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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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June 28, 2015

Spicy eggplant caponata toasts {vegetarian}

Slightly spicy eggplant caponata makes a great topping for toast. Picnic perfect!

After living for 15 years in the log house in the woods, my husband Ted and I returned to our full-time home in Boston's South End to discover that restaurants, cafés, and food markets have grown up all around us. On our corner, the store that used to sell cigarettes and lottery tickets now boasts a huge wine cellar. My old greengrocer's storefront has morphed into a fromagerie. A below-ground space that once housed a men's gambling club now peddles pastries and organic salads. I love all of the changes, especially one that brought a tapas restaurant to the arts center across the street. The eggplant caponata, served as a warm tapa in the restaurant, makes a fine topping for toasts with some melted cheese; use something mild, like fontal or fontina, or something with a bit more bite, like manchego. Fresh mozzarella would work, too. The vinegary eggplant caponata has the slightest bit of a kick from red pepper flakes, which you could omit, though of course I'd urge you not to do that. Make this a few hours, or a few days, ahead. It would be perfect for a picnic.

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June 7, 2015

Burst tomatoes with fresh herbs {vegan, gluten-free}

Burst tomatoes with fresh herbs: so easy and so versatile!

K-I-S-S. Keep it simple, stupid. Have you heard that before? It's a design principle, originally created by the US Navy, that emphasizes simple solutions over the more complex. In cooking, keeping it simple means letting ingredients speak for themselves. A recipe with 25 ingredients isn't necessarily better than one with three ingredients, if those three work together and enhance each other. I could have called this recipe KISS tomatoes. I could have added more ingredients (garlic, cheese, dried oregano, onion, bell peppers, etc. etc. etc.), but really, all that needed to be there were the tomatoes and a few fresh herbs. We enjoyed these burst tomatoes as a dip for some toasted bread and, later in the day, as a sauce for penne pasta with just a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. If we'd had any left (None. Demolished.), bruschetta would have been on the menu, too. For the tomatoes, I used a box from the grocery store; they're out of season here in New England, but for this dish, they were just fine, as were the fresh herbs I bought at the market. In the summer, garden-fresh tomatoes and herbs will make this recipe sing.

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December 3, 2014

Quick and easy ploughman's crisps {vegetarian}

Cheddar and chutney on toasted bread, the best parts of a traditional English pub lunch.

On my very first trip to London, my husband Ted, who had lived there for a time, introduced me to the ploughman's (plow man's) lunch. Every pub serves its own variation. The constants are a few slices of crusty bread, a hunk of good, sharp, English Cheddar cheese, and a bit of tart fruit chutney, to which sausage, ham, apples or other treats might be added. (Don't forget a pint of beer or ale on draught, too.) In the pubs, you're served a plate of individual elements to combine in any way that tempts you. During these next few crazy-busy weeks, with holiday preparations in full swing, these ploughman's crisps make a satisfying lunch or light supper, with very little work on the part of the cook. They're also a great savory appetizer nibble for your cookie exchange party, or football Sunday. Use your favorite homemade or store-bought chutney, or try one of our recipes.

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June 8, 2014

Traditional New England crab cakes

New England crab cakes taste best with a spicy aioli mayonnaise sauce.

When I stopped at my local fish market to buy some crab meat, I asked the fishmonger what he had available. He told me had frozen crabmeat, and when I inquired whether I'd have to pick it over to get out little pieces of shell, he shot me a look and said, "This crab meat is without equal." How could I pass that up? He was absolutely right, and the crab, which is not local to New Engand though we have made crab cakes our own, was plump and sweet, and clean. This recipe, which I got many years ago from my friend Jennifer, makes eight large crab cakes, which would be a perfect lunch for four people, or a dozen smaller bite-size treats for appetizers. Tartar sauce or aioli mayonnaise make the perfect slathering sauce.

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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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