Every week Tell Simmer grills a different blogger, and this week I’m happy to grill Lydia Walshin – a Rhode Island-based food writer, cookbook author, cooking instructor and busy blogger – her Perfect Pantry features a world of ingredients, great recipes and a delicious peek into other people’s pantries. Lydia also runs Drop In & Decorate, a not-for-profit that ices cookies for a cause, and helps fight hunger at Will Paint for Food. Somehow, she still finds time to make homemade pesto and Buddy Lasagna.
How often do you think about eating?
I spend a lot of time thinking about food — occupational hazard of being a food writer — but I hardly ever think about eating. Except at 3:00 in the afternoon, when my body tells me it needs a carbohydrate, a piece of fruit, or bread, or a Hershey bar (that’s a carb, isn’t it?).
Two cups of coffee, in rapid succession, first thing in the morning. Nothing fancy, just good coffee.
Favorite hometown food?
Home town is New York, so I have to go with bagels, pickles, and black-and-white cookies.
Ever been served breakfast in bed?
When I’m not sick?
Your absolutely reliable, go-to dish for entertaining is:
I have three, depending on who’s coming to dinner. For friends who love spicy food, I make an amazing jambalaya. For vegetarians, a vegetable paella recipe from Penelope Casas‘ wonderful cookbook — and the fresh garlic sauce that goes on top.
For our grandkids and their parents, I make something called Buddy Lasagna. It’s a meatless lasagna made out of supermarket staples and marinara sauce from a jar. Not just any sauce, though; I use Mayor’s Own Marinara Sauce, known in Rhode Island as “Buddy sauce”, because the recipe comes from notorious Providence mayor Buddy Cianci, who just got out of prison! The sauce is light and makes a wonderful lasagna, and everyone in our family loves it.
Food that makes you gag?
Cauliflower. Innards. Raw onions.
Worst kitchen disaster:
Many years ago, I worked all day to make a wonderful spaghetti sauce. It simmered and simmered, and when it was lovely, I turned off the heat and let the sauce cool in the pot. I didn’t realize that the pot was aluminum — and the sauce reacted with it and turned, and began to get a bit green around the edges! Of course I had to throw it out — the sauce, and soon after, the pot went, too.
Three things in your refrigerator right now:
Homemade pesto, cowboy ketchup, and Fresca.
Your idea of a romantic meal is:
Chinese take-out and a movie, with my husband. I’m a cheap date.
Secret snack of shame?
Egg salad made with Miracle Whip, on Wheat Thins.
Dessert at your last meal would be:
Big bowls of grapes, and brownies without nuts.
Best restaurant if you’re not paying:
Lunch at Locanda Cipriani, on the island of Torcello. If I’m not paying, I’d like to fly first class to get there!
If you were a cocktail, what would you be?
A Shirley Temple! Not the actress — the drink, a “mocktail” named after the famous actress, made of ginger ale, grenadine syrup and orange juice, garnished with a maraschino cherry. When I was a little girl, my parents would order a Shirley Temple for me when we ate in a fancy restaurant. I felt incredibly grown up! These days, I don’t drink (slight allergy), and sometimes I can be a bit of a princess…
Extra Credit: Where is the world’s best pizza?
Living in Rhode Island, one of the most “pizza” states in the country, I’m sure to get in trouble by choosing any one place over another. My favorite Rhode Island pizza is the wood-grilled margherita pizza at Bob & Timmy’s, on Federal Hill in Providence. It’s not the world’s best, but it’s pretty darned good. I grew up eating at John’s on Bleeker Street in New York City.
Beyond that, any pizza eaten outdoors in Italy is better than almost any pizza anywhere else.