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September 12, 2015

Saffron: like or dislike?


Welcome to Like or Dislike, where you get to share how you really feel about ingredients from the pantry, ingredients I'm thinking about adding to my pantry, other seasonal foods, and favorite cooking gear. The things you like are sure to find their way to the recipes here on The Perfect Pantry, so do tell.

To some people, saffron -- arguably the most expensive spice in the world -- has a very distinctive taste. To others, it has no taste at all. One thing everyone can agree on is the color it imparts, a rich orange-gold, the shade of Tibetan monks' robes. When you buy saffron, be sure to buy the very best you can afford, even in a tiny fraction of an ounce; fortunately, a little saffron goes a very long way. When you cook, crush the saffron threads slightly between your fingertips, which will turn them a little bit yellow, but it's okay. Your risotto alla Milanese and paella and salmon tikka and brownies will thank you. Do you have saffron on your spice rack?

Saffron: like or dislike?

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June 1, 2014

Sea salt (Recipe: pizza bianca) {vegetarian}

Originally published in August 2006 (you can read the post here), this updated pantry ingredient post features new photos and links. If you live nearby in Rhode Island, you can buy wonderful fresh pizza dough in the refrigerator case of any local supermarket (we do love our pizza). Be sure to let the dough rest at room temperature for a few minutes, to relax the gluten and make it easier to roll out.

Make pizza bianca with storebought pizza dough, or your favorite homemade dough. #pizza

In The Saltmen of Tibet, a stunningly beautiful 1997 Swiss documentary film, director Ulrike Koch follows the incredible physical and spiritual three-month journey undertaken each year by nomadic tribesmen on the Himalayan plateau to harvest salt from the holy lakes of the Changtang region.

For these nomads, sea salt is still the primary currency, just as it was in China and India more than 2,000 years ago.

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January 14, 2014

Bay leaves (Recipe: pasta e fagiole) {vegetarian}

First published in December 2007, this updated ingredient post includes new photos, links, and tweaks to the recipe. Pasta e fagiole (called "pasta fazool" in some parts of New England) falls happily into the meal-in-a-bowl category. Make it ahead, and freeze it for easy worknight dinners; just add some crusty bread, a light green salad, and a glass of wine.

Pasta e fagiole (bean soup with pasta), from The Perfect Pantry.

In 1988, Richard Wilbur was asked in an interview whether, in his role as the United States' second poet laureate, he had to wear a laurel wreath. ''I wouldn't wear it outdoors because it would fall off when I played tennis,'' he answered, but he said that he might get a wreath made of bay leaves, which is a species of laurel. That way, he added, ''When I bowed my head to say grace, I could also season the soup.''

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May 19, 2013

Cocoa powder (Recipe: cocoa-cumin-allspice rubbed rib-eye steak) {gluten-free}

First published in July 2006, this updated ingredient post features new photos, links, and significant changes to the recipe, just in time for the holiday weekend. Get your grill on!

Get your grill on! Rib-eye steak rubbed with cocoa, cumin and allspice.

Sometimes I uncover an item in my pantry that's a bit of mystery. I know I should have it. In fact, I'm never without it. I just don't know why.

Cocoa powder is the mystery du jour.

What, exactly, is cocoa powder? What makes some of it Dutch-processed? Is natural cocoa powder better, or just different?

Here's what I've learned.

Continue reading "Cocoa powder (Recipe: cocoa-cumin-allspice rubbed rib-eye steak) {gluten-free}" »

May 16, 2013

How to use cumin (and five favorite recipes)


Would you like to travel around the world? I do it all the time -- in my kitchen. While some ingredients are synonymous with a single cuisine (wasabi, chutney, hoisin sauce), cumin takes center stage in foods from many countries: Mexican bean pots, Indian curries, my favorite Malaysian noodles, and good old American barbecue sauce.

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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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