When something is meant to be, it's meant to be. After hearing about the Montague Book Mill, a used-book haven for readers in a converted 19th century mill in the beautiful central Massachusetts hills, my husband Ted and I immediately planned a road trip. The book store was all we hoped it would be: well-stocked with books both esoteric and practical, formerly-stuffed chairs for leisurely perusing placed in every corner, and an adjacent café with coffee and sandwiches for sustenance. We each snagged a few treasures. One of mine, Slow Cooker Comfort Food, offered this recipe for Basque tuna with potatoes and peppers, which I adapted somewhat from the original. I had everything on hand, including chunks of tuna in the freezer, some teeny potatoes from Trader Joe's, and bits of garden tomatoes that needed to be used right away. The garlicky aroma of the tomato sauce in the slow cooker teased us all afternoon, and the fish, marinated in the famous smoky-hot Espelette pepper, tasted like a warm summer day in France.
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Do you ever have days when you want to run away from your everyday meals? Days when you don't want oatmeal or eggs or cereal for breakfast, a healthy-but-uninspired salad for lunch, or chicken and vegetables for dinner? Me, too. And on those days, the "run away" days, I head straight for my pantry, where I stash a large variety of Asian noodles for this exact type of culinary emergency. A bowl of ginger-lime tuna with buckwheat noodles pulls me right out of my mealtime rut. It hits all of the taste notes, tangy and slightly salty and umami-rich, without any spicy heat. (You could certainly add a squirt or two of Sriracha sauce. I'll never tell.) Make the dish vegan by substituting chunks of extra-firm tofu for the tuna, and make it easy by starting with pre-cooked and shelled edamame, which you can find in the produce section of many supermarkets. If you don't have soba noodles on hand, use any firm Asian noodles (ramen noodles work well, without the seasoning packet), or spaghetti.
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Last Saturday -- an average day, no special occasion -- I awoke with the urge to make a luxurious breakfast for my husband Ted and me. No explanation of why I felt drawn to cook on a Saturday morning (believe me, this never happens), but I recognized it right away as a splendid idea. My pantry offered the basic components for quiche: pie crust, eggs, cheese. Basil in the garden, and cooked lobster tail and roasted corn in the freezer from a recent Trader Joe's shopping trip, came together in this lobster, corn and basil quiche. Fresh lobster and corn cut off the cob would make it that much better, but it was so good that I want you to make this recipe even if you rely on frozen and pantry ingredients. You can substitute shrimp, langoustines or chunks of salmon for the lobster. Serve this quiche with a green salad and glass of white wine for lunch or supper, or make it for breakfast on an ordinary Saturday morning, and turn the day into a special occasion.
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First published in November 2006, this updated pantry ingredient post features new photos, links, and tweaks to the recipe. I learned the original recipe for this Brazilian fish stew from Botucatu Restaurant in Boston, which closed a couple of years ago.
Another scandalous confession: I always have crushed garlic in a jar in my fridge.
I can hear the screams. "What is she doing with that stuff in her pantry???"
Well, right up front, let me say that garlic in a jar is never ever better than fresh minced garlic. Never. Ever.
So why do I always have a jar on hand?
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