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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.

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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May 30, 2015

Spaghetti: like or dislike?

Spaghetti-sauce-detail-the-perfect-pantry

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 house where I grew up, all pasta was spaghetti, and all spaghetti came with meatballs. After "pasta" took over, and the local supermarkets stocked more shapes and sizes, spaghetti fell a bit out of favor. I don't know why; it's utterly twirlable, and loves almost any type of sauce. You don't even need meatballs with it, though that's a pretty terrific combination. I like to use spaghetti noodles in Asian stir-fry dishes, where they make a good substitute for lo mein noodles. How about you?

Spaghetti: like or dislike?

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May 27, 2015

Canadian cheese, potato and bacon soup {gluten-free}

Use Canadian Oka cheese, or fontina, in this creamy potato and bacon soup.

My (Canadian) husband Ted often remarks that I don't include enough Canadian recipes in my cooking repertoire. He's not wrong. The truth is that I've never really been able to define Canadian cooking. We've enjoyed classic French-influenced food in Montreal; smoked oolichans in British Columbia; Chinese and Greek food in Toronto; lobster cooked every which way on Prince Edward Island. Is one cuisine more Canadian than the others? Still, when I create recipes for Ted that bring together Canadian flavors, I gravitate toward the trifecta of Yukon Gold potatoes, bacon, and cheese. This soup marries all three. If you can find Oka, a mild semi-firm cheese from Southern Ontario, please use it here. Easier to come by at my local cheese shop, Fontal, an Italian cheese, makes a sublime substitute, as will Danish Fontina, which is readily available here in almost any supermarket. If ever there were comfort food in a bowl, this creamy smooth cheese, potato and bacon soup is it, and you don't have to be Canadian to fall in love with it.

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May 24, 2015

Roasted asparagus with ginger-miso butter {vegetarian}

Roasted asparagus with ginger-miso butter, the perfect side dish for anything you toss on the grill. [ThePerfectPantry.com]

When I made this recipe the first time, I roasted a pan of Brussels sprouts and tossed the miso butter in it. Before I had a chance to take a photo, my husband Ted and I ate it all. So here we go, same ginger-miso butter, this time on roasted asparagus, and it's every bit as palate-pleasing. I believe that you could roast shoe leather and slather it with this compound butter, and you'd eat every last bit. It's that good. There's always butter and a tub of miso in my refrigerator. A fermented soybean product, miso lasts a long time, and a spoonful or two add huge flavor to any dish. On its own, miso tastes salty, so balance it with some spicy Sriracha. (Note: if you are gluten-free, be sure to read labels, as not all miso is gluten-free.) You'll probably have more butter than you need for this amount of asparagus, but don't despair; leftover ginger-miso butter tastes sublime on grilled fish or steak, too.

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May 23, 2015

Mayonnaise: like or dislike?

Mayo

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.

Tuna salad, egg salad, lobster salad: could any of them exist without mayonnaise? Growing up, my family preferred Miracle Whip, which was loaded with high fructose corn syrup, but I've given that up in the past few years in favor of real mayo, store-bought or sometimes home made. Not just for salads and sandwiches, mayonnaise is the mystery ingredient in my basil pesto, and my husband Ted's Uncle Donald adds some to scrambled eggs. People have strong feelings about mayo; some can't stand it, others can't live without it. How about you?

Mayonnaise: like or dislike?

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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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