It was either Calvin Trillin or Woody Allen who is attributed with saying his mother served the family leftovers for 30 years, the original meal could never be recalled. In my house growing up, Mom almost always ate the odd bits of "food" in foil balls in the back of the fridge, while serving the rest of us a fresh meal. I'm not talking about those "meals". When we're talking about good leftovers, we set aside the ones bordering on science experiments.
I like leftovers and often think of meals that we can enjoy together for dinner which will also provide breakfast for Doc and lunch for me the next day. Cook once eat twice. Reducing food waste is also a laudable goal. Do you know we waste nearly 30% of the food we purchase? Food waste also accounts for a significant portion of greenhouse gas emissions.
A meal that can make us feel frugal and virtuous but in a classy way? What's not to love?
This is one of my favorite types of leftover dishes: last night's pasta gussied up and turned into something as good or better than the original meal.
Frittatas are omelets that are finished in the oven, they puff up and become gently browned, making them seem sort of soufflé-like. They also fall very quickly since you're not whipping air into egg whites, but this takes nothing away from the Frittata's appeal.
This time of year we love shopping at the Farmers' Market. I saw Dan at the Kimball Fruit Farm the other day, picked up some beautiful asparagus. Also those Persian Cucumbers I love, they're about as close as I get to the Chinese or Japanese style cukes. No bitterness, tiny seeds, sweet skins. Perfect for so many things including cocktails! Radishes bright and fat and happy....but my asparagus was destined for a pasta dinner. Then I noticed the fish vendor is finally selling scallops in half pound portions (one pound is too much for two people!) and a pasta plan began to come together.
I sautéed about 2 tablespoons of peppered bacon in a little olive oil, removed to a dish. Handful of shiitake caps sliced, some diced onion got lightly browned in the oil/fat.Removed them, then I seared a half pound of scallops from Red's Best. Removed the scallops, then sautéed chopped dandelion greens, blanched asparagus, frozen peas. Deglazed with Vya Vermouth (you could use white wine or water) added some shrimp stock (again, water would be fine) nestled the scallops back in the greens and added all the veg and lardons back to the pan. I added some preserved lemon rind, julienned and some fresh ground black pepper. I had cooked cappelini (only six minutes!), and because it's so fine, rather than finish it in the pan, I simply added fresh grated lemon zest, parsley and a little olive oil to the hot pasta in the bowl, dumped my sauce on top. A little more lemon zest and pepper to top. Dinner of a bit of this and that, elevated with fresh spring vegetables, and Bob's your uncle as they say.
We gobbled up the scallops and most of the pasta (yes, nearly a pound of pasta between two of us. I know.) Today I have leftovers of about a cup and a half of the pasta and veggies. I could simply heat it up but I'm always looking for another way, a better way, and a reason to eat an egg or two. Most days I'd just add a sunny side up egg on top and be happy. With these leftovers, I went instead with pasta frittata.
Plucked some thyme, tarragon, and chives from the rainy fire escape pots, added more asparagus and then brought the pasta to room temp, mixed up four eggs and make a pasta frittata.
I imagine dishes like this were made the world over with all manner of starchy leftovers; who could afford to waste good food? Potatoes become Tortilla Española, bread becomes French toast or bread puddings, probably grains or rice would work as well. I think I was taught this pasta version of the dish by someone Sicilian in college.
- What is your favorite leftovers transformed dish?
- Do you have a tip or secret for dressing them up?