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July 15, 2010

Piment d'Espelette (Recipe: grilled vegetables with piment d'Espelette sauce) {vegetarian, gluten-free}


Hatch has its chile peppers, Gilroy its garlic.

My little town in Rhode Island has no food to call its own, no festival that draws people from all over the world to celebrate its unique cuisine. We do have some pretty good pizza, but nothing that's grown here and only here.

The small town of Espelette in the Basque region of southwest France has its mildly smoky, sultry, absolutely sensational piment d'Espelette, the pepper grown nowhere else on Earth. And they have a festival every year, to celebrate the harvest.

If you can't find piment d'Espelette (unless you live near a very good market, you won't find it, but it's easy to buy online), you can substitute hot paprika, mild New Mexico red chile powder, or a combination of the two with a bit of pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika) mixed in.

Wouldn't it be more fun, though, to travel to Espelette and buy the pepper at its source?

(The festival is in late October, if we're making plans to go.)

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June 17, 2010

Paprika (Recipe: roasted chickpeas with garlic, cumin and paprika) {vegan, gluten-free}

Roasted chickpeas

As recently as ten years ago, if you looked on my spice rack you'd have found one paprika, the red-and-white rectangular tin of Hungarian sweet paprika imported from Szeged by way of my local grocery store.

One tin was all I needed. I never did anything with paprika except sprinkle it on pale foods to make them pretty.

You might say paprika was my rouge.

Though my spice rack today holds at least five jars of sweet, hot and smoked paprika, you'll still find one of those red-and-white tins, but now I know what to do with the spice inside.

I actually cook with it.

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June 3, 2010

Celery seed (Recipe: chicken salad with mustard sauce and lovage) {gluten-free}

Adapted in part from the archives, updated with a new recipe, photos and links.

Chicken salad with mustard sauce and lovage.

If it weren't for potato salad and pickles, my celery seed would be toast.

All winter, it sits on the spice rack, pushed farther and farther to the rear of the shelf.

In summer, when I'm ready to make pickles and potato salad (Why only in summer? I don't know.), I retrieve the celery seed, dust off the jar, use a few teaspoons here and there, and send it back to its place. Every other year or so, I throw out the mostly-full but decidedly less-zesty spice, buy a new jar, and start the cycle again.

Time to admit that maybe celery seed shouldn't be in The Perfect Pantry? Time to broaden my culinary repertoire?

Time to start drinking Bloody Marys?

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May 20, 2010

Oregano (Recipe: grilled lamb, souvlaki style) {gluten-free}

Grilled lamb, souvlaki style. 

Last Spring I planted two types of oregano, Greek and Italian, in my herb garden.

One lived through the winter. One didn't.

Before I tell you which one survived, I want to be clear that this is not a political commentary, nor is it a reflection on which cuisine reigns supreme.

It's not even a matter of taste, as both have strong, unique flavor. (Use any type of fresh oregano sparingly; it's surprisingly potent.)

No, it's just Mother Nature, or the quirks of my herb garden, that enabled the Italian oregano to survive where the Greek oregano could not.

That's the great thing about gardening, though; there's always next year! I'm off to the herbary now for another Greek oregano plant.

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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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