Every May, with great optimism, I set four or six dill plants, purchased at the local organic garden center, into my herb garden. I choose the most vigorous plants I can find, ones that look like survivors. I plant, and I water, and I whisper sweet nothings to them. And I count the days -- usually not more than two weeks' worth -- until the plants shrivel and keel over, deader than dead. Until this year. As I write this (I'm whispering so I don't jinx anything), my dill plants have survived for almost six weeks. I've snipped them back so they don't set seed this early in the season, and with my trimmings I couldn't resist making this Greek-inspired chicken salad. I added sun-dried tomatoes; you could add (or substitute) kalamata olives. Keep your fingers crossed: I'd love to have dill in my garden all summer, or at least for a few more weeks.
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If you've been hanging around The Perfect Pantry for a while, you've heard me rail against recipes that require you to make twelve other things -- sauces, spice blends, stock -- in order to have the components for one recipe. So it wouldn't be fair to ask you to make an entire beef stew so you'll have leftover already-diced rutabaga, parsnips and carrots that won't quite fit into the stew pot, but which will fit quite nicely into your soup pot. (And it would be especially unfair if you don't eat meat!) This root vegetable soup, vegan and and gluten-free, carries its own sweetness; add some fruit and warm spices like cumin, coriander and garam masala, and whip everything together with your immersion blender. If you love cilantro, garnish individual servings with a few chopped leaves.
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Lucky for me, I like my sweets on the not-too-sweet side, and that's a perfect description of these sugar-free applesauce muffins made with ingredients you probably already have in your pantry. The muffins had to have raisins, because I love raisins. And they had to be sugar-free. And they had to be sturdy enough to hold a birthday candle for my friend Charlotte, because I made these muffins for her. Considering all of those "had to" items, they tasted pretty terrific, especially just out of the oven slathered with unsalted butter. No-sugar-added applesauce makes a great substitute for sugar, and it helps keep baked goods moist, too. I used a muffin top pan, because I only like tops, but you can make regular muffins if you like the bottoms. Muffins usually don't keep very well, so make these for a party or a brunch, and eat them the day you make them.
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After years of feeding our vegetarian kids and grandkids every possible permutation of pasta-sauce-cheese, I've been mining the pantry for new ideas. A recently discovered package of farro, purchased ages ago at one of Providence's Italian markets, inspired a main course dish that pairs this nutty, chewy grain with earthy mushrooms, crisp broccoli, crunchy almonds and salty feta. It's an explosion of taste and texture that satisfies, as an entrée for vegetarians, or a side dish with roast turkey. You can buy instant farro at Trader Joe's; it cooks in ten minutes, but the texture isn't as chewy as the regular farro that takes only a few minutes longer. In the time it takes to cook the farro, prepare all the rest of the ingredients, so the whole dish comes together in less than half an hour.
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