cucina bene; mangia bene (what to do with leftovers)
If you are like me, you have numerous containers in your refrigerator filled with some type of leftover. Some of the containers get used and others don’t. Unfortunately, many don’t because we Americans are not very good at using up leftovers. We don’t think to make something delicious with the stale bread, the vegetables ‘on the edge’, or the pasta or rice leftover from anther meal. Other cultures have entire cuisines based on leftovers. The Italians for example, make soups and salads out of leftover stale bread and vegetables that are close to going bad, and new dishes out of leftover pasta, polenta, and rice. Food is more precious to other cultures because they are closer to how it is produced. You can easily throw out stale bread much easier if you bought it, but if you baked it yourself it might be a little harder to do so.
The same goes for vegetables that are homegrown; we spent so much time nurturing them, we don’t want to see them go into the trash or compost heap. So, what do we do with the excess and the leftovers? We make other meals from them of course!!
The Italians make soups and salads from stale bread: panzanella, ribollita, zuppa di pomodoro, minestrone, and a myriad of other delicious dishes that were created to use what was leftover or on hand. We can do the same thing. Take stale bread for example: you can make bread crumbs that can be toasted and used as a delicious topping for macaroni and cheese, or sprinkle on a salad for an additional texture and crunch. Homemade breadcrumbs can be used as a binder to make meatloaf or crab cakes. They can be added to soup as a thickener or sprinkled on a vegetable dish to make a gratin. You see, there is a myriad of uses for homemade breadcrumbs so stop throwing away stale bread.
For vegetables, you can puree them to make a sauce, you can make an omelet or frittata, add them to a bread recipe, or you can make a soup. But what about other foods like meat, grains or pastas? What can you do with those?
Well, with leftover meat, you can make a soup or stew, add to a salad or if it was a dry meat, you can make a hash for breakfast or brunch. You can grind the meat to make a burger or meatloaf, or you can make a sandwich from it.
Leftover pastas or grains can also be added to a soup or stew, made into a salad or if they are plain, can be made into a healthy breakfast with fruit, nuts, and milk.
So, you see, you don’t have to waste the food that you have spent time preparing; you can make another delicious entrée from it if you take the time to do so. Re-cycling leftovers can save you money; not just at the grocery store, but with your garbage collection bill as well since you are throwing less away. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do with processed food leftovers other than eat them re-heated in the microwave. That’s another reason why cooking whole foods from scratch is better for you and your wallet…..you get to re-cycle the leftovers into something new and delicious. I will leave you with a recipe that makes very good use of leftover meats: Posole. The link is below….buon appetitio!