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October 4, 2015

White bean and sun-dried tomato dip or sandwich spread {vegan, gluten-free}

White bean and sun-dried tomato dip makes a great sandwich filling, too! #vegan #glutenfree

Over the summer, I spent a few days here and there in the hospital, getting some parts replaced. In my hospital bag I'd packed a small notebook where I write down ideas for recipes to try (I always have a notebook with me; I'm old-fashioned that way), and a couple of weeks ago I was reading through those notes with my grandson Aiden, who has a bit of interest in cooking and likes to cook with me. When I read my note about this recipe -- written under the influence of a serious dose of anesthesia -- Aiden laughed out loud, because what I'd written was, white bean and sun-dried tomato thing with interesting spices. What, he asked, were interesting spices, and what was a thing? Fair enough questions, and this recipe turned out to be the answer. The spices could be any combination of what you like: cumin and coriander, thyme and oregano, harissa with cinnamon, but I chose to go a smoky, slighty spicy route. The dip is great with cucumber slices, and works just as well tucked into a pita with those cucumbers, plus crispy lettuce and some black olives. If you have your own slow-roasted tomatoes in the freezer, by all means swap those for the sun-dried tomatoes, and the dip will be even better.

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August 16, 2015

Basil ricotta bruschetta with pan-burst grapes {vegetarian}

Basil ricotta bruschetta with pan-burst grapes: appetizer or dessert.

Park a giant bowl of fruit salad on the dining table, and my husband Ted and I both go for the cantaloupe and honeydew chunks, and any odd things like kiwi. He'll take the mango; I'll claim the watermelon. And we never fight over the grapes. I could eat grapes all day, every day, in the way one might chomp on peanut M&Ms all day, every day, but cold grapes are not Ted's thing. However, set those grapes in a frying pan over low heat, shake-shake-shake the pan every now and then until the grapes burst and their sweet juices ooze out, and spoon them over some seasoned ricotta cheese, and Ted is there, all in. These warm grapes barely resemble the fresh grapes I eat like candy; they become a grape "sauce" once they've popped open, not as sweet as grape jelly but every bit as spreadable. We've enjoyed these bruschetta as a first course, and as dessert. You can toast the bread, and mix the cheese, ahead of time, and assemble at the last minute when the pan of grapes is ready. Use any variety of seedless grapes, or a mix of red, green and black.

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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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  • 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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