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April 7, 2013

Recipe for green curry fish with asparagus and peas

Green curry fish with asparagus and peas, quick and easy.

Fresh green chili, garlic, wild ginger, shallot, lemon grass, salt, kaffir lime, sugar, galangal, coriander seeds, cumin, cardamon, tumeric: That's the ingredient list on the tub of Thai green curry paste in my refrigerator. No artificial ingredients, no additives, no unpronounceables. So, call store-bought curry paste a convenience food, if you must, but this is one convenience food I always have in my pantry. I'm partial to two brands, Mae Ploy and Maesri, sold in nearly identical little plastic tubs in most Asian markets (and online). Both are made with all-natural ingredients, and either will enhance this green curry fish with asparagus and peas. Use any white fish from the market, and if it's not asparagus season, try green beans or zucchini. Just keep it green.

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March 7, 2013

Smoky shrimp, corn and bacon chowder recipe

Smoky shrimp, corn and bacon chowder. So easy!

What makes a chowder a chowder, and not just a fish soup? The name comes from the French word chaudiere, a three-legged cauldron. When ships returned from the sea, every village had a large chaudiere waiting at the dock; each fisherman added a portion of his catch, big pieces of fish cleaned and cut right on the boat, to be served later as a communal meal. It's a shame that most of us no longer get our fish directly from the docks, and that we make chowder in our own kitchens instead of a communal pot. While our way of life has changed, the basic chowder remains the same: a fish-based soup, thick with big chunks of fish or shellfish. This shrimp, corn and bacon chowder gets a double whammy of smoky flavor from pimentón (smoked paprika) and the bacon. I call it a pantry chowder, because I always have shrimp and corn in the freezer, and a combination of clam and chicken broths from the pantry makes a fine substitute for fresh fish stock.

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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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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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