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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 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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July 5, 2015

Smoky egg salad lettuce boats with caramelized onions {vegetarian}

Smoky egg salad lettuce boats, a picnic-perfect twist on the classic.

When it comes to egg salad, I'm a straight-up gal. Hard-boiled eggs, really good mayonnaise, black pepper, and nothing more. Oh, occasionally I'll toss in a bit of celery. Perfection. And yet... sometimes, I have to cut loose, and when I do, I turn to my spice rack and pantry for inspiration. The combination of eggs and caramelized onions takes me back to childhood, when my grandmother used to combine the two with chopped liver for the classic Jewish appetizer. I think if she'd had smoked paprika on hand (I'm sure she never heard of it), she might have added a pinch of that as well, because I love how just the tiniest bit of smoky pepper plays off the sweet onions. Depending on whether you like your egg salad with a kick, use mild or hot smoked paprika (it also comes in a bittersweet variety, which is midway between the two on the heat scale). If lettuce boats aren't your thing, stuff this egg salad into a pita or crusty roll, or fold it into a tortilla wrap. You can make all of the components a few hours (or days) ahead, and assemble at the last minute, so it's great for picnics.

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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 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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  • 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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