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August 9, 2015

Lobster and avocado salad with tomatoes and basil {gluten-free}

Lobster and avocado salad with tomatoes and fresh basil: a spectacular summer salad.

What kind of friend shows up at your door, unannounced, with a two-pound cooked lobster, plus extra large lobster claws and tail? The very best kind, of course! When Mary appeared with a big plastic bag filled with bright red cooked lobster, whole and parts, I'm sure I squealed with joy, protested half-heartedly (oh, no, I couldn't possibly accept this), and immediately began to fantasize about a salad packed with chunks of sweet lobster meat, avocado, and garden-ripe tomatoes. My husband Ted patiently extricated all of the meat from the lobster shells, while I whipped up a creamy dressing for the salad. I left all of the ingredients in large chunks, the better to taste every bite of the lobster. Mary couldn't join us for lunch, so I used the lobster shells to make a quick stock to stash in her freezer; it will be a luxurious base for New England chowder some time this summer. The recipe makes an indulgently lobster-filled salad; you can reduce the amount of lobster meat if it's very expensive where you live. Buy steamed lobster at your fish market. If you don't live in a place where you can get fresh lobster, try this salad with large shrimp.

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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 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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June 17, 2015

Atlantic Canada seafood chowder {gluten-free}

Atlantic Canada seafood chowder, packed with clams, lobster, and fresh herbs.

Last year, we took a road trip with our friends Mary and Matt to Prince Edward Island, Canada's eastern outpost of life in the 1950s. If you've never been, you really must go. PEI seduces you with its low scale, green fields, beautiful beaches, Native Canadian culture, Anne of Green Gables, folk music, and lobster. Lots and lots of lobster. We had versions of this seafood chowder all across the island, and I couldn't wait to make my own when we returned home. This is a really a "use what's fresh in the market" chowder, in any combination you like. Fresh clams, and fresh parsley, make all the difference; evaporated milk gives body to the soup, without using any flour as a thickener. Make a Lennie Gallant play list, and serve big bowls of this chowder with hunks of crusty bread or salty crackers. Don't be surprised if Anne herself shows up for dinner.

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March 25, 2015

New Orleans-style red beans and rice, with shrimp {gluten-free}

New Orleans-style red beans and rice, with or without shrimp, makes every day Mardi Gras!

In the final weeks before we moved from the log house to our city space, we dipped into the pantry almost every night to use up ingredients before the move. Some of our from-the-pantry creations were winners, others not so much. This red beans and rice variation, one of the keepers, came together quickly after I soaked dry beans overnight and then cooked them in the pressure cooker (I'd already run out of canned beans, which would be a fine substitute). Typically, the rice would be prepared separately, but I cooked it right in with the beans. If you omit the shrimp and use water instead of chicken stock, you'll have a hearty vegetarian main dish. Try to use homemade stock if you are gluten-free, but again, you can swap in store-bought low-sodium chicken stock. Don't wait until next year's Mardi Gras to enjoy this New Orleans-style recipe; make dinner a celebration, at any time of year.

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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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