When my husband Ted and I first moved to New England, we kept hearing salmon-and-peas, salmon-and-peas, right around the July 4 holiday (which is a pretty big deal up here -- and was, even before The Boston Pops turned it into a classy sound and light show). Salmon and peas first became an item because the salmon used to run just as fresh peas came up in the garden. Even though salmon is available year-round now, the holiday tradition endures. There's no one set recipe, so you have the luxury of combining the ingredients in any way, from grilled salmon and peas sautéed in butter, to poached salmon with peas and pasta, to soup. Some leftover cold rice in the refrigerator inspired my own take on the tradition (a new tradition, perhaps?), and the fish and peas worked so well in this fried rice that I'm going to add it to my year-round repertoire. I used red onion in the rice photos here, but now that the scallions have matured in my garden, I think I'll substitute those next time, for an additional pop of green. Happy Fourth, everyone.
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The combination of flavors in this salad -- feta, lemon, basil, olives -- transports the armchair traveler in me to a taverna in Greece, where I imagine myself sitting at a round iron-legged café table overlooking the Mediterranean, sipping ouzo in the low afternoon sun. Luckily, this simple summer recipe tastes every bit as good if you're enjoying it on your own front porch. Israeli couscous -- not Greek, but from the other side of the Mediterranean -- is a small pasta that's toasted, which gives it a firm texture; if you can't find it in your market, use regular couscous, fregula sarda, or orzo or another small pasta. The lemon dressing gets its balance from Greek seasoning, a blend of oregano, lemon zest, salt and pepper I discovered a few years ago on a visit to The Spice House in Chicago. The basil in this salad came from my own herb garden, the first aromatic leaves of the season. Greece is lovely, but home can be quite tasty, too.
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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 pantry might not be 100 percent perfect, but it seldom lets me down. The cupboards, fridge and freezer harbor lots of great stuff, and when I'm in the mood to play in the kitchen, I can find inspiration on every single shelf. That's how this shrimp and coconut curry noodle soup recipe came together. Craving a bowl of tom kha gai, the popular Thai chicken coconut soup, I foraged in the pantry. In the freezer, I found shrimp instead of chicken. There was plenty of red curry paste (there always is), and coconut milk, and scallions from the garden. With the addition of some thin fideo noodles that I usually use for Middle Eastern rice pilaf, I borrowed some mushrooms bought for a different recipe, and I had my soup. A word of caution: start slowly with the red curry paste; you can always add more. I might have made my soup just a bit spicier than the recipe indicates.
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