Everyone remembers “leftovers night” growing up and I feel like as we get older we fall into one of two groups, you love them, or you hate them. The thing about leftovers is that they usually don’t fulfill our dream of a fresh, warm dinner that everyone looks forward to come home to after a long day of work, school, Kollel etc. But of course we have all this extra food from Shabbos that we’re not going to just throw out, especially when it means we don’t have to come up with a dinner idea and spend hours making it! So how to please ourselves and our customers with Shabbos leftovers? One word- repurposing.
In my opinion, food is like art, while you’re making it and even after you create a finished product, it can always be added to, enhanced a bit, covered up by something else, and most significantly, small adjustments can create a whole new picture. And just like a painter knows what little image to add here or what color change to make there to improve his work of art, us chefs just have to know which direction to take our dish in to take something “eh” to “ahh!”
My disclaimer is that anything you served on Shabbos that A) was a big hit and B) will reheat again well, can go from fridge to oven to table and you can feel very proud. If you find that pertains to your whole stack of aluminum tins in the fridge, or you may be stretching the life of some things but you don’t have the time or energy to get cooking again, I do have one tip. It’s a (retractable) promise that my younger, very idealistic, newly married self-made to my husband the first Sunday I was cooking in our own apartment, and it’s to serve one new thing with the “leftovers dinner”. Whether it’s a fresh salad, a fresh cooked vegetable, replacing the carb, or simply making garlic bread, it infuses a bit more TLC (tender loving care) into the meal and everyone walks away happy.
Now about repurposing, or as were now calling it, turning a mediocre piece of art into an award winning masterpiece, let’s identify what we’re usually dealing with when it comes to Shabbos leftovers:
There are two categories of repurposing, one that doesn’t require cooking and the other, a bit more involved but perhaps more exciting, does require cooking.
1- No cooking required: Starting with the first category, you can always put leftover proteins, cooked vegetables, and sometimes even carbs into a salad or a sandwich. For example, marinated grilled chicken, over a bed of lettuce with a bit of leftover quinoa, red onion, tomatoes, and the single portion of seasoned, roasted cauliflower (or whatever vegetable) you also have leftover, dressed with a simple but tasty vinaigrette, is an easy and delicious option. Or try schnitzel stuffed inside a pita with hummus, cucumbers, and onions. Here is also a great place to use leftover dips that aren’t going to make it to next Shabbos. A lot of them can be spread on your sandwich or turned into salad dressing by thinning them out with oil, lemon juice or water.
2- Next is repurposing that involves cooking. If you’re willing to be creative, this can get really fun because you can really give new life to old food. There are certain dishes that work really well as a combination of a bunch of random things thrown in and there are endless combinations that you can create. I’m referring to stir fry’s, fried rice, pastas, and stews. Something to keep in mind is that proteins that are already cooked will get overcooked and dry out if you recook them for too long, so take the food out of the refrigerator in advance so it’s not
cold and just add it in towards the end with just enough time to get it hot. The exception is some meats which get softer the longer they cook (at a low temperature) so for example recooking leftover brisket to make it into pulled beef for tacos will definitely work.
Practically speaking let’s take a stir fry for example. It starts with a protein as the base like chicken cutlets, london broil, or salmon but if its cooked already you won’t be adding it until the end. Sauté some onions and garlic and then anything that pairs well that you have in the fridge or freezer. Such as carrots, mushrooms, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, or peas. Prepare a basic sauce like soy sauce, honey, oil, frozen garlic cubes, siracha if you like, and salt and pepper of course. Combine everything in the pan and serve over rice!
Fried rice is a similar process but the leftover rice gets added to the pan after the veggies instead of the protein and you can add some scrambled eggs to make it authentic. Pastas are a great option too, I’ve done leftover shredded chicken added to pasta with some marinara sauce, a bit of the pasta cooking water to dilute the sauce, a drop of siracha, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, fresh parsley and YUM!
And then we have stews. The thing is that anything leftover that is saucy can be used as the base of a stew and then vegetables or protein can be added to it. For example let’s say you made ratatouille, stick it in a large pan and add some tomato sauce and fresh spices, bring it to a boil then add some fresh tilapia, cook it for about 10 minutes and serve with your choice of grain.
Additionally, use that half of container of chicken soup that’s not enough to freeze in any of the above mentioned fleishig dishes to add flavor. Add it to your stir fry or pasta, use it as the liquid to cook rice or couscous, or add some fresh vegetables, water and seasoning to make a whole new soup.
Honestly, I can go on and on because if you look at leftover food as an ingredient, the opportunities are endless. And what’s more is that just like if you season at each step in a recipe for deeper flavor rather than seasoning only at the end, using something that’s already been
flavored when it was cooked the first time takes any new dish up a notch. So next Sunday, give yourself a good 5-10 minutes just staring into the depths of your refrigerator, believe in yourself, and get to repurposing your Shabbos leftovers.