A new-to-the-blog reader, who happens to live nearby in Rhode Island, mentioned recently that she's been reluctant to try some ethnic recipes because she doesn't believe in single-purpose ingredients. Of course that's the premise behind this site, to use what's in our pantries in more than one way. This recipe for roasted green beans and potatoes with creamy sesame dressing proves the point. If you have a tin of tahini (sesame paste) in your pantry, odds are you're planning to make hummus. I love hummus, and I've shared recipes for asparagus, lemon-onion, and roasted red pepper and garlic hummus, but there's so much more you can do with tahini. Like peanut butter, which makes a good substitute, nutty tahini blends with tangy ingredients like buttermilk, lemon or yogurt to make wonderful and unexpected salad dressings and sauces with Middle Eastern flair. Use any vegetables you have on hand; I like beans and potatoes, but bell pepper, onion, broccoli, zucchini or eggplant -- or all of them together -- also would be delicious in this recipe.
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You'll never miss the anchovies in this vegetarian Caesar salad. (Wait, you knew about the fish in the salad dressing, didn't you?) I love to use anchovy paste in traditional Caesar salad dressing, but in this recipe, plain Greek yogurt and sharp, salty Romano cheese stand in for the sharp, salty bite from the fish. Plenty of garlic, giant crunchy croutons made fresh in a frying pan, and crisp, sturdy lettuce combine for a simple salad that relies on big flavor from every ingredient. Add some grilled chicken or shrimp, as restaurants often do, or pile on tomatoes, or bell pepper, or asparagus... well, you get the idea. I always blend some extra dressing, which keeps in the refrigerator for a week, so I have the basic salad for several lunches in a row, with different add-ons every day.
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For years -- well, for decades -- I cooked barley only one way: in soup, with mushrooms and carrots and rich beef or chicken stock. So I missed out on decades of amazing warm and cold barley salads, and now I'm making up for lost time. Or for lost tastes. This barley, artichoke, sun-dried tomato and feta salad came together after a quick pantry raid and a short hop to the herb garden for some of the curly parsley I'm growing this year for the first time. The strong, salty flavors of the artichokes, tomato and cheese, plus the lemony flavor of a zahtar-based dressing, provide just the right counterpoint to the creamy barley. For a vegan salad, omit the cheese, and add some kalamata olives.
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In the house where I grew up, my dad took charge of weekend breakfasts. Every Saturday, he made challah French toast, with rich, eggy bread left over from Friday night dinner. The surprises came on Sundays, from a repertoire that included "spit in the ocean", fried eggs and salami, and eggs scrambled with cheese or, if we were very lucky, leftover spaghetti and meatballs. I still eat eggs for breakfast on most mornings, and I like something sturdy to hold them up. When Cousin Martin visited a few weeks ago, we made these savory Southwest cornmeal waffles with red cornmeal from Rhode Island's iconic Kenyon's Grist Mill. I much prefer heat to sweet for breakfast, so we topped our slightly crunchy waffles with fried eggs and some spicy habañero salsa. You could go the maple syrup route, too.
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