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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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May 24, 2015

Roasted asparagus with ginger-miso butter {vegetarian}

Roasted asparagus with ginger-miso butter, the perfect side dish for anything you toss on the grill. [ThePerfectPantry.com]

When I made this recipe the first time, I roasted a pan of Brussels sprouts and tossed the miso butter in it. Before I had a chance to take a photo, my husband Ted and I ate it all. So here we go, same ginger-miso butter, this time on roasted asparagus, and it's every bit as palate-pleasing. I believe that you could roast shoe leather and slather it with this compound butter, and you'd eat every last bit. It's that good. There's always butter and a tub of miso in my refrigerator. A fermented soybean product, miso lasts a long time, and a spoonful or two add huge flavor to any dish. On its own, miso tastes salty, so balance it with some spicy Sriracha. (Note: if you are gluten-free, be sure to read labels, as not all miso is gluten-free.) You'll probably have more butter than you need for this amount of asparagus, but don't despair; leftover ginger-miso butter tastes sublime on grilled fish or steak, too.

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May 13, 2015

Easy rice pilaf

Rice pilaf, easy to make in 20 minutes, makes a perfect side dish for anything off the grill.

Now that my husband Ted and I have moved back to Boston, we miss more than ever the long-closed Cedars Restaurant that used to live at the end of our street. Cedars served Middle Eastern food in a space that reminded you of your favorite aunt's kitchen, with formica tables and frilly curtains, and velvet paintings on the walls. We almost always ordered the garlic chicken on skewers, and it always came with a mound of rice pilaf on the side. If you have access to a Middle Eastern market, you can buy authentic chayrere, the thin vermicelli-like noodles, or look for fine egg noodles in the supermarket. Or, buy the thinnest vermicelli pasta you can find, and break it into two-inch pieces. The remaining ingredients come straight from your pantry. Make a pot of this rice ahead of time, and reheat in the microwave. It's the perfect side dish for anything you throw on the grill.

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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 26, 2015

Orzo with slow-roasted tomatoes, lemon and parsley {vegetarian}

Make this orzo with slow-roasted (or sun-dried) tomatoes, lemon and parsley in a skillet. An easy side dish!

A great all-purpose side dish to accompany roast chicken, salmon or lamb chops, this orzo with slow-roasted tomatoes, lemon, and plenty of fresh parsley tastes as good at room temperature (for a picnic) as it does hot off the stove. Orzo is a small, flat pasta; in this recipe I cook it in a skillet, in the way I might cook rice for risotto, letting the pasta absorb the liquid slowly to give it a creamy texture at the end. I buy beautiful tri-color orzo at my local supermarket; it gets its color, and flavor, from spinach and tomato, and adds visual interest to this dish. Use regular or whole wheat orzo if that's what you have. I found the last of last summer's slow-roasted tomatoes in my freezer, and added them to the pan along with their oily juices. Good-quality sun-dried tomatoes will work well, too (be sure to add some of the oil from the jar). To turn this side dish into the main attraction, toss in some feta cheese, chickpeas, shredded cooked chicken, or steamed shrimp.

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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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