Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Art of Continuous Leftovers

There are all sorts of attitudes towards leftovers in people's homes. In some homes, anything left over after a meal gets tossed in the trash. In other homes, there are no leftovers after the meal, either because there is a shortage of food, because people get encouraged to finish all the food on the table, or because calculations were made so that the exact right amount of food was made so there would be no leftovers.
But for those of us who actually do have leftovers after our meals, and don't want to just toss it in the trash, there are many options of what to do. Some people just serve the same meal again and again until it gets finished, and others try to revamp the leftovers, creating a new dish from the old one. I take the second option and try to step it up a notch, using something that I call "The Art of Continuous Leftovers". I especially like using this method because it makes it very unlikely that you'll discover something fuzzy, stinky, or dried out in the back of your fridge since you forgot it existed.
What exactly is this "art of continuous leftovers"? Its taking leftovers from one meal, making a new dish containing those leftovers... and then taking the leftovers from that meal and creating a new dish from that... and taking the leftovers from that meal and making a new dish out of that, etc...

Its not so easy always to think of new, creative ways to do that, but when I am able to do something like that, I get a kick out of it. No more forgotten leftovers in our kitchen!

Here are some examples of continuous leftovers that I've made in my house. The longest I think I've got was a chain of 4 different dishes, made from leftovers from the previous dishes.

  • I made roasted chicken one day for supper. The next day, I made a chicken soup with the dripping from the chicken and the chicken bones. The next day I made buckwheat cooked in the chicken broth. I then used my leftover buckwheat inside the crust of my "sneaky pizza".
  • From that same roasted chicken, I took the leftover chicken, cooked it in tomato vegetable sauce and served it over rice. The next day, I watered down the tomato vegetable sauce and made it into soup, with the addition of a few more ingredients.
  • Took cooked vegetables and legumes from one meal, blended/mashed them, and made them into veggie patties. Next meal took leftover veggie patties and crumbled them up either to use in tacos, or to go into a tomato "meat sauce".
  • In the picture shown on top, I had some leftover ratatouille, which I cooked with rice to make a sort of "Spanish rice". Leftovers from that were made into a tomato rice soup.
  • Leftover fruit compote gets cooked together with oatmeal or other grains to make porridge of sorts. Leftover porridge gets turned into pancakes. Leftover pancakes get turned into "bread" to make sandwiches, so long as the sandwich fillings don't clash with a sweet "bread".
  • Leftover chocolate milk or shakes get added to cake. Leftover cake (I know, is there even such a thing?) that gets stale gets crumbled up and used to make a parfait. Leftover parfait gets made into pancakes.
I think I just noticed a common theme- continuous leftovers almost always end up, at some point, with some tomato or tomato sauce (or pancakes). I think that changes up the taste, so that it feels like a new dish entirely. Tomato works well to mask tastes, so that many different dishes can be remade into new dishes and taste nothing like the old one.

P.S. If you're wondering about the safety of this, each time you cook the dish again, you're killing any bacteria in it, stopping spoilage, so safety isn't a concern.
P.P.S. If you're wondering about taste- this always tastes good. If it didn't taste good, I wouldn't make it.

What do you do with leftovers in your home? Do you make exactly the right amount or do you end up with leftovers? When you have leftovers what happens with them? Do they get trashed? Served again? Revamped? Or do they become part of a cycle of continuous leftovers?

1 comment:

  1. I do this too! Many of our meals are based on rice and beans. A big pot of pressure cooked pinto beans is bean soup the first night, beans and rice the next, then I puree the beans for refried beans and use them in a "tamale pie" casserole, and finally any remaining refried beans are eaten in corn tortillas as tacos. On the second night of this rotation I make fresh rice which is eaten with the whole beans. Then I sauté the rice in oil with Mexican seasonings, and use it in the casserole, and again, any extras are used in tacos. The vegetable that I sauté to eat with the rice and beans (the second night) goes into the casserole as well. I call it "planned leftovers" or "planned overs".


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