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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.

May 9, 2015

Flowers on the dining table: like or dislike?

Daffodils

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.

You wouldn't think there could be anyone who doesn't love flowers on the dining table, would you? I have a love/hate relationship with tabletop flower arrangements. I love the way flowers can bring a dining table to life, echoing the colors of the dishes, linens, and even the walls in the room. I also dislike strong floral aromas that can overwhelm the food, stuff up your nose, and cast a smell of perfume everywhere. I love little tiny pots of flowers at each place setting -- flowers that don't have a strong aroma. I dislike flower arrangements so tall that you can't see the person sitting across from you. How do you feel?

Flowers on the dining table: like or dislike?

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May 6, 2015

Quick and easy creamy tomato soup {vegetarian, gluten-free}

Quick and easy creamy tomato soup, the perfect mate for a grilled cheese sandwich.

In the years after World War II, tomato soup served with grilled cheese sandwiches became a popular school cafeteria menu combination that carried over into home kitchens everywhere. Here's the most plausible explanation I've found for why this happened: institutional food service (including school cafeterias) paired grilled cheese with tomato soup to meet the minimum school lunch requirements for sufficient Vitamin C (from the tomatoes) and protein (from the cheese). As canned soups became more available and economical, and processed cheese extended its shelf life, soup and sandwiches were a practical choice for many school systems. Today there's only one reason we eat grilled cheese and tomato soup -- because it's still the best comfort food combination around. Of course, you can fancy up the cheese and bread in your sandwich, but at the end of the day, nothing beats a basic creamy tomato soup. When it's this easy to make soup from scratch, there's no reason to default to canned soup. By the way, both of my grandsons are dunkers, just as my school friends and I used to be, and this soup makes for great dunking of melty grilled cheese sandwiches.

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May 3, 2015

Spanish chicken with saffron and green olives {gluten-free}

Spanish chicken with olives, an easy party dish with real wow!

Whenever my parents entertained, my mother served one of her party dishes, a short list of easy-to-cook chicken (always chicken) dinners with a wow factor. She never made those dishes for everyday dinners, only for parties. I'm not sure why, but that's how she rolled. Mother would have added this Spanish chicken to the party list, because it's really easy on the cook (though it looks complicated), and it's beautiful on the plate. I want you to enjoy it on a weeknight, for lunch, for no particular occasion, or even on a picnic. The wow factor comes from a pinch of saffron, and some smoked paprika (pimentón), which is much easier to find these days, even in the grocery store. Smoked paprika comes in several degrees of heat; dulce (sweet, with no heat) is the most common, but if you can find picante (hot), that's the one I like to use here. This is not a hot and spicy recipe, and I know that, even if you think you don't like hot food, you'll miss the slight bit of hot paprika if it's not there. If you can't find picante, use regular smoked paprika and add the tiniest pinch of cayenne. Put this dish on your party list, and on your everyday list, too.

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May 2, 2015

Wooden spoons: like or dislike?

Wooden-spoons

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 we downsized our kitchen in the move from the log house to Boston, I had to sacrifice some of my beloved 200+ wooden spoons. (I've shared some of my favorite spoon stories here on The Perfect Pantry.) The small collection (two dozen) I now have sitting in a crock adjacent to the stove represents spoons that are most used, and most loved. Some came home with me from my travels -- to Nicaragua, Italy, Malaysia -- and one is the spoon I made to celebrate a big-O birthday some years ago. Wooden spoons are both utilitarian and beautiful; over time, they acquire the patina of everything they've touched, and I can't imagine cooking without them. How about you? [PS: my friend Bob made the ceramic crock. Isn't it lovely?]

Wooden spoons: like or dislike?

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April 29, 2015

Slow cooker beef brisket with pomegranate molasses gravy

Slow cooker beef brisket with pomegranate molasses gravy takes just a few minutes to prep. [ThePerfectPantry.com]

Cousin Martin came to visit last week, and I made our grandmother's brisket for him. If you've heard that I never met a brisket recipe I didn't love, you heard right, and while I've made brisket the same way my grandmother did for most of my life, lately I've been branching out, too. I've tried sweet, and spicy, Tex-Mex and BBQ and shredded. A bottle of Lebanese pomegranate molasses in the pantry inspired this latest slow cooker recipe, and when I went looking online, I found several versions to use as a starting point. Pomegranate molasses brings a tangy sweet-sour flavor to the meat, and mint leaves added at the end offer an unexpected -- and delightful -- change from the usual heavier seasonings. I use my new favorite technique of cutting the meat into four pieces and browning all of the edges before slow cooking with the remaining ingredients; this has the added advantage of producing pieces that are just the right length for sandwiches. You can cook the brisket in one whole piece, for a finished dish that's a bit less, well... edgy. Look for pomegranate molasses at Middle Eastern markets, or online.

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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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