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Once you embark upon The Downsizing, you never really finish. A couple of weeks ago, I was combing through the small collection of cookbooks that remain on my shelf, trying to decide whether any should be donated or placed into my Little Free Library. Flipping through a Lebanese cookbook my husband Ted bought for me on one of our many visits to Ottawa, Canada, I came across this recipe. For sfuf. (Not a typo, I promise, although sometimes it's spelled sfouf.) I had to make it. Sfuf, a sweet cake, bright yellow thanks to turmeric, bakes in a casserole dish. It comes out of the oven glistening on the top, dotted with pine nuts, redolent with the aroma of orange. (I replaced the orange blossom... Read more →


From Alyce, in high-altitude Colorado: These weren't even in my pantry a month ago, much less ten years ago, but I saw them at Trader Joe's and they're a keeper! [Lydia's notes] Do you have cryo-pac olives in your pantry? I would stick around to read your replies, but I'm running off to Trader Joe's to track these down for my own pantry. Of course, I keep and cook with lots of olives, but these will last for months without refrigeration as long as the package is not opened. I'm already getting ideas. Are you? How do you use olives in your cooking? Here are some recipes that include olives: Olive tapenade, from The Perfect Pantry Chicken with preserved lemon tagine, from The Perfect Pantry... Read more →


Lentil soup spans all seasons, but it will forever remind me of this time of year. When we lived in the log house, warm winters like this were rare (or maybe nonexistent); in March, along with late-season pruning of the pear trees, we spent plenty of time shoveling snow and breaking up the ice on our driveway and porch roof. After we all got warmed up by hard winter work, we collapsed into the Adirondack chairs on the front porch with a cup of something warm and steamy, like this lentil and caramelized onion soup packed with dark leafy greens. Lentils don't need a presoak, as so many legumes do, and you can't overcook them. If they cook until they fall apart into the stock,... Read more →


I hate going to the dentist, so while I'm there, I distract myself by dreaming up recipes. Is there really anything new under the sun when it comes to corned beef and cabbage, I mused, while Christa, my wonderful dental hygienist, cleaned my teeth a few weeks ago. I got the idea for this lighter, less salty corned beef recipe as we talked (well, she talked, and I made those noises you make when your mouth is full of dental stuff). My husband Ted and I both feel this is the most interesting, tender, seductive corned beef and cabbage we've ever eaten. Pickling spice -- not the little bag that comes in the corned beef package; use fresh, robust pickling spice mix -- gives the... Read more →


From Kathie, in Rhode Island: I used to always make my own, but I now use this 7 spice mix to season my Syrian cooking. [Lydia's notes] Do you have Syrian spice blend in your pantry? I do -- a no-name brand, mixed in-house by my local Middle Eastern market, so the proportions of each spice might be slightly different. Although I don't use it often, I should, because it's a more interesting substitute for plain ground allspice in many recipes with chicken, lamb, or beef. Here are some recipes, including one of my go-to recipes for the grill. If you cook with this ingredient, what's your favorite way to use it? Chicken shish kabob, from The Perfect Pantry Arabic eggplant and walnuts with cauliflower... Read more →


Cabbage is on sale in this week before St. Patrick's Day, and if, like me, you're trying to get more cabbage into your life, now's the time to stock up and try a few new recipes. The inspiration for this dish came from one of those throwaway supermarket publications that are so easy to ignore, but occasionally have some great ideas. A fairly routine stir-fry with spicy peanut sauce, this recipe replaces noodles with shredded cabbage. So clever! I promise you'll never miss the extra carbs. If nuts are not your thing, substitute your favorite teriyaki or stir-fry sauce for the peanut sauce. Ground turkey offers an option in place of ground beef, and if you don't eat meat, try tofu instead. Stir-fried beef and... Read more →


This winter I've been having lots of fun playing around with salads. Seems incongruous, doesn't it, as we associate salads with summer foods. However, there are plenty of ingredients -- not tomatoes or asparagus, but so many other things -- to mix and match for mid-winter dishes that taste just like August. Nothing about this fennel and avocado salad is seasonal, at least not here in New England, and that's what makes it a great mid-winter treat. I'm partial to dried fruits mixed with crunchy greens, and white balsamic vinegar keeps the colors and flavors bright. Fennel and avocado salad with dried wild blueberries, almonds, and white balsamic vinaigrette {vegan, gluten-free} From the pantry, you'll need: almonds, extra virgin olive oil, Dijon mustard, agave nectar... Read more →