Waste Not, Want Not

August 30, 2015
  Leftovers are a mystery to many. When asked about the little plastic-wrapped  dishes in their refrigerators, they shrug and say, "I've forgotten what they were originally, and  they're covered in green fur. I'd better throw them out."
I hate to see food wasted (though once it's covered in green fur, it definitely has to be pitched). In some quarters, I am considered the Queen of Leftovers, coming up with meal after meal after meal, so to speak. Thus I am here to solve the mystery of leftovers for you. Leftovers are my friends. How do I love them? Let me count the ways.
First, I love them so much I make them on purpose. When I cook beets, for example, I chunk or slice them and coat them with a dressing of Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil, then refrigerate them. They are now officially leftovers and can be added to any skimpy lunch I fix myself during the next week.
Soup. When I make soup, I make enough to freeze. I like to eat a third of it right away, freeze another third, and refrigerate the remaining third to eat in the next day or two. Here are some ways to eat leftover soup:
1. Heat it and eat it.
2. If it wasn't originally a smooth soup, then puree it, adding water, milk, tomato juice, or stock as needed. Now heat it and eat it.
3. Do the puree-ing thing but add a teaspoon or more of prepared Thai green curry paste, or the spicy Italian mixture called La Bomba, or just a couple
shots of Sriracha.
4. Serve it chilled if it was originally hot, or hot if it was a cold soup.
5. Remember that once you've pureed a soup it becomes sippable from a cup, rather than spoonable from a bowl; this makes it taste new and different.
I also love to turn leftovers turned into a totally different dish. Leftover kale or other greens? Chop and heat in a little olive oil, then use as an omelet filling or on top of toasted bread for bruschetta. Or mix with cooked grains. In my Fast & Fearless Cooking for the Genius, which is nearing its publication date, I suggest that you cook up a combination of grains (choose three or four from the endless options: quinoa, rice, steel-cut oats, spelt groats, millet, buckwheat groats, wild rice, etc.) and keep these in the refrigerator to be re-purposed as, for example, porridge or pancakes. Once you have that mixture of grains on hand, you can add the chopped leftover kale/collards and heat in olive oil, to be served as is or with an egg steamed on top. Or top this pan of grains/greens with grated cheese, which you can melt either in the oven (if it's already on) or on the stove-top (put a lid on the pan and the cheese will melt beautifully over low heat).
Here's my very favourite suggestion for leftover roast meat (lamb, beef, pork, slices of chicken or turkey breast): spread slices with good mustard and dredge in dry bread crumbs (preferably homemade). Fry in butter or olive oil on medium heat until the coating is crisp. I like this better than the first-time-around roast.
Other uses for leftover roast meat:
    Grind it in a food processor (or mince it by hand) and make a sandwich spread (diced celery, sweet pickle, red bell pepper, green onion) using mayonnaise or my non-mayonnaise mixture of yogurt, Dijon mustard, and a little mango chutney.
    Dice it and use as an omelet filling.
    Mix it with leftover or purpose-made cooked vegetables and a little gravy, top with mashed potatoes (leftover), dot with butter and/or cheese, and bake till heated through and golden on top: instant cottage pie.
In some later blog posting I will swamp you with suggestions for using leftover bread—but not today.


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