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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.

June 10, 2015

Asparagus, mushroom, egg and goat cheese breakfast casserole {vegetarian, gluten-free}

Breakfast for dinner? How about this healthy asparagus, mushroom and goat cheese breakfast casserole.

Really, you'd be hard-pressed to come up with a combination of vegetables and cheese that I wouldn't love in an eggy breakfast casserole. However, there are some combos I love more than others, and asparagus and mushroom tops that list. Now that it's asparagus season here in New England, I'm sticking bits of spears everywhere. This casserole mixes earthy vegetables with fresh dill, and some soft goat cheese. I know goat cheese isn't to everyone's taste, so feel free to substitute feta (sharper) or mozzarella (milder), whatever you prefer. Or use two cheeses together. Egg casseroles are forgiving, so your asparagus might become broccoli or zucchini, depending on what's in season where you live. Make an egg and cheese casserole on Sunday, and portion it out for quick and easy weekday breakfasts, or serve it for weekend brunch. Always a hit!

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June 7, 2015

Burst tomatoes with fresh herbs {vegan, gluten-free}

Burst tomatoes with fresh herbs: so easy and so versatile!

K-I-S-S. Keep it simple, stupid. Have you heard that before? It's a design principle, originally created by the US Navy, that emphasizes simple solutions over the more complex. In cooking, keeping it simple means letting ingredients speak for themselves. A recipe with 25 ingredients isn't necessarily better than one with three ingredients, if those three work together and enhance each other. I could have called this recipe KISS tomatoes. I could have added more ingredients (garlic, cheese, dried oregano, onion, bell peppers, etc. etc. etc.), but really, all that needed to be there were the tomatoes and a few fresh herbs. We enjoyed these burst tomatoes as a dip for some toasted bread and, later in the day, as a sauce for penne pasta with just a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. If we'd had any left (None. Demolished.), bruschetta would have been on the menu, too. For the tomatoes, I used a box from the grocery store; they're out of season here in New England, but for this dish, they were just fine, as were the fresh herbs I bought at the market. In the summer, garden-fresh tomatoes and herbs will make this recipe sing.

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June 6, 2015

Oven mitts: like or dislike?

Harrods oven mitt

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.

Do you have one of these in your kitchen? Maybe not this exact one, but a puffy oven mitt someone has brought home from their travels, or one you've bought as a souvenir? Do you have a pile of oven mitts? I do, but I have to admit that I don't love using them. Whether made of fabric, or silicone, oven mitts just feel clunky, and at the same time, too thin, to me. I much prefer pot holders for grabbing things off the stove or out of the oven. How do you feel about oven mitts in general -- do you use them, collect them, give them as gifts, or avoid them?

Oven mitts: like or dislike?

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June 3, 2015

West African vegetable stew in peanut sauce {vegan, gluten-free}

West African vegetable stew in peanut sauce, a great main dish for vegans.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about adapting favorite recipes for changing dietary needs (newly gluten-free, pre-diabetic, vegetarian). When Jared, a local filmmaker who just happens to be vegan, and Jessica, an old friend of my husband Ted's, came to lunch a few weeks ago, I decided to take the West African chicken mafé recipe in my previous post, and veganize it. Out with the chicken, in with chickpeas. Potatoes, zucchini, mushrooms: the combination of firm and soft vegetables really worked, and with the rich peanut, tomato and coconut sauce, nobody missed the meat at all. Reaching for a tube of tomato paste in the refrigerator, I grabbed an identical-shaped tube of harissa instead, and added it to the dish before I realized my error. Wow! Great flavor, just a hint of smoky heat, that elevated the vegetable stew to another level; that's one error I'll make again and again.

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May 31, 2015

West African chicken mafé (chicken stew in peanut sauce) {gluten-free}

West African chicken and peanut stew: gluten-free, dairy-free, party-easy!

Ever since sixth grade, when I used my required year-long project to learn all about Ghana -- history, culture, geography, show and tell, and lots of book reports -- I've longed to travel to that part of the world. Recently, while flipping through one of my favorite mail-order catalogs, I spied a jar of West African maffé sauce. As I read more about it, I realized it was simply a shortcut sauce to use as a base for chicken mafé (yes, different spelling, but the same thing), a rich, thick stew combining peanuts (or peanut butter), tomato and a few spices you already have in your pantry. With coconut milk as the foundation, West African chicken stew is a perfectly rich and thick dish that happens to be both gluten-free and dairy-free. One jalapeño pepper, with the seeds and ribs removed, provides just the right amount of heat without overwhelming the peanut flavor; although the cayenne pepper really adds to the flavor of the chicken, you can cut the amount in half, or omit it. Serve the stew over rice, and it's a feast in a bowl, great for entertaining but easy enough for everyday.

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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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