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July 22, 2015

Burgers, burgers, burgers! The Perfect Pantry's favorites for summer grilling

Nothing beats an old-fashioned cheeseburger!

Nothing tops a juicy cheeseburger cooked to perfection on the grill. Nothing. I'm pretty sure I'd opt for a burger over my favorite jambalaya or garlic chicken skewers for my last meal. I love turkey burgers, and salmon burgers, and the occasional veggie burger, but at heart I'm a purist and adore my dribble-down-the-chin beef burgers. However, when it comes to toppings, I'm open to new ideas. Salsa and avocado, feta cheese, hummus -- I'll try it. How about you? Are you open-minded when it comes to burgers?

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June 24, 2015

Asparagus and mushroom fried rice

Asparagus and mushroom fried rice, a quick and easy main dish.

Our 11-year-old grandson, a lefty in a sea of right-handed eaters, has been teaching himself to use chopsticks. Instead of starting with something easy and stabbable, like chunks of chicken, he goes straight for the hard stuff: slithery noodles and slippery grains of rice. Both are staples in our house (he and I have even cooked stir-fry noodles together), so he's getting lots of practice. Whenever I make rice in my rice cooker, I fill it to the max, and keep leftover cold rice in the refrigerator or freezer for quick fried rice meals made with whatever else I have on hand. At this time of year, that "whatever" often includes asparagus; our season is short, and we tend to overdose just a bit for the six weeks when asparagus are everywhere. Think of this as a good, basic fried rice recipe, adaptable to any vegetables on a moment's notice. You'll thank me during zucchini season later this summer.

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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 3, 2015

West African vegetable stew in peanut sauce {vegan, gluten-free}

West African vegetable stew in peanut sauce, a great main dish for vegans.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about adapting favorite recipes for changing dietary needs (newly gluten-free, pre-diabetic, vegetarian). When Jared, a local filmmaker who just happens to be vegan, and Jessica, an old friend of my husband Ted's, came to lunch a few weeks ago, I decided to take the West African chicken mafé recipe in my previous post, and veganize it. Out with the chicken, in with chickpeas. Potatoes, zucchini, mushrooms: the combination of firm and soft vegetables really worked, and with the rich peanut, tomato and coconut sauce, nobody missed the meat at all. Reaching for a tube of tomato paste in the refrigerator, I grabbed an identical-shaped tube of harissa instead, and added it to the dish before I realized my error. Wow! Great flavor, just a hint of smoky heat, that elevated the vegetable stew to another level; that's one error I'll make again and again.

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May 31, 2015

West African chicken mafé (chicken stew in peanut sauce) {gluten-free}

West African chicken and peanut stew: gluten-free, dairy-free, party-easy!

Ever since sixth grade, when I used my required year-long project to learn all about Ghana -- history, culture, geography, show and tell, and lots of book reports -- I've longed to travel to that part of the world. Recently, while flipping through one of my favorite mail-order catalogs, I spied a jar of West African maffé sauce. As I read more about it, I realized it was simply a shortcut sauce to use as a base for chicken mafé (yes, different spelling, but the same thing), a rich, thick stew combining peanuts (or peanut butter), tomato and a few spices you already have in your pantry. With coconut milk as the foundation, West African chicken stew is a perfectly rich and thick dish that happens to be both gluten-free and dairy-free. One jalapeño pepper, with the seeds and ribs removed, provides just the right amount of heat without overwhelming the peanut flavor; although the cayenne pepper really adds to the flavor of the chicken, you can cut the amount in half, or omit it. Serve the stew over rice, and it's a feast in a bowl, great for entertaining but easy enough for everyday.

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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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