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April 24, 2012

Recipe for shrimp picadillo {gluten-free}


My husband Ted, Cousin Martin and I visited Cuba for one all-too-short week in 1996, and ever since I've wanted to return. Despite shortages and rationing, we tasted some wonderful food, in places like Havana's famous La Bodeguita del Medio (one of Hemingway's haunts) and in paladares, the private restaurants Cubans are allowed to operate in their homes. Picadillo, a popular filling for tacos or empanadas, traditionally brings together minced meat, onions and tomatoes. Cuban-style picadillo throws raisins, olives and capers into the mix for an irresistible sweet-and-sour tang. In this recipe I've taken those same ingredients and paired them with large, sweet shrimp, served over steamed rice. The resulting dish, fancy enough for company, comes together quickly for a great worknight dinner, too. You can make the sauce ahead and refrigerate; then, reheat, and add the shrimp to cook for a few minutes before you're ready to serve. ¡Buen provecho!

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April 22, 2012

Recipe for brigadeiros (Brazilian chocolate truffles)


My friend Peter, who runs a pousada in Brazil, recently passed through New England on one of those whirlwind, must-see-everyone visits that are always, always, always too short. We had a very small window in which to get together, and I planned to surprise him with brigadeiros, a traditional Brazilian chocolate truffle-like treat. Unfortunately, Peter and I missed each other on this visit, but the urge to make brigadeiros stayed with me. Named for Brigadier Eduardo Gomes, who ran for president of Brazil in 1922, these sweets were made by adoring female supporters, and sold to raise money for his campaign. The brigadier lost, but the chocolatey caramel bonbons endured. I used Ghirardelli sweetened ground chocolate, which more closely resembles the cocoa powder you'd find in Brazil; if you don't have any sweetened cocoa powder, try powdered hot chocolate mix. The chocolate sprinkles are traditional, but I couldn't resist the multi-colored ones. I'm sure the brigadier would have loved them.

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April 5, 2012

Recipe for slow cooker Puerto Rican black beans with sofrito and cilantro {vegan, gluten-free}


Three times I attempted this black bean recipe, as I tried to recreate a dish I enjoyed years ago in a local Puerto Rican restaurant. Three times I loaded my slow cooker with dried beans, not presoaked, just rinsed and picked over. First, I tried cooking them without any seasoning, thinking I'd add the flavorings at the end so they wouldn't keep the beans from softening. (Not enough water; the beans turned into a solid blob before I realized it.) The second time, I added sufficient liquid, but in an act of defiance, the perfectly cooked beans refused to absorb the sofrito, tomato or spices. (Blech.) The third time, success: dry beans, correct amount of water, sofrito and tomato and spices added right at the beginning, everything coming together with no more intervention on my part than a stir somewhere between hours five and six. In a pinch, you can substitute store-bought sofrito (I like Goya red sofrito, though it contains a tiny amount of MSG), but it takes just a minute to make your own from scratch.

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February 5, 2012

Recipe for chicken and vegetable quinoa stir-fry


A couple of years ago, my husband Ted and Cousin Martin hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Every evening, after climbing all day and carrying tents, food and gear, their guides cooked a meal for the group of hikers. When I asked recently what those meals were like, all the guys could remember was "some sort of quinoa stir fry thing with vegetables". Not much to go on, but Kathy and I started with a recipe we found online, and we loved the dish we created, a kind of chicken and vegetable fried rice -- without the rice. I imagine that the Peruvian cooks might have included roasted cubed potatoes. We used cubes of grilled chicken breast, for a super healthy and satisfying entrée. I hope this quinoa stir-fry, even if it's not authentically Peruvian, brings back good memories for Ted and Martin. (PS: Their next climb is Mt. Kilimanjaro. Anyone know any Tanzanian dishes that use our pantry ingredients?)

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January 19, 2012

Grilled chicken, avocado and peach salsa quesadilla recipe


In the house where I grew up, we ate grilled cheese sandwiches all the time, but nary a quesadilla. Maybe it was a Northeast thing, but more likely, it was a my mother never heard of quesadillas thing. My own pantry always holds enough fixings for these simple Mexican grilled cheese sandwiches, a go-to meal on busy days. Most often I use Joseph's low-carb oat bran tortillas -- the gorgeous orange ones in these photos are habañero-lime tortillas from Trader Joe's -- and my friend Lucia keeps me supplied with her homemade peach salsa. Newman's Own peach salsa from the supermarket, or Trader Joe's peach salsa, will be fine substitutes that add a bit of fruity heat. Here's my secret to great quesadillas: tuck a few teaspoons of the salsa inside, and cook them on a dry griddle, to keep them from being greasy on the outside.

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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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