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August 10, 2014

Roasted ratatouille with fresh basil and balsamic vinaigrette {vegan, gluten-free}

Roasted ratatouille, with eggplant, zucchini and pepper. #vegan #glutenfree

When eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes all show up at the farm stand at exactly the same time, my cooking brain goes right to ratatouille (rat-a-too-eee), the Provencal vegetable stew that fills omelets, tops rice, and snuggles up to grilled fish or chicken. I've made pots and pots of ratatouille in my day, some in the slow cooker, some with chicken, and while I love it, I'm not always in the mood for something stew-ish. I decided to try a different method; I diced and roasted a variety of summer squash I found in the kitchen -- a green zucchini, a yellow crookneck squash, and a pattypan -- with an onion, bell pepper, and eggplant. Then, I tossed the roasted vegetables with fresh tomatoes and some basil from the garden, plus a mustardy vinaigrette. The result was more like a salad than a stew. The next day, I combined the leftover vegetables with white beans and cooked shrimp, added a bit more dressing, and created a spectacular one-dish dinner, perfect for a summer night.

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July 20, 2014

Cucumber salad with roasted lemon, mint and basil dressing {vegan, gluten-free}

Thinly sliced cucumber dressed with roasted lemon, mint and basil. #vegan #glutenfree

What happens when you roast a lemon? It morphs from a fruit that's impossibly sour, to one that's improbably sweet. Squeeze the juice from that sweet lemon and blend it with bright, fresh herbs and fruity olive oil, and you create a salad dressing that's a little bit magical. For this simple salad, I sliced a seedless English cucumber into paper-thin slices on the mandoline, drizzled it with the dressing, and let it sit for 15 minutes so some of the dressing seeped into the cucumber. Try this with zucchini, or beets, or thin slices of boiled potato, or nectarines. I had some dressing left over, and slathered it on grilled salmon -- and yes, it was perfect.

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July 13, 2014

Couscous with broccoli, peas, mushrooms and tomato {vegan}

Israeli couscous with broccoli, peas, mushrooms and tomatoes. #vegan

My friend Jennifer, who used to take cooking classes from me, never cooked the same dish twice, and I always thought that was a little bit nuts. After all, how do you get good at something if you don't make it more than once? Food blogging gives you the opportunity to keep trying new things, but when you've been at it as long as I have, it also gives you the push to revisit some recipes and tweak them to perfection. This vegan couscous with broccoli, peas, mushrooms and tomato was ripe for an update. My supermarket now carries "rainbow" Israeli couscous, with vegetable-tinted grains of orange and green; I've finally discovered a store-bought vegetable broth I really like; and I love the addition of peas. For non-vegans, add some poached shrimp, chunks of feta cheese, or shredded rotisserie chicken. The dish tastes best at room temperature, which makes it perfect for a picnic.

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June 29, 2014

Asparagus and lemon risotto (pressure cooker or stovetop) {vegetarian, gluten-free}

Asparagus and lemon risotto, made easy in the pressure cooker. #glutenfree

It's almost the end of asparagus season here in Rhode Island, and I'm begging my friends for a few spears here and there, whatever crumbs of the harvest they're willing to toss my way. Every spear is precious when you know it will be ten months until local asparagus returns to the farm stands. I freeze some to use for soup later in the year, but the texture doesn't hold up for a dish like risotto, where the crisp bite of barely-cooked asparagus makes such a perfect contrast to the creamy rice. Two things conspired to create this recipe: the no-longer-dreaded pressure cooker was sitting on the counter, having just been used to cook something else; and the grocery delivery service brought me not the one lemon I'd ordered, but a whole bag of lemons. With a few spears of asparagus in the refrigerator, it was almost too easy. Of course you can make this recipe on the stovetop, too, by following the directions and proportions for this risotto with shrimp and asparagus.

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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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