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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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[Welcome to Like or Dislike, where you get to share how you really feel about ingredients from the pantry, ingredients I'm thinking about adding to my pantry, other seasonal foods, and favorite cooking gear. The things you like are sure to find their way to the recipes here on The Perfect Pantry, so do tell.] Cornstarch is enjoying a resurgence in my pantry these days. Not only is it a great coating for stir-fried foods, but it's also my thickener of choice when I make stews and some sauces. Because it's gluten-free, cornstarch helps me cook for my gluten-free friends.... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at The Perfect Pantry®
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At long last, in the middle of January, snow arrived in Boston. Not a huge amount yet, but more is on the way, and I'm going to make plenty of leftover mashed potato cheese soup to reward the hardy shovelers. Use your favorite mashed potatoes as the base. You could even use mashed garlic sweet potatoes. Loosen them up in a Dutch oven with a bit of vegetable stock or water; add spices; whisk in the yogurt and cheese; let everything melt together. This creamy good potato soup doesn't have any cream in it; Greek yogurt helps enrich the soup.... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at The Perfect Pantry®
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What can I tell you? This Mexican-inspired green pozole beef stew zigged, and then it zagged, and in the end, it landed perfectly. In the first version I tried to incorporate a couple of cups of blue corn kernels, a gift from my friend Candy in Albuquerque. It turns out I should have pre-cooked the corn to soften it; the kernels remained hard and chewy long after the meat was tender. Hard, chewy, and a very odd blue-ish purple. In the second version, I used canned hominy, whole corn kernels that have been dried, then treated, so they look like... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at The Perfect Pantry®
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[Welcome to Like or Dislike, where you get to share how you really feel about ingredients from the pantry, ingredients I'm thinking about adding to my pantry, other seasonal foods, and favorite cooking gear. The things you like are sure to find their way to the recipes here on The Perfect Pantry, so do tell.] I'm having a hard time imagining anyone not liking olive oil. It's not the only oil I use, but it's always, always, always in my kitchen. I keep both extra-virgin olive oil, the really good kind, with a more delicate flavor, for finishing salads and... Continue reading
Posted Jan 29, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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Back in November 2006, I first shared this recipe for white fish seasoned with harissa, the fiery pepper paste of North African origin. In need of new photographs, the recipe also benefited from a bit of freshening up. I'd forgotten how easy it is to prepare, and how easily it fits into a low-calorie start to the year. Use any type of fish you like; white fish is typical, but salmon would be fine, too. Don't be afraid of the harissa; I promise that it mellows a bit in the cooking of this fish. Not like Donovan mellow, but mellow... Continue reading
Posted Jan 26, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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What's your go-to recipe, the one you make when you absolutely cannot think of what to cook for dinner, or you can think of something but don't have the ingredients, or you do have the ingredients but don't have the energy? For me, that recipe is most often a Thai curry. Quick and easy Thai curries require only a few key ingredients -- coconut milk and Thai curry paste -- plus some seasonings like lime, sugar, and fish sauce. From there, add a protein and vegetables. That's all you need to do. Because there are so few ingredients, make sure... Continue reading
Posted Jan 23, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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[Welcome to Like or Dislike, where you get to share how you really feel about ingredients from the pantry, ingredients I'm thinking about adding to my pantry, other seasonal foods, and favorite cooking gear. The things you like are sure to find their way to the recipes here on The Perfect Pantry, so do tell.] Now that I live in the city, with a little market right across the street, when I crave something chocolate I tend to run out and get a Hershey bar. I forget all about the cocoa powder that is always in my pantry. The cocoa... Continue reading
Posted Jan 22, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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Born of a post-holiday cold combined with a desperate craving for anything I could make that didn't require a trip to the market, this cheese tortellini and kale soup sprang to life in minutes, cured the sniffles, and used ingredients I always have in the pantry and refrigerator. And I pulled it together while in my pajamas, with a box of tissues under my arm. For kale, you can substitute spinach or chard. For homemade post-Thanksgiving turkey broth, you can swap storebought low-sodium chicken broth, or a rich vegetable stock. Instead of cheese tortellini, try broken pieces of lasagna noodles... Continue reading
Posted Jan 19, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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On any Chinese restaurant take-out menu, this famous chicken dish (which might be called General Tso's, or General Tsao's, or General Gao's, which is our local spelling) would rate a few hot red peppers next to the name. It's spicy, or should be, and it's one of the two dishes by which I judge all Chinese American restaurants everywhere. (The other, lo mein, I make at home all the time, and my version is pretty good, so I'm a tough critic on that one, too.) In our house there's never enough General Gao's chicken to go around. This recipe makes... Continue reading
Posted Jan 16, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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[Welcome to Like or Dislike, where you get to share how you really feel about ingredients from the pantry, ingredients I'm thinking about adding to my pantry, other seasonal foods, and favorite cooking gear. The things you like are sure to find their way to the recipes here on The Perfect Pantry, so do tell.] Recently, my 25-year-old food processor bit the dust. Faced with the decision whether to replace it -- at this stage in my life, I'm downsizing everything -- I came to the realization that I simply do not want to be without a food processor ever... Continue reading
Posted Jan 15, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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Change: like or dislike? I love change. In the eleven months since The Perfect Pantry moved to smaller urban digs from a large space at the log house, I've made a few changes. The Downsizing forced me to consider every ingredient in the pantry -- would it come with us, or would it go -- and easier access to markets in my new neighborhood gave me options I didn't have before. A few of the ingredients I've been using lately have achieved "official" status as part of The Perfect Pantry, and I wanted to share those with you. And because... Continue reading
Posted Jan 12, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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"What makes these taste so good?" my husband Ted asked, after the first bite of these mushroom quesadillas with goat cheese and greens went dribbling down his chin. I started to explain about the gooey, melty goat cheese and how it holds the greens together while they wilt from the heat, but he didn't care. He was halfway through the quesadilla by then, bite after oozy bite. Nontraditional though they are, these quesadillas bundle the texture of mushrooms (sautéed to remove most of their excess liquid) with smooth goat cheese and a hint of dark leafy greens (use your favorite,... Continue reading
Posted Jan 9, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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[Welcome to Like or Dislike, where you get to share how you really feel about ingredients from the pantry, ingredients I'm thinking about adding to my pantry, other seasonal foods, and favorite cooking gear. The things you like are sure to find their way to the recipes here on The Perfect Pantry, so do tell.] I love "pearls" of couscous: large pearls, small pearls, white pearls, wheat pearls. It's all the same, all made the same way, semolina, sprinkled with water, rolled by hand (traditionally by women) into tiny pellets, dusted with flour to keep the granules separate, and put... Continue reading
Posted Jan 8, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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I'm grateful to slow cooker manufacturers everywhere for not actually building the airtight appliances they intended to build. Nothing makes me happier than the house filling with the aroma, escaping from under the lid, of whatever is gently cooking in the pot for many hours. A recipe like this Tex-Mex chicken and rice, with corn and black beans tucked here and there, can cook on the stovetop, but in the slow cooker, the flavors have a chance to intermingle on their own (without tending by you), and the musky scent of cumin warms up the kitchen as it cooks. You'll... Continue reading
Posted Jan 5, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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When you set out to create a new recipe, where do you start? Seasonality of the ingredients? Color? Shape? Texture? Sweet versus tart? All of the above? In the case of this easy pan-made farro with butternut squash and pears and dried cranberries and feta, I began with pears so ripe and ready for action that they practically jumped into the frying pan. I diced and sautéed those pears along with a bit of leftover peeled butternut squash, added some of my new favorite ten-minute farro, and the dish began to come together. Tart feta cheese balanced the sweet fruit,... Continue reading
Posted Jan 2, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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Every January for the past nine years, I've asked readers of The Perfect Pantry to think about how we all might do more to end hunger, and specifically childhood hunger, in the months ahead. This year, things are different. No, we have not solved the problem of hunger for the more than 16 million children in this country who don't get the food they need to grow and thrive. In fact, in this presidential election year, we're not talking very much about children, or nutrition, or education, or seniors or poverty or food deserts or school lunch programs or GMOs... Continue reading
Posted Jan 1, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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Instead of a huge dinner, with one large hunk of meat at the center, I prefer to set out a selection of small dishes so my holiday guests can pick and choose and nibble their way through an evening. For New Year's Eve, the "spread" can be extra-elaborate: cheese, bread, pickled things, some slices of smoked fish (and if you're a pork eating person, you'll want some prosciutto or other ham), fruit, roasted peppers, small bowls of pasta, spiced nuts. Any combination of dishes will work, but for me, regardless of whatever else is on the table, turkey meatballs are... Continue reading
Posted Dec 29, 2015 at The Perfect Pantry®
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When readers of my old soup blog asked me for bouktouf, I winced just a little bit. The recipe for this Algerian vegan soup calls for two bunches of cilantro, and I am one of those people to whom cilantro tastes like soap. It turns out that the bright orange color isn't the only surprising thing about this soup; the addition of a large amount of lemon juice tames the flavor of the cilantro, in a good way, and gives the soup a lovely freshness. Here's the original recipe from The Soup Peddler's Slow & Difficult Soups, word for word... Continue reading
Posted Dec 26, 2015 at The Perfect Pantry®
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Let's end the year with something a little bit sweet. Okay, more than a little bit, but not quite as sweet as honey. I love agave, and use it in my own balsamic vinaigrette dressing, in tomato sauce, drizzled on yogurt or ice cream, and a hundred other ways. Agave is a plant-based product, which makes it more acceptable than honey to some strict vegans. How about you? Is agave nectar in your pantry? Agave nectar: like or dislike? Last week: disposable pastry bags. Who liked, and who disliked? Take a peek. Continue reading
Posted Dec 25, 2015 at The Perfect Pantry®
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The idea for this rustic fish and fennel pot pie came to me in a dream, and unless you are Sigmund Freud (you're not, are you?), I'm not going to bore you with the details. Somewhere in the dream, I was planning a menu for La Vigilia, the traditional Italian Christmas Eve feast of seven fishes, which in real life I don't celebrate, so I'm sure it wasn't real. One of the dishes on my imaginary menu was a fish pot pie, and if I were making this for La Vigilia, I'd stuff it with several kinds of fish, and... Continue reading
Posted Dec 19, 2015 at The Perfect Pantry®
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Bakers and non-bakers alike might keep a stash of plastic, disposable pastry bags in the pantry. They're perfect for cookie icing, of course, but also for making fancy swirly designs with mashed potatoes. And, let's face it, the worst part of using a traditional cloth pastry bag is cleaning it out. I confess: I reach for these disposable bags more and more often these days, and I happily toss them away when I'm finished with them, no washing required. I'm wondering if you use them, too. Disposable pastry bags: like or dislike? Last week: black pepper. Who liked, and who... Continue reading
Posted Dec 18, 2015 at The Perfect Pantry®
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Generally, I think of myself as a person who has not led a fear-based life. And yet, I spent decades living in fear of pressure cookers (once you see green beans plastered to the kitchen ceiling, you cannot unsee them). So I owe this risotto to my friend Kalyn, who nudged me back into pressure cooking, which turned risotto from nearly an hour of stirring (and upper arm exhaustion) to a quick six minutes at high pressure in my fail-safe electric pressure cooker, making this spinach and kale risotto officially fast food. Sun-dried tomatoes bring a little sweetness to balance... Continue reading
Posted Dec 15, 2015 at The Perfect Pantry®
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A couple of years ago, I wouldn't have been caught in the same room with raw Brussels sprouts, let alone encourage you to make a salad with them, but here I am. With practice and determination, I've become a Brussels sprouts believer. Roasted or sauteéd, sprouts become soft and sweet. Raw, the sprouts keep their crunch. Mustard in the vinaigrette dressing helps to tenderize them a bit, without turning them to rubber. In the past, I've combined Brussels sprouts with bacon (always a winning combination), and with blueberries, but for the colors of the season, I love these raw shaved... Continue reading
Posted Dec 12, 2015 at The Perfect Pantry®
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It takes a lot to drive me to kitchen panic, so please appreciate when I tell you that I RAN OUT OF BLACK PEPPER a few weeks ago, and panic ensued. I was sure I had a bag stashed in the freezer, as I always do, but the move to a smaller pantry, followed by a couple of months away from cooking, threw me off. I can cook without salt, without thyme, without cheese, even without olive oil, but I cannot cook without black pepper. I used to be very particular about fresh-ground pepper, as in only a pepper grinder... Continue reading
Posted Dec 11, 2015 at The Perfect Pantry®
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On the days when I'm really in the mood to cook, I love to put some meals "in the bank" -- in other words, into the freezer, for the days when I'm really not in the mood to cook. These chicken enchilada roll-ups start with one of those "in the bank" dishes, quick and easy black beans and rice, and end as an all-in-one meal you can defrost, zap in the microwave, and serve any day of the week with just a few minutes of work. At this busy time of year, it's great to have a few easy meals... Continue reading
Posted Dec 8, 2015 at The Perfect Pantry®