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August 31, 2014

Sliced carrot and almond salad with roasted lemon, basil and mint dressing {vegan, gluten-free}

Sliced carrot and almond salad, with a minty lemon dressing.

Sometimes, you have to test the theory that a great salad dressing can make anything -- car upholstery, old shoes, vegetables you don't love -- taste wonderful. It's not uncommon to find a bag of carrots languishing in the vegetable drawer of my refrigerator, because, to be honest, I don't love carrots. I use them in soups as part of the mire poix of aromatic vegetables, but I seldom cook them on their own, or even add them to garden greens and tomatoes. This little salad provided the ultimate test of the roasted lemon dressing I first used on cucumbers. Could the dressing make me love carrots? Yes! Is it worth the little bit of effort to roast the lemon? Yes! I don't recommend trying this dressing on shoe leather, but it just might work on cauliflower. That's my next experiment. Make this carrot salad now, while there's still plenty of mint in the garden.

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August 13, 2014

Dill pickled green beans {vegan, gluten-free}

Dill pickled green beans, easy to make, great for snacks.

To be honest, I'm not one of those people who believes that pickling makes all foods taste better. Pickled cauliflower is still cauliflower, and you know how I feel about that. Pickled beets, pickled eggs, pickled carrots: not my thing. However, give me a good cucumber dill pickle, and I will be your best friend forever. When I found some just-picked green beans at a local farm stand, along with some perfect little Kirby cukes, I thought, "why not?" I made a basic pickling brine and divided it between two mixing bowls, one for cucumbers and the other for beans. With only 24 hours in the brine, the beans remained crisp and crunchy, every bit as good as the raw green beans I love to nibble for a low-calorie snack. Eat these pickled beans straight from the jar, or serve alongside a drippy cheeseburger at your next cookout.

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August 10, 2014

Roasted ratatouille with fresh basil and balsamic vinaigrette {vegan, gluten-free}

Roasted ratatouille, with eggplant, zucchini and pepper. #vegan #glutenfree

When eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes all show up at the farm stand at exactly the same time, my cooking brain goes right to ratatouille (rat-a-too-eee), the Provencal vegetable stew that fills omelets, tops rice, and snuggles up to grilled fish or chicken. I've made pots and pots of ratatouille in my day, some in the slow cooker, some with chicken, and while I love it, I'm not always in the mood for something stew-ish. I decided to try a different method; I diced and roasted a variety of summer squash I found in the kitchen -- a green zucchini, a yellow crookneck squash, and a pattypan -- with an onion, bell pepper, and eggplant. Then, I tossed the roasted vegetables with fresh tomatoes and some basil from the garden, plus a mustardy vinaigrette. The result was more like a salad than a stew. The next day, I combined the leftover vegetables with white beans and cooked shrimp, added a bit more dressing, and created a spectacular one-dish dinner, perfect for a summer night.

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August 6, 2014

Hawaiian sweet potato salad {vegetarian, gluten-free}

Hawaiian sweet potato salad. #vegetarian #glutenfree

A longtime reader who I met when his wife took a cooking class from me, Ken retired to Hawaii several years ago. Recently he wrote to say he thought we needed some Hawaiian recipes in the American Regional Recipes section of The Perfect Pantry, and to help me get started, he sent several locally-published cookbooks. Hawaiian cuisine is really a crossroads of all of the cultures who've settled on the islands: Asian, Polynesian, native Hawaiian, and many former military folks from all around the United States. I've been having a great time reading through the books, marking all of the dishes I want to try. It's almost impossible to get authentic Hawaiian ingredients here in New England; however, many recipes can be adapted to what's locally available, like this one, which calls for Okinawan sweet potatoes. A bit of research taught me that Okinawan potatoes are a particular variety -- with purple flesh! I substituted our regular sweet potatoes, which I know everyone can buy in the market. Make this potato salad several hours ahead, to allow the flavors to blend, and serve it as a side dish with grilled beef, pork or chicken.

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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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