“I don’t find it tiresome to eat the same dinner four or five nights in a row, and I happen to believe that one of the tastiest things in the entire world is homemade leftover anything.”
Tell it, farmgirl!
I haven’t cooked a thing except rice since Sunday and neither of us is complaining. The fridge that was glutted with plastic containers is finally beginning to look a bit bare, having been emptied of two different Indian chicken dishes, a pasta thing from last week, Chinese food we over-ordered and a lunchtime doggie bag from the Pineapple Room. I personally ate six servings of an exceptional chicken in Indian tomato-cream sauce from the other night — it just took me four days to do it.
This is one of those “two kinds of people” things: Though a lot of people feel as I do, there are many who won’t revisit even a dish they enjoyed on the first outing. With the possible exception of turkey-and-cranberry or hot roast beef sandwiches, my step-dad lived in a no-leftover zone. Even at our poorest, Mom would buy him pork chops or steak when the rest of us were eating second-night spaghetti or stew. I don’t know about my brothers, but I never felt deprived.
I love leftovers for many reasons: I am incapable of cooking for one or two, so we’ve always got them. Many things — particularly soups, stews, braises and gravied things — taste better on Day 2. Recycling in any form — as opposed to wasting — delights me. And, contrary to what folks like my dad think, leftovers don’t have to be slavish recreations of their fresh selves.
I enjoy the little flash of creativity it takes to give day-later dishes fresh life. Pairing them with a different starch: polenta instead of pasta, quinoa instead of rice. “Respicing” them (give a timid sauce a dose of heat, add a shot of lemon or vinegar to a creamy sauce). Adding ingredients; stir a can of drained beans or some sliced sausage into pasta sauce. Drape grilled meats in a sauce. Flake cold seafood and make a salad or fish taco. Add fresh vegetables to a dish for texture and nutrients. Almost anything can find a home in an omelet, fried rice, a baked potato skin, rolled up in a tortilla or on top of naan or a chapati.
That Indian dish? I made a sort of raita salad — chopped cucumbers and tomatoes, toasted pine nuts and salt and pepper in Greek yogurt — and put a couple of generous dollops onto my chicken. Hot, cold; spicy, rich; crisp, creamy — oh, yeah!
So don’t expect any sympathy from me if you don’t care for leftovers. I’m with farmgirl: You don’t know what you’re missing.
Until my nail tech said it, it didn’t occur to me that it was “green” to cook a double batch of curried ratatouille and spiced chickpeas. I just thought it was time-saving to chop all those vegetables and measure out the spices ONE time instead of twice. The frozen leftovers taste fine when reheated, too. Now I’m going off to eat a lunch of sweet potato salad, re-purposed as a taco!