How to Be a Master Leftover Wrangler

Too much leftover rice? Stuff Something!
Too much leftover rice? Stuff Something!

I have a slightly bizarre sense of pride regarding my ability to make an exciting meal out of left over food. I prefer to think of these meals as transformations, rather than leftovers. As a cook for a community where many events and retreats are held, I often find myself serving anywhere from 30-100 people for meals. Depending on the popularity and quantity of previously made dishes, there are often leftovers, sometimes very large amounts of them. Since I really hate throwing food out, I always try to make something different with leftovers so the community members don’t find themselves stuck with the same meals over and over. Simple and effective transformations happen regularly. Have an excess of leftover vegetables? Blended soups are excellent ways to transform veggies into something fun and new. Sick of all that chili? Turn it into an enchilada casserole.

Sauces and spreads help entice. Blend your leftovers into a dippable delight.
Sauces and spreads help entice. Blend your leftovers into a dippable delight.

Here are a few tricks behind the Art of Leftover Wrangling:

a) You have to be fearless. Don’t be afraid of flavour. Don’t be afraid to do something unconventional. This also means you can’t be afraid to fail. Honestly, if I’d have given up after making that horrible vinegary collard green soup that one time, my tail would still be down marking my shame.  If you do ruin a dish (or several) don’t let it deter you from future transformationing.

b) Use your senses, not your preconceived idea of what you think does or does not go well together. Taste everything in combinations before counting them out.

c) Blend. Blend. Blend. Blend soups, blend sauces, blend dips. An emersion blender is a cook’s best friend.

d) If you’ve overcooked a piece of meat or let your fish get too dry, turn it into a sumptuous burger by mixing it with a grain, blended vegetables and some raw eggs to bind it. Transformed!

e) If all else fails, throw your leftovers in a pan and top it with some cheese. Seriously. Melted cheese makes everything better.

 

When all else fails... wrap in bacon.
When all else fails… wrap in bacon.

I actually find working with leftovers to be fun and rewarding, especially when you thought it was a lost cause. It forces me to be creative with what I have available. This blog will feature leftovers transformed. I will regularly post re-creations, tips and ideas.

fish burger rows

 

Happy transforming!

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Garden Pesto + Job Hunting in Korea

To the minor detriment of finding time to write posts, I have been focusing on finding a teaching job in South Korea for the past few weeks. It’s been a little slow going because I’m being very picky and haven’t actually applied to many positions. Luckily, as ESL teaching positions are quite plentiful, I can afford to be somewhat picky, but a large portion of me just wants it over with. Job searching gives me ulcers. Gah.

 

 

Good things come in threes.
Good things come in threes.

Actually, this won’t be my first time out there. I will be returning to SoKo after a year away. I first left North America (as a dual citizen of the States and Canada, I claim North America as my home) in August 2008. My intention was to stay for a year, but it just ended up being too good an opportunity to leave then, so I stayed an extra 2 and a half years.

 

In that time, I made friends with people from all over the world, traveled to about 25 countries, paid off all of my school loans and ate a metric ton of kimchi. Maybe two. As a Seoulite, I always found plenty of things to do, see, eat and experience. Seoul, like any city, has its plusses and minuses.

#1 plus- the amount of people

#1 minus- the amount of people

I’ll let you ponder that.

 pesto makings 2

I look forward to experimenting with traditional Korean dishes (which is saying a lot- Korean food has such a wide array of strong flavours that experimentation could be extreme) as well as getting to know some more people in food circles upon my return to Seoul. I will keep you updated as things progress. Until then: Pesto!

 pesto bowl

This summer and fall, herbs were ridiculously plentiful in mum’s garden. It was difficult to find ways to use them all. We were stuck with excessive amounts of (among other things) basil, parsley, cilantro, arugula and yellow wood sorrel.

 

Oxalis stricta
Oxalis stricta

 

 

Yellow wood sorrel is a delightful, clover sized plant that happens to be extremely and surprisingly sour. It’s kind of like eating a flat, dry and green lemon. Well… kind of. It grows everywhere and chances are it is growing in a green space near you. You most likely think of it as a weed, but I can assure you of its usefulness. It is wonderful as an extra salad green, gorgeous as a garnish and a delightful addition to anything needing tang. The entire plant is edible (although the stems get harder later in the season) and loaded with Vitamin C. It has some medicinal properties and will help treat skin rashes, swelling and inflammation. It can also be used as an orange/yellow dye. Thanks yellow wood sorrel for being so fabulous and helping to flavour my pesto to perfection!

 pesto in jars

My recipe yielded a very large amount of pesto. Luckily, pesto freezes perfectly and months after making the stuff, I’ve still got containers full and it’s still gorgeous. It also makes wonderful gifts.

pesto makings

Garden Pesto

Ingredients

  • 10 cups basil, arugula, parsley, cilantro and yellow wood sorrel mixed
  • 3 ½ cups walnuts
  • 1 ½ cups grated parmesan cheese
  • 20 cloves of garlic
  • 1 ½ tbsp salt
  • 2 ¾ cups olive oil
  • water

or for those who lack freezer space

  • 2 cups basil, arugula, parsley, cilantro and yellow wood sorrel mixed
  • ½ cup walnuts
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/8 to ¼ tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • water

Directions

Using a food processor, blend herbs, nuts, garlic, salt and olive oil in small batches. Add small amounts of water for extra blending lubrication. Blend until beautifully smooth with bits of green.

pesto spin

Once the ingredients have finished blending, mix the parmesan into the rest until well incorporated.

pesto bowl 2

Pesto can be frozen for many months and keeps well in the fridge.

garden pesto crackers 2

Variations

Omit parmesan for a vegan version and add a touch more salt. Or use a salty hard vegan cheese (any suggestions?).

Roast garlic if you’re garlic sensitive, although I would never recommend omitting garlic entirely.

Enjoy!