue reading
Posted Jul 12, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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If it's green, I'm grilling it: that's my motto for this summer. After years of grilling asparagus (still my favorite way to cook it), I've moved on to the leafy greens like lettuce and bok choy. There's no stopping me. Proximity to a wonderful Asian grocery store gives me endless access to big bags of baby bok choy, and also makes it easy to keep my pantry stocked with Asian ingredients. Bok choy is a cabbage, which means it has a mild but distinct flavor of its own, and also takes well to strong flavors around it. For this and other sauces, I like to use a new-to-my-pantry ingredient, chili pepper stir-in paste, that I buy in the produce section of my supermarket; you can... Continue reading
Posted Jul 9, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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I'm a total sucker for creative spice storage, and for turquoise kitchens, so you can imagine how excited and inspired I was, way back in February 2008, to peek into Pantry #3 from Rachel, in Baltimore. Visit the original post to see more photos of Pantry #3. More turquoise! More storage solutions! Then, come back and let us know: do you love Pantry #3 as much as I do? Continue reading
Posted Jul 8, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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What does it take to make a really great sandwich? Not much, but the secret to greatness is that each element must be the very best version of itself. For this steak sandwich with spicy harissa-lime sauce, start with good bread, a baguette or ciabatta loaf. Soft, leafy lettuce. Steak, any cut you like, grilled just the way you like it. (I use flank steak, which cooks quickly and slices easily.) And a good slathering of this simple yet spectacular sauce, made with real mayonnaise, which is the key to this sandwich. That's it. That's all you need. Steak sandwich with spicy harissa-lime sauce From the pantry, you'll need: mayonnaise, harissa, lime, fresh black pepper. Serves 4; can be multiplied. Ingredients 1/4 cup mayonnaise 1... Continue reading
Posted Jul 5, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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In the not-wholly-Kosher house where I grew up, shrimp cocktail was forbidden fruit, but when we went out for a "fancy" dinner, somehow it became precious permitted fruit. Go figure. I love shrimp in all of its guises. I always have, and I always will. On the other hand, the cocktail sauce I remember -- often filled with sugar -- isn't something I indulge in as an adult. This kiwi salsa fresca, made with yellow kiwis that I happened to luck into at a local market, adds zing (as much or as little as you like), balanced by sweetness from the fruit itself. Grill the shrimp, or roast them under the broiler. The whole dish, both shrimp and salsa, takes just a few minutes to... Continue reading
Posted Jul 2, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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Many of my favorite pantries involve adaptive, creative reuse of standard or recycled materials. Grace did just that in her West Virginia pantry #113. Visit the original post to see what's behind these doors. Then, come back and let us know: do you love Pantry #113 as much as I do? Continue reading
Posted Jul 1, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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We have a new grill! We have a new grill! My husband Ted and I have been grill-free since we left the log house, so we're beyond excited to be grilling in our little Boston back yard. First up, one of my favorite cuts of meat, boneless leg of lamb. For an overnight marinade, I combined the Middle Eastern spices I love so much on shish taouk (garlic chicken on skewers): lemon, allspice, and loads of garlic. I added a bit of cinnamon, too. On the day I made this to photograph, I overcooked the lamb a little bit (still getting used to the new grill), but the flavor was so good that it didn't slow us down at all. While the meat was cooling,... Continue reading
Posted Jun 28, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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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 Jun 25, 2016 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 Jun 24, 2016 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 Jun 21, 2016 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®