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April 22, 2015

Pressure cooker brown rice risotto with asparagus, mushrooms and toasted almonds {vegetarian, gluten-free}

Use your pressure cooker to make brown rice risotto in no time. This one has asparagus, mushrooms and almonds, too. [ThePerfectPantry.com]

Please accept my apologies, but I absolutely cannot wait one more minute for the official start of asparagus season. Here in New England, the uber-snow has delayed everything: flowers, vegetables, and our general good humor. Asparagus season usually begins in early- to mid-May. This year, who knows what will happen? So, last week I gave in to temptation, and bought asparagus at the supermarket. Risotto seemed like the perfect transitional dish, and I'd been wanting to try short-grain brown rice in place of the Arborio rice I often use. Because brown rice takes so much longer to cook, I pressed the pressure cooker into service to speed things up. After 15 minutes of cooking at high pressure, the risotto gets finished just like it would on the stovetop, by stirring in vegetables, butter and cheese. Of course, you can make this recipe on the stove; just be prepared to spend more than 45 minutes stirring (tired arms!). Toasted sliced almonds echo the nuttiness of the brown rice, and provide a great contrast in texture.

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April 19, 2015

Broccoli slaw salad with peanut-mango-Sriracha dressing {gluten-free}

Broccoli slaw salad with peanut-mango-Sriracha dressing: flavor explosion in a bowl!

QUESTION: How do you know when a salad is really, really good? ANSWER: When you plan for it to be a side dish, but find yourself eating a huge bowl of it as your main course. This broccoli slaw salad hits all the high notes -- sweet, creamy, crunchy, and Sriracha-spicy. Best of all, it's a quick and easy dish if you take advantage of some conveniences from the grocery store, like a bag of pre-shredded broccoli slaw. In the produce section of my supermarket, I found "rainbow slaw", which is broccoli slaw (shredded carrots, cabbage and broccoli stems) with broccoli florets mixed in. Rinse it under cold water before you make the salad, to perk up the vegetables. You can prepare this dish early in the day, and let it sit in the refrigerator until you're ready to serve. Try it on top of a salmon or tuna burger, or with roast chicken or grilled fish. Look for mango nectar in the Latino foods aisle.

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March 15, 2015

Mediterranean couscous, tomato, cucumber and feta salad {vegetarian}

Mediterranean couscous, tomato, cucumber and feta salad takes a bit of inspiration from all around the sea.

A real-life Boston friend, on vacation in Key West, posted on Facebook the other day, "If you're on the street or in a shop, and happen to mention you're from Boston, at least five people will come over to you to commiserate about the snow." We're having a crazy winter here, and perhaps that has put me in a Mediterranean frame of mind. I'm craving the sun and the sea, blue skies, outdoor cafés, long lazy lunches, naps in a hammock, and warmth. A jar of Israeli couscous inspired this quick and easy salad that takes a little spin around the Mediterranean, with bits from Greece, France, Italy, the MidEast and North Africa. I love the large, chewy nuggets of Israeli couscous; you could substitute Italian fregula sarda, or any small-grain couscous, if you prefer. Or orzo or ditalini. You get the idea. Chop up some oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes or your own slow-roasted tomatoes; the oil adds tons of flavor, so don't drain the tomatoes before adding them to the salad. Throw in some crunchy fresh vegetables and parsley, and toss everything with a simple oil-and-vinegar dressing, just as they do in countries that border the sea.

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February 1, 2015

Thai pineapple fried rice {vegetarian}

Thai pineapple fried rice, with curry, cashews and raisins.

The continuing process of pantry downsizing and clean-out, in preparation for our move from country to city in a couple of weeks, has energized my cooking. Recently, my cleaning yielded a huge bag of jasmine rice (who knew?) and an almost equally large bag of curry powder, never opened. When a grocery delivery came with a free pineapple, I took it as a sign, and began to pull together the rest of the ingredients for this Thai fried rice. Although the dish typically contains fish sauce, I used soy sauce to keep it vegetarian. (For gluten-free, substitute tamari or other gluten-free soy sauce.) If you have time, make the rice ahead, and refrigerate it for a few hours, or overnight, or days in advance; you'll have a much less gluey fried rice. Canned pineapple (not in syrup) can swap in for fresh, and currants can stand in for raisins. Like all fried rice variations, this one is flexible; it's the combination of soy (or fish) sauce with curry powder that sets it apart.

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January 25, 2015

Pressure cooker chickpea gremolata with green olives, pine nuts and raisins {vegan, gluten-free}

Chickpea gremolata with olives and raisins #vegan #glutenfree

Other than in hummus, chickpeas don't turn me on. Or they didn't, until I tried this chickpea gremolata and pumped it up with pine nuts and raisins and green olives. This dish was the kind of perfect storm that can occur when you have a perfect pantry: a long-forgotten gift package of dried chickpeas discovered on the back shelf of the cupboard; a bag of giant mixed raisins from Trader Joe's; and a pressure cooker standing empty. The best thing about this dish is the texture of the chickpeas. Without any presoaking, add the dry chickpeas to the pressure cooker, and what comes out is not in the least bit mushy or overcooked, without any canned-chickpea aftertaste. Then, toss those un-mushy chickpeas with robust fresh ingredients for a quick marriage of sweet and salty and olive oil and heat. Divine.

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  • 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. Thanks so much for visiting.

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