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July 15, 2015

Sesame ginger red cabbage salad {vegan, gluten-free}

Sesame ginger red cabbage salad, so easy with just one vegetable. [ThePerfectPantry.com] #vegan #glutenfree

A single ingredient can morph into an entire salad if you have the right dressing. In this case, red cabbage does the honors. No matter what I make, I always seem to use exactly half of a head of red cabbage, leaving me exactly half a head in the refrigerator. That's the perfect amount for this salad. Shred it thinly, with a sharp knife; if you go slowly, it's easy to do. Reach into your Asian condiments for the dressing. Sesame oil has a strong taste, and if you're not overly fond of it, cut the amount in half. The brand of condiments you use will affect the overall flavor of the dressing, so think of this recipe as a suggested starting point. Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a mixing bowl, taste, and adjust until it's just right for you. Then, toss in the cabbage, and let it absorb the dressing for a while before you're ready to serve. Sesame ginger red cabbage goes really well with grilled fish or chicken. You'll want this salad on the table at your weekend barbecue.

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July 12, 2015

Quick and easy chicken and corn chowder

Quick and easy chicken and corn chowder really is a meal in a bowl!

Here in the Northeast, we love our chowder all year long. I'm partial to traditional New England clam chowder, packed with fresh clams and chopped potatoes swimming in a creamy base, and I love a fish variation, with chunks of cod and whatever is fresh at the market. (I've heard there is a red chowder, made with tomatoes, from a very large city southwest of Boston with a rival baseball team. We don't speak of it.) Although chowder usually contains seafood, we New Englanders make allowances for people who cannot, or prefer not to, eat fish or shellfish. Corn, abundant in the summer, often stands in for clams, and brings its own sweetness to the chowder. In this recipe, I omit the potatoes and add some chopped rotisserie chicken. It's a great combination that turns the soup into a complete meal-in-a-bowl. A roux made right in with the vegetables thickens the soup; you can substitute gluten-free flour to make the chowder gluten-free. Serve some crusty bread or salty crackers on the side.

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July 8, 2015

Chayote squash, avocado and strawberry salsa {vegan, gluten-free}

Mild chayote squash, avocado and strawberry team up in an unusual salsa fresca!

After fifteen years at the log house, which was surrounded by goat farms but miles from a grocery store, it's nice to be back in the city. Within blocks of our house, we have an Asian supermarket, a Middle Eastern market, a fromagerie, a fish market, and a Whole Foods. A few blocks farther afield, Tropical Foods Market offers all the goodness of the Caribbean, with plenty of specialty ingredients for the African and Latino populations that live in the community as well. Among the items that were hard to find in Rhode Island, chayote squash is one of my favorites, and I now have multiple sources, including my regular grocery store. Chayote, a light green squash that looks like someone punched in the bottom end, always needs to be cooked before eating; it's more firm than zucchini, closer to a patty pan squash, and you can swap zucchini or patty pan squash in most recipes that call for chayote. Here I've paired the mild-flavored squash with creamy avocado and tangy strawberry, in an unusual fresh salsa that tastes great with fish or grilled chicken. You can cook the chayote ahead and refrigerate it, but don't put the salsa together until an hour or so before you're ready to serve; the salt will draw liquid out of the fruit and vegetables, and make it a bit watery if it sits around.

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June 28, 2015

Spicy eggplant caponata toasts {vegetarian}

Slightly spicy eggplant caponata makes a great topping for toast. Picnic perfect!

After living for 15 years in the log house in the woods, my husband Ted and I returned to our full-time home in Boston's South End to discover that restaurants, cafés, and food markets have grown up all around us. On our corner, the store that used to sell cigarettes and lottery tickets now boasts a huge wine cellar. My old greengrocer's storefront has morphed into a fromagerie. A below-ground space that once housed a men's gambling club now peddles pastries and organic salads. I love all of the changes, especially one that brought a tapas restaurant to the arts center across the street. The eggplant caponata, served as a warm tapa in the restaurant, makes a fine topping for toasts with some melted cheese; use something mild, like fontal or fontina, or something with a bit more bite, like manchego. Fresh mozzarella would work, too. The vinegary eggplant caponata has the slightest bit of a kick from red pepper flakes, which you could omit, though of course I'd urge you not to do that. Make this a few hours, or a few days, ahead. It would be perfect for a picnic.

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June 24, 2015

Asparagus and mushroom fried rice

Asparagus and mushroom fried rice, a quick and easy main dish.

Our 11-year-old grandson, a lefty in a sea of right-handed eaters, has been teaching himself to use chopsticks. Instead of starting with something easy and stabbable, like chunks of chicken, he goes straight for the hard stuff: slithery noodles and slippery grains of rice. Both are staples in our house (he and I have even cooked stir-fry noodles together), so he's getting lots of practice. Whenever I make rice in my rice cooker, I fill it to the max, and keep leftover cold rice in the refrigerator or freezer for quick fried rice meals made with whatever else I have on hand. At this time of year, that "whatever" often includes asparagus; our season is short, and we tend to overdose just a bit for the six weeks when asparagus are everywhere. Think of this as a good, basic fried rice recipe, adaptable to any vegetables on a moment's notice. You'll thank me during zucchini season later this summer.

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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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