It's the tweaking time of year here on the blog -- a kind of blog form of Spring cleaning -- so please bear with us as we move some elements around a bit, and test a couple of new things. Everything will settle down in a week or so. Really.

From Clara, in Westford, Massachusetts: The enclosed picture means that I have expanded my cooking repertoire in the last 10 years to include Thai, or at least Thai style or influenced, dishes. [Lydia's Notes] I've expanded my repertoire of Thai-inspired dishes in the past 10 years, too, so coconut milk is a must-have in my pantry. I've also learned that there's so much more to cook with coconut milk, and I've just scratched the surface. In addition to Thai curries (my favorite), coconut milk forms the base for curries of all cuisines, from India to South Africa. It makes great soups, and you can even bake with it. Do you have coconut milk in your pantry? How do you use it? Here are some recipe... Read more →

I know what you're thinking: how can this be barbecue chicken without the drippy brown barbecue sauce? Trust me. This chicken "drips" with all of the sweet, salty, smoky flavors of barbecue, without drowning in sauce, and that makes it perfect for tacos and burritos and quesadillas. Add your own favorite salsa on top, to make this spicy or not. Adapted from my slow cooker barbecue beef brisket recipe, this version, which my grandkids stuffed in burritos, passed the kid-friendly test with flying colors (i.e., they asked for seconds!). I cut down on both sugar and spice, but left all of the things nice: a little hint of adobo sauce from the chipotle, and some chili powder for rich flavor. If you're making this for... Read more →

Potatoes and artichokes don't often go hand in hand, though you might find them side by side. In a composed salad, like a Salade Nicoise, neat lines of artichoke hearts would nestle up to neat slices of potato, tomato, green beans, hard-cooked eggs, and more. This potato and artichoke salad is the opposite of composed. What would that be -- chaotic, or disorganized, or discombobulated? Whatever you call it, the combination of potatoes and artichokes balances texture with taste. If you prefer, use tart Kalamata olives. The pine nuts keep it Mediterranean, and balsamic vinaigrette brings everything together. If you have fresh basil in your garden this summer, add a few torn leaves to the dish. This salad would be perfect alongside roast or grilled... Read more →

From Connie, in Rhode Island: There's a lovely little olive oil/balsamic vinegar tasting shop, Olive del Mondo, on Hope Street in Providence, diagonally across from Seven Stars Bakery. They have a wonderful selection and a knowledgeable, friendly staff. Here you see Traditional Balsamic Vinegar, with white truffle oil on the left, and Tuscan Herb olive oil. My favorite, my special treat, is front and center: Lavender Balsamic. Heavenly. Especially on sliced fresh strawberries. [Lydia's note] Okay, Connie, you got me. Lavender balsamic?! Until I get a bottle for my own pantry, I can only imagine how amazing this tastes and smells. I love the idea of drizzling it on strawberries. Readers, do you have this in your pantry? How do you use it? Here are... Read more →

When I travel, I love to buy locally-published cookbooks, the ones you'll never find on I hold on to those books forever, and look through them often. Flipping through a circa 1992 book I brought home from Malaysia, I found a page torn out of an issue of New York magazine, also circa 1992. On that page were several recipes; I can't tell you which ones appealed to me nearly 25 years ago, because they all look great now. This chicken, baked or cooked on the grill after marinating overnight in Thai-inspired flavors, caught my eye, because grilling season is just around the corner. When I finally got in the kitchen to cook, however, I decided to bake rather than grill, though I did... Read more →

What goes into a good soup? First, and most important, fearlessness! Open the refrigerator door and look around. Grab some protein (leftover cooked chicken, or sausage or tofu or hamburger meat), last night's vegetables or scraps a heartbeat away from the compost pile, some homemade broth. Root around in the pantry for canned beans, hot peppers, spices. Chop an onion. Toss everything into a pot, let it simmer for a while, and taste. Adjust with more of one ingredient or another. Have faith, because everyone can make great soup. My favorite soups come from countries where the weather is hot, and the food is hotter. In this recipe inspired by dishes I've enjoyed throughout Mexico, black beans, chile peppers, and lime take center stage. If... Read more →

From Ken, in Hawaii: I am trying to duplicate “Jane’s Healthy Kitchen Recipe for Vegan/Paleo Dairy Free Parmesan Cheese" which you freeze into a block and you can then shave or grate like regular Parmesan cheese and have the same taste and texture. The trick is making your own coconut butter as the base from the shredded coconut and the lemon juice, nutritional yeast and vitamin-C gives it the color and that sharp aged taste. I have friends that are Lactose Intolerant, Vegetarians and Vegans so I as a Carnivore am trying to expand my recipe repertoire to be inclusive of my friends' special needs when I cook. [Lydia's notes] I've never cooked with nutritional yeast, so this one's completely new to me. My friends... Read more →