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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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March 27, 2014

Recipe for iceberg lettuce (or green salad) with lighter Thousand Island dressing {vegetarian}

Iceberg lettuce wedge with lighter Thousand Island dressing (The Perfect Pantry).

As a child in the 1960s, I couldn't help but fall in love with bell bottom pants and tie-dyed T-shirts, Doris Day movies, the Beatles, and iceberg lettuce wedges. Going out for a fancy dinner meant starting with a perfect triangle of crispy, ice-cold iceberg topped with sweet Thousand Island dressing. I know it's hard to imagine now that this was a delicacy way back when, but it was a treat we always anticipated with glee when we went to the "fine dining" restaurants in the suburbs. Today, it's a retro salad that will bring smiles to the faces of everyone at your table, for the same reason we loved it when I was a child -- because it's good. I've lightened up the mix a bit with nonfat Greek yogurt and reduced-calorie mayonnaise, though the amount of mayo is small enough that it really doesn't make a huge difference if you use the real thing. If you don't have a bottle of sweet green relish in your fridge (it always comes in the picnic packs with ketchup and yellow mustard), chop some pickles and capers instead, and add a tiny bit of sugar. Now, does this salad bring back memories for you?

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March 20, 2014

Recipe for roasted cabbage, apple and pecan salad with mustard vinaigrette {vegan, gluten-free}

Roasted cabbage, apple and pecan salad with mustard vinaigrette (#vegan #glutenfree).

Now that it's Spring, officially, I know you're ready for greener-than-green recipes starring pungent ramps and crunchy peas and crisp spears of asparagus. I'm ready, too, but here in New England, Spring in March is more theory than reality, with snow still blanketing the garden. Nevertheless, I've got something green-ish for you, this lovely side dish of roasted cabbage with apples and pecans. I'm determined to eat more cooked cabbage this year, and roasting turns the leaves soft and sweet. Combine that with some crisp apples, not too tart, and toasted pecans, and this is a side dish that will compliment any main course protein (roasted chicken, grilled steak, baked fish). The ingredients are available year-round, and that's exactly when you should make this salad.

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March 9, 2014

Recipe for corn and black bean salad with sweet lime dressing {vegan, gluten-free}

Black bean and corn salad (The Perfect Pantry). #vegan #glutenfree

Here in New England, corn season lasts for six weeks, and these middle-of-March weeks are not the weeks for fresh corn. Don't let that stop you from enjoying this gorgeous vegan and gluten-free side salad. Buy frozen organic corn kernels or frozen fire-roasted corn (if you're lucky enough to have a Trader Joe's market nearby). Combine the corn with canned or cooked black beans; I'm using my new pressure cooker to make large batches of beans, so I always have some on hand. Add a squirt of lime for a bright, fresh flavor. You'll forget that it's winter. When corn season arrives, make this salad with fresh corn kernels and bell pepper from your garden, and it will be that much better. Serve it with salmon (oh, the colors!) or roast 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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