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A note to readers: For the next several months, a bit of medical mischief (new hips! new knees!) will knock me off my feet. To get ready, I've been cooking up a storm, and I have a summer's worth of brand new recipes to share with you. Though I might not be in the kitchen or scouring local markets for new pantry ingredients, and blog posts might not always reach you on their usual days, I'll be here, responding to comments, answering questions, and working on ebooks. (Truth? I'll probably be reading legal thrillers and binge-watching Modern Family, and maybe Mad Men, again.) To make sure you never miss a recipe, use the box at right to sign up for free email updates.

August 10, 2014

Roasted ratatouille with fresh basil and balsamic vinaigrette {vegan, gluten-free}

Roasted ratatouille, with eggplant, zucchini and pepper. #vegan #glutenfree

When eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes all show up at the farm stand at exactly the same time, my cooking brain goes right to ratatouille (rat-a-too-eee), the Provencal vegetable stew that fills omelets, tops rice, and snuggles up to grilled fish or chicken. I've made pots and pots of ratatouille in my day, some in the slow cooker, some with chicken, and while I love it, I'm not always in the mood for something stew-ish. I decided to try a different method; I diced and roasted a variety of summer squash I found in the kitchen -- a green zucchini, a yellow crookneck squash, and a pattypan -- with an onion, bell pepper, and eggplant. Then, I tossed the roasted vegetables with fresh tomatoes and some basil from the garden, plus a mustardy vinaigrette. The result was more like a salad than a stew. The next day, I combined the leftover vegetables with white beans and cooked shrimp, added a bit more dressing, and created a spectacular one-dish dinner, perfect for a summer night.

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August 9, 2014

The Pantry Quiz #99

spike seasoning

Multiple Choice

Several years ago my friend Kalyn introduced me to Spike Seasoning, a versatile spice blend invented by Gayelord Hauser, a German-born naturopath, nutritionist to the stars, and perhaps more-than-a-friend of Greta Garbo. How many spices are there in the original formula for Spike Seasoning?

A. 9
B. 19
C. 29
D. 39

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August 6, 2014

Hawaiian sweet potato salad {vegetarian, gluten-free}

Hawaiian sweet potato salad. #vegetarian #glutenfree

A longtime reader who I met when his wife took a cooking class from me, Ken retired to Hawaii several years ago. Recently he wrote to say he thought we needed some Hawaiian recipes in the American Regional Recipes section of The Perfect Pantry, and to help me get started, he sent several locally-published cookbooks. Hawaiian cuisine is really a crossroads of all of the cultures who've settled on the islands: Asian, Polynesian, native Hawaiian, and many former military folks from all around the United States. I've been having a great time reading through the books, marking all of the dishes I want to try. It's almost impossible to get authentic Hawaiian ingredients here in New England; however, many recipes can be adapted to what's locally available, like this one, which calls for Okinawan sweet potatoes. A bit of research taught me that Okinawan potatoes are a particular variety -- with purple flesh! I substituted our regular sweet potatoes, which I know everyone can buy in the market. Make this potato salad several hours ahead, to allow the flavors to blend, and serve it as a side dish with grilled beef, pork or chicken.

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August 3, 2014

Whole wheat pasta turkey salad with vegetables and feta-herb-yogurt dressing

Whole wheat pasta turkey salad, with tangy feta-herb-yogurt dressing.

At this point in my life, I know that I will never be tall, model-thin, or able to balance on high heels. I'll never be a physicist or concert pianist, a race car driver or sky diver. And I will never be vegan. I can give up many things -- butter, chicken, hamburgers -- but do not take my cheese. In this recipe, you can omit the turkey, and of course you can change up the vegetables depending on what you have from the farm stand, but don't leave out the feta cheese. The briny tang of the cheese balances the nutty chewiness of whole wheat pasta, which can be a bit blah without something to perk it up. Fresh herbs are a must, and multi-color vegetables make it fun. This is a great salad to bring to a potluck, because you can make it ahead, and multiply the recipe to serve a crowd. Just don't forget the cheese.

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August 2, 2014

The Pantry Quiz #98

Feta cheese.

Multiple Choice

We're a bit addicted to Greek salads, and we're making lots of them this summer with crisp vegetables, olives, and small bits of feta cheese. Feta is an aged cheese, like Cheddar, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Gouda. How long does feta need to age before it's firm and packed for sale in your local market?

A. Two days
B. Two weeks
C. Two months
D. Two years

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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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