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November 15, 2009

How my father learned to cook (Recipe: traditional spaghetti gravy)

Spaghetti gravy

Guest post and photos by Sarah in Boston.

When my mother passed away, two days before their anniversary, she and my dad had been married almost 15 years.

While I doubt he ever got over the shock, my dad stepped into the role of single parent and, all things considered, he did a pretty good job. As we moved through those first weeks, one thing that became apparent was that he didn’t really know how to feed two growing daughters. His ideal pantry consisted of dried Great Northern beans, rosemary, sage, bay leaf, table salt, rock salt, pepper, onions, chicken broth and elbow macaroni.

After the funeral my maternal grandmother offered to stay on for a couple of weeks to help him design a week’s worth of recipes. They’d work with what he knew and incorporate some of what she called her "tricks". I can still see them sitting across the table from each other, supposedly talking about food, eating hot pickled peppers, the tears running down their cheeks, laughing and goading each other like kids trying to see who could eat the most.

Continue reading "How my father learned to cook (Recipe: traditional spaghetti gravy)" »

September 27, 2009

Hearts of palm (Recipe: hearts of palm, shrimp and cheese pizza)

Hearts of palm pizza

Guest post by Peter in Brazil, chef and co-owner of Pousada do Capão.

For several months I’ve been meaning to write about hearts of palm, so Lydia’s recent visit to our inn provided the perfect opportunity to kill three birds with one stone: I could cook with her; test the recipe for my hearts of palm, shrimp, and requeijão pizza; and photograph the results.

In my Boston and Rhode Island pantries, a can of hearts of palm was what Lydia would classify as a “pantry special” -- not a staple, but something purchased for curiosity’s sake, on impulse, or for a particular recipe.

Here in my Brazilian pantry, I always keep a jar or a can or two on hand. While they don’t hold a candle to fresh hearts of palm, in a pinch they add texture to a salad or a jardinière, depth and crunch to empadinha filling, body to a soufflé, or interest to a pizza, and they are a pretty decent substitute for artichoke hearts, which are completely unknown in these parts.

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September 10, 2009

Mahlab (Recipe: Armenian brioche filled with dates, honey and walnuts)


Guest post and photos by Sandie of Inn Cuisine.

As an avid reader of The Perfect Pantry, I have learned much from Lydia’s work: from interesting facts about ingredients I thought I knew, to discovering products and spices completely foreign to me. That’s why, when Lydia asked if I would write a guest post, my mind raced. What pantry ingredient could I feature? What recipe could I share?

In Perfect Pantry style, I decided to push myself, learn about and cook with a pantry item I had not previously heard of or experienced: mahlab.

Continue reading "Mahlab (Recipe: Armenian brioche filled with dates, honey and walnuts)" »

September 6, 2009

Tomato sauce (Recipe: Tex-Mex salsa)

While I'm on vacation, please enjoy this post from Kim, a frequent guest blogger here on The Perfect Pantry.

Tex-Mex salsa

Guest post and photo by Kim in Pasadena, California.

I’m originally from the East Coast, and the most exotic thing I'd eaten before I went into the military back in 1979 was scrapple (that’s one of those “don’t ask, don’t tell" foods).

I had never heard of Southwestern food, never mind Mexican food, so the concept of stuff wrapped in what amounts to a flour or corn pancake was totally outside my understanding. The only thing I’d seen like that was crepes.

My first experience with Mexican food was Taco Bell (no eye rolling allowed). It was quite a wonder for someone coming from a culinary background that had three major types of food: upscale French; cheese steaks/hoagies; and pizza by the slice, topped with cheese and tomato sauce

Continue reading "Tomato sauce (Recipe: Tex-Mex salsa)" »

July 19, 2009

Maple syrup (Recipes: maple nut bread and a maple cocktail)


Guest post and photos by Sarah in Boston.

My dad had a way of making the simplest foods into a celebration.

He spent a lot of his free time in his backyard garden, talking to robins and tilling the soil with his trusty hoe. Each garden season was met with great anticipation: the first rhubarb, green onions, beefsteak tomatoes, basketball-sized cabbage heads -- you name it, he grew it.

For each thing he grew, he created a special ritual to enjoy it, something as simple as walking around with a pocketful of salt so he could eat radishes and cucumbers right out of the garden.

He had his special ways of enjoying other foods, too, like red-skinned peanuts and cold, locally made hot dogs. He was very particular about the hot dogs. He would never eat packaged ones raw, but the ones they made at Tom’s Market he ate by the pound. If I close my eyes, I can still see him sitting at the picnic table, listening to the Detroit Tigers on the radio, with a pound of peanuts and a plastic Tupperware tub of hot dogs, watching his garden, and sometimes fiddling with his car.

Another favorite was maple syrup, and of course he created a family ceremony around the annual spring tapping of the sugar maple in our front yard.

Continue reading "Maple syrup (Recipes: maple nut bread and a maple cocktail)" »

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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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