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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
Fresh corn season flew by this year, and I never got around to making this salad for you. Sure, I could have waited to share the recipe until next August, a full ten months away, but there's no reason not to enjoy corn all year long. Good quality flash-frozen organic corn always has a place in my freezer, and a little bit of tender loving care brings it to life in salads, puddings, cornbreads and soups. If you're making a list of perfect side dishes for a Friday night roast chicken or roast beef, put this corn salad near the top. The secret to perking up frozen corn is to give it a quick roast in the oven with salt and pepper. Of course, if... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at The Perfect Pantry®
Do you soup swap? Whether it's an informal trade with a neighbor, or a more organized Soup Swap party with a group of friends, making and sharing soup is as comforting as a pot of soup itself. The basic idea of soup swap is that you exchange quart-size containers of soup with general appeal (everyone does not love borscht, as it turns out), that can be frozen for enjoyment throughout the cool weather months. It's great fun to make something you know will nestle into a friend's freezer, to be pulled out and savored on a chilly evening. For my next swap, I wanted to create a make-ahead-and-freeze bean soup with neither tomato nor hot pepper in any form. This turkey, red bean and cabbage... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at The Perfect Pantry®
When we moved from log house to city apartment, I downsized my large cookbook collection, and kept fewer than 100 cookbooks. What made the cut, and why? The Silver Palate Cookbook 25th Anniversary Edition, by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins (2007) Why I've kept it: The original Silver Palate Cookbook was, to cooks of my generation, what Joy of Cooking was to our parents. Unique in format, packed with lots of informative and sometimes amusing sidebars, The Silver Palate Cookbook -- born of a popular New York City gourmet take-out shop -- introduced us to bold ingredients, unusual flavor combinations, and fearless entertaining. Chapters covered appetizers to desserts, plus brunch and beverages. When my original paperback copy came apart at the seams, I knew I... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at The Perfect Pantry®
There are buckwheat noodles, and there are buckwheat noodles, and if you follow a gluten-free diet, you know what I mean. Some brands contain wheat flour as well as buckwheat; some contain yam or sweet potato; several brands are 100 percent buckwheat. I think they all taste so similar that, unless you have celiac disease, you can cook with them interchangeably. Read the labels when you shop at Asian markets; by law, ingredients must be listed in English on packaged foods sold in the United States. Soba noodles make a perfect backdrop for sauces with citrus, and here it's lime that provides the tart balance to the earthy buckwheat. My friend Sarah gave me a gorgeous yellow cucumber, as well as mint from her community... Continue reading
Posted Oct 18, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
For someone who suffers from appetizer anxiety like I do, these little bacon, lettuce and tomato skewers couldn't be easier. The only cooking is the bacon, and you actually have to undercook it to be able to thread it onto the skewers. And, who doesn't love a good BLT? I love to serve these little bites with wasabi mayonnaise, which really packs a punch, and adheres somewhat to the spirit of a traditional BLT sandwich. You can mix up any dipping sauce you like, with mayonnaise as the base. Instead of wasabi, try adding Sriracha sauce, or some of the adobo sauce from a can of chipotle peppers. Don't want spicy? How about stirring some basil pesto into your mayo, or garlicky Green Goddess salad... Continue reading
Posted Oct 15, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
When we moved from log house to city apartment, I downsized my large cookbook collection, and kept fewer than 100 cookbooks. What made the cut, and why? Slow Cooker Comfort Food: 275 Soul-Satisfying Recipes, by Judith Finlayson (2009) Why I've kept it: In the house where I grew up, there were no slow cookers. My mother's cookware arsenal -- frying pan, roasting pan, and a set of blue-and-white nested CorningWare pots in totally impractical sizes -- covered all of her cooking needs. Though she was a working mom, she never had a slow cooker. I can't imagine how she managed without one. My own adventures in slow cooker cooking began just a few years ago, with a $19 four-quart cooker purchased at a discount store,... Continue reading
Posted Oct 14, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
Some people create beautiful appetizers -- elegant, interesting, the memorable appetizers, perfectly arranged on a perfect platter, that take you by the hand and lead you into the meal. Not me. I have perpetual appetizer anxiety. I want to zoom right past them, to soup or an entreé. Sometimes, however, a host must serve apps. Thank goodness for mini phyllo shells. They are the little black dress of appetizers. Any filling you can imagine looks better in a one-bite cup of phyllo dough. They come in packages of 15, ready to eat as is, or to bake for a few minutes. I've filled them with sweet fillings, and savory ones. Easy, easy, easy. These no-bake pesto cheese bites are savory, and the filling takes about... Continue reading
Posted Oct 11, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
One of my all-time favorite Chinese restaurant take-out recipes, shrimp lo mein finally gets the photo update it deserves. I first shared this recipe in 2008, in an ingredient post about oyster sauce, and I updated the post in 2010 with photos that made this dish look anything but appetizing. I hope these new photos will give you an idea of how much you'll love these salty, slurpy noodles, and how easy it is to make great lo mein at home. The basic sauce, what I call the Cantonese 3-2-1 Trinity, relies on staples from the pantry: three parts reduced-sodium soy sauce, two parts oyster sauce (also called oyster-flavor sauce), and one part sesame oil. You can use this mixture to season all types of... Continue reading
Posted Oct 8, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
When we moved from log house to city apartment, I downsized my large cookbook collection, and kept fewer than 100 cookbooks. What made the cut, and why? The Sriracha Cookbook, by Randy Clemens (2011) Why I've kept it: Small is beautiful, except when it comes to the size of the Sriracha bottle in my refrigerator, which is the largest that will fit on the shelf. This little collection of 50 "rooster sauce" recipes packs a huge punch. Recipes include starters to dessert and even cocktails, all kicked-up with the heat of Sriracha hot chili sauce. Whenever I flip through this book, I get inspired in new ways to turn up the heat in my own cooking. You'll love the miso-Sriracha glazed salmon, the first recipe... Continue reading
Posted Oct 7, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
FACT: Bacon makes everything better. It doesn't take much bacon to perk up any recipe, especially something as fundamentally bland as rice. And kids are more likely to eat a bowl of rice with vegetables if it also has easy-to-spot pieces of bacon bobbing here and there. In this recipe, bacon lends its salty, smoky notes to an already-rich risotto. After rendering the bacon fat in the pot (or the electric pressure cooker, which is my preferred way of cooking risotto these days), you remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and return it to the pot after the rice is done. The rice cooks in the rendered bacon fat, plus a little bit of olive oil. Broccoli, stirred in after the rice finishes, benefits... Continue reading
Posted Oct 4, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
The calendar tells me that soup season has arrived, but even without the calendar, I feel it in my bones. Cooler temperatures, dry air, a few leaves changing color here and there: it all spells soup. After the humid heat of summer, I'm finally willing to turn the stove on again. To get my soup-making juices flowing, I raided my pantry a couple of weeks ago to create a pot of tomato soup with a spicy kick. The tomato base combines canned chopped tomatoes, red sofrito, and mild red enchilada sauce. Rice gives the soup body, and you can omit the added jalapeño pepper if you want a milder soup. As is, this soup is vegan and gluten-free, but I'd never discourage you from topping... Continue reading
Posted Oct 1, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
If you've been reading The Perfect Pantry for the past couple of years, you know about The Downsizing. When my husband Ted and I moved from the log house in Rhode Island to a small apartment in Boston's South End, we consolidated everything, from furniture, to cookware, to art and shoes and camping gear. And, yes, cookbooks. What began as a collection of close to 1,000 found new homes in local libraries (including our Little Free Library), nonprofit agencies, and friends' kitchens. In the end, I kept fewer than 100 cookbooks. What made the cut, and why? Some are classics, some encyclopedic, some oldish (and others newish), some locally-produced paperbacks acquired on my travels, and some... well, I just couldn't let them go. Stick around... Continue reading
Posted Sep 30, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
Why do the words pasta salad strike fear in the hearts of eaters everywhere? I know why. Pasta salad is hard to get right. It can be too watery, or too dry, or too chewy, or too bland. I'll bet everyone has experienced at least one of these less-than-wonderful pasta salads, especially the versions that sit for far too long on buffet tables. Don't worry: you can make much better pasta salad at home. There are a couple of secrets to good pasta salad. One, make sure the pasta is fully cooked; there's nothing trendy about biting into an al dente piece of cold pasta. Two, make sure the pasta is minimally dressed. If you end up with too much dressing at the bottom of... Continue reading
Posted Sep 27, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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 Sep 24, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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 Sep 20, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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®
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®
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®
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®
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®
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®
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®
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®
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®
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®