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June 10, 2015

Asparagus, mushroom, egg and goat cheese breakfast casserole {vegetarian, gluten-free}

Breakfast for dinner? How about this healthy asparagus, mushroom and goat cheese breakfast casserole.

Really, you'd be hard-pressed to come up with a combination of vegetables and cheese that I wouldn't love in an eggy breakfast casserole. However, there are some combos I love more than others, and asparagus and mushroom tops that list. Now that it's asparagus season here in New England, I'm sticking bits of spears everywhere. This casserole mixes earthy vegetables with fresh dill, and some soft goat cheese. I know goat cheese isn't to everyone's taste, so feel free to substitute feta (sharper) or mozzarella (milder), whatever you prefer. Or use two cheeses together. Egg casseroles are forgiving, so your asparagus might become broccoli or zucchini, depending on what's in season where you live. Make an egg and cheese casserole on Sunday, and portion it out for quick and easy weekday breakfasts, or serve it for weekend brunch. Always a hit!

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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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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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  • 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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