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A note to readers: For the next several months, a bit of medical mischief (new hips! new knees!) will knock me off my feet. To get ready, I've been cooking up a storm, and I have a summer's worth of brand new recipes to share with you. Though I might not be in the kitchen or scouring local markets for new pantry ingredients, and blog posts might not always reach you on their usual days, I'll be here, responding to comments, answering questions, and working on ebooks. (Truth? I'll probably be reading legal thrillers and binge-watching Modern Family, and maybe Mad Men, again.) To make sure you never miss a recipe, use the box at right to sign up for free email updates.

August 15, 2015

Curry powder: like or dislike?

Curry powder

Welcome to Like or Dislike, where you get to share how you really feel about ingredients from the pantry, ingredients I'm thinking about adding to my pantry, other seasonal foods, and favorite cooking gear. The things you like are sure to find their way to the recipes here on The Perfect Pantry, so do tell.

When I moved into my first apartment, I stocked my meager spice rack with a few basics I remembered from my mother's kitchen: table salt and black pepper, of course, but also tins of paprika and hot mustard (for dipping sauces for Chinese take-out), oregano and cinnamon and Madras curry powder. Even back then, you could buy Madras curry powder in the supermarket spice aisle. I didn't know there was more than one type of curry powder, or even that it was, in fact, a blend of spices. Now I know, and I keep half a dozen curry powders on my spice rack. I've also stocked most of the components to blend my own curry powder, though I confess that I never do it, because I'm just not knowledgeable or confident enough to get it right. I use sweet curry more than any other, and sometimes I mix it 50-50 with hot curry. How about you? Do you use curry powder, or do you mix your own?

Curry powder: like or dislike?

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August 12, 2015

Viking chicken with honey, butter and herbs {gluten-free}

Viking chicken with honey, butter and herbs: picnic perfect.

I've got to be honest: I don't really know what's "viking" about this chicken, but the original recipe came from the locally-published The Viking Cookbook that Cousin Martin brought home from Svalbard, Norway, where he went to view the solar eclipse earlier in the year. I didn't expect to find any recipes for which I had all of the ingredients -- whole Baltic herring? young nettles? swedes? (which turn out to be rutabagas, though I had no idea) -- but then I found this honey-grilled herb chicken. The recipe calls for a whole chicken; I had lots of boneless, skinless chicken breasts on hand, so I adapted, with delicious results. You can use skinless chicken thighs, if you prefer, or a couple of small Cornish hens. I ate the picnic-perfect leftovers cold the next day with cucumbers, which seemed somehow a bit Norwegian to me.

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August 9, 2015

Lobster and avocado salad with tomatoes and basil {gluten-free}

Lobster and avocado salad with tomatoes and fresh basil: a spectacular summer salad.

What kind of friend shows up at your door, unannounced, with a two-pound cooked lobster, plus extra large lobster claws and tail? The very best kind, of course! When Mary appeared with a big plastic bag filled with bright red cooked lobster, whole and parts, I'm sure I squealed with joy, protested half-heartedly (oh, no, I couldn't possibly accept this), and immediately began to fantasize about a salad packed with chunks of sweet lobster meat, avocado, and garden-ripe tomatoes. My husband Ted patiently extricated all of the meat from the lobster shells, while I whipped up a creamy dressing for the salad. I left all of the ingredients in large chunks, the better to taste every bite of the lobster. Mary couldn't join us for lunch, so I used the lobster shells to make a quick stock to stash in her freezer; it will be a luxurious base for New England chowder some time this summer. The recipe makes an indulgently lobster-filled salad; you can reduce the amount of lobster meat if it's very expensive where you live. Buy steamed lobster at your fish market. If you don't live in a place where you can get fresh lobster, try this salad with large shrimp.

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August 8, 2015

Sweet corn: like or dislike?

Sweet+Corn

Welcome to Like or Dislike, where you get to share how you really feel about ingredients from the pantry, ingredients I'm thinking about adding to my pantry, other seasonal foods, and favorite cooking gear. The things you like are sure to find their way to the recipes here on The Perfect Pantry, so do tell.

Here in New England, we wait and wait and wait for corn season, which, like tomato season, really doesn't begin until late July. We consume endless quantities of corn on the cob, checking each week at the farm stand for our favorite butter-and-sugar and Silver Queen, and by Labor Day weekend, our short season comes to a screeching halt. Thank goodness for good quality frozen sweet corn, on which we rely for the rest of the year. (I'm partial to Cascadian Farms frozen organic corn, which I can buy in my local supermarkets.) Sweet corn has a high sugar content, making it a special treat on our table, but I can't imagine summer without it. Is corn on (or off) the cob one of your summer pleasures?

Sweet corn: like or dislike?

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August 5, 2015

Sweet mocha ricotta cream phyllo shells

Sweet mocha ricotta cream phyllo shells, topped with bits of chocolate.

In my house, we're not big on dessert. Cold grapes, frozen blueberries, the occasional ice cream (yes, from the supermarket, or from the very good pizza and ice cream place across the street), a few cookies: that's the extent of our after-dinner sweet treats. Still, on occasion, we want something more, a perfect bite to close out a more formal dinner. As I'm not well versed in the ways of dessert, frozen mini phyllo cups often save the day. On their own, they look fancy -- the little black dress in my freezer -- and you can snazz them up with just about any sweet filling, from berries to custard to gelato. My grandsons and I loved this creamy cheese, yogurt and chocolate filling, which came together with nothing more than a bowl and a whisk. They added their own styling with bits of chopped chocolate on top. I had just a minute or two to snap some photos for you, before the "taste testing" began in earnest. There were no leftovers. Note: you'll want to use whole milk ricotta and low-fat or full-fat Greek yogurt here. The recipe doesn't call for very much of each, and you need the fat to get great "mouth feel".

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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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