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July 25, 2015

Basil: like or dislike?

Basil plants in the herb garden

Welcome to Like or Dislike, where you get to share how you really feel about ingredients from the pantry, ingredients I'm thinking about adding to my pantry, other seasonal foods, and favorite cooking gear. The things you like are sure to find their way to the recipes here on The Perfect Pantry, so do tell.

Do you remember when pesto was exotic, or when caprese was not a household word? Not growing up in an Italian family, I didn't know about the basil-based paste made with garlic and pine nuts and parmesan cheese, or the salad made from fresh basil leaves, tomato and mozzarella. Once I discovered these two mainstays of Italian cuisine, there was no turning back. In my herb garden at the log house, I planted lots of basil, and I made batches of pesto for the freezer and for gifts to friends. Fresh basil leaves went into pastas, and salads, and sandwiches. Here in the city, we haven't yet organized an herb garden, but I'm planning to buy a few basil plants at the farmers market, and keep them on my kitchen windowsill. How about you? Do you love basil and can't get enough of it? Do you have a favorite variety of basil in your garden?

Basil: like or dislike?

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July 18, 2015

Quinoa: like or dislike?

Quinoa

Welcome to Like or Dislike, where you get to share how you really feel about ingredients from the pantry, ingredients I'm thinking about adding to my pantry, other seasonal foods, and favorite cooking gear. The things you like are sure to find their way to the recipes here on The Perfect Pantry, so do tell.

Are you keen on quinoa? It's everywhere these days: in salads, soups, stir-fries, and stuffings. Some people are eating quinoa for breakfast, like oatmeal. I've seen quinoa pancakes and quinoa brownies. It comes in colors (white, red, black). I even have quinoa recipes on this blog. Yet, for all its versatility, I don't love it. Quinoa absorbs flavors from whatever surrounds it, and, like tofu, has little taste of its own, though people claim it's kind of nutty. Most likely it's the texture I don't like. If you love quinoa, please tell me: what am I missing? What's your favorite way to serve it?

Quinoa: like or dislike?

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July 11, 2015

Capers: like or dislike?

Capers

Welcome to Like or Dislike, where you get to share how you really feel about ingredients from the pantry, ingredients I'm thinking about adding to my pantry, other seasonal foods, and favorite cooking gear. The things you like are sure to find their way to the recipes here on The Perfect Pantry, so do tell.

A few weeks ago, I tossed out a Friday night post on Facebook, reminding everyone of the next day's Like or Dislike, and asking, playfully, "What could it be?" A friend replied, "Capers. Bleh." Well, that made me wonder how everyone else feels about capers. I always have a jar in my refrigerator, though I don't use them often. The flowery, lemony undertone adds essential flavor to some dishes (chicken marbella, chicken piccata), and I love to mash a few capers into homemade tartar sauce and deviled eggs. How about you?

Capers: like or dislike?

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July 4, 2015

Smoked paprika: like or dislike?

Pimentonagridulce

Welcome to Like or Dislike, where you get to share how you really feel about ingredients from the pantry, ingredients I'm thinking about adding to my pantry, other seasonal foods, and favorite cooking gear. The things you like are sure to find their way to the recipes here on The Perfect Pantry, so do tell.

Do you remember, or do you still use, liquid smoke? I never liked it or added it to my barbecue sauces, or meatless soups or stews, and some of my recipes tasted a bit bland without that smoky flavor. Then I discovered smoked paprika, a wonderful spice from a particular region of Spain, which gives just the smoky kick I love. Ten years ago, it was a specialty store item, but these days you can find smoked paprika in the spice section of most supermarkets. Paired with cumin, another smoky spice, it bumps up the flavor of everything from chili to scrambled eggs. Use the hot smoked paprika when you want a bit of a jolt; use sweet when you want a gentle smoky note, or bittersweet when you just can't decide. I keep all on hand at all times, because you never know.

Smoked paprika: like or dislike?

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June 27, 2015

Dijon mustard: like or dislike?

Greypoupon

Welcome to Like or Dislike, where you get to share how you really feel about ingredients from the pantry, ingredients I'm thinking about adding to my pantry, other seasonal foods, and favorite cooking gear. The things you like are sure to find their way to the recipes here on The Perfect Pantry, so do tell.

In the house where I grew up, all mustard was yellow. Day-glo yellow, bright enough to spot a hot dog in a ballpark at midnight. I didn't know there was a whole world of mustard waiting for me. In my own house, the mustard of choice is Dijon. Yes, it's great on hot dogs, but it's also the secret, slightly sharp and tangy ingredient in my beef stews and marinara sauces, and I like to add a bit to mayonnaise-based chicken and pasta salads. Dijon also helps to emulsify my basic balsamic vinaigrette dressing. There are always two jars of Dijon, one grainy and one smooth, in the refrigerator. Remember the old TV commercial? Pardon me -- do you have any Grey Poupon?

Dijon mustard: like or dislike?

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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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