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August 23, 2015

Chickenless chicken chili: how to rock the taste, but lose the meat {vegetarian}

Floribean bean chili: how to turn a favorite chicken recipe into a meatless wonder!

Susan, a long-time reader of The Perfect Pantry, wasn't always a vegetarian. She often writes to me about how she's changed up one of my recipes to fit her current way of eating. Susan lives in New Hampshire, where she and her husband formerly owned a health food store. She's a wonderfully creative cook, and the first person ever to tell me that she made my beef brisket recipe -- without the beef! Intrigued, I asked her to share more about how she approaches adapting meat recipes for her meat-free lifestyle. This is Susan's first guest post for The Perfect Pantry.

I might be an anomaly. I’m a vegetarian who seeks out meat recipes. Selectively, yes... but why?

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August 16, 2015

Basil ricotta bruschetta with pan-burst grapes {vegetarian}

Basil ricotta bruschetta with pan-burst grapes: appetizer or dessert.

Park a giant bowl of fruit salad on the dining table, and my husband Ted and I both go for the cantaloupe and honeydew chunks, and any odd things like kiwi. He'll take the mango; I'll claim the watermelon. And we never fight over the grapes. I could eat grapes all day, every day, in the way one might chomp on peanut M&Ms all day, every day, but cold grapes are not Ted's thing. However, set those grapes in a frying pan over low heat, shake-shake-shake the pan every now and then until the grapes burst and their sweet juices ooze out, and spoon them over some seasoned ricotta cheese, and Ted is there, all in. These warm grapes barely resemble the fresh grapes I eat like candy; they become a grape "sauce" once they've popped open, not as sweet as grape jelly but every bit as spreadable. We've enjoyed these bruschetta as a first course, and as dessert. You can toast the bread, and mix the cheese, ahead of time, and assemble at the last minute when the pan of grapes is ready. Use any variety of seedless grapes, or a mix of red, green and black.

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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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  • 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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