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February 16, 2014

Recipe for Costa Rican gallo pinto (black beans and rice) {vegan, gluten-free}

Gallo pinto (Costa Rican black beans and rice), with scrambled eggs for breakfast.

On every vacation my husband Ted and I have ever taken, one element of the local cuisine defined the entire trip. In Malaysia, I greeted every morning with mee goreng (fried noodles) for breakfast, in restaurants or from street carts; in Brazil, pao de queijo, cheese balls made of manioc, appeared everywhere with breakfast or afternoon coffee. Recently, on vacation in Costa Rica, gallo pinto was the constant. Throughout the country, there are beans (red or black), and there is rice (always white). And then there is gallo pinto, black beans and rice combined with some of the bean cooking water, garlic and bell peppers. You'll never see it with red bell peppers, but I like the color; green peppers are the norm. Cook the rice and beans separately, ahead of time (even a few days ahead), and reserve some of the bean cooking water in a small jar in the refrigerator. Then, toss the dish together in minutes, just before you're ready to serve. It's common to eat gallo pinto for breakfast, with eggs and plantains, or later in the day, with grilled fish or chicken.

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February 6, 2014

Instant couscous (Recipe: sweet couscous for a crowd) {vegetarian}

Originally published in August 2006, this updated ingredient post features new photos and links. The recipe -- so simple, I feel funny calling it a recipe -- is something I've been making for decades. It's a perfect accompaniment to spicy chicken or vegetable stews.

Sweet couscous with raisins and pine nuts (The Perfect Pantry).

Last winter, I treated my kitchen to a couscoussier, a double-decker pot used to create traditional Moroccan stews and couscous. The stew goes in the bottom, and rising steam infuses and plumps the couscous resting in the perforated top compartment.

It's a beautiful thing, but I have yet to use it.

I tried. I really did. My cooking group made a menu called Preserving the Lemon, which included three dishes inspired by Moroccan cuisine. We used our tagines, but when it came time to set up the couscoussier — and start the slow process of rinsing, drying, steaming and steaming again — we looked at each other and, in unison, said, "Instant couscous!"

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February 4, 2014

Recipe for potato, onion and blue cheese frittata {vegetarian, gluten-free}

Potato, onion and blue cheese frittata (The Perfect Pantry).

A blizzard can be a cook's best friend. Trapped in the house, with only my pantry and whatever I can scrounge in the refrigerator, I do some of my best, and most relaxed, cooking. On the day I made this frittata -- a kind of omelet finished under the broiler, to give it a bit of a crusty top -- I found a small piece of Stilton cheese left over from our New Year's Eve celebration with friends (thanks, Mary), and a couple of red-skinned new potatoes that were no longer brand new. Of course I always have eggs and onions, and soon enough, this frittata came to life. Use your favorite blue cheese, strong or mild. If blue cheese isn't your thing, try feta or goat cheese, or whatever you have on the day the snow strands you indoors. Be sure to use a frying pan that's oven-safe (no handles that will melt).

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February 2, 2014

Hot sauce (Recipe: smoky brown rice and lentils) {vegan, gluten-free}

Originally published in November 2006, this updated ingredient post features new photos, links, and tweaks to the recipe. To me, lentils plus brown rice equals comfort food. Use your favorite store-bought or homemade smoky barbecue sauce; I love Rhode Island's own Cowboy Ketchup, gluten-free and not too spicy. Serve this vegan combination as a side dish, or a Meatless Monday main dish with a side salad.

Smoky brown rice and lentils for Meatless Mondays (The Perfect Pantry).

For as long as I can remember, I've had a bottle of Tabasco hot sauce in my pantry.

For many years, it was the same bottle. I used to buy the little two-ounce supermarket standard, and those two ounces would sit on the shelf for a few years, until the sauce turned brown and gunky. I'd throw it out, and buy another little bottle, and start the cycle all over again. No matter what a recipe called for, I never used more than a drop at a time. Sometimes I just left out the hot sauce altogether. I was afraid of the heat.

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About The Perfect Pantry®

  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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