Posts Tagged ‘leftovers’

Out-of-Control Soup

soup1Did you ever go to your refrigerator to look for something you positively knew was in there only to find 23 things you forgot you had and never finding what you were looking for until you moved that plastic container shoved wa-a-a-y in the back? You know, that “science experiment” about growing mold? 

Well, I did just that yesterday. Among the 23 things I had forgotten were 2 shrivelly carrots, a partial bag of spinach,  half of a red onion, a lonely, slightly slimy leek, a few sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary, some leftover corn, part of a yellow bell pepper, a few slices of Genoa salami, about a cup of chicken broth, and some grated parmesan. Before long, I had a plan. “Soup,” I said!  

Obviously, that frig was out of control and I made a solemn promise to clean it out…later. 

But I had a more immediate task. I got out a medium-sized, heavy saucepan, drizzled in some olive oil, and got to work. The slime on the leek was confined to the green ends which I wasn’t going to use anyway. I halved the white part lengthwise and rinsed it well under running water. Then I sliced it and put it aside. I chopped the red onion, the bell pepper, and peeled and chopped the poor limp carrots.

All those little foundlings I threw into the pot with the hot oil. I stirred it and let it cook a while to start tenderizing the veggies. In the meantime, I opened a can of diced tomatoes, and a can of cannellini, which I drained and rinsed (the beans, not the tomatoes). When the veggies were slightly tender, 3 cloves of garlic, minced, were thrown in. I stripped the leaves off a sprig of thyme and the leaves from the rosemary  sprig, chopped them roughly and added them. Then I added the broth, the tomatoes, some salt and pepper, and the salami, cut up into tiny bits. It looked a bit skimpy so I added another 14 oz. can of chicken broth. I brought this concoction to a boil and then lowered the heat and let it simmer for 20 minutes or so. Finally, I dumped in the beans, corn  and the baby spinach, coarsely chopped, and put the whole thing in the crockpot on low.

It was only 10:00 in the morning and we were still full from our weekend bacon and egg breakfast. I knew we had errands to run and wouldn’t want to spend much time fixing lunch later. The crockpot was the answer. I could keep the soup warm and ready for a few hours with no problem. 

Later, after we had picked out and bought our Christmas tree, we were ready for lunch. I sliced up some fresh “No Knead” bread, ladled out the soup, and sprinkled some parmesan over it. Boy! Was it delicious! I enjoyed it again today for lunch. No recipe, just plain old soup.

Try it yourself. I bet you can find some leftovers to throw into a soup pot and make a tasty meal. Chicken, torn up cooked hamburger, shredded roast beef or pork, cut up ham, cabbage, green beans, peas, pasta, rice – you name it. Add some broth, or just water and a bouillon cube if that’s all you have on hand (hold the salt until you taste it), or tomato juice. You probably know instinctively what combinations you would enjoy. Make the most of your food dollar and use those little bits of leftovers.

Now, I must tackle the frig and see what else I can salvage.

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Rather than roast a pork loin just seasoned with salt and pepper yesterday, I chose to add a fennel and onion stuffing. I got the idea from watching Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network. I had everything on hand, except fennel bulbs and fresh bread crumbs.  Fortunately, I was able to get the fennel from the grocery.

I had a few hunks of leftover No Knead Bread in the freezer and with the aid of my trusty food processor, I had plenty of crumbs in just a few minutes. No-Knead Bread is so easy to make that I almost always have a least one new whole loaf on hand. We always start eating the newest loaf and leave the older one for toast, croutons, or bread crumbs. If there is a piece left, I bag it up and stick it in the freezer until I need it.

To make the pork roast, I first butterflied the pork loin lengthwise by slicing one third of the way down almost to the side. I opened it up like a book and then sliced another third of the way into the thicker side (you’re making a tri-fold, now cutting from the middle, not the opposite end from the first cut) and opened that up also. I now had a roast three times as wide as what I started with.  I pounded it out just a little to even it up and spread the stuffing over the roast, rolled it and tied it with string to keep it together while it roasted.

I hadn’t planned to make gravy, but at the last minute, I couldn’t stand to waste those good juices at the bottom of the roasting pan and quickly made up a gravy with some chicken stock and enhanced it with a tablespoon or so of heavy cream and a sprinkling of Julia Child’s pork seasoning.

The stuffing is simply sliced onion and fennel, sweated in olive oil and butter until tender, seasoned with salt and pepper, garlic and thyme, Pernod or white wine  (I used white wine), and mixed with bread crumbs. This is spread over the butterflied pork loin, which is rolled up and tied securely, roasted at 425 minutes for 30 minutes and 350 for another 30.  Let it rest for 10-15 minutes, slice it thickly and Bob’s-your-uncle. You can find the complete directions  below or here .

I try to use up leftovers as creatively as possible. Sometimes, it doesn’t work. (I tried making chili one time with leftover spaghetti sauce. Not good.) Other times, it works great.

We had leftovers last night. With lots of stuffed pork roast and gravy leftover (the little ones weren’t thrilled with the stuffing messing up the pork), we had the backbone of our meal. However,  I wanted to “kick up the gravy a notch” so I added a few tablespoons of currant jelly and stirred it in while the gravy heated up on the stove. It added a little bit of “sweet-tartness” to the gravy. Much better.

With the pork and leftover augratin potatoes, I fixed roasted butternut squash. I peeled the squash, removed the seeds and fibers from the cavity, and chopped the flesh into approximately 1″ cubes. I tossed the cubes with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, laid them out on a sheet pan lined with parchment and roasted them in a 400 degree oven for a half-hour or so, until a knife tip cut into a cube easily. They were pretty good, but a little dull. I tossed them with two tablespoons of maple syrup and then they were fine. We have lots of squash leftover. I may make a soup with what’s left. I’ll let you know if I do.

We even had leftover tossed salad from New Year’s Day. Yes, the lettuce was wilted. I added some more lettuce and a little bit of bottled blue cheese dressing. It was fine.

Blue cheese dressing can be too much for me sometimes. I often dilute it with homemade vinaigrette which I almost always have ready. This time, the vinaigrette on the wilted salad was also made from leftovers. For Christmas Eve, I made a beef tenderloin with a mustard-herb crust. I had some mustard/herb mixture from that still in the refrigerator. I added some vinegar and oil, salt, pepper and garlic, of course, and I had vinaigrette.

Try experimenting with leftovers. Just remember not to keep anything hanging around in the frig past the safe amount of time. Purge it the day before trash day and get rid of anything questionable at that time. Don’t leave stuff to grow moldy and yucky. Check way in the back. As George Carlin said, “Is it meat, or is it cake?” Throw it out.


From Food Network

Good olive oil 
1 tablespoon unsalted butter 
2 cups sliced yellow onions (2 onions) 
2 cups sliced fennel (1 large bulb) 
Kosher salt 
Freshly ground black pepper 
2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 large cloves) 
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves 
1 tablespoon Pernod or white wine 
3 cups fresh bread crumbs 
1 (3 1/2-pound) loin of pork, butterflied

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.For the stuffing, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the butter in a large (12-inch) saute pan. Add the onions and fennel with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cook over low to medium-low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions and fennel are tender and lightly browned. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for 1 more minute. Add the Pernod and cook for another minute, deglazing the pan. Cool slightly.

Add the bread crumbs and 1 teaspoon of salt to the stuffing mixture. Lay the pork on a board fat side down, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread the stuffing evenly on the pork and roll up lengthwise, ending with the fat on the top of the roll. Tie with kitchen string, rub with olive oil, and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.

Place the rolled pork loin on a baking rack on a sheet pan and roast for 30 minutes. Lower the heat to 350 degrees F and roast for another 20 to 30 minutes, until the interior of the pork is 137 degrees F. (If the thermometer hits stuffing rather than pork, it will register a higher temperature, so test the meat in several places.) Remove from the oven and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Allow to rest for 15 minutes. Remove the strings, slice thickly, and serve.

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