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July 5, 2015

Smoky egg salad lettuce boats with caramelized onions {vegetarian}

Smoky egg salad lettuce boats, a picnic-perfect twist on the classic.

When it comes to egg salad, I'm a straight-up gal. Hard-boiled eggs, really good mayonnaise, black pepper, and nothing more. Oh, occasionally I'll toss in a bit of celery. Perfection. And yet... sometimes, I have to cut loose, and when I do, I turn to my spice rack and pantry for inspiration. The combination of eggs and caramelized onions takes me back to childhood, when my grandmother used to combine the two with chopped liver for the classic Jewish appetizer. I think if she'd had smoked paprika on hand (I'm sure she never heard of it), she might have added a pinch of that as well, because I love how just the tiniest bit of smoky pepper plays off the sweet onions. Depending on whether you like your egg salad with a kick, use mild or hot smoked paprika (it also comes in a bittersweet variety, which is midway between the two on the heat scale). If lettuce boats aren't your thing, stuff this egg salad into a pita or crusty roll, or fold it into a tortilla wrap. You can make all of the components a few hours (or days) ahead, and assemble at the last minute, so it's great for picnics.

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June 21, 2015

Baby kale and cabbage salad with feta, olives and Greek dressing {vegetarian, gluten-free}

Crunchy, creamy, kale and cabbage salad, packed with mix-ins, and tossed with Greek dressing.

Just when you think you might be done with kale, here's a crunchy, creamy, kale and cabbage salad (how alliterative!) that will make you reconsider. This particular salad started with a bag of baby kale and cabbage that I found at Costco; it's a convenience, to be sure, but you can mix baby kale with any type of shredded cabbage, in whatever proportion you prefer. Play with color and texture, by using green and purple cabbage and multicolored cherry tomatoes. Add sharp kalamata olives and feta cheese, plus wedges of hard-boiled egg, or keep going and pile on cucumber and bell pepper, and if you're not vegetarian, try some grilled shrimp or chicken. Homemade Greek dressing, lightened up with low-fat yogurt and thickened with a bit of buttermilk, brings everything together in this meal-in-a-bowl salad.

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June 17, 2015

Atlantic Canada seafood chowder {gluten-free}

Atlantic Canada seafood chowder, packed with clams, lobster, and fresh herbs.

Last year, we took a road trip with our friends Mary and Matt to Prince Edward Island, Canada's eastern outpost of life in the 1950s. If you've never been, you really must go. PEI seduces you with its low scale, green fields, beautiful beaches, Native Canadian culture, Anne of Green Gables, folk music, and lobster. Lots and lots of lobster. We had versions of this seafood chowder all across the island, and I couldn't wait to make my own when we returned home. This is a really a "use what's fresh in the market" chowder, in any combination you like. Fresh clams, and fresh parsley, make all the difference; evaporated milk gives body to the soup, without using any flour as a thickener. Make a Lennie Gallant play list, and serve big bowls of this chowder with hunks of crusty bread or salty crackers. Don't be surprised if Anne herself shows up for dinner.

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June 10, 2015

Asparagus, mushroom, egg and goat cheese breakfast casserole {vegetarian, gluten-free}

Breakfast for dinner? How about this healthy asparagus, mushroom and goat cheese breakfast casserole.

Really, you'd be hard-pressed to come up with a combination of vegetables and cheese that I wouldn't love in an eggy breakfast casserole. However, there are some combos I love more than others, and asparagus and mushroom tops that list. Now that it's asparagus season here in New England, I'm sticking bits of spears everywhere. This casserole mixes earthy vegetables with fresh dill, and some soft goat cheese. I know goat cheese isn't to everyone's taste, so feel free to substitute feta (sharper) or mozzarella (milder), whatever you prefer. Or use two cheeses together. Egg casseroles are forgiving, so your asparagus might become broccoli or zucchini, depending on what's in season where you live. Make an egg and cheese casserole on Sunday, and portion it out for quick and easy weekday breakfasts, or serve it for weekend brunch. Always a hit!

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May 6, 2015

Quick and easy creamy tomato soup {vegetarian, gluten-free}

Quick and easy creamy tomato soup, the perfect mate for a grilled cheese sandwich.

In the years after World War II, tomato soup served with grilled cheese sandwiches became a popular school cafeteria menu combination that carried over into home kitchens everywhere. Here's the most plausible explanation I've found for why this happened: institutional food service (including school cafeterias) paired grilled cheese with tomato soup to meet the minimum school lunch requirements for sufficient Vitamin C (from the tomatoes) and protein (from the cheese). As canned soups became more available and economical, and processed cheese extended its shelf life, soup and sandwiches were a practical choice for many school systems. Today there's only one reason we eat grilled cheese and tomato soup -- because it's still the best comfort food combination around. Of course, you can fancy up the cheese and bread in your sandwich, but at the end of the day, nothing beats a basic creamy tomato soup. When it's this easy to make soup from scratch, there's no reason to default to canned soup. By the way, both of my grandsons are dunkers, just as my school friends and I used to be, and this soup makes for great dunking of melty grilled cheese sandwiches.

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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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