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July 2, 2014

Salmon and peas fried rice

Salmon and pea fried rice, a new July Fourth tradition.

When my husband Ted and I first moved to New England, we kept hearing salmon-and-peas, salmon-and-peas, right around the July 4 holiday (which is a pretty big deal up here -- and was, even before The Boston Pops turned it into a classy sound and light show). Salmon and peas first became an item because the salmon used to run just as fresh peas came up in the garden. Even though salmon is available year-round now, the holiday tradition endures. There's no one set recipe, so you have the luxury of combining the ingredients in any way, from grilled salmon and peas sautéed in butter, to poached salmon with peas and pasta, to soup. Some leftover cold rice in the refrigerator inspired my own take on the tradition (a new tradition, perhaps?), and the fish and peas worked so well in this fried rice that I'm going to add it to my year-round repertoire. I used red onion in the rice photos here, but now that the scallions have matured in my garden, I think I'll substitute those next time, for an additional pop of green. Happy Fourth, everyone.

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June 29, 2014

Asparagus and lemon risotto (pressure cooker or stovetop) {vegetarian, gluten-free}

Asparagus and lemon risotto, made easy in the pressure cooker. #glutenfree

It's almost the end of asparagus season here in Rhode Island, and I'm begging my friends for a few spears here and there, whatever crumbs of the harvest they're willing to toss my way. Every spear is precious when you know it will be ten months until local asparagus returns to the farm stands. I freeze some to use for soup later in the year, but the texture doesn't hold up for a dish like risotto, where the crisp bite of barely-cooked asparagus makes such a perfect contrast to the creamy rice. Two things conspired to create this recipe: the no-longer-dreaded pressure cooker was sitting on the counter, having just been used to cook something else; and the grocery delivery service brought me not the one lemon I'd ordered, but a whole bag of lemons. With a few spears of asparagus in the refrigerator, it was almost too easy. Of course you can make this recipe on the stovetop, too, by following the directions and proportions for this risotto with shrimp and asparagus.

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June 18, 2014

Couscous salad with chopped vegetables, basil, parsley and pomegranate vinaigrette {vegan}

Couscous salad with a rainbow of vegetables, and pomegranate vinaigrette. #salad #vegan

When nobody is home, I love to do the thing I hate to watch other people do: I open the refrigerator door, and stand and stare inside, searching for inspiration. My mother's voice echoes in my ears: "Don't leave the door open! Just take what you want!" My mother wasn't really a let-your-imagination-run-wild kind of cook, but somehow, I've become one. A bit of this, some leftover that, the fixings for a salad or stir-fry or stew: it's all in my fridge. That's how this fantastic couscous salad recipe came to life. It started with leftover cooked Israeli couscous, which could just as easily have been orzo or small pasta (always make extra to have some on hand for salads). I discovered a rainbow of vegetables -- tomatoes, cucumber, bell peppers -- snipped some herbs fresh from the garden, and tossed it all with a tangy pomegranate dressing. Mix things up with whatever you find in the refrigerator. Go ahead; stand and stare. It works for me.

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June 10, 2014

Greek shrimp, feta, lemon and basil couscous salad

Greek shrimp, feta, lemon and basil salad recipe: all the wonderful flavors of Greece. #salad #couscous #shrimp

The combination of flavors in this salad -- feta, lemon, basil, olives -- transports the armchair traveler in me to a taverna in Greece, where I imagine myself sitting at a round iron-legged café table overlooking the Mediterranean, sipping ouzo in the low afternoon sun. Luckily, this simple summer recipe tastes every bit as good if you're enjoying it on your own front porch. Israeli couscous -- not Greek, but from the other side of the Mediterranean -- is a small pasta that's toasted, which gives it a firm texture; if you can't find it in your market, use regular couscous, fregula sarda, or orzo or another small pasta. The lemon dressing gets its balance from Greek seasoning, a blend of oregano, lemon zest, salt and pepper I discovered a few years ago on a visit to The Spice House in Chicago. The basil in this salad came from my own herb garden, the first aromatic leaves of the season. Greece is lovely, but home can be quite tasty, too.

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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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