Recycle 2018 Leftovers into Dishes for the New Year
I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions; it is much too discouraging to find myself breaking vows a thousand times. I’d rather count blessings than resolutions, but as I hang the new calendar, I often find myself taking stock and pondering the possibility of little changes.
One of those things is food waste. I was appalled to learn that up to 40% of the food we produce in this country becomes waste. The waste happens every step along the way from farm to refrigerator. Lost is the food, and the energy it takes to produce it, in a time when many people battle hunger and struggle to heat their homes.
We can all do better
I think I’m being good for the most part, but in reality we can all do a little better, be more aware of that waste and the hundreds of little steps we can take to lessen our own footprint.
So here we are in a new year, but I’m still dealing with food left over from the gatherings of the past! Next week I’ll be counting calories and carb and fat grams, but this week, I’m still working on transformation of the lovely foods that ended up in my refrigerator.
This is where we get to be creative. Just about any leftover can be used in a frittata, tortilla wrap, or soup. It is amazing what one can put in an omelet – think cheeses, meats, shrimps (wait, there are rarely any of those left over), olives, roasted Brussels sprouts, or even chopped up stuffed potatoes.
From Crudités to Soup
One of my favorite dishes is “Party Platter Soup.” There are always veggies leftover from the crudités platter, and a vegetable soup is one of our family’s standards the day or two after.
In a large stockpot, sauté a big onion, leftover party carrots and celery, all chopped up, and when soft add all the rest of the vegetables, chopped up, and a can of diced tomatoes. Add water to cover, a bay leaf, salt and pepper, bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for an hour, adding any other seasonings your family likes.
You can also roast all these veggies, or make a healthy stir-fry or add them to a fried rice dish.
Cheese platter and cheese ball remnants can be recycled into a unique macaroni and cheese, unique because you will probably never have that exact mix again! I did this once and added some blue cheese remnants and it was absolutely divine.
Mom’s vintage salmon cake recipe reimagined!
This year, I had a large piece of salmon left over from a family gathering. I realized half-way through the making that these resembled the little salmon cakes my mother used to make when I was a kid, only she used canned salmon. You can certainly make that substitution here! For brunch the next day, I wanted to do something different with what was left, so I started with my popular crab cake recipe (which probably was mom’s salmon cake recipe), made a little swap, and got thumbs up from all.
Salmon Cakes Benedict
This is my basic Crab Cake Benedict recipe, long a favorite of my inn guests, served at New Year’s brunch. Here I swapped the cooked salmon for the crab, but you can use any fish or even New England bay scallops (in season now) just chop them up finely. You can even use wild-caught canned salmon.
A lighter eater will want one cake and one egg, but a hearty appetite will call for two eggs, two patties, and lots of sauce, so plan your menu accordingly. It is also satisfying with no bread, just put the cakes on a bed of local arugula, my favorite.
Even for salmon cakes, plan your portions
The following makes exactly eight seafood cakes if you use your trusty ice-cream scoop, to be dispersed as you and your guests’ appetites desire.
Put on some good music, a clean apron, wash your hands, assign a friend to help, and enjoy the sounds, and the tastes of your kitchen.
For a special occasion, serve these cakes atop a croissant, add a poached egg, and drizzle with Hollandaise sauce (Julia Child’s blender Hollandaise is recommended and easily found online).
For a weeknight supper, serve atop an English muffin, covered by a fried egg, and drizzled with a simple lemon mayonnaise. But just for the fun of it, try making your own homemade mayonnaise; it’s easier than you think!
When I made these this week, I had leftover poblano peppers and carrots from my crudité, so I used these instead of the red pepper! This is about leftovers after all! Stale bread provided the coating, and the carrot was mere hours away from the stock pot.
Chop up or shred:
- 2 cups cooked salmon (or canned salmon if you like) or crab
Set this aside. Grate by hand or place in a food processor fitted with the steel blade:
- 4 slices stale whole wheat bread
They should still be pretty fluffy. Set the crumbs aside as well. Reserve ¼ cup for the cakes, and the rest for the coating. Over medium-high heat, warm:
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
Once hot, add:
- 1/3 cup onion, finely diced
- 1/3 cup sweet or hot pepper, finely diced
- ¼ cup carrots, finely minced, optional
Sauté until vegetables are soft and just starting to brown on the edges. Deglaze the pan by adding:
- ¼ cup dry sherry or white wine, but sherry is better
Cook for another minute or two, until the sherry is mostly evaporated. Set the mixture aside for a few minutes to cool.
In a mixing bowl, combine:
- ½ cup Hellman’s mayo, full or low fat
- 1 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning (or mix of paprika and celery salt)
- ½ tsp. hot Hungarian Paprika
- ½ tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. freshly ground pepper
- ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper, optional
- 2 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped, optional
- ¼ cup of the fresh breadcrumbs
Add the cooled vegetables and mix. You want to do all this mixing before you add the salmon so you don’t pulverize it! Add the fish and gently combine. Use a light hand with this. Taste and adjust the seasoning, everything is cooked at this point, so this is what your filling will taste like. If you want them hotter, add a touch more cayenne, but be careful!
Place the crumbs on a plate, and form the patties. Fill a standard ice-cream scoop with the salmon mixture, pressing down firmly. Pick up some breadcrumbs in one hand, release the formed cake into the palm of that hand on top of the breadcrumbs, sprinkle the topside with more crumbs, turn over gently, and continue to press the mixture together. The cake should not be loose. It is easier than it sounds and goes pretty fast!
Set on a baking sheet lined with parchment or waxed paper, and place in the refrigerator for at least a half hour, covered. This is essential so they will firm up. Longer is better.
When firm, over medium-high, heat a cast-iron frying pan or non-stick skillet, add a couple of tablespoons of oil, and fry the cakes four at a time. Since they are already cooked all you need to do is brown them on each side, turning only once.
There may be some cracks in the patties, but that is not going to be a problem–they will be covered by both a poached egg and a large dollop of sauce, so, a little flaw is no crying matter.
After the cakes are cooked, cover them with foil to keep warm.
Decide on your eggs, toasted bread, and sauce, and proceed accordingly.
To assemble, stack on your plate the bread, fish cake, egg, top with the sauce, and sprinkle with salt and pepper, and perhaps some parsley if you have it on hand. I also like the addition of local peppery arugula on the bottom layer.
To poach: Heat just enough water to cover the eggs in a large shallow 12” deep skillet. You want a gentle simmer, not a boil. Gently slide the freshest eggs you can find into simmering water (to which you’ve added a bit of vinegar if you like, but it is not necessary if your eggs are really fresh).
Important innkeeper note here: After making poached eggs for inn guests for nearly 20 years, my experience says do not do that silly “make-a-whirlpool” thing everyone tells you is the only way to poach an egg. You can only poach one at a time if you do that, and it usually doesn’t work, tearing your egg into streaky shreds! I usually cook five at a time.
Fresh eggs. Gentle hand.
Cover and poach for three to four minutes, depending on the size of the egg, a jumbo will take the full four. Pick one up with a slotted spoon, it should feel like it is firming, but not hard. Drain on a slotted spoon with a kitchen towel underneath, and place on top of the salmon cake.
To fry: Heat over medium a large non-stick or cast-iron skillet and add a tablespoon or two of butter. Gently crack your eggs into the pan and cook until the whites are set. Gently flip over, turn off the heat, and leave in the pan for 10-12 seconds. I always count.
Quick Lemon Mayonnaise
In a small bowl, combine:
- 1 cup prepared mayonnaise
- Zest and juice of two lemons
- Salt and pepper to taste
Mix well, and serve. Thin with a little more lemon juice if necessary. This dish benefits from the (featured image) addition of:
- 1 tbsp. chopped capers
Or, you can try your hand at
homemade mayonnaise. Recipe here.
Resouces on food waste
There are hundreds of sites, here’s just a few:
National Resources Defense Council: https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/wasted-food-IP.pdf
United States Department of Agriculture: https://www.usda.gov/oce/foodwaste/faqs.htm
Environmental Protection Agency: https://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food/united-states-2030-food-loss-and-waste-reduction-goal
National Geographic: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/people-and-culture/food/the-plate/2015/01/06/stop-food-waste/
© Copyright 2019 – or current year, Dorothy Grover-Read
That’s a fantastic idea!
Food waste is such a problem, not only for the waste itself but for the environment. When we started our worm farm and really focused on what plastic we brought into our house our weekly rubbish amount was quartered…. the worms make wonderful ‘tea’ for my garden and the castings have enriched the soil. Imagine if everyone paid a little more attention to what they bought, how it was packaged and what they wasted?
I so agree Kathryn! I feel quite lucky in that I grew up in a household where nothing was wasted. My mom saved every scrap of food for the stockpot, the stew, or the chickens. Vermont has a new food waste recycling law, so by next year all food scraps will have to be composted. Our community has already been doing this, and it has saved an enormous amount of material from heading to the landfill. I have tried hard to limit the plastic as well, not always an easy task in this over-packaged world, but every little step is a right step.
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