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When we moved from log house to city apartment, I downsized my large cookbook collection, and kept fewer than 100 cookbooks. What made the cut, and why? Slow Cooker Comfort Food: 275 Soul-Satisfying Recipes, by Judith Finlayson (2009) Why I've kept it: In the house where I grew up, there were no slow cookers. My mother's cookware arsenal -- frying pan, roasting pan, and a set of blue-and-white nested CorningWare pots in totally impractical sizes -- covered all of her cooking needs. Though she was a working mom, she never had a slow cooker. I can't imagine how she managed without one. My own adventures in slow cooker cooking began just a few years ago, with a $19 four-quart cooker purchased at a discount store,... Read more →


Some people create beautiful appetizers -- elegant, interesting, the memorable appetizers, perfectly arranged on a perfect platter, that take you by the hand and lead you into the meal. Not me. I have perpetual appetizer anxiety. I want to zoom right past them, to soup or an entreé. Sometimes, however, a host must serve apps. Thank goodness for mini phyllo shells. They are the little black dress of appetizers. Any filling you can imagine looks better in a one-bite cup of phyllo dough. They come in packages of 15, ready to eat as is, or to bake for a few minutes. I've filled them with sweet fillings, and savory ones. Easy, easy, easy. These no-bake pesto cheese bites are savory, and the filling takes about... Read more →


One of my all-time favorite Chinese restaurant take-out recipes, shrimp lo mein finally gets the photo update it deserves. I first shared this recipe in 2008, in an ingredient post about oyster sauce, and I updated the post in 2010 with photos that made this dish look anything but appetizing. I hope these new photos will give you an idea of how much you'll love these salty, slurpy noodles, and how easy it is to make great lo mein at home. The basic sauce, what I call the Cantonese 3-2-1 Trinity, relies on staples from the pantry: three parts reduced-sodium soy sauce, two parts oyster sauce (also called oyster-flavor sauce), and one part sesame oil. You can use this mixture to season all types of... Read more →


When we moved from log house to city apartment, I downsized my large cookbook collection, and kept fewer than 100 cookbooks. What made the cut, and why? The Sriracha Cookbook, by Randy Clemens (2011) Why I've kept it: Small is beautiful, except when it comes to the size of the Sriracha bottle in my refrigerator, which is the largest that will fit on the shelf. This little collection of 50 "rooster sauce" recipes packs a huge punch. Recipes include starters to dessert and even cocktails, all kicked-up with the heat of Sriracha hot chili sauce. Whenever I flip through this book, I get inspired in new ways to turn up the heat in my own cooking. You'll love the miso-Sriracha glazed salmon, the first recipe... Read more →


FACT: Bacon makes everything better. It doesn't take much bacon to perk up any recipe, especially something as fundamentally bland as rice. And kids are more likely to eat a bowl of rice with vegetables if it also has easy-to-spot pieces of bacon bobbing here and there. In this recipe, bacon lends its salty, smoky notes to an already-rich risotto. After rendering the bacon fat in the pot (or the electric pressure cooker, which is my preferred way of cooking risotto these days), you remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and return it to the pot after the rice is done. The rice cooks in the rendered bacon fat, plus a little bit of olive oil. Broccoli, stirred in after the rice finishes, benefits... Read more →


The calendar tells me that soup season has arrived, but even without the calendar, I feel it in my bones. Cooler temperatures, dry air, a few leaves changing color here and there: it all spells soup. After the humid heat of summer, I'm finally willing to turn the stove on again. To get my soup-making juices flowing, I raided my pantry a couple of weeks ago to create a pot of tomato soup with a spicy kick. The tomato base combines canned chopped tomatoes, red sofrito, and mild red enchilada sauce. Rice gives the soup body, and you can omit the added jalapeño pepper if you want a milder soup. As is, this soup is vegan and gluten-free, but I'd never discourage you from topping... Read more →


If you've been reading The Perfect Pantry for the past couple of years, you know about The Downsizing. When my husband Ted and I moved from the log house in Rhode Island to a small apartment in Boston's South End, we consolidated everything, from furniture, to cookware, to art and shoes and camping gear. And, yes, cookbooks. What began as a collection of close to 1,000 found new homes in local libraries (including our Little Free Library), nonprofit agencies, and friends' kitchens. In the end, I kept fewer than 100 cookbooks. What made the cut, and why? Some are classics, some encyclopedic, some oldish (and others newish), some locally-produced paperbacks acquired on my travels, and some... well, I just couldn't let them go. Stick around... Read more →