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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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Just when it seems I've fed my husband Ted every imaginable variation of beef stew, I hit on another flavor combination that becomes a new favorite. So it is with this sweet and sour beef stew, made easily in the slow cooker. The seasonings for this stew draw on Moroccan tradition, cinnamon and allspice paired with dried fruit (raisins, though you could substitute dried apricots). Brown sugar boosts the sweetness, and apple cider vinegar provides the sour. Overall, the combination is lighter than my traditional wine-based stew. Carrots and butternut squash are the perfect addition, because they, too, become sweeter with long cooking. Serve the stew over pasta, as we do, or couscous or rice. Like most stews, this one freezes well, and is even... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at The Perfect Pantry®
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Inspiralized, by Ali Maffucci (2015) Why I've kept it: Did you buy a Spiralizer when it was all the rage a couple of years ago? Do you make zoodles (zucchini noodles) instead of spaghetti? Did you know you can turn other vegetables into noodles, like celeriac and rutabaga and beets and chayote? Until I picked up this book, I never made noodles out of anything except zucchini. Inspiralized opened my eyes. The recipes are imaginative, healthy, and visually beautiful, combining colors, textures and the interesting shapes that spiralized vegetables add to the plate. And the notes in the front section provide invaluable tips and techniques for processing different types of vegetables. If you're finally tackling your holiday gift list in earnest, consider this cookbook paired... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at The Perfect Pantry®
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Here in Boston, we're deep into soup season, and there's no soup more comforting than fish chowder. Big chunks of flaky white fish, golden potatoes, onions and herbs: there's nothing better on a chilly afternoon. It's easy to make chowder. Start with any mild white fish that looks good in the market -- cod, halibut, haddock -- or with flash-frozen fish fillets from Trader Joe's, if that's what you have. Jazz it up a bit by broiling it with a sprinkling of Old Bay Seasoning. I like to use Yukon Gold potatoes, but any potatoes cut into smaller pieces will be fine. Fresh herbs are great, but dried herbs will be great, too. Substitute milk for cream, to save a couple of calories. You can... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at The Perfect Pantry®
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After a week's vacation in South Florida, I have tacos on the brain. Fish tacos tempted us everywhere (have you ever tried corvina?), and every menu offered chicken, beef, and carnitas tacos, too. I love the idea of carnitas -- long-cooked shredded pork, crisped up at the end of the cooking -- but I don't eat pork. And then it occurred to me that I could make my own slow cooker carnitas out of beef or chicken, and I could enjoy those burnt edges, too. Use your favorite cut of beef, or meaty chicken thighs, for this recipe; I love brisket, so of course that's what I used here. Give the meat a dry rub, then cook it on low heat in the slow cooker.... Continue reading
Posted Dec 3, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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The Indian Slow Cooker: 50 Healthy, Easy, Authentic Recipes, by Anupy Singla (2010) Why I've kept it: Recipes for Indian food, which I love to eat, scare me. There, I've said it. Mixing, toasting, grinding, and layering all of the spices makes me feel completely fumble-fingered, and I've always preferred to enjoy Indian dishes in a restaurant rather than tackle them in my own kitchen. Until I discovered this little book. The Indian Slow Cooker opened my eyes to how much simpler Indian cooking can be. All of those complicated spices? Just toss them into the slow cooker with beans or lentils, or chicken or beef, and out comes a delicious curry, or dal, or even butter chicken. The author, a working mom, translates some... Continue reading
Posted Dec 2, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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All along the East Coast from Maine to Florida, you'll find fried fish sandwiches -- made with local white fish like cod or flounder, halibut or haddock -- on every diner menu. You can always order a grilled cheese sandwich at a diner, too. So why not combine the two classic sandwiches into something even better? For this sandwich, you start by cooking the fish, and that means you can do it earlier in the day, or even use leftover fish that you've broiled, pan-fried, or cooked on the grill a day or two before. Add some lightly-dressed shredded cabbage or cole slaw, and a couple of slices of Swiss cheese on each sandwich. These fish sandwiches make a perfect lunch or light supper. Fish,... Continue reading
Posted Nov 29, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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When my husband Ted and I first began dating, oh-so-many years ago, we spent almost every Friday night at Chan's Garden in Dunellen, New Jersey, a small suburban Chinese restaurant, where we splurged on a shared order of house special fried rice. As befit New Jersey Chinese food of the time, it was a bit gloppy, not at all spicy, and always contained shrimp and chicken and white rice, and some sort of cabbagey green vegetable like bok choy along with canned sliced mushrooms and water chestnuts (which I always picked out). It was a treat for two young people on a budget, and we seldom ordered anything else on the menu. Our own house special fried rice also begins with shrimp and chicken, though... Continue reading
Posted Nov 26, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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Many years ago, my husband Ted and I participated in a potluck Thanksgiving dinner. Being from out of town, we were asked to bring something easy, carrots and celery for a dip. However, when we arrived, we realized that our celery was the only bit of green on the entire holiday table. Turkey, potatoes, stuffing, gravy, onions: all brown. No green vegetables, and no salad. Our own holiday menus feature plenty of green along with the traditional bird and sides. We always serve salad, and at least one green vegetable. Here are some of our favorites, to consider as you're putting the finishing touches on your own menu. Two of our favorite green vegetables together, Brussels and broccoli with maple mustard vinaigrette (top photo) brings... Continue reading
Posted Nov 19, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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Julia Child & Company, by Julia Child (1978) Why I've kept it: Who better to see us through the holidays -- through every day -- than Julia? And who better to teach us how to entertain all year long, without getting tied up in knots? My husband Ted and I have tackled some ambitious entertaining dishes in our kitchen over the years. One of the fanciest was a recipe from this book, a chicken melon (boned and stuffed chicken in its own skin, filled with chicken paté, forced into the shape of a melon with a judicious application of cheesecloth and twine. It took two of us to accomplish what Julia made look so easy, but without her gentle voice and encouragement throughout the recipe,... Continue reading
Posted Nov 18, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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For as long as I can remember, I've been a muffin fan. I love that you don't have to share a muffin. I love that you can eat all of the bottom first, and save the top (the best part) for last. I love the built-in portion control. On the holiday table, mini muffins provide just a few bites of sweetness. And nobody has to share. My family loves these apple raisin walnut spice muffins (top photo), which can be made ahead, though you'll have to hide them to make sure they last until the holiday meal. Almost anything with apple has a place on my Thanksgiving table. I serve these instead of bread, as part of the main course, but you could save them... Continue reading
Posted Nov 15, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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Can you imagine Thanksgiving without butternut squash on the table? Perhaps because it's creamy, and perhaps because it's orange, butternut squash always finds its way onto my holiday menu, whether as a vegetarian main dish, a side dish, in soup or salad, or in pie. As you put the finishing touches on your own holiday menu, consider some of these favorites from The Perfect Pantry's kitchen. Start your meal with soup, as we love to do. Curried squash and apple soup (top photo) can be made ahead, which is a plus for the cook, and brings apples to the table right at the start. An alternative, if your family doesn't love curry, could be this squash, sweet potato and carrot soup. Another great soup option,... Continue reading
Posted Nov 12, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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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 Soup Peddler's Slow & Difficult Soups: Recipes and Reveries, by David Ansel (2005) Why I've kept it: When my spirit is in need of lifting, I make soup, and when I'm feeling particularly low, I open The Soup Peddler's Slow & Difficult Soups and read a random chapter while my soup burbles in the pot. And I feel restored. And because I want you to feel restored, too, please indulge while I share this passage from the book's introduction: This book is about...how the mundane aspects of life, such as food and work, can be utterly consuming... Continue reading
Posted Nov 11, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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When you think of the traditional foods of the Alsace-Lorraine region of northeast France, on the border with Germany, you think of quiche Lorraine, of course, and cabbage, and sausages and mustard. And thick, chewy, buttery egg noodles. Comfort food to the max. However, we're all about the pantry, so when the urge for a dinner inspired by the flavors of Alsace-Lorraine struck, I pulled some smoked chicken-and-apple sausage (it comes fully cooked) from the refrigerator, plus shredded cabbage (cole slaw mix) and Dijon mustard. And ramen noodles. I know -- not exactly traditional, but trust me, the ramen worked, and made this dish nice and light and curly. I cooked the noodles separately (you could do this way ahead, even the day before), and... Continue reading
Posted Nov 8, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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Chicken parm without breadcrumbs, without egg, without oil or butter, without sacrificing any of the flavor: seems too good to be true, doesn't it? And yet, here it is. A few kitchen tricks make this healthier version of chicken parmigiana possible. Start with thin-sliced, nearly fat-free boneless, skinless chicken breasts from the grocery store, or slice regular chicken breasts in thirds, and pound them to 1/4-inch thin. Use sun-dried tomatoes, or your own slow-roasted tomatoes, for concentrated flavor on the inside, and tuck in a leaf of the freshest basil you can find or pick from the garden. Skip the flour-egg-breadcrumb coating, to keep this chicken parm healthy, low-carb, and gluten-free. I love that these little chicken rolls have built-in portion control, and that you... Continue reading
Posted Nov 5, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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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 Breath of a Wok: Unlocking the Spirit of Chinese Wok Cooking Through Recipes and Lore, by Grace Young and Alan Richardson (2004) Why I've kept it: To understand why I will never, ever, ever let this book go, you need to read the backstory about the wok on the cover, and the wok maker, and the search by my friend Marcia through the alleys of Shanghai for my wok, made by the same wok maker. I fell in love with The Breath of a Wok at first sight, and I promise that you will, too. Read about... Continue reading
Posted Nov 4, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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Two lessons I learned in childhood: chicken soup cures all ills, and Chinese food cures all ills. So, what do you call a Chinese chicken soup that also happens to be packed with anti-oxidant rich dark leafy greens? A miracle cure, I think. If you get hit with a seasonal cold, or pneumonia, or if, like me, you feel like you've got a touch of the flu from getting your annual flu shot, you're going to want to try this recipe for Chinese chicken soup, made with inexpensive and readily-available ramen noodles and packed with dark leafy greens like bok choy (you can substitute spinach or other Chinese greens). Remember to discard the salt-filled flavor packets that come with ramen noodles. If you don't have... Continue reading
Posted Nov 1, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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When it comes to egg and cheese casseroles, I'm all in. No matter the filling, the mix-ins, or the variety of cheeses, I love them all. If I had the discipline, I would make a casserole every Sunday, cut it into squares, and eat one square for breakfast every single day of the week. Egg and cheese breakfast casseroles make satisfying suppers, or impressive brunch dishes, too. This recipe features one of my favorite combinations, broccoli and bacon, and I used creamy, mild muenster cheese plus sharp Parmigiano-Reggiano for the "glue." You could substitute fontina or goat's milk gouda, or even Swiss cheese, for the muenster. Vegetarians can omit the bacon, or substitute a vegetarian bacon which will still add some smoky flavor to the... Continue reading
Posted Oct 29, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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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? Venice & Food, written and illustrated by Sally Spector (1998) Why I've kept it: Some books are meant for cooking, and others for cuddling. Venice & Food, which I purchased in Italy on my first visit to Venice, is a cuddling book. Hand-written and illustrated, this book is almost too gorgeous to use, too precious to disturb by ruffling its pages. If you have ever had the good fortune to visit Venice, you will no doubt have found a favorite square, a favorite sotoportego, a favorite ponte over a favorite canal, and perhaps a favorite wine bar or... Continue reading
Posted Oct 28, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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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 Oct 25, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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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 Oct 22, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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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 Oct 21, 2016 at The Perfect Pantry®
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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®
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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®
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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®
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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®