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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.

July 18, 2015

Quinoa: like or dislike?

Quinoa

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.

Are you keen on quinoa? It's everywhere these days: in salads, soups, stir-fries, and stuffings. Some people are eating quinoa for breakfast, like oatmeal. I've seen quinoa pancakes and quinoa brownies. It comes in colors (white, red, black). I even have quinoa recipes on this blog. Yet, for all its versatility, I don't love it. Quinoa absorbs flavors from whatever surrounds it, and, like tofu, has little taste of its own, though people claim it's kind of nutty. Most likely it's the texture I don't like. If you love quinoa, please tell me: what am I missing? What's your favorite way to serve it?

Quinoa: like or dislike?

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July 15, 2015

Sesame ginger red cabbage salad {vegan, gluten-free}

Sesame ginger red cabbage salad, so easy with just one vegetable. [ThePerfectPantry.com] #vegan #glutenfree

A single ingredient can morph into an entire salad if you have the right dressing. In this case, red cabbage does the honors. No matter what I make, I always seem to use exactly half of a head of red cabbage, leaving me exactly half a head in the refrigerator. That's the perfect amount for this salad. Shred it thinly, with a sharp knife; if you go slowly, it's easy to do. Reach into your Asian condiments for the dressing. Sesame oil has a strong taste, and if you're not overly fond of it, cut the amount in half. The brand of condiments you use will affect the overall flavor of the dressing, so think of this recipe as a suggested starting point. Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a mixing bowl, taste, and adjust until it's just right for you. Then, toss in the cabbage, and let it absorb the dressing for a while before you're ready to serve. Sesame ginger red cabbage goes really well with grilled fish or chicken. You'll want this salad on the table at your weekend barbecue.

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July 12, 2015

Quick and easy chicken and corn chowder

Quick and easy chicken and corn chowder really is a meal in a bowl!

Here in the Northeast, we love our chowder all year long. I'm partial to traditional New England clam chowder, packed with fresh clams and chopped potatoes swimming in a creamy base, and I love a fish variation, with chunks of cod and whatever is fresh at the market. (I've heard there is a red chowder, made with tomatoes, from a very large city southwest of Boston with a rival baseball team. We don't speak of it.) Although chowder usually contains seafood, we New Englanders make allowances for people who cannot, or prefer not to, eat fish or shellfish. Corn, abundant in the summer, often stands in for clams, and brings its own sweetness to the chowder. In this recipe, I omit the potatoes and add some chopped rotisserie chicken. It's a great combination that turns the soup into a complete meal-in-a-bowl. A roux made right in with the vegetables thickens the soup; you can substitute gluten-free flour to make the chowder gluten-free. Serve some crusty bread or salty crackers on the side.

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July 11, 2015

Capers: like or dislike?

Capers

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.

A few weeks ago, I tossed out a Friday night post on Facebook, reminding everyone of the next day's Like or Dislike, and asking, playfully, "What could it be?" A friend replied, "Capers. Bleh." Well, that made me wonder how everyone else feels about capers. I always have a jar in my refrigerator, though I don't use them often. The flowery, lemony undertone adds essential flavor to some dishes (chicken marbella, chicken piccata), and I love to mash a few capers into homemade tartar sauce and deviled eggs. How about you?

Capers: like or dislike?

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July 8, 2015

Chayote squash, avocado and strawberry salsa {vegan, gluten-free}

Mild chayote squash, avocado and strawberry team up in an unusual salsa fresca!

After fifteen years at the log house, which was surrounded by goat farms but miles from a grocery store, it's nice to be back in the city. Within blocks of our house, we have an Asian supermarket, a Middle Eastern market, a fromagerie, a fish market, and a Whole Foods. A few blocks farther afield, Tropical Foods Market offers all the goodness of the Caribbean, with plenty of specialty ingredients for the African and Latino populations that live in the community as well. Among the items that were hard to find in Rhode Island, chayote squash is one of my favorites, and I now have multiple sources, including my regular grocery store. Chayote, a light green squash that looks like someone punched in the bottom end, always needs to be cooked before eating; it's more firm than zucchini, closer to a patty pan squash, and you can swap zucchini or patty pan squash in most recipes that call for chayote. Here I've paired the mild-flavored squash with creamy avocado and tangy strawberry, in an unusual fresh salsa that tastes great with fish or grilled chicken. You can cook the chayote ahead and refrigerate it, but don't put the salsa together until an hour or so before you're ready to serve; the salt will draw liquid out of the fruit and vegetables, and make it a bit watery if it sits around.

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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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