July 29, 2012

Tomato paste (Recipe: my own meat sauce)

First published in September 2006, this updated pantry ingredient post features new photos, links, and a few tweaks to the recipe. Please enjoy some fun facts about cooking with tomato paste, and the recipe for my "house special" meat sauce. In Rhode Island, we call it gravy, and we make it all year round.

My-own-meat-sauce-closeup

My mother, like many "let's have TV dinners" cooks in the 1960s, made spaghetti sauce with Spatini, which I think was mostly a packet of salt mixed with a few flavor enhancers.

I don't blame her. After all, it was the Age of Convenience Foods, and my mother worked and didn't have a lot of time to cook. Her mother never cooked pasta, or made sauce, either, so my mother really didn't have a role model.

My own spaghetti role model was Patty, my freshman-year Italian-American roommate, who taught me to make her grandmother's sauce with canned tomatoes, onions, peppers, oregano and tomato paste. It was the perfect college meal; pasta was cheap, and the ingredients for sauce were cheap, too. And it was so easy to make the real thing.

Bye bye, Spatini.

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May 31, 2012

Recipe for kale pesto, tomato and fontina sandwich {vegetarian}

Kale pesto, tomato and fontina sandwich.

Uh-oh. I'd just planted seven basil plants in my herb garden, when my husband Ted, upon tasting this sandwich, proclaimed, "I like this pesto even better than basil pesto." What's a girl to do? Make an extra batch of kale pesto and stash it in the freezer, of course. Not only is it the flavor punch in this kale pesto, tomato and fontina sandwich, but also you'll love it as a topping for pasta, a filling for lasagne, or a slather for grilled chicken or beef. You'll probably think of 1,001 uses for kale pesto once you try it.

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May 15, 2012

Recipe for pasta with peas and parsley-walnut pesto {vegetarian}

Pasta-with-peas-and-parsley-walnut-pesto

While cleaning out the freezer in The Perfect Pantry recently, I discovered some cooked pasta, half a bag of frozen peas, and a long-forgotten container of pesto made from the last of last summer's parsley (gosh, that's a lot of P in one sentence, isn't it?). In fact, my pantry offered up every ingredient for this dish of pasta with peas and parsley-walnut pesto. If you don't have homemade pesto tucked away in your freezer, use store-bought basil pesto, and you will be very happy. And if you prefer whole wheat or gluten-free pasta, use what you love. Be sure to use good white wine and real Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese; when a recipe has just a few ingredients, your happiness depends on using the very best you can afford.

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October 11, 2011

Recipe for roasted shrimp appetizer with spicy peanut sauce

Roasted-shrimp-appetizer-with-spicy-peanut-sauce

This vibrant roasted shrimp appetizer looks like a midsummer night's dream, but with shrimp in the freezer and a few ingredients you already have in your pantry, this dream can be a midwinter reality, too. The shrimp get their bright color from turmeric, and the quick-and-easy peanut sauce from She Simmers gets its zing from Thai red curry paste. Instead of heating the oven to roast the shrimp, I grilled them on my new panini-press-griddle-waffle-gizmo with which I'm unabashedly in love. A hot oven will do the job in minutes, as will a stove-top grill pan, and you can make the peanut sauce a day or two ahead and store it in the refrigerator. The sauce recipe yields a big batch, so double or triple the quantity of shrimp and invite your friends for cocktails or a picnic.

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September 8, 2011

Recipe for raita (Indian yogurt and cucumber condiment) {vegetarian, gluten-free}

Raita-Indian-yogurt-and-cucumber

As many as there are cooks, that's the number of variations of the basic recipe for raita, the famous Indian yogurt and cucumber condiment that accompanies every meal. What they all have in common are yogurt and cucumber, two ingredients that cool the fires of the most incendiary vindaloo. Where you go from there is up to you. Mint makes frequent appearances in raita; if you have some in your garden, go ahead and add a teaspoon or so. Some cooks add caramelized onions or eggplant. This version of raita pairs perfectly with slow cooker Indian-spiced lentils. Remember that raita is a fire extinguisher, and keep the ingredients calm and soothing.

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About The Perfect Pantry®

  • 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.

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