Tuesday, November 16, 2010

LeFtOvEr MaNiA!

When you open your refrigerator door and find it bloated with stores of Tupperware, to-go containers, tinfoil-wrapped mystery items and enough veggies to feed a small, weak vegan army, it’s time to get creative. Although I have to confess that sometimes I indulge in a little excess-food purge because it feels so good to act uber American just not need things, I am trying to force myself to live by my grammy’s wise words, “waste not want not.” And so, last night was a leftover mania at my apartment.

I remember when I first really started cooking back in college,  I’d try to make use of the food I had in-house but my concoctions would always be semi-edible disasters like provolone-lettuce-and-mustard roll ups or pasta tossed with olive oil and chopped up pepperoni. My culinary instincts can’t be all to blame, my fridge was pretty lame and most everything was white and either dairy or starch... or beer. And so, my attempts at frugality would end up with me tossing my creation in the trash and sheepishly ordering delivery from Pita Pit (then calling my parents to whine and ask for more spending money).

I’ve come a long way since those days. Long gone are the ill-fitting ripped jeans, horrid highlights and hangovers nursed with yellow Gatorade until the figurative pre-gaming bell rung. No no, now I’m sophisticated, mature, I wear aprons. And now even just a few glasses of wine manage to turn the next morning into a pulsing fog. Plus, my fridge is better stocked and my leftover creations have seen serious improvement.

For example, last night, after surveying our shelves, I put together a dinner of soup, pizza and calzone. Not too shabby if I do say so myself.

First I used my leftover stock, meat and pasta from my Soup Challenge First Test Batch to make some chicken soup. It’s not very complicated - just cook down onions, carrots and celery until the onions are translucent, then add stock and some water, chicken, a good amount of coarse salt (the key to good soup) and pepper. I added in a few dashes of basil and oregano too. Then, I brought it a boil for a few minutes and turned it down to simmer, adding the cooked pasta. I let it simmer on the stovetop for a while to keep warm and let the flavors really settle in. We topped it off with a little fresh parmesan for a nice start to our catch-as-catch-can meal.

Then, I had frozen some leftover dough from the last homemade pizza night so I let two doughs thaw and planned out pizza pour moi and calzone pour homme. I love making homemade pizza and calzones - the trick is to use a pizza stone. They aren't expensive, I've probably already used mine fifty times and they give you that crispy crust that you just won't get using a baking sheet or pizza pan.

First, the pizza. I made use of a few onions that were sitting around by caramelizing them. Again, pretty simple – just melt butter into some olive oil (about a tablespoon per onion) and then let the onions cook on low for about an hour. Sprinkle with salt ten minutes in, but other than that, just keep stirring and they’ll do the work themselves. I sautéed a few mushrooms in some butter and white wine and drizzled the rolled-out dough with balsamic glace, then topped it with the onions, mushrooms, some leftover chicken from my dinner out with  my parents the night before, and chunks of gorgonzola cheese. Popped it in the oven for 15 minutes and finished it off with a few more drizzle of the glace.

Next was Mike’s calzone. He's a buffalo chicken calzone nut, so I heated some chicken fingers up, then tossed them with Frank’s, laid them on the dough and layered blue cheese and mozzarella on top. I folded up the calzone, sealed it with water and coated it with olive oil and popped it into the oven. I’m pretty sure that the calzone was a success because he “forgot” to give me a bite of the end piece with some blue cheese like I asked… ;)!

Tonight is another make-use-of-stuff-we-already-have night so I'll be making baked rigatoni with sausage and fennel. Mmmm!


  1. Best leftover meal after a big roast- fried rice!! Use any leftover roast meat including chicken, beef, pork, bacon, lamb etc... also good op to use up all those nasty, soggy vegies that were once crisp and juicy- onions, carrots, peas, red capsicum, corn- not potatoes though!

    Whisk eggs and fry into omelette, remove from pan, cool, roll up and roughly slice into strips and chop into smaller pieces. Set aside.

    Dice the meat and vegies. If not enough onion and carrot, dice more in small cubes and fry till soft before adding rest of cooked vegies and meat. Add cooked rice, egg, frozen peas or tinned corn if need more and stir in soy sauce, kecap manis, sweet chilli sauce, ground ginger, chilli powder, oyster sauce, black bean or hoi sin- whatever tickles your fancy to make the rice taste good.

  2. That sounds REALLY good! And, I loooove homemade fried rice