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.

If I took a snapshot of my pantry a year ago, or 5 or 10 years ago, I'd realize how much my cooking changes over time. These days, I use different salts, more hot sauces, more limes than lemons. I have spices on my spice rack now that I'd never heard of a few years ago. There's always something new. Now, with The Perfect Pantry® just a few months away from its 10-year anniversary, it seems like the absolute right time to think about what's in our pantries now that wasn't there when this blog began talking about cooking from the pantry, back in 2006. (Or, if you haven't had your own pantry for that long, what's in your pantry now that wasn't there a... Read more →

I have to be honest with you. In real life, this white bean and leek soup looks like dishwater. Looks like it, but does not taste like it. (And because it's hard to photograph dishwater and make it look appetizing, I've added some bacon garnish, though it's absolutely not necessary to this otherwise vegan soup.) What makes this simple bean soup great is the technique of reserving a third of the main ingredients to add after the initial cooking and blending of the rest of the soup. Puréed beans and leeks form the "creamy" base, and every now and then, your spoon will find a whole bean or two to awaken your mouth. If you are vegan, omit the optional garnishes (bacon or grated Parmigiano-Reggiano... Read more →

For a few months last summer, I had physical therapy every week to get my new hips working. My husband Ted would drive me to the health center for my early morning appointments, and afterwards we'd treat ourselves to breakfast at the café downstairs. One time I ordered a bagel with smoked salmon, a mild herb cream cheese, and slithery wasabi honey vinaigrette that cascaded over the edge and all over the plate. The presentation wasn't great, but the combination of wasabi and salmon stuck with me, and I knew I had to recreate the flavors in a more organized way. Mission accomplished. This smoked salmon bagel is good enough to build an entire brunch party around it; you and your guests will be licking... Read more →

[After a year of Saturdays, welcome to our final Like or Dislike. Next Saturday, we'll introduce a new fun photo feature.] Salt: can't cook without it. Period. End of story. Kosher salt is my cooking salt of choice; sea salt is the salt I use to add pop on a salad. I've never been a person who adds salt to their food at the table, unless I'm in a restaurant where the food is grievously underseasoned, but I know that a pinch of salt, even in sweet foods, enhances the natural flavor of other ingredients. How do you feel about salt? Salt: like or dislike? Last week: dark chocolate. After a year of Like or Dislike, it's time for something new. Next week, we begin... Read more →

I couldn't help myself: I found one teeny, pretty, ripe tomato at the market, and I had to have it. The tomato, beautiful and flavorful as it was, didn't quite fulfill my craving for tomato flavor in this salad, so I decided to bump up the vinaigrette dressing with rich sun-dried tomatoes and a bit of garlic. If I'd had any of my own slow-roasted tomatoes in the freezer (as I hope you do), I would have added those instead. At this time of year, my refrigerator always harbors a collection of dark leafy greens. There's nothing better than tossing a few together in a mixing bowl with a sturdy sun-dried tomato vinaigrette. Add a few things for texture and crunch; I used cucumbers and... Read more →

Readers of The Perfect Pantry over the years know that the way to my husband Ted's heart has a lot to do with beef stew. This year I realized that, despite my good intentions, I forgot to make stew ahead of time for today's holiday of love. The pressure cooker -- and a game-changing new-to-me ingredient I found at a local gourmet shop -- came to my rescue. If you plan better than I do, you can make this stew on the stovetop, in the usual way. At the cheese and gourmet shop at the end of my block, I spied a small rack of what might have been test tubes, filled with a murky substance that would have looked at home in a chemistry... Read more →

[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.] 'Tis the weekend when almost everyone is talking about chocolate, or thinking about it, and dark chocolate is the way to go. Never mind that it's full of antioxidants, and helps to regulate blood sugar, or that it just plain tastes good. Dark chocolate can spice up your Valentine's Day with a few aphrodisiac effects: it helps increase blood flow, elevates mood, and boosts energy. So what's not to love?... Read more →