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May 6, 2015

Quick and easy creamy tomato soup {vegetarian, gluten-free}

Quick and easy creamy tomato soup, the perfect mate for a grilled cheese sandwich.

In the years after World War II, tomato soup served with grilled cheese sandwiches became a popular school cafeteria menu combination that carried over into home kitchens everywhere. Here's the most plausible explanation I've found for why this happened: institutional food service (including school cafeterias) paired grilled cheese with tomato soup to meet the minimum school lunch requirements for sufficient Vitamin C (from the tomatoes) and protein (from the cheese). As canned soups became more available and economical, and processed cheese extended its shelf life, soup and sandwiches were a practical choice for many school systems. Today there's only one reason we eat grilled cheese and tomato soup -- because it's still the best comfort food combination around. Of course, you can fancy up the cheese and bread in your sandwich, but at the end of the day, nothing beats a basic creamy tomato soup. When it's this easy to make soup from scratch, there's no reason to default to canned soup. By the way, both of my grandsons are dunkers, just as my school friends and I used to be, and this soup makes for great dunking of melty grilled cheese sandwiches.

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April 19, 2015

Broccoli slaw salad with peanut-mango-Sriracha dressing {gluten-free}

Broccoli slaw salad with peanut-mango-Sriracha dressing: flavor explosion in a bowl!

QUESTION: How do you know when a salad is really, really good? ANSWER: When you plan for it to be a side dish, but find yourself eating a huge bowl of it as your main course. This broccoli slaw salad hits all the high notes -- sweet, creamy, crunchy, and Sriracha-spicy. Best of all, it's a quick and easy dish if you take advantage of some conveniences from the grocery store, like a bag of pre-shredded broccoli slaw. In the produce section of my supermarket, I found "rainbow slaw", which is broccoli slaw (shredded carrots, cabbage and broccoli stems) with broccoli florets mixed in. Rinse it under cold water before you make the salad, to perk up the vegetables. You can prepare this dish early in the day, and let it sit in the refrigerator until you're ready to serve. Try it on top of a salmon or tuna burger, or with roast chicken or grilled fish. Look for mango nectar in the Latino foods aisle.

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March 15, 2015

Mediterranean couscous, tomato, cucumber and feta salad {vegetarian}

Mediterranean couscous, tomato, cucumber and feta salad takes a bit of inspiration from all around the sea.

A real-life Boston friend, on vacation in Key West, posted on Facebook the other day, "If you're on the street or in a shop, and happen to mention you're from Boston, at least five people will come over to you to commiserate about the snow." We're having a crazy winter here, and perhaps that has put me in a Mediterranean frame of mind. I'm craving the sun and the sea, blue skies, outdoor cafés, long lazy lunches, naps in a hammock, and warmth. A jar of Israeli couscous inspired this quick and easy salad that takes a little spin around the Mediterranean, with bits from Greece, France, Italy, the MidEast and North Africa. I love the large, chewy nuggets of Israeli couscous; you could substitute Italian fregula sarda, or any small-grain couscous, if you prefer. Or orzo or ditalini. You get the idea. Chop up some oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes or your own slow-roasted tomatoes; the oil adds tons of flavor, so don't drain the tomatoes before adding them to the salad. Throw in some crunchy fresh vegetables and parsley, and toss everything with a simple oil-and-vinegar dressing, just as they do in countries that border the sea.

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March 11, 2015

Crazy mixed-up red enchilada sauce

There's nothing traditional about this easy homemade enchilada sauce!

As I organized the pantry shelves in my new kitchen, grouping all of the tomato-related products together -- canned chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, Ro*Tel -- I realized I didn't have any cans of enchilada sauce, which is pretty much a fixture in my perfect pantry (and which isn't usually made with tomato, but that's where I'd look for it). However, I did discover a bunch of ingredients I thought would make a perfect, if not perfectly traditional, sauce for enchiladas, and I tossed them a pot. The result was this rich sauce with just a hint of cilantro from a jar of storebought sofrito (you'll find it in the Latino foods aisle). Depending on the filling I use in my enchiladas, I might stir in a teaspoon of adobo sauce (from a can of chipotle peppers with adobo), to add some smokiness to the sauce. If you like your enchilada sauce thinner, just add a few teaspoons of water. I prefer mine with a bit of body. It's an easy recipe to double, and you'll want to stash some sauce in the freezer for burritos, flautas, soup, beans, pasta, meatloaf, or just about any type of enchilada you can dream up. A jar of homemade enchilada sauce makes a great hostess gift, too.

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February 18, 2015

Spaghetti squash boat with clams, zucchini, peppers and olives {gluten-free}

Roasted spaghetti squash boats filled with clams, vegetables and cheese. #glutenfree

Today, despite the umpteenth day of snow, The Perfect Pantry® departs the log house kitchen, where the blog was born and where my e-books and their headless videos came to life, and moves to the city. My husband Ted and I are excited to return full-time to Boston's South End, a multi-ethnic neighborhood where we've lived since 1980. I'm going to take a few days to unpack, organize the kitchen and pantry, and stock up at the wonderful local stores -- Syrian Grocery (olives, spices, pita bread), Formaggio (cheese, bread and more spices), Ming's Market (Asian), Morse Fish, Foodies supermarket (great produce and butcher) -- that are within blocks of our apartment. I also have to figure out where, and how, to take food photographs in the new space. If you're curious, I'll be sharing photos of my new kitchen in the next Tidbits newsletter, so if you're not already subscribed (it's free), click this link to sign up. In the meantime, I want you to keep cooking, so I'm leaving you with a spaghetti squash recipe, one we've made many times over the past few months, and I hope you'll try it this week. If you don't love clams, substitute shrimp or scallops or mussels, and for liquid, use a bottle of clam juice from the supermarket. I'll be back soon with more recipes -- sooner if you come and help me unpack -- and Like or Dislike will be here on Saturday morning as usual.

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Welcome to The Perfect Pantry®

  • 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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