For the Love of Leftovers

 

September 9, 2016

Issue 20: September/October 2016Sonoran Skillet

As much as I adore cooking without a plan—canvassing the fridge and making something unexpected—a little planning can go a long way in service of good leftovers. To be frank, just because I like to cook doesn’t mean I want to do it for every meal. Yet it always amazes me how my week improves when I have home-cooked food on hand for an on-the-go lunch or a quick dinner. When it makes sense, I try to maximize my cooking time by making larger quantities of foods like grain salads that really shine as leftovers.

With reason, a common gripe about leftovers is that, after a few days, it’s just not that fun to eat the same thing. As it’s nothing short of a triumph when my partner and I get to eat dinner together, I tend to assume I’m cooking for one. So even when I’m aiming for leftovers, I try to make enough to last two or three days rather than the whole week. This helps cut down on leftover fatigue.

I also gravitate toward recipes that lend themselves to repurposing. For example, if I make a big batch of roasted vegetables, I can eat them as they are, toss them with arugula, use them in fried rice, and—when I get really tired of them—make them disappear into a frittata. As a cook, I’ve come to really relish the challenge of successfully repackaging leftovers.

The recipes that follow are equally as good made and enjoyed right away as they are utilized throughout the week for work or school lunches. They’re portable by design and their flavors work great together. I’d argue for a batch cooking day to make them all. They’re meant to share oven and stovetop space.

I can say from experience that the Maple Mustard Roasted Sweet Potatoes are great stirred into the Wild Rice Salad and a spoonful of Pear Cinnamon Compote is perfect atop the Honey Yogurt Panna Cotta. The Lentils en Escabeche makes a delicious, unexpected taco filling. You’d be remiss not to try the Green Chile Meatloaf on a sandwich. Keep an eye out for the seasonal ingredients like fennel, pears, and red peppers to pop up at the farmers’ market this time of year.

Green Chile Meatloaf

Green Chile Meatloaf

Green Chile Meatloaf

The one thing that I like more than meatloaf is leftover meatloaf. I think this is a somewhat controversial opinion, but I like my leftover meatloaf cold. I use quick oats as a binder because that’s what my mom always used and because I think folks are more likely to have quick oats in their pantry than they are to have bread crumbs. Don’t use a super-lean ground beef here. The fat in the meat and the green chiles help keep this from drying out. I used hot green chiles here, but if you’re making this for kiddos or other spice-sensitive folks, use mild. Makes four mini meatloafs.

Green Chile Meatloaf
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Green Chile Meatloaf
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Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Mix together the garlic powder, cumin, oregano, paprika, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl.
  2. Stir in the eggs, whisking to fully combine. Stir in the drained green chiles. Add the oats and ground beef and mix until homogenous. I find this step is easiest to do with clean hands by just smushing everything together. Some elbow grease and a wooden spoon will also work.
  3. Form the mixture into a ball and cut the ball into quarters. Form each quarter into one small loaf or ball.
  4. Place on a parchment-lined rimmed baking pan and bake 375 until the internal temperature is 160 and the edges are crisp and brown, about 40 minutes. Serve immediately and refrigerate any leftovers.
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Lentils en Escabeche.

Lentils en Escabeche.

Lentils en Escabeche

Escabeche, the puckery Mexican pickled vegetables with a kick of heat, provides the inspiration for this salad. What we’re doing here is essentially making a super-quick pickle that provides both the dressing and the much-needed crunch in this lentil salad. Black lentils work best in salads like this one because they hold their shape once cooked. If you have a food processor, use the slicing blade and knock out the slicing this recipe requires in no time. A mandoline would also make this job especially easy, but you can just slice things as thin as you can with a knife if that’s what you have. Replace the jalapeño with half of a green pepper for a milder salad. Serves about 4 as a side.

Lentils en Escabeche
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Lentils en Escabeche
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Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, combine the vinegar, olive oil, oregano, and sugar, whisking together until the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Toss the carrots, onion, jalapeño, and garlic in the dressing. Cover and leave at room temperature to marinate while you prepare the lentils.
  3. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add a pinch of salt and a dried bay leaf. Add the lentils and return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook until the lentils are tender, but still holding their shape. This should take about 25 minutes. Near the end of the cooking time, the water level may get low. Add more water as needed. Drain the cooked lentils well and let cool to room temperature.
  4. Once cool, add the lentils to the marinated vegetables and stir to coat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Eat immediately or allow the salad to marinate in the fridge.
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Wild Rice Salad with Shaved Fennel, Red Peppers, and Cotija.

Wild Rice Salad with Shaved Fennel, Red Peppers, and Cotija.

Wild Rice Salad with Shaved Fennel, Red Peppers, and Cotija

If you pulled out your food processor or mandoline for the Lentils en Escabeche Salad, keep it out and use it to quickly shave the fennel and red peppers for this recipe too. Wild rice salads with celery, some type of nuts, and dried fruit often make an appearance on the Thanksgiving table. For the same crunch as celery, but with a ton more flavor, we’re using sweet red peppers and shaved fennel here. If your garlic clove is too big, the flavor can be a bit overpowering, so select a small clove for this recipe. Wild rice (the long, thin, black grains) can be expensive. Wild rice blends are a less costly alternative. Makes about six servings as a side.

Wild Rice Salad with Shaved Fennel, Red Peppers, and Cotija
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Wild Rice Salad with Shaved Fennel, Red Peppers, and Cotija
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Instructions
  1. Prepare the wild rice blend according to the package instructions.
  2. Use the time that the rice is cooking to slice the fennel and red pepper. To prepare the dressing, mix the olive oil and lime juice in a small jar until fully combined.
  3. In a large bowl, toss the fennel, red pepper, and garlic with the lime olive oil dressing so that the vegetables are coated. When the rice is done, stir it into the dressed vegetables and season with salt and pepper to taste. I’d recommend going light on the salt because the cotija is quite salty. Top with crumbled cotija cheese to serve.
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Honey Panna Cotta.

Honey Yogurt Panna Cotta.

Honey Yogurt Panna Cotta

Panna cotta has become one of my go-to desserts over the past couple years. I love that the prep time is next to nothing and it’s endlessly adaptable. You’ll often see panna cotta recipes unmolded and served on a small dessert plate. I forgo that here for the sake of portability. If you make these in small jars like quarter-pint Mason jars, they travel really well. A note about honey: You can choose either a dark or light honey here, keeping in mind that a darker honey will mean the final product will taste more like honey. Makes 6-9 depending on serving size.

Honey Yogurt Panna Cotta
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Honey Yogurt Panna Cotta
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Instructions
  1. Use a fork to stir the water into the gelatin in a small cup or mug and set aside. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the heavy cream and honey. Heat, stirring, until the honey is incorporated and the mixture begins to steam, about 5 minutes. You do not need to bring it to a boil. Remove from the heat.
  2. Off the heat, scrape the gelatin and water mixture right into the pan and stir until completely dissolved, about 2 minutes. Once the gelatin is dissolved, stir in the yogurt and vanilla extract. A wire whisk can be helpful for this step to help break up any lumps in the yogurt.
  3. Divide the mixture evenly into about 9 quarter-pint jars and let cool to room temperature. Cover with two-piece Mason jar lids and refrigerate until ready to serve.
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Maple Mustard Roasted Sweet Potatoes.

Maple Mustard Roasted Sweet Potatoes.

Maple Mustard Roasted Sweet Potatoes

These cook at the same temperature as the meatloaf. So if you’re doing a big batch cooking day, these can go in the oven at the same time. If your sweet potatoes are organic or come from a trusted source, you don’t need to peel them, just give them a good scrub. Makes about six servings as a side.

Maple Mustard Roasted Sweet Potatoes
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Maple Mustard Roasted Sweet Potatoes
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Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Arrange the sweet potatoes in a single layer on a parchment-lined rimmed baking pan.
  2. Mix together the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, and maple syrup until fully combined. An easy way to do this is to shake them all together in a jar. Drizzle the dressing over the sweet potatoes and sprinkle them with the rosemary. Right on the baking pan, use a spatula to mix everything together until the sweet potatoes are evenly coated with the dressing and rosemary.
  3. Bake at 375 degrees until tender, about 50 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately and refrigerate any leftovers.
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Cinnamon Pear Compote.

Cinnamon Pear Compote.

Cinnamon Pear Compote

I think simple is best when it comes to beautiful, in-season fall fruits. This basic compote is great with the Honey Yogurt Panna Cotta, but is also perfect stirred into your morning oatmeal or yogurt. Almost any type of pear will be lovely here, but I’d avoid Asian pears. They have such a distinct, crispy texture that I think cooking them does them an injustice. Starting with pears that are ripe, but not mushy, will ensure that they don’t break down too much during the cooking process. Makes a scant two cups.

Cinnamon Pear Compote
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Cinnamon Pear Compote
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Instructions
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan over very low heat.
  2. Cook stirring frequently until a layer of liquid forms on the bottom of the pan, about 3 minutes. Increase the heat to medium low and cook until the pears are tender but not falling apart, about 12 to 15 minutes. The cooking time here will depend on how ripe your pears were.
  3. Let cool to room temperature and refrigerate until ready to serve.
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Autumn Giles is a freelance writer and recipe developer whose work has appeared in Modern Farmer and Punch. She’s the author of Beyond Canning: New Techniques, Ingredients, and Flavors to Preserve, Pickle, and Ferment Like Never Before.







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