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July 27, 2014

Grilled chicken, zucchini and nectarine spinach salad with honey-lime dressing {gluten-free}

Grilled chicken, zucchini and nectarine spinach salad, tossed with honey-lime dressing. #glutenfree

Our grill died. It was not a death with drama (no flames, no explosion); the poor thing just faded away, perhaps from working too hard, and because we're planning to move later this year, my husband Ted and I decided to face this summer without a grill. Instead, I've been using my panini press, and that's how I grilled the chicken, zucchini halves, and nectarine chunks for this salad. A cast iron stovetop grill pan would work just as well. First, cook the chicken breasts, and while they are resting, throw the zucchini and nectarine cut side down on the hot grill and sear them until you have nice grill marks, just about two or three minutes. Chop everything into same-size chunks, and tie it all together with honey-lime dressing you can make far in advance. The warm chicken and vegetables will help to wilt the spinach leaves a bit, without rendering them a soggy mess. Peaches make a fine substitute for nectarines, and yellow or patty pan squash can stand in for zucchini. You can use shrimp in place of chicken, too. This is a great salad for picnics or potlucks.

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July 16, 2014

Slow cooker shredded hoisin beef, for sandwiches, sliders, or lettuce wraps

Slow cooker shredded beef wrapped in lettuce leaves: sweet and light.

Although the kitchen has been hot, hot, hot for the past few weeks, I'm keeping my cool, with a little help from the slow cooker. In the summer, I eat cold salads more often than not, but when I do cook, I make enough to stash in the freezer, to carry me through the dog days. This shredded hoisin beef appeals to eaters of all ages, it freezes perfectly, and it's a flexible filling for sandwiches or sliders, or light and lean lettuce wraps, depending on who wants what. Hoisin sauce contains sugar, and though rice vinegar cuts the sweetness a bit, we still call this "hoisin beef candy" in our house. When you're slow cooking to shred, please try my technique of cutting the meat into quarters, and browning each piece on all sides. With more surface area, the edges get nice and "burnt", almost like barbecue. The lip-smacking sweet sauce will dribble down your chin, also just like barbecue. Top sandwiches or wraps with some raw crunchy vegetables (I like radishes and carrots) for contrast.

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July 13, 2014

Couscous with broccoli, peas, mushrooms and tomato {vegan}

Israeli couscous with broccoli, peas, mushrooms and tomatoes. #vegan

My friend Jennifer, who used to take cooking classes from me, never cooked the same dish twice, and I always thought that was a little bit nuts. After all, how do you get good at something if you don't make it more than once? Food blogging gives you the opportunity to keep trying new things, but when you've been at it as long as I have, it also gives you the push to revisit some recipes and tweak them to perfection. This vegan couscous with broccoli, peas, mushrooms and tomato was ripe for an update. My supermarket now carries "rainbow" Israeli couscous, with vegetable-tinted grains of orange and green; I've finally discovered a store-bought vegetable broth I really like; and I love the addition of peas. For non-vegans, add some poached shrimp, chunks of feta cheese, or shredded rotisserie chicken. The dish tastes best at room temperature, which makes it perfect for a picnic.

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July 9, 2014

Shakshuka: eggs in fiery tomato sauce {vegetarian, gluten-free}

Shakshuka, a Tunisian-Israeli dish of eggs poached in a fiery tomato sauce.

My recipe for this popular Tunisian-Israeli vegetarian dish of eggs poached in a spicy tomato and bell pepper sauce is the second-best shakshuka I've ever tasted. The best, the very best, my husband Ted, cousin Martin and I practically inhaled at breakfast at The Gingerbread in Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica, where Eyal Ben-Menachem, the Israeli chef-owner, works his magic. (I'm sharing the secret to Eyal's recipe in my new e-cookbook, 25 Tomatoes, which comes out next week.) Even though I'm admitting my shakshuka is second-best, it's really pretty great, and I use ingredients you already have in your pantry. The one requirement is heat, in some form: chile peppers (fresh or canned), chile powder, hot smoked paprika. It's up to you, and your heat tolerance. If you're serving shakshuka for breakfast, as is traditional, you might want the sauce mildly spicy; on those breakfast-for-dinner days, kick the heat up by adding more red pepper flakes, a pinch of cayenne, or even a few shakes of hot sauce. The recipe yields enough sauce for six people; make the whole batch, and keep any leftover in your freezer for a super quick worknight supper or weekend brunch. Serve with slices of toasted crusty bread, for mopping up the sauce.

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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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