May 25, 2010

Unsalted butter (Recipe: chive and parsley butter) {vegetarian}

Asparagus, grilled and topped with chive and parsley butter

Visitors to the 2009 Iowa State Fair saw Michael Jackson's moon walk.

At this summer's fair, they'll see Neil Armstrong's moon walk.

I guess one moon walk sculpted in hundreds of pounds of unsalted butter just wasn't enough for Iowa.

Bakers prefer unsalted butter for its consistency. Salted butters vary in the amount of salt they contain, so by starting with unsalted butter, a baker can determine exactly how much salt to use in a recipe.

I wonder how much salt goes into a butter moon walk.

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May 9, 2010

Salsa (Recipe: chicken, black bean, avocado and cheese quesadillas)

Chicken, black bean, avocado and cheese quesadillas

In the house where I grew up, the cuisine spanned two cultures: eastern European Jewish, and Weight Watchers®.

Neither of those cultures embraced salsa, at least not back in the 1960s, so it was decades before I first tasted the condiment that now might, or might not, be more popular than ketchup.

When tomatoes are in season, I make salsa fresca with fresh tomatoes, onions, jalapeño peppers, lime and salt. For most of the year, though, I also keep jars of several types of store bought (cooked) salsa in my pantry: smoky peach, tomatillo and habanero-lime salsas, from Trader Joe's; medium-hot mango salsa from Costco; mild tomato salsa made by Paul Newman (okay, I know he didn't make it, but I like seeing his face on my pantry shelf, and I can buy his salsa in my local market).

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November 15, 2009

How my father learned to cook (Recipe: traditional spaghetti gravy)

Spaghetti gravy

Guest post and photos by Sarah in Boston.

When my mother passed away, two days before their anniversary, she and my dad had been married almost 15 years.

While I doubt he ever got over the shock, my dad stepped into the role of single parent and, all things considered, he did a pretty good job. As we moved through those first weeks, one thing that became apparent was that he didn’t really know how to feed two growing daughters. His ideal pantry consisted of dried Great Northern beans, rosemary, sage, bay leaf, table salt, rock salt, pepper, onions, chicken broth and elbow macaroni.

After the funeral my maternal grandmother offered to stay on for a couple of weeks to help him design a week’s worth of recipes. They’d work with what he knew and incorporate some of what she called her "tricks". I can still see them sitting across the table from each other, supposedly talking about food, eating hot pickled peppers, the tears running down their cheeks, laughing and goading each other like kids trying to see who could eat the most.

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October 29, 2009

Chinese five-spice powder (Recipe: five-spice applesauce)

A favorite post from 2007, updated with a new recipe, photos and links.

Five-spice applesauce

Can you name:

The five W's? (who, what, where, when, why)

The five senses? (sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste)

The five elements? (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water)

The five flavors? (sour, bitter, sweet, pungent, salty)

The five spices in Chinese five-spice powder?


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September 6, 2009

Tomato sauce (Recipe: Tex-Mex salsa)

While I'm on vacation, please enjoy this post from Kim, a frequent guest blogger here on The Perfect Pantry.

Tex-Mex salsa

Guest post and photo by Kim in Pasadena, California.

I’m originally from the East Coast, and the most exotic thing I'd eaten before I went into the military back in 1979 was scrapple (that’s one of those “don’t ask, don’t tell" foods).

I had never heard of Southwestern food, never mind Mexican food, so the concept of stuff wrapped in what amounts to a flour or corn pancake was totally outside my understanding. The only thing I’d seen like that was crepes.

My first experience with Mexican food was Taco Bell (no eye rolling allowed). It was quite a wonder for someone coming from a culinary background that had three major types of food: upscale French; cheese steaks/hoagies; and pizza by the slice, topped with cheese and tomato sauce

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