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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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June 22, 2014

Double broccoli salad with almonds and Sriracha yogurt dressing {vegetarian, gluten-free}

Double broccoli salad with almonds and Sriracha yogurt dressing.

One neat thing about having a daughter who's a science teacher is what you learn about things you thought you already knew everything about. For instance, broccoli. Did you know that broccoli is a fractal? I didn't know that; in fact, I had to look up fractals in the dictionary. A fractal is a never-ending pattern, in which each part is self-similar across different scales. In other words, each broccoli floret, large or small, is a miniature of the entire head of broccoli. Isn't that fun? Even more fun, broccoli florets are tender enough not to need cooking, which is a hit with me when the weather gets hot. In this double broccoli salad recipe, I use store-bought broccoli slaw -- the shaved stems of broccoli and carrots, with bits of red cabbage -- with chopped broccoli florets, and bind it all together with a spicy-sweet Sriracha yogurt dressing. Bring this salad to a picnic or potluck this summer, and it will be the first dish to disappear.

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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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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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