Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Joy of Leftovers

When I was growing up, I despised the idea of leftovers.  Why on earth would I ever want to eat the same thing two days in a row?  How boring.  And, really, it was tough enough getting through it the first time around -- you're going to make me suffer the exact same misery again? This isn't a commentary on my mom's cooking; she is a good cook and I was lucky enough to grow up in a household where dinnertime meant a homemade meal and the whole family gathered around the kitchen table every night.  But though I don't remember being  a particularly picky eater, I definitely didn't relish in food the way I do as an adult.  There were meals I loved, I know, but I also remember the torture of getting through dinner some nights, just so I could have my dessert or get up from the table.  Regardless of my foggy remembrances regarding my relationship with dinner, I clearly recall watching my father willingly eat whatever leftovers happened to be in the fridge and simply not understanding.  I'd have rather skip a meal altogether than eat leftovers on more than one occasion.

Oh, how times have changed.  In part, it's probably because I'm the one spending the time doing the prep these days.  And I churn out food that I seriously enjoy on a regular basis, so getting to enjoy it a second time is a sweet bonus.  Additional bonus, it's a like a free meal (in terms of both cost and effort) the second time around.  Plus, the idea of wasting food stresses me out, so using up something that's been sitting in the fridge is a small victory in the fight against waste.  And some nights, like tonight, I arrive home utterly exhausted, without the energy or inspiration to think up a meal, let alone actually prep it and cook it and clean it up.  And so tonight, full from a late, heavy lunch, sleep-deprived, and depleted, I seriously considered a dinner of....wine.  Except somewhere around the bottom of my first glass, I looked up from my blog-reading long enough to realize that I was no longer full -- in fact, I was starving.  And so I turned to my fridge for the world's quickest, simplest pasta: fusilli, leftover veggies and olive oil.  I had some leftover cauliflower and cooked mustard greens from previous meals.  Conveniently I also had a pre-chopped red onion because, while cooking with a friend the other day, I was too busy chatting to pay attention and accidentally chopped the entire onion when all I needed was half.  So I boiled some water for pasta, I sauteed some onions with a pinch of red pepper flakes and then I threw it all together to heat and blend.  And in about 20 minutes I had a quick, healthy, cheap, delicious, utterly simple and completely local dinner that required absolutely no prep and virtually no clean up.  

Dinner from Leftover Veggies
Servings: really depends on how much leftover veg you have

1. Boil water, cook pasta.

2. Heat olive oil/butter in a large saute pan.  Add pre-cooked veggies, a sprinkle of sea salt and any desired seasoning and heat through.

3. Add pasta and stir together.

4. Add salt and pepper to taste, plate, finish with an extra drizzle of olive oil and top with parmesan, if desired.  If you're feeling particularly ambitious, make a quick salad.

On a night that I couldn't even gather a head coherent enough for writing, it inspired me to post.  And it certainly makes the case to cook a little extra on nights that you're already in the kitchen.

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