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February 12, 2013

Recipe for red curry shrimp dumplings

Dunk these red curry shrimp dumplings in a sesame dipping sauce.

Buried in the deepest corner of my freezer, an "emergency" bag of shrimp and vegetable dumplings waits for the times when I crave dumplings and nothing else will do. The dumplings I buy from the Chinese market are okay, not great, not sensuous like these spicy, salty, red curry shrimp dumplings. I can microwave the storebought dumplings in a couple of minutes and get my fix, but it doesn't take all that much longer to create these one-bite shrimp dumplings from scratch, especially with all of the ingredients sitting in my pantry. The technique is the same one I use to cook potstickers: pan fry the dumplings to get a nice chewy crust on the bottom; then, steam them in the same pan to finish the cooking. Once you master the method, you can build your own dumplings with wonton skins and any mix of fillings (chicken, cabbage, tofu) you have on hand.

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December 30, 2012

Szechuan peppercorns (Recipe: salt and pepper prawns) {gluten-free}

First published in August 2006, this updated pantry ingredient post features new photos, links, and a few tweaks to the recipe. Spicy and salty, these large shrimp make a tantalizing appetizer to serve with cocktails, or as part of a larger Chinese banquet. Be warned: salt and pepper prawns are highly (and delightfully) addictive.

Szechuan salt and pepper prawns will spice up any party.

File this under "explorations in an ethnic market where you don't speak the language and can't read the package labels and you've wandered up and down the aisles and looked and looked and know what you want is somewhere in the store but you cannot find it."

So you ask everyone in the market, which by the way is in Boston's Chinatown, "Do you have szechuan peppercorns?" Blank stares. You try different pronounciations — sesh-wan, setch-wan, setch-u-on. Pep-per-corn. Pep-pah (the Boston dialect).

Nobody speaks English.

Nobody understands your pantomime.

Fair enough. After all, you are the only one there who doesn't speak the language.

Frustrated but determined, you ask your husband Ted to bring his Chinese friend Margaret to the market to search for these peppercorns. A few days later on their lunch break, they go -- but they come home empty-handed, too. Which, frankly, makes you feel a teensy bit better.

This is a true story, by the way. It happened in 1998.

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October 9, 2012

Recipe for slow cooker Basque tuna with potatoes and peppers

Slow cooker Basque tuna with potatoes and peppers, from The Perfect Pantry

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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September 18, 2012

Recipe for ginger-lime tuna with buckwheat (soba) noodles

Ginger lime tuna with buckwheat (soba) noodles, from The Perfect Pantry.

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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About The Perfect Pantry®

  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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