Here in The Perfect Pantry, we're all about the ingredients, but there's no point in having ingredients in your pantry if you're not going to cook with them. That's the rationale behind this blog: get those ingredients out of the cupboard and into your cooking!
So, really, we're all about the recipes, too.
Here are my top ten recipes from 2009 (all with a printer-friendly version). Some I made for the first time this year, others are old favorites. Many are -- or could be, with some ingredient substitutions -- vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free.
They're not listed in any order; as with children, it's impossible to choose one over the others. I hope you enjoy them.
2. Fennel, pear and olive salad is one of those great winter salads that doesn't leave you wishing for edible tomatoes. Made with the "everyday" red wine vinegar you always have on hand, this salad singlehandedly has turned me into a fennel lover.
3. Two dishes from my husband's Welsh heritage rolled into one, leek, potato and salmon soup sounded improbable at first, but turned out to be absolutely delicious and a new favorite in our house. Made with dried dill weed from the spice rack and frozen salmon fillets from Trader Joe's, the soup is rich and satisfying and, if you omit the fish, very budget-friendly.
4. No satay will ever top the ones Ted and Cousin Martin and I practically inhaled at a roadside restaurant in Malaysia (picnic tables, a perfect sky, the Muslim call to prayer in the background), but this chicken satay, marinated in coconut milk and pantry spices, was very good indeed. Cook it on the grill or under the broiler.
5. The thing about the potstickers you get at Chinese restaurants, even the "vegetable" ones, is that they almost always contain pork. Made with dumpling wrappers from the supermarket, these guaranteed-pork-free shrimp potstickers are easy to make at home, especially with a $1.00 dumpling press, and you can store the formed dumplings (cooked or uncooked) in your freezer.
6. My first experiment with chickpea flour, in this salmon tikka, was a great success. The dish would be the perfect centerpiece to an Indian-inspired dinner, and can be made with other types of fish (halibut or cod loin would be delicious).
7. A recipe I've resurrected after 15 years or more, pasta with clams and vegetable sauce defines a dish made from the pantry. With the addition of just a few fresh vegetables, this dish relies on dried pasta and canned clams; in fact, it just doesn't taste quite right when made with fresh clams. Go figure.
8. The only appetizer on my top ten list this year, herbed cheese spread is another oldie-but-goodie I hadn't made for many years. I can't imagine why not; it's fast, easy, and a much less expensive alternative to the Boursin you find in the market. Bump up the garlic a bit, if you dare.
9. Who could have predicted the popularity of this mushroom bhaji, which gives common button mushrooms a starring role? With umami to spare, this vegetarian dish gets its rich flavor from cumin and garlic, two pantry staples, and from slow cooking.
10. Though I'm not much of a dessert eater, I do have a weakness for the aroma of fruit baking with cinnamon. These pear spice cupcakes embody everything I love about autumn in my part of the world, and I (and you!) can make them any time, with powdered buttermilk from the pantry.
What were your favorite recipes in 2009? Did you create something new? Did you find a recipe you loved in a magazine, cookbook, or on a food blog?
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