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May 13, 2015

Easy rice pilaf

Rice pilaf, easy to make in 20 minutes, makes a perfect side dish for anything off the grill.

Now that my husband Ted and I have moved back to Boston, we miss more than ever the long-closed Cedars Restaurant that used to live at the end of our street. Cedars served Middle Eastern food in a space that reminded you of your favorite aunt's kitchen, with formica tables and frilly curtains, and velvet paintings on the walls. We almost always ordered the garlic chicken on skewers, and it always came with a mound of rice pilaf on the side. If you have access to a Middle Eastern market, you can buy authentic chayrere, the thin vermicelli-like noodles, or look for fine egg noodles in the supermarket. Or, buy the thinnest vermicelli pasta you can find, and break it into two-inch pieces. The remaining ingredients come straight from your pantry. Make a pot of this rice ahead of time, and reheat in the microwave. It's the perfect side dish for anything you throw on the grill.

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April 26, 2015

Orzo with slow-roasted tomatoes, lemon and parsley {vegetarian}

Make this orzo with slow-roasted (or sun-dried) tomatoes, lemon and parsley in a skillet. An easy side dish!

A great all-purpose side dish to accompany roast chicken, salmon or lamb chops, this orzo with slow-roasted tomatoes, lemon, and plenty of fresh parsley tastes as good at room temperature (for a picnic) as it does hot off the stove. Orzo is a small, flat pasta; in this recipe I cook it in a skillet, in the way I might cook rice for risotto, letting the pasta absorb the liquid slowly to give it a creamy texture at the end. I buy beautiful tri-color orzo at my local supermarket; it gets its color, and flavor, from spinach and tomato, and adds visual interest to this dish. Use regular or whole wheat orzo if that's what you have. I found the last of last summer's slow-roasted tomatoes in my freezer, and added them to the pan along with their oily juices. Good-quality sun-dried tomatoes will work well, too (be sure to add some of the oil from the jar). To turn this side dish into the main attraction, toss in some feta cheese, chickpeas, shredded cooked chicken, or steamed shrimp.

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March 15, 2015

Mediterranean couscous, tomato, cucumber and feta salad {vegetarian}

Mediterranean couscous, tomato, cucumber and feta salad takes a bit of inspiration from all around the sea.

A real-life Boston friend, on vacation in Key West, posted on Facebook the other day, "If you're on the street or in a shop, and happen to mention you're from Boston, at least five people will come over to you to commiserate about the snow." We're having a crazy winter here, and perhaps that has put me in a Mediterranean frame of mind. I'm craving the sun and the sea, blue skies, outdoor cafés, long lazy lunches, naps in a hammock, and warmth. A jar of Israeli couscous inspired this quick and easy salad that takes a little spin around the Mediterranean, with bits from Greece, France, Italy, the MidEast and North Africa. I love the large, chewy nuggets of Israeli couscous; you could substitute Italian fregula sarda, or any small-grain couscous, if you prefer. Or orzo or ditalini. You get the idea. Chop up some oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes or your own slow-roasted tomatoes; the oil adds tons of flavor, so don't drain the tomatoes before adding them to the salad. Throw in some crunchy fresh vegetables and parsley, and toss everything with a simple oil-and-vinegar dressing, just as they do in countries that border the sea.

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November 28, 2014

Spicy turkey, bell pepper and noodle stir-fry

Spicy turkey, bell pepper and noodle stir fry: make it with leftover turkey and lots of heat.

Two things about our typical Thanksgiving feast contribute to my craving for this particular way to use leftovers: the meal is overwhelmingly brown (turkey, potatoes, gravy, stuffing), and it's overwhelmingly family-friendly and spicy-free. So, after cooking and eating brown food for days, all I want is heat. Spicy heat. Chile pepper heat. And a little bit of bright color. Oh, and noodles. So easy to accomplish with leftover shredded turkey, dried noodles from the pantry, and a few other fridge bits.

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September 3, 2014

Quick and easy chilled miso noodles with broccoli, bell pepper and peanuts {vegan}

Quick and easy miso noodles, for school night dinners.

In all ways, my husband Ted is a good sport. For the many years of our life here in the country, he has driven miles on Sunday mornings to fetch the New York Times, and then willingly handed over the crossword puzzle to me. He has faced down tenacious weeds, mound ants, garden snakes and an enormous runaway pot-belly pig from our neighbor's farm. Most heroic of all, Ted has tasted every recipe I've shared on this blog, plus more than a few that haven't made the grade. It's a tough job. When I first sampled these miso noodles, I knew I couldn't be trusted alone with them. I'm a bit of a noodle-holic (okay, more than a bit), and after I tasted to make sure the flavors were balanced, I kept on tasting. And then, I begged Ted to have some so I wouldn't finish the whole bowl myself. I needn't have begged; he happily polished off the remaining noodles in one morning. What better recommendation can I offer? If your family loves peanut or sesame noodles, they will love this recipe. With school back in session, you'll want to add these quick and easy miso noodles to your weekday repertoire.

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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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