From Kathie, in Rhode Island: My favorite quick and easy go to seasoning during grilling season. [Lydia's Notes] Yep, I have Montreal Steak Seasoning on my spice rack, too (I haven't tried the others in Kathie's pantry). In fact, this post reminded me that there's a grilled tofu recipe here on the blog that I've been meaning to update and share with you, so watch for that one soon. According to Wikipedia, Montreal steak spice had its beginnings in Schwartz's deli in Montreal, where a grill man added the spices used in Montreal smoked meat to flavor his meats on the grill. The mix usually contains garlic, coriander, pepper and cayenne pepper, dill, and salt. It imparts a distinctive flavor to any meat you toss... Read more →

From Julia, in Cambridge, MA: If you can believe it, Sweet Smoked Spanish Paprika is new to my pantry in the last 10 years. I had always thought of paprika as just a bland spice added primarily for color. A few years ago, while visiting a friend, he served fried okra with a smoked paprika mayo dip -- it was a revelation; especially since the dip consisted of only smoked paprika and mayo. Since then, I've used it in deviled eggs (total game changer) and also Yotam Ottolenghi's Chicken Sofrito (from the cookbook Jerusalem). I'm out of my favorite brand, but have 3 other kinds of smoked paprika in the pantry which I need to go through. [Note: the photo above is mine, and the... Read more →

From Clara, in Westford, Massachusetts: The enclosed picture means that I have expanded my cooking repertoire in the last 10 years to include Thai, or at least Thai style or influenced, dishes. [Lydia's Notes] I've expanded my repertoire of Thai-inspired dishes in the past 10 years, too, so coconut milk is a must-have in my pantry. I've also learned that there's so much more to cook with coconut milk, and I've just scratched the surface. In addition to Thai curries (my favorite), coconut milk forms the base for curries of all cuisines, from India to South Africa. It makes great soups, and you can even bake with it. Do you have coconut milk in your pantry? How do you use it? Here are some recipe... Read more →

From Connie, in Rhode Island: There's a lovely little olive oil/balsamic vinegar tasting shop, Olive del Mondo, on Hope Street in Providence, diagonally across from Seven Stars Bakery. They have a wonderful selection and a knowledgeable, friendly staff. Here you see Traditional Balsamic Vinegar, with white truffle oil on the left, and Tuscan Herb olive oil. My favorite, my special treat, is front and center: Lavender Balsamic. Heavenly. Especially on sliced fresh strawberries. [Lydia's note] Okay, Connie, you got me. Lavender balsamic?! Until I get a bottle for my own pantry, I can only imagine how amazing this tastes and smells. I love the idea of drizzling it on strawberries. Readers, do you have this in your pantry? How do you use it? Here are... Read more →

From Ken, in Hawaii: I am trying to duplicate “Jane’s Healthy Kitchen Recipe for Vegan/Paleo Dairy Free Parmesan Cheese" which you freeze into a block and you can then shave or grate like regular Parmesan cheese and have the same taste and texture. The trick is making your own coconut butter as the base from the shredded coconut and the lemon juice, nutritional yeast and vitamin-C gives it the color and that sharp aged taste. I have friends that are Lactose Intolerant, Vegetarians and Vegans so I as a Carnivore am trying to expand my recipe repertoire to be inclusive of my friends' special needs when I cook. [Lydia's notes] I've never cooked with nutritional yeast, so this one's completely new to me. My friends... Read more →

From Mary, in Boston: Since having to switch to a gluten- and dairy-free diet a few years ago, I've added a nut grinder to my pantry. It's indispensable for gluten-free baking with nut flours and for making cashew "parmesan cheese". [Lydia's notes] Do you have a nut (and/or spice) grinder in your pantry? I do, but not a nifty dedicated one like this one. I used to use my food processor for grinding nuts, and an old coffee grinder for pulverizing spices. Now I'm tempted to add a small grinder like this one to my pantry. Do you have a separate grinder for nuts and/or spices? How to make vegan parmesan cheese, from Minimalist Baker Make your own almond flour, from Pastry Pal A guide... Read more →

From Alyce, in high-altitude Colorado: These weren't even in my pantry a month ago, much less ten years ago, but I saw them at Trader Joe's and they're a keeper! [Lydia's notes] Do you have cryo-pac olives in your pantry? I would stick around to read your replies, but I'm running off to Trader Joe's to track these down for my own pantry. Of course, I keep and cook with lots of olives, but these will last for months without refrigeration as long as the package is not opened. I'm already getting ideas. Are you? How do you use olives in your cooking? Here are some recipes that include olives: Olive tapenade, from The Perfect Pantry Chicken with preserved lemon tagine, from The Perfect Pantry... Read more →