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July 2, 2014

Salmon and peas fried rice

Salmon and pea fried rice, a new July Fourth tradition.

When my husband Ted and I first moved to New England, we kept hearing salmon-and-peas, salmon-and-peas, right around the July 4 holiday (which is a pretty big deal up here -- and was, even before The Boston Pops turned it into a classy sound and light show). Salmon and peas first became an item because the salmon used to run just as fresh peas came up in the garden. Even though salmon is available year-round now, the holiday tradition endures. There's no one set recipe, so you have the luxury of combining the ingredients in any way, from grilled salmon and peas sautéed in butter, to poached salmon with peas and pasta, to soup. Some leftover cold rice in the refrigerator inspired my own take on the tradition (a new tradition, perhaps?), and the fish and peas worked so well in this fried rice that I'm going to add it to my year-round repertoire. I used red onion in the rice photos here, but now that the scallions have matured in my garden, I think I'll substitute those next time, for an additional pop of green. Happy Fourth, everyone.

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June 29, 2014

Asparagus and lemon risotto (pressure cooker or stovetop) {vegetarian, gluten-free}

Asparagus and lemon risotto, made easy in the pressure cooker. #glutenfree

It's almost the end of asparagus season here in Rhode Island, and I'm begging my friends for a few spears here and there, whatever crumbs of the harvest they're willing to toss my way. Every spear is precious when you know it will be ten months until local asparagus returns to the farm stands. I freeze some to use for soup later in the year, but the texture doesn't hold up for a dish like risotto, where the crisp bite of barely-cooked asparagus makes such a perfect contrast to the creamy rice. Two things conspired to create this recipe: the no-longer-dreaded pressure cooker was sitting on the counter, having just been used to cook something else; and the grocery delivery service brought me not the one lemon I'd ordered, but a whole bag of lemons. With a few spears of asparagus in the refrigerator, it was almost too easy. Of course you can make this recipe on the stovetop, too, by following the directions and proportions for this risotto with shrimp and asparagus.

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June 12, 2014

Quick and easy slow-roasted tomato, mozzarella, pine nut and basil flatbread pizza {vegetarian}

Slow-roasted tomato flatbread pizza, with mozzarella cheese, pine nuts and basil. #pizza

As easy as it is to make great flatbread pizza, there's a trick to it, and you know me: I'm not going to hold out on you. The secret is not in the bread, because any flatbread will work. Pita bread, garlic naan, spinach tortillas, or my new favorite whole wheat flatbreads (I found these, by FlatOut, in the supermarket in my village) all provide a thin, crispy base. The secret is not in the cheese, which should be fresh and mild. It's not in the garlicky-sweet slow-roasted tomato, which you can pull out of your freezer (or use oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes). No, to make a great pizza, what you need is patience, because the pizza needs to sit for five or six minutes after it comes out of the oven. You're going to want to bite into it right away, but please don't; pizza needs time to regroup, and if you're going to top it with fresh herbs (and at this time of year, why wouldn't you?), the herbs will turn black and wilt if you add them to a hot-from-the-oven pizza. That's it. That's the trick. Have patience, and great flatbread pizza will be yours.

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June 10, 2014

Greek shrimp, feta, lemon and basil couscous salad

Greek shrimp, feta, lemon and basil salad recipe: all the wonderful flavors of Greece. #salad #couscous #shrimp

The combination of flavors in this salad -- feta, lemon, basil, olives -- transports the armchair traveler in me to a taverna in Greece, where I imagine myself sitting at a round iron-legged café table overlooking the Mediterranean, sipping ouzo in the low afternoon sun. Luckily, this simple summer recipe tastes every bit as good if you're enjoying it on your own front porch. Israeli couscous -- not Greek, but from the other side of the Mediterranean -- is a small pasta that's toasted, which gives it a firm texture; if you can't find it in your market, use regular couscous, fregula sarda, or orzo or another small pasta. The lemon dressing gets its balance from Greek seasoning, a blend of oregano, lemon zest, salt and pepper I discovered a few years ago on a visit to The Spice House in Chicago. The basil in this salad came from my own herb garden, the first aromatic leaves of the season. Greece is lovely, but home can be quite tasty, too.

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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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