Last night my friend asked me what my favorite thing was in my fridge at that time. I couldn’t come up with a good response until today. Leftovers. Leftovers are glorious. My usual strategy is to cook two big meals on the weekend: turkey & vegetable soup, maybe a Thai, Nepalese or Indian curry, or roast chicken, and enjoy quality meals with limited prep time throughout a busy week. The work is already done, and I’m eating food so good it makes me close my eyes and do a happy chair wiggle. You know what I mean.
But there are many people in my family who liken leftovers to dog food. I can understand that. Who wants to microwave something and end up with dry meat or fish, crunchy rice, or my ultimate nightmare -soggy vegetables? First off, I don’t use a microwave. I don’t like what it does to my food texturally and I think using a microwave is just plain bad for you. I gently reheat meat or fish in a saucepan over medium low or low heat. Same goes for curries or soups – into a pot and not nuked. I don’t eat a lot of rice, but if there are leftovers you can make yaki-onigiri (grilled rice cakes) or add it to soup. Anything braised, made into a chili, or prepared via slow cooker actually tastes better as leftovers.
The main reason I love leftovers, however, is because they have the potential to be not the pallid version of yesterday but the start, no halfway finish, to a new meal. Leftovers are great because most of the work is already done for you. Meat and veggies can go in omelets or tacos. Bits and pieces left on a roasted chicken can go in for soup stock along with bones and vegetable peelings.
No one illustrates this more beautifully than Tamar E. Adler in her new book, An Everlasting Meal. She makes me want to cook things I would never previously dream of enjoying, such as homemade mayonnaise or things containing anchovies. And her ideas on leftovers are a revelation. I’ve enjoyed this book so much, I’m going to give you the chance to win a copy! See details at the end of this recipe.
I don’t want to say too much for fear of breaking any sort of copyright laws, and you should just go straight to the source. Tamar Adler says it so much more beautifully and convincingly than I can. She encourages us to think of meals not in a linear way, dutifully plowing through dry or soggy leftovers in order to move on to better meals, but rather like a big circle. The best way I can illustrate this is to show you with a recipe I came up with last night after a long day out and little desire to make a big production for dinner. I still managed to feed two people, have leftovers, and start preparing some parts of my lunch today.
Breakfast: Roasted Kabocha
Wash the skin with fruit & veggie spray. Cut kabocha into quarters. Scoop out seeds and set aside to roast later for a snack. Spread 1 T coconut oil onto each pumpkin piece, and roast in a 400 degree oven until flesh is caramelized and easily pierced with a fork (or dull chopstick if you’re like me). This takes about 45 – 70 minutes, depending on the size of your squash. Set one of the pieces aside for dinner.
Dinner: Creamy Pumpkin Pasta with Spring Vegetables
Makes 3 servings
4oz gluten-free noodles. I used Ancient Quinoa Harvest corn-quinoa blend.
2 tsp Herbamare salt, divided
1 large bunch of spring asparagus, no thicker than a pencil and cut into 1 ½ inch pieces
1 medium zucchini, sliced thinly on a mandolin
¼ roasted kabocha squash, flesh scooped out and mashed (I ended up with 2/3 c)
1/3 c pasta cooking water, reserved
¼ tsp thyme
In a large saucepan, bring water and 1 tsp of Herbamare to a boil. Add the gluten-free noodles once the water has reached a rolling boil. Cook according to package directions, but do not overcook. My instructions said 6-8 minutes, so I made sure only to cook for 6 minutes total. In the last two minutes of cooking time, add the asparagus and zucchini. Turn off the heat. This is why you want the vegetables to be thin so they cook quickly.
In a wide skillet, mash the kabocha with 1/3 c pasta water until it is smooth. Use tongs to transfer the pasta and vegetables into a wide skillet. Gently toss to combine, adding the thyme and remaining teaspoon of Herbamare. If the sauce looks too watery, simmer the pasta over low heat until the sauce has thickened to your liking. Of course if the sauce is too thick, add some more pasta water one tablespoon at a time. Serve as is for a light meal or with a side of roasted chicken if you have hungrier dinner guests.
for Lunch Save the remaining pasta water. Bring to a boil and add shelled fava beans (you could also add green beans or any other veggie you want to flash boil). Cook for 3-4 minutes until the beans are tender. Strain, saving the pasta water for stock. Cool the beans overnight and add them to your usual lunch salad.
Another breakfast I plan on eating the pasta leftovers tomorrow! I’m also going to make chicken stock with the leftover pasta water and chicken bones.
Please please please buy a copy of An Everlasting Meal. It will make you love your kitchen, love your cooking mistakes, and love leftovers! If you can’t afford it – try your local library. If you want to win a copy, follow the instructions below!
Please leave a comment (and not anonymously) and share your favorite kitchen memory. Next time you are afraid to cook or don’t feel like it after a long day, remember that memory and try to recreate a good feeling rather than a perfect dish. Giveaway will be open until Sunday at midnight, Central Time in the US. I’ll announce the winner Monday.
Breakdown of Links
Turkey & Vegetable Soup from eatrecyclerepeat
Brown Rice Yaki Onigiri with Bacon & Avocado from La Fuji Mama
Stone Soup from 222 million tons
About Tamar E. Adler and her book, An Everlasting Meal
Roasted Delicata Squash Seeds from Civilized Caveman Cooking Creations
Excerpt from “How to Live Well”, a chapter about cooking beans from An Everlasting Meal
Anatomy of a Salad from eatrecyclerepeat
“cooking mistakes” aka Kitchen Failures from eatrecyclerepeat
Part of Diet, Dessert & Dogs Wellness Weekend May 17 – 21.
Many thanks to Joy the Baker for introducing me to this fabulous book.