Reinventing Meals. Two Leftover Parties
Nobody has immortalized the wonderful mystique of leftovers more brilliantly and with more wit than Calvin Trillin: “The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.”
We all know better than Reinventing the Wheel, a futile effort.
But Reinventing the MEAL? Yes!!!! Bring it on down!
So, Reinventing Meals is a frequent theme with my Cooking Demos. And by all accounts, the theme, and the dishes, were a real triumph.
The idea of Reinventing Meals is indeed very dear to me:
Not just because I hate to see anything go to waste (who wants to sound like a thrifty goodie goodie? Not me!), but much more importantly, because recasting the remains of last night’s meal into an entirely revamped and enticing new dish establishes you, the cook, as creative, bold and resourceful. A real makeover artist. As excitingly, you will create a whole different new dish each time, with endless permutations depending on what had on hand, at practically no cost, no recipe needed whatsoever. Gosh, who wants to eat bits and pieces of lox, or grilled veggies, or chopped liver, or anything, as is, from a previous meal? No wonder they get tossed out so often, as they often looks so unappealing. But suppose you wrap them carefully, thoughtfully and respectfully, and you will be amazed how they are calling out to you to remind you just how many hats they can wear, each one more becoming than the next! If you can recycle in style, then more power to you!
Is there any magic or any trick to reinventing meals?
None whatsoever. But here is the crucial condition: We are only talking about leftovers gathered from good wholesome meals, that is implicit. It all starts with good meal prep! Leftovers from junk is junk, period. Why try reinventing the meal if the original dish was worthless to begin with? Reinventing the Meal will be a thrill, provided the original ingredients were wholesome.
So: Here I go. My two Passover Cooking Demos in Cape Cod (pictures above). The following menus and recipes are just guidelines, and endlessly elastic, to give you clear ideas just how wonderfully creative you can get. So, think before you toss: The remains of last night’s dinner can be recast beautifully. Again: It’s not about the recipes. It’s about making a new home for last night’s leftovers, in good health and in style. Not only that: none of the dishes suffered in the least from the absence of Chametz ingredients, exactly the opposite!
Special thanks to Chef Matt at Chop Chop Washington Heigths, and to sous chef Mendy at Boeuf and Bun Crown Heights, for being my devoted assistants!
1. Reinventing Meals. Part One: Dairy.
My menu was created practically right on the spot, from all the good stuff the kitchen staff gathered for me from the Hotel Dairy Kitchen, and in less than one hour, we served about 60 healthy portions of each item, all five dishes looking and tasting unbelievable.
Root vegetable soup
Nori Hand Rolls
Quinoa Pudding (dessert)
Root Vegetable Soup:
I took all roasted root vegetables I found, added water, dry white wine, water to cover, cinnamon (delicious with roots), a little olive oil, a little turmeric, water to cover. I brought the mixture to a boil. That’s all. Since everything is already cooked, all I needed to do is bring all to a boil. No salt and pepper until you taste the finished soup, since all the ingredients were seasoned in the previous dishes. You follow me? Cream with an immersion blender, and adjust texture and seasonings (more water, more S&P if necessary). Year round: Throw in a couple pouches Levana Meal Replacement Garden Vegetable
I used a large skillet. Olive oil in the bottom. I layered what I found, right in the skillet, set on a medium flame: halved roasted tomatoes, frozen thawed chopped spinach, fried onions, fried mushrooms, diced cheddar. Then I beat together some eggs and milk, and poured this egg mixture evenly over all.Year round: Throw in a couple pouches Levana Meal Replacement Garden Vegetable. Cover and let the mixture firm up slightly, just enough to cut in wedges. Don’t overcook or the eggs will get tough.
Nori Hand Rolls:
Oh boy did I have fun making the hand rolls: I mixed what I found in a bowl: Cooked quinoa, minced ginger, scallions, cilantro, jalapeno, avocado, shredded carrots. I used this mixture to make nori hand rolls. Passover, so I didn’t have toasted sesame oil, wasabi, soy sauce, sesame seeds etc… Still it was fabulous.
I threw all the salad greens I found in a salad platter: baby spinach, diced golden beets, diced lox, sliced granny smith apples, fennel. And bingo, I had a fabulous salad on my hands! Dressed it olive oil, cider vinegar, S&P.Mixed Greens: I found nice fresh crisp greens (arugala, mesclun, baby spinach), bits and pieces of smoked salmon, granny smith apple, roasted red peppers. That made me a wonderful main course salad, with a very simple oil and vinegar dressing.
Quinoa Pudding (Dessert).
I threw some cooked quinoa in a pot, with some almond milk, oil, golden raisins, brown sugar, cinnamon. Brought the whole thing to a boil. That’s all. It came out pretty amazing. Year round: Throw in a couple pouches Levana Meal Replacement Vanilla Bean
2. Reinventing Meals. Part Two. Meat.
Alas no pictures of this menu, as we made it during Yomtov. You will just have to take my word for it: It was fantastic. Here too, a whole feast for 50-60 guests in under one hour.
Chicken salad on mixed greens
I found some poached salmon and sea bass chunks, roasted plum tomatoes, some roasted diced potatoes, roasted red peppers, roasted sliced zucchini, a handful fried onions, a bunch flat parsley, a bunch cilantro. I threw everything in a pot, as is (meaning, not cut or minced further), a bottle white wine, olive oil, 4-5 bay leaves, paprika, with water to cover. As soon as the mixture came to a boil and cooked just 5-10 minuted beyond boiling point, the soup was ready (I fished out the bunch of parsley and the bunch of cilantro, and discarded them). Year round: Throw in a couple pouches Levana Meal Replacement Garden Vegetable
Oh boy I had fun with all the goodies I had on hand: I mixed chopped liver, finely minced chicken breast and smoked turkey, minced shallot, a little brandy, fresh thyme leaves and ground pepper. Year round: Throw in a couple pouches Levana Meal Replacement Mushroom Medley I pressed the mixture firmly in a mold (no cooking!), and sliced it.
The kids whisked most of the wonderful finished dish away, as it looked lie they couldn’t get enough of it. What Nachas: I started with some meatballs in tomato sauce, mashed it all up in a large skillet, with some minced pieces of brisket, and tossed in some cooked pasta. That was the whole thing. Year round: Throw in a couple pouches Levana Meal Replacement Garden Vegetable
Chicken salad on mixed greens:
I diced the cooked chicken breasts I found, with some smoked turkey (do you see? I made two things with the cooked breasts and smoked turkey: The Paté and the chicken salad: how cool is that?), diced granny smith apple, diced celery, and some chopped toasted cashews. I made a quick mayo sauce, throwing in some grated horseradish and a drop almond milk to thin it a little, and piled the whole thing on thinly sliced Romaine hearts.
Here too, the kids beat us to the race. I melted some chocolate chips with a little oil and a little almond milk, it was ready in mere seconds, and we dipped skewered strawberries, pineapple cubes and banana chunks in the melted chocolate mixture.