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March 14, 2015

Cumin: like or dislike?

Cumin seed.

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.

I absolutely cannot imagine cooking without cumin, a spice that has traveled all around the world from its origins in the eastern Mediterranean and India. Think of it: without cumin, we'd have no Mexican food, no Mid-Eastern food, no Indian food, no food from the American Southwest or South America or most of North or West Africa. Cumin has a distinctive, musky flavor and and seductive, smoky aroma. Although it tastes best if you grind the seeds as you need them, I confess that I use good quality ground cumin more often. If you love cumin, you can't live without it. I'm a big-time cumin lover. How about you?

Cumin: like or dislike?

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March 11, 2015

Crazy mixed-up red enchilada sauce

There's nothing traditional about this easy homemade enchilada sauce!

As I organized the pantry shelves in my new kitchen, grouping all of the tomato-related products together -- canned chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, Ro*Tel -- I realized I didn't have any cans of enchilada sauce, which is pretty much a fixture in my perfect pantry (and which isn't usually made with tomato, but that's where I'd look for it). However, I did discover a bunch of ingredients I thought would make a perfect, if not perfectly traditional, sauce for enchiladas, and I tossed them a pot. The result was this rich sauce with just a hint of cilantro from a jar of storebought sofrito (you'll find it in the Latino foods aisle). Depending on the filling I use in my enchiladas, I might stir in a teaspoon of adobo sauce (from a can of chipotle peppers with adobo), to add some smokiness to the sauce. If you like your enchilada sauce thinner, just add a few teaspoons of water. I prefer mine with a bit of body. It's an easy recipe to double, and you'll want to stash some sauce in the freezer for burritos, flautas, soup, beans, pasta, meatloaf, or just about any type of enchilada you can dream up. A jar of homemade enchilada sauce makes a great hostess gift, too.

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March 8, 2015

Lemon, artichoke and shrimp risotto {gluten-free}

Lemon, artichoke and shrimp risotto, easy to make on the stovetop or in the pressure cooker.

During the month before we moved from the log house to the city, we cobbled together a lot of from-the-pantry meals as we worked to downsize and pack. With time and energy in short supply, almost every day I pulled out my electric pressure cooker, which made quick work of many batches of soup and every imaginable kind of risotto (so much rice in the cupboard!). And, as the cupboard grew more and more bare, some of these on-the-fly meals weren't quite as successful as others. This lemon, artichoke and shrimp risotto -- inspired by a forgotten can of artichoke hearts -- was one of the winners. Frozen artichoke hearts will work just as well, and you can omit the shrimp and substitute a rich vegetable broth to make a vegetarian version.

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March 7, 2015

Silicone baking mats: like or dislike?

Silicone baking mats; photo from Amazon.com.

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.

In the beginning, there were Silpats -- miraculous silicone baking mats that guaranteed no cookie, pastry, or meatloaf would stick to a baking sheet. Now there are many brands, at many price points. Good at temperatures up to 450°F and even higher, the mats last for 1,000 bakings or more, and they're easy to wash. Sound too good to be true? It's true. I have Silpats (and other brands, too) that have baked hundreds of batches of cookies for donation, and are still going strong. Don't use them under the broiler (I did that one time and yes, it caught on fire), but for baking or roasting, I can't say enough good things about them. I have them in several different sizes, to fit all of my sheet pans, and the super-large size mats are great for rolling out dough. Are you a fan of silicone baking mats?

Silicone baking mats: like or dislike?

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March 4, 2015

Grilled curry chicken with chutney and rice {gluten-free}

Use your panini press or broiler to grill this easy curry chicken.

The weather outside has been frightful, but chicken cooked on a grill is always delightful. If you like to stand outside in your coat, scarf and mittens and tend the grill, my hat's off to you. However, a grill pan on the stove or, in this case, a panini press, can give you that grill char you love, without suffering in the cold for it. The secret to great curry chicken is a long marinade, so start this recipe in the morning for dinner, or even the night before. Toss together the marinade ingredients, and pour them over the chicken. Refrigerate, and it will be ready to grill when you're ready. You can broil this in the oven, but a grill pan or panini press will give you those beautiful marks as well as the smoky grill flavor. Double the recipe, while you've got the grill heated; you can refrigerate or even freeze the leftovers for sandwiches, stews and curries. What a great way to banish winter.

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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.

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