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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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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 54 minutes ago 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 4 days ago 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 7 days ago 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®
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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®