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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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June 21, 2015

Baby kale and cabbage salad with feta, olives and Greek dressing {vegetarian, gluten-free}

Crunchy, creamy, kale and cabbage salad, packed with mix-ins, and tossed with Greek dressing.

Just when you think you might be done with kale, here's a crunchy, creamy, kale and cabbage salad (how alliterative!) that will make you reconsider. This particular salad started with a bag of baby kale and cabbage that I found at Costco; it's a convenience, to be sure, but you can mix baby kale with any type of shredded cabbage, in whatever proportion you prefer. Play with color and texture, by using green and purple cabbage and multicolored cherry tomatoes. Add sharp kalamata olives and feta cheese, plus wedges of hard-boiled egg, or keep going and pile on cucumber and bell pepper, and if you're not vegetarian, try some grilled shrimp or chicken. Homemade Greek dressing, lightened up with low-fat yogurt and thickened with a bit of buttermilk, brings everything together in this meal-in-a-bowl salad.

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June 7, 2015

Burst tomatoes with fresh herbs {vegan, gluten-free}

Burst tomatoes with fresh herbs: so easy and so versatile!

K-I-S-S. Keep it simple, stupid. Have you heard that before? It's a design principle, originally created by the US Navy, that emphasizes simple solutions over the more complex. In cooking, keeping it simple means letting ingredients speak for themselves. A recipe with 25 ingredients isn't necessarily better than one with three ingredients, if those three work together and enhance each other. I could have called this recipe KISS tomatoes. I could have added more ingredients (garlic, cheese, dried oregano, onion, bell peppers, etc. etc. etc.), but really, all that needed to be there were the tomatoes and a few fresh herbs. We enjoyed these burst tomatoes as a dip for some toasted bread and, later in the day, as a sauce for penne pasta with just a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. If we'd had any left (None. Demolished.), bruschetta would have been on the menu, too. For the tomatoes, I used a box from the grocery store; they're out of season here in New England, but for this dish, they were just fine, as were the fresh herbs I bought at the market. In the summer, garden-fresh tomatoes and herbs will make this recipe sing.

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June 3, 2015

West African vegetable stew in peanut sauce {vegan, gluten-free}

West African vegetable stew in peanut sauce, a great main dish for vegans.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about adapting favorite recipes for changing dietary needs (newly gluten-free, pre-diabetic, vegetarian). When Jared, a local filmmaker who just happens to be vegan, and Jessica, an old friend of my husband Ted's, came to lunch a few weeks ago, I decided to take the West African chicken mafé recipe in my previous post, and veganize it. Out with the chicken, in with chickpeas. Potatoes, zucchini, mushrooms: the combination of firm and soft vegetables really worked, and with the rich peanut, tomato and coconut sauce, nobody missed the meat at all. Reaching for a tube of tomato paste in the refrigerator, I grabbed an identical-shaped tube of harissa instead, and added it to the dish before I realized my error. Wow! Great flavor, just a hint of smoky heat, that elevated the vegetable stew to another level; that's one error I'll make again and again.

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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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