May 31, 2009

Feta cheese (Recipe: baked shrimp with tomatoes and feta) {gluten-free}

Baked shrimp with tomato and feta.

When I was younger, I learned a lot of what I knew about boys in summer camp, from my girlfriends who had older siblings or whose mothers had had "the talk" before mine ever worked up the courage to give it a try.

Similarly, I learned a lot of what I knew about food from my friends who had grandparents and parents from Italy and Puerto Rico and the American South. Pasta and parmesan, enchiladas and chicken fried steak -- all were new to me.

I didn't know any kids from Greek families, though, so it took years before I learned about feta cheese.

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May 24, 2009

Tea (Recipe: "smoked" egg salad)

Please welcome Kim, who with this post joins The Perfect Pantry as guest blogger. Kim lives in Pasadena, California; she is the business manager for a local farmers market, and also the Friday cook for a nonprofit organization that gathers donated food from various locations, and makes and serves meals to the homeless. This is her first-ever blog post.

Teaeggs2

Guest post and photos by Kim in Pasadena, California

Many years ago, one of the rites of passage into womanhood was "going to tea" with my friends.

Back then, the really haute-couture department stores had their own tearooms for ladies to rest after a day's shopping. My mother would sometimes take me to tea so I would learn the proper way for a lady to act and dress.

Just about the time I came of age for tea parties, the Beatles, Rolling Stones and (for me) Jethro Tull swept me off to wilder places that were unencumbered by rules and roles. I couldn't really see going to tea in bell-bottoms and a tube top!

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May 17, 2009

Coffee (Recipe: how to brew the perfect cup of coffee)

Coffee1

Guest post and photos by Sarah in Boston

Like every dad, mine gave his opinion freely, but there were some things he considered life skills. He couldn't understand how you would ever be able to get through life without them.

These included: how to drive a car while shifting between gears so you could glide through curves and down hills instead of using the brake; staying at a consistent speed on the highway to conserve gas (in the days before cruise control); parallel parking in three turns of the wheel. 

He also felt very strongly about his coffee. This wasn't about buying expensive coffee or the perfect coffee pots -- just the basics on how to brew a strong cup of coffee. And whether you planned to use the brewed coffee in a recipe or drink it straight, the method was still the same.

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May 3, 2009

Raisins (Recipe: spinach, golden raisin and parmesan tart)

Spinach raisin parmesan tart 

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

Raisins were an integral ingredient in my New England culinary upbringing. The California Sun Maid was a pantry icon, on a par with the original 1950’s versions of Vermont Maid, Betty Crocker, the Campbell's twins, Uncle Ben, and Aunt Jemima before their numerous plastic surgeries.

The brown bread that accompanied our favorite hot dogs and beans on Saturday night (i.e., bath night) had to have raisins. My father always threw a handful into the breakfast cream of wheat. Hermits weren’t hermits unless studded with those plump, sweet beauties. And nothing was better than snacking right from the box.

In my innocence, though, I knew nothing of the exotic pleasures of golden raisins.

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March 29, 2009

Tamarind (Recipe: Mozambique chicken) {gluten-free}

Tamarind chicken

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

We lunched at Al Arabe Lebanese Restaurant last week during our routine weekly shopping junket to Diamantina. A cold, tall glass of tart tamarind juice, over ice and lightly sweetened with brown sugar, was just what I needed to take the edge off the noonday heat. And it was the perfect accompaniment to a plate of Ahmed’s meat kibbeh and delicious fatoosh salad.

As we returned to the center of town to finish up a few errands before heading home to São Gonçalo, I couldn’t resist buying some tamarind pods from a street vendor, whose wheelbarrow was brimming with not only tamarind, but also mangoes, okra, araticum, pequi, and other delicacies of the cerrado.

Usually I write about my pantry items that are native to Brazil and were globalized with the help of the Portuguese and Spanish explorers. Tamarind, on the other hand, is native to Africa and subsequently was naturalized all over the tropical world by colonizers and traders.

Its uses run the gamut from dyestuff to laxative to cattle fodder to furniture-making, but today I'll stick to its culinary appeal.

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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.

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