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July 18, 2010

Ponzu sauce (Recipe: grilled flank steak with ponzu and honey glaze)

Grilled flank steak with ponzu glaze

The first time I bought ponzu sauce was a happy accident.

I pulled down what I thought was a bottle of Japanese soy sauce from a high shelf at the Asian grocery. I tossed it into my shopping cart, and not until I reached the checkout line, with my cart full and my wallet in hand, did I realize I had ponzu instead of soy sauce.

I checked the ingredient list on the bottle. Well, I thought, why not give it a try?

Thus began my love affair with ponzu. Think of it "soy sauce plus", as soy is the main ingredient, but it's the combination of sweet and fruit that makes ponzu sauce a perfect base for building a glaze, or a stir-fry or barbecue sauce.

It's easy to make your own from ingredients you probably already have in the pantry, but it's easier to keep a bottle of store-bought ponzu in the refrigerator.

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June 22, 2010

Bacon, a Pantry Special (Recipe: asparagus, cheese and bacon pizza on a pita)

Asparagus cheese and bacon pizza

In the 12th Century, a small church in England promised a side of bacon to any married man who could swear he had not argued with his wife for a year and a day. A husband who could "bring home the bacon" was highly prized! My husband Ted (also highly prized) loves bacon, and -- true confession -- occasionally I eat bacon, too. Not ham, not proscuitto, not pork chops or any other part of the pig, but I do eat real bacon, the stuff Europeans call streaky bacon, the most ubiquitous bacon sold in the United States. Like many foods, bacon was created as a way to preserve meat in the days before refrigeration. Bacon is cured, brined meat prepared from the belly, back or sides of pork (and from other animals, too, such as duck and wild boar). It's often smoked in large slabs, sometimes with a dry rub. Bacon (especially the fat) lends a smoky, salty flavor to soups and stews. These days, low-sodium and extra-lean versions are easy to find in most supermarkets, and artisanal bacon often shows up at farmers markets.

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June 20, 2010

Capers (Recipe: grilled tuna sandwiches with tartar sauce)

Grilled tuna sandwich with tartar sauce

True confession: I don't love capers all that much.

More than once, the long-stemmed giant caper berries from The Gourmet Outlet, so beautiful on an antipasto platter, have tempted me. More than once, a tin of medium-sized salt-packed capers from France has leapt off the gourmet shop shelf and into my cart.

The fancier the capers, the more I've wanted to love them.

I've tried, really. More than once.

Nevertheless, there's always a jar of capers, from the supermarket or local Italian market, in the door of my refrigerator. Some dishes just need the flavor of capers, and nothing else will do.

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June 13, 2010

Chili paste with garlic (Recipe: spicy Asian grilled chicken and pasta salad)

Asian grilled chicken and pasta salad

My love affair with chili paste with garlic continues, going on thirty years now, with no loss of affection.

It was my first -- first authentic Chinese condiment in the pantry, that is -- and it's still my favorite, the one that makes my heart sing (and, occasionally, burn), the one I can't live without.

My husband Ted, who is not the least bit jealous of this relationship, will tell you that I get twitchy when I pull the last jar off the pantry shelf. I'm happier with a little stash of three or four jars of my favorite Lan Chi brand with their bright-green-and-white labels in Chinese and English.

Nothing, not even chocolate or lemon or Fresca, excites my taste buds in quite the same way.

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About The Perfect Pantry®

  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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