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February 6, 2014

Instant couscous (Recipe: sweet couscous for a crowd) {vegetarian}

Originally published in August 2006, this updated ingredient post features new photos and links. The recipe -- so simple, I feel funny calling it a recipe -- is something I've been making for decades. It's a perfect accompaniment to spicy chicken or vegetable stews.

Sweet couscous with raisins and pine nuts (The Perfect Pantry).

Last winter, I treated my kitchen to a couscoussier, a double-decker pot used to create traditional Moroccan stews and couscous. The stew goes in the bottom, and rising steam infuses and plumps the couscous resting in the perforated top compartment.

It's a beautiful thing, but I have yet to use it.

I tried. I really did. My cooking group made a menu called Preserving the Lemon, which included three dishes inspired by Moroccan cuisine. We used our tagines, but when it came time to set up the couscoussier — and start the slow process of rinsing, drying, steaming and steaming again — we looked at each other and, in unison, said, "Instant couscous!"

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January 14, 2014

Bay leaves (Recipe: pasta e fagiole) {vegetarian}

First published in December 2007, this updated ingredient post includes new photos, links, and tweaks to the recipe. Pasta e fagiole (called "pasta fazool" in some parts of New England) falls happily into the meal-in-a-bowl category. Make it ahead, and freeze it for easy worknight dinners; just add some crusty bread, a light green salad, and a glass of wine.

Pasta e fagiole (bean soup with pasta), from The Perfect Pantry.

In 1988, Richard Wilbur was asked in an interview whether, in his role as the United States' second poet laureate, he had to wear a laurel wreath. ''I wouldn't wear it outdoors because it would fall off when I played tennis,'' he answered, but he said that he might get a wreath made of bay leaves, which is a species of laurel. That way, he added, ''When I bowed my head to say grace, I could also season the soup.''

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January 7, 2014

Recipe for whole wheat penne pasta with Greek red lentil, feta and olive sauce {vegetarian}

Whole wheat penne pasta with Greek red lentil feta and olive sauce, for Meatless Mondays (The Perfect Pantry).

'Twas the week after a week of holiday parties, and all through the house, nobody felt like standing over the stove, not one single person, and especially not me. And yet, people needed to eat. The pantry presented all sorts of possibilities, and before I knew it, I'd thrown together lentils and pasta and olives and feta. What evolved was this Greek-inspired pasta dish with enough protein and heft to satisfy vegetarians and meat lovers alike. Lentil sauces for pasta are more common than you'd imagine, and tossing a handful of lentils into a traditional marinara boosts the nutritional value by adding plenty of fiber. I pulled the sauce off the heat before the lentils collapsed, because I love the more rustic texture, but you can let them cook a few minutes longer and watch them melt into the tomato sauce. Opa!

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December 17, 2013

Recipe for baked samosa wontons with potato, pea and broccoli filling {vegetarian}

Baked samosa wontons filled with potatoes, peas and broccoli (The Perfect Pantry).

You've heard the saying, You never get a second chance to make a first impression. No wonder I'm always stressed when I have to prepare appetizers. Apps create excitement and anticipation, as they set the stage -- with or without drinks -- for the occasion to follow. When I serve the same old same old dips and chips, my guests are probably wondering if they're in for a ho-hum dinner. The solution to the pre-dinner blahs is a repertoire of easy, yet impressive, appetizers, like these samosa wontons. The dip is store-bought mango chutney, and the wontons are baked, not fried, so nobody starts the meal with a mouth full of grease. The traditional mashed potato and pea filling gets a kick from Madras (yellow) curry paste, which is easy to find in the Indian foods aisle of many supermarkets. You can make the filling ahead and refrigerate it. Or, make and bake the wontons ahead, and freeze them to reheat at party time. Either way, these apps, easy on the cook, will surely be a hit for your holiday entertaining.

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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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