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A note to readers: For the next several months, a bit of medical mischief (new hips! new knees!) will knock me off my feet. To get ready, I've been cooking up a storm, and I have a summer's worth of brand new recipes to share with you. Though I might not be in the kitchen or scouring local markets for new pantry ingredients, and blog posts might not always reach you on their usual days, I'll be here, responding to comments, answering questions, and working on ebooks. (Truth? I'll probably be reading legal thrillers and binge-watching Modern Family, and maybe Mad Men, again.) To make sure you never miss a recipe, use the box at right to sign up for free email updates.

July 29, 2015

Greek chicken chopped salad with creamy poppy seed dressing {gluten-free}

Add shredded Greek-flavored chicken to this crisp chopped salad for a meal-in-a-bowl.

One of my pet peeves is a recipe that requires you to make another recipe first (remember the beloved China Moon cookbook, filled with recipes composed of sauces you needed to make before you even got started?). Yet here I am, asking that very thing of you. Forgive me. If you didn't make a batch of shredded slow cooker Greek chicken right away when I shared the recipe last week, you can do it now, or substitute rotisserie chicken or even grilled shrimp in this chopped salad. Or, omit the protein and have yourself a dandy meatless salad. However, trust me when I tell you that the Greek chicken absolutely makes this dish. The hints of lemon and garlic work their way all through the salad, balanced by the sweet poppy seed dressing. It's irresistible. And you can freeze leftover chicken for roll-ups, salads or pasta dishes at another time. My husband Ted and I make the whole salad recipe, and the two of us eat every bit of it for our main course dinner. It's that good.

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July 26, 2015

Pan-fried tuna croquettes

Pan-fried tuna croquettes with a crunchy panko crust.

My maternal grandmother, the only real cook in our family, used to make salmon croquettes for me when I was a little girl, and I thought they were the best thing ever. She started with canned salmon, and mashed in some frozen mixed vegetables (peas, carrots, corn), plus bread crumbs to hold everything together. And an egg. If there were any spices besides salt and pepper, I'd be surprised. She pan-fried the croquettes in oil, the same way she made potato pancakes for Chanukah. When I had a craving recently for Grandma's salmon croquettes, I grabbed instead a can of tuna from the pantry, and found that I had most all of the ingredients for these patties in my pantry, too. My adult palate likes a little bit of heat, in the form of red pepper flakes, and the extra crunch of panko bread crumbs (though you could certainly use regular bread crumbs, or even gluten-free crumbs). I've swapped fresh vegetables for the frozen peas and carrots, but in spirit, these are the croquettes my grandmother used to cook for me. Make them small, for appetizers, or larger patties, for a lunch or light supper main dish.

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July 25, 2015

Basil: like or dislike?

Basil plants in the herb garden

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.

Do you remember when pesto was exotic, or when caprese was not a household word? Not growing up in an Italian family, I didn't know about the basil-based paste made with garlic and pine nuts and parmesan cheese, or the salad made from fresh basil leaves, tomato and mozzarella. Once I discovered these two mainstays of Italian cuisine, there was no turning back. In my herb garden at the log house, I planted lots of basil, and I made batches of pesto for the freezer and for gifts to friends. Fresh basil leaves went into pastas, and salads, and sandwiches. Here in the city, we haven't yet organized an herb garden, but I'm planning to buy a few basil plants at the farmers market, and keep them on my kitchen windowsill. How about you? Do you love basil and can't get enough of it? Do you have a favorite variety of basil in your garden?

Basil: like or dislike?

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July 22, 2015

Burgers, burgers, burgers! The Perfect Pantry's favorites for summer grilling

Nothing beats an old-fashioned cheeseburger!

Nothing tops a juicy cheeseburger cooked to perfection on the grill. Nothing. I'm pretty sure I'd opt for a burger over my favorite jambalaya or garlic chicken skewers for my last meal. I love turkey burgers, and salmon burgers, and the occasional veggie burger, but at heart I'm a purist and adore my dribble-down-the-chin beef burgers. However, when it comes to toppings, I'm open to new ideas. Salsa and avocado, feta cheese, hummus -- I'll try it. How about you? Are you open-minded when it comes to burgers?

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July 19, 2015

Slow cooker Greek chicken roll-ups with tomato, olives and feta cheese

Shredded Greek chicken, made easy in the slow cooker, piles into tortilla wraps with tomato, olives and feta.

For the past three months, I've made a batch of this slow cooker Greek chicken at least once a week. From the first bite, it's been a family favorite, used for filling pitas, mixing in salads, or topping a pizza. The method is simple: start building flavor with Greek seasoning (my favorite Greektown "Billygoat" Seasoning comes from The Spice House) and then add more of each of the individual ingredients like oregano, lemon zest, and pepper to bump up it up even more. Bind the ingredients together with a bit of olive oil, and let the slow cooker do the rest. A quick shredding with two forks (or, as one of my readers suggested, a whir in the KitchenAid stand mixer) yields a large batch of ready-to-use or ready-to-freeze chicken. I love to toss some of this shredded chicken into a baby kale salad, with poppyseed or vinaigrette dressing, or into a chopped vegetable Greek salad. For picnics, roll-ups made with colorful spinach and tomato tortillas are lots of fun, easy to pack and transport, and everyone loves them.

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my tiny kitchen in Boston's South End, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives. Thanks so much for visiting.

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