We try hard to reduce waste in the kitchen, and planning for use of “leftovers” goes a long way to help!
It can be a challenge to repurpose those leftovers hiding in the refrigerator. One can toss the remnants of yesterday’s casserole in soups, vegetables and grains in frittatas and omelets, and lots of leftovers are delicious tucked in a wrap. Chili on Tuesday finds its way in a burrito on Wednesday and as a garnish on green beans on Friday. Ratatouille can become the filling for a wrap the next day, or a sauce for pastas a couple of nights later. Stir-fried vegetables make a wonderful salad the next day, by themselves or added to a grain or pasta and livened up with a tangy vinaigrette. Tonight’s extra baked potato will be home fries in the morning, and we often plan it that way.
A whole new dish
My favorite way to use leftovers is by transforming them into a totally different dish rather than just reheating the fish and rice and broccoli from the night before. I often make extra for the purpose of a whole new dish. I rarely make just enough rice for the two of us, and the “leftovers” are deliberate always get used in some different way, saving me time later on. Of course, the concept isn’t new. Cooks would transform leftover New England Boiled Dinner into Red Flannel Hash the next day, just to keep things interesting.
You can tuck just about any leftover in a quiche, even spaghetti!
Working my way to a clean refrigerator
During the holiday season, we end up with lots of leftovers; I’m still working on New Years here, and I’ve tucked a few treasures in the freezer to use later, perhaps on a snow day.
There are still some leftovers that are perfectly wonderful as is the next day (sesame noodles) and I don’t tire of eating them, but the following are some of the redesigned meals I’ve really enjoyed, just for variety.
Buttered Lobster Baguette
I sent my husband to the fish market for two Maine lobsters for us to celebrate a Christmas Day meal with just the two of us. He came back with 2 ½ lb. lobsters! That’s big. Really big.
I couldn’t finish one of my claws and the tail, so I saved it for us for breakfast the next day. This is so simple; I hardly consider it a recipe. You can also use scallops, crab, or any firm fish cut into little cubes. A day-old baguette is great, just toast it up, or substitute another firm bread or even an English muffin.
Heat ¼ cup butter or vegan butter in a saucepan. While the butter is melting, chop up one large lobster tail, or two normal sized ones. Sprinkle in a bit of fresh or dried tarragon, and just warm the lobster through, you don’t want to cook it any more. Serve over buttered baguettes, and top with an over-easy or poached egg. That’s it! Nothing else required.
I will make this again with lobster cooked just for this purpose.
Last Night’s Dinner Fritters
This recipe was literally what we had left over from a meal the night before. I mixed everything together the next morning, added an egg and a bit of flour, and made little fritters. You can use any fish, any cooked grain, any veggie. What did you have for dinner last night?
In a large bowl, combine about 1 ½ cups cooked brown rice, about 1 cup cooked broccoli, minced up, about ½ lb. cooked cod, chopped up, and 1 or 2 scallions, minced. Beat an egg and add that along with about 2 tbsp. flour, or what it takes to bring everything together, and some salt and pepper, and any other herbs that strike your fancy.
Heat a bit of oil in a cast-iron or other sturdy frying pan and form the fritters using a standard ice-cream scoop. Press the mixture into the scoop, release it to the pan, then press lightly. Cook until brown on one side, just a few minutes, turn, and brown the second side. Place on a wire rack to cool a bit and immediately salt.
Serve as is, or with sriracha mayonnaise. I added the dregs of a bottle of capers and some of the brine to mine this time around.
Pasta and Pea Salad with Asparagus
Leftover pasta just begs to be turned into a salad! Sometimes, I make twice as much pasta as I need for dinner so that I have the pasta for a salad later in the week. Planned leftovers mean you save time and energy!
I happen to love peas in a pasta salad, and a nice tangy vinaigrette. You can use any vinegar you like, any leftover cooked veggies you like, and any pasta! Think broccoli, peas, carrots, green beans, Brussels sprouts. When in season locally, I toss in some fresh asparagus when sautéing the onion.
Place a quart of leftover pasta, any type, in a large bowl for easy mixing. Sauté an onion with four chopped anchovies, and when just about cooked, add a small bunch of fresh asparagus, cut up. Cook the asparagus just until tender and place in the bowl with the pasta along with a thawed box of frozen peas and some chopped parsley.
Make a vinaigrette by combining in a jar 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil, 1/3 cup of vinegar of choice, a tablespoon of Dijon, and salt and pepper. If you like less acid, reduce the amount of vinegar. Shake vigorously and pour over salad ingredients. Mix everything well and top with Parmesan or vegan Parmesan shards.
If you eat dairy, you can substitute a cup of crème fraiche for the vinaigrette, adding the Dijon.
Pesto Marinated Roasted or Grilled Vegetables
I often make extra roasted or grilled vegetables to marinate overnight and serve as is, or atop a bed of lettuce the next day, with an extra drizzle of dressing. So delicious. There might be zucchini, sweet and hot peppers, mushrooms, fingerling potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions or leeks, corn, or asparagus, whatever is in season and delicious. One vegetable, or a mix of them works here. You can also tuck these in a wrap with a little hummus!
Just roast or grill the vegetables as you usually do, brushed with a little olive oil. After your meal, top the veggies with the following vinaigrette, and let rest overnight. The next day, the flavor of these vegetables is amazing!
To make the vinaigrette, combine 2 tbsp. basil or other favorite pesto, 4 tbsp. fruity olive oil, 2 tbsp. white wine vinegar, 1 tsp. Dijon, 1 tsp. native honey, salt and pepper to taste. Adjust the ingredients to suit your own taste. You can also add a bit of hot sauce if you like.
Happy New Year and Happy Cooking!
Sunrise on New Year 2023.
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