Posts Tagged With: leftovers

forgetfulness, plus a perfect parsley pistachio pesto

We needed fresh parsley the other day.

I knew we needed it, because it’s not something we usually keep around.

We needed fresh parsley–I knew we did, was absolutely sure we did–so I picked some up at the store…

…only to return home and discover that we already had a slightly wilted and forgotten bunch of fresh parsley in the fridge, leftover from another night.

The older bunch of herbs was certainly no longer in its prime, not perky enough to garnish the fancy dinner Micah was making for me, but certainly not yucky enough just yet to toss in the compost pile.

So there I was a few mornings later, brainstorming lunch ideas and faced with not one but two bunches of floppy parsley, not to mention a whole-heck-of-a-big loaf of fresh sourdough.

But what about all that parsley?

A saggy parsley salad with sourdough croutons didn’t strike my fancy. Neither did wilted parsley sandwiches. Even bacon wouldn’t save those.

Then, my brainstorm struck a little lightning.

Pesto lightning.

It seemed like a good idea. After all, pesto is what you make when you’re overrun with fresh basil. Why not make it with parsley instead?

Of course, I didn’t have pine nuts, either. I could have subbed walnuts or pecans, both pine-nut-alternatives that I’ve seen in pesto recipes before.

But then I peeked in the pantry and spied the pistachios.

Pistachios are pretty much my favorite member of the nut family, and not just because they’re green (my favorite color). A perfectly roasted pistachio is crunchy, salty, and just a little bit creamy from all those good-for-you vegetable fats that live in nuts and avocados.

Thus, with the help of my handy dandy food processor, the perfect parsley pistachio pesto was created.

green + good for you!

This stuff was great on bacon tomato sandwiches, and it’s most likely on deck to dress some gnocchi later this week.

What’s in it:

  • 2 tightly packed cups chopped fresh parsley (about 1-1/2 bunches, wilted is okay :))
  • 1/2 cup roasted, salted pistachios
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan
  • 1/2 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

Step by step:

  • Put the parsley, pistachios, garlic, and cheese in the bowl of your food processor and whir everything around a few times until it starts to come together and look more, well, pesto-y.
  • Add the vinegar, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Pulse the food processor a few more times until your pesto is the consistency you like. If you prefer your pesto smoother than my chunky stuff, just drizzle in a little more olive oil and mix a bit longer.

This recipe makes about 1 packed cup of pesto, which will now keep for a week or two in the refrigerator. Spread it on a sandwich, use it for pasta sauce, or just sneak spoonfuls of it straight from the jar like I’ve been doing all week.

Categories: recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

supper tonight – 5.29.12 – beet & carrot salad, couscous with lentils (plus a quick lunch with the leftovers)

Root vegetables.

They’re kind of amazing, if you think about it.

All you see above ground are stems and greens. Sometimes tasty, sometimes bitter. Sometimes edible, sometimes poisonous.

Who in our hunter-gatherer ancestry first mined the hidden gems that flourish underground? Who was first curious enough to discover that some plants have wiry tendrils for roots, while others stand on concealed, crisp, bulging nuggets of stored nourishment? Who was first brave or hungry or reckless or stupid enough to unearth and eat one of these mysterious fruits from the earth, willing to risk sickness or death for the sake of a strange thing that might–or might not–be food?

It’s easy to scout your garden for the perkiest basil leaves, the fluffiest fennel fronds, the plumpest strawberries, the tenderest figs.

But until you part the earth to release its buried root treasures, you won’t know whether your carrots are pretty and slender like a maiden’s fingers or knobby and hooked like a witch’s claws. You won’t know what shape your potatoes or yams have taken until they’re out of the soil and in your palm.

(You can estimate size, of course–pretty accurately, even–based on when you planted those veggies and what above-ground signals they’ve transmitted. But really, you will never know for sure until you hold those secrets in your hand.)

Here’s the other thing about root vegetables: you’ve got to work for them.

Fresh herbs? Snip a few sprigs as you need them. Fruit and berries? Pluck ’em from the bush and enjoy. Quick, easy.

But with roots, the magic happens under the soil, and you can’t see it or hold it or taste it until you dig it up, unearth it, get a little grit and grime under your fingernails. Brave the worms and grubs and bugs, brave the mess, brave the unknown.

Carrots and beets? Prepare to get dirty. Prepare to scrub. Prepare for food that doesn’t really look like food at first, not until you’ve shined it up and shown the beauty underneath.

And once you’ve unearthed these treasures, please, do let them shine.

the (mostly) unadorned beauty of roots

Our salad, enjoyed warm, was simple: roasted beets and carrots tossed with crumbled feta and fresh parsley, drizzled with a cumin vinaigrette. The recipe comes from our favorite cookbook, Hugh Acheson’s A New Turn in the South, which I know I’ve written about plenty already. But it’s our favorite, so it’s hard not to cook from it as often as we do. 🙂

What’s in it (the cumin vinaigrette):

  • 1 teaspoon grainy mustard
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar (another wine vinegar would probably work well)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin (Hugh toasts and grinds whole seeds, which we didn’t have–I’m sure this would add even more flavor)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • salt and pepper to taste

Step-by-step:

  • Whisk together the mustard, lemon juice, vinegar, and cumin.
  • Gradually whisk in the olive oil, then the mint.
  • Season with salt and pepper to your liking.

This makes about 3/4 cup of dressing, so you will have extra leftover after you make the salad. You won’t mind, though, because it makes a great dressing for other salads or a crisp cabbage slaw (which I’ll tell you more about in another post).

What’s in it (the salad):

  • 1/2 pound carrots, left whole or halved if they’re very small, or cut up if they’re larger
  • 1/2 pound beets, halved or quartered if they’re very small, or cut up if they’re larger
  • a little olive oil, salt, and pepper
  • 2-3 ounces crumbled feta
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons cumin vinaigrette

Step-by-step:

  • Get a pot of salted water boiling on the stove.
  • Add the carrots, boil for 1 minute, then remove to a bowl to cool.
  • Add the beets and boil until they’re just tender, about 20-25 minutes. Drain the beets and allow them to cool for a few minutes.
  • Preheat your oven to 450°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Toss the carrots in a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, then spread them out on one side of the baking sheet.
  • Do the same to the beets, then spread them out on the other side of the baking sheet.
  • Roast for about 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and slightly browned.
  • Let the vegetables cool for a few minutes.
  • In one bowl, toss the carrots with the feta, half of the parsley, and about a tablespoon of the vinaigrette.
  • In another bowl, toss the beets with the rest of the parsley and another tablespoon of the vinaigrette.
  • Add carrots to your plates first, then top with the beets and a little more of the vinaigrette.

We followed these instructions exactly, but if you don’t mind your beets bleeding a little on the rest of your salad, you could certainly mix them with the carrots on the roasting pan or when you toss the veggies with the vinaigrette at the end. This is probably what we’ll do next time.

The amount of salad this made could easily have been a light lunch for two or sides/starters for four. We were pretty hungry, so we added lentils and couscous to the meal to make it a little heartier, plus a bottle of white wine, because…well, why not?

the whole meal, with Micah waiting patiently in the background

The flavors in our mugs of lentils and couscous paired perfectly with the salad, so I’ll share how I made them, too.

What’s in it:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry lentils
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 2 tablespoons orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon dehydrated minced onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup dry couscous
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • salt and pepper to taste

Step-by-step:

  • Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add the lentils and stir around for a few minutes to coat them with the oil.
  • Add the tomato paste, diced tomato, orange zest, minced onion, and spices. Stir to incorporate.
  • Add the vegetable stock, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer.
  • Cook for about 15-20 minutes or until the lentils are just tender.
  • Add the couscous. Bring to a boil again, then reduce the heat to very low and cover the pot. Let stand for about 15 minutes.
  • Uncover the pot, stir in the vinegar and white wine, then season with salt and pepper to taste. If you have more liquid then you’d like, you can simmer and reduce for a few minutes.

The orange zest, balsamic vinegar, and white wine brightened up the smoky, earthy flavors of the lentils and paprika, and the Mediterranean-inspired seasonings meshed beautifully with that colorful beet and carrot salad.

Really, the only problem with our lentil and couscous dish was that we made too much. If we’d eaten no salads, or much smaller salads, we would have had plenty of beans and starch for a main course–about 3-1/2 cups. But with our substantial vegetable dish, this was just too much to finish in one meal, so about a third of it went into the refrigerator as leftovers.

I love eating leftovers just as they are, especially if they were good the first time around (as this definitely was). But I also love experimenting with ways to transform old leftovers into something new and different, so of course that’s what I decided to do on Sunday for lunch. 🙂

similar flavors, completely different texture and form

What’s in it:

  • about 1-1/2 cups leftover couscous and lentils
  • 1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs (I used panko because that’s what I had in the pantry)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup mixed Greek olives, finely chopped (or you could try subbing capers or a ready-made tapenade)

Step-by-step:

  • Use your hands to smoosh together the leftover couscous-lentil mixture, breadcrumbs, and egg (kind of like making a burger).
  • Divide the mixture into fourths and form into patties.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  • Add the patties to your pan and cook for about 4 minutes per side or until they’re nicely browned and firm.
  • Top with a dollop of Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of olives.

Wow. These came out better than I could’ve hoped or expected.

Of course I knew they ought to taste pretty good since we had enjoyed the original dish so much, but I worried about the texture. Needlessly, because the outsides of these couscous lentil cakes were nice and crisp, while the insides were moist and flavorful. Combined with the creamy, tangy yogurt and the salty, briny olives, this lunch was even better than the leftovers that inspired it.

So good, in fact, that I know we’ll have to cook up these little cakes again the next time we make a batch of that splendid root vegetable salad.

Categories: musings, recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

supper tonight – 4.2.12 – not too offal…

My Pappaw loved braunschweiger (also called liverwurst…?) on crusty bread with brown mustard. I remember cutting myself a little sliver of this spreadable liver sausage when I was about five or six, reasoning that if Pappaw liked it, it must be good. And it was…kinda. But I don’t think he ever convinced me to try it again.

Then, somehow, inexplicably, I grew up to be a liver eater.

A few years ago, Micah and I got on a kick where we would make open-faced sandwiches by toasting a piece of bread topped with braunschweiger, thick-sliced tomato, and a generous helping of extra sharp cheddar. That was pretty darn tasty, and I’m kind of wondering–why has it been, like, three years since we made one of these?

Aside from this deli meat, I’ve somehow managed to sample plenty of other liver dishes in the last five or six years, maybe because I married a man who hates normal things like broccoli but loves to eat pretty much anything weird.

Micah and I enjoyed the beer-battered fried chicken livers at Farm Burger in Decatur, Georgia, so much that we asked for–and received–the recipe. (When Micah tried to replicate our magical crispy-fried liver experience at home, he managed to set the kitchen on fire…but we still got to eat some livers, and they were delicious, and our house didn’t burn down.)

We’ve had various liver pâtés and mousses at some of our favorite restaurants, and they’ve all been amazing. If you’re ever in Savannah, eat at Cha Bella and cross your fingers that the chicken liver mousse is on the menu that night. Same for Empire State South in Atlanta. And the butcher board at Farm 255 here in Athens often includes a liver mousse that’s perfect with some of their buttery grilled bread and house-made pickles.

Even a few controversial liver delicacies have made it onto our plates, including monkfish liver (which is freaking amazing, but unsustainably over-fished) and foie gras (even more heavenly, though the folks at PETA might challenge Chef Dan Barber to a knock-down, drag-out brawl over it one of these days).

Now that I’ve got the guts to try just about anything, I’m a liver lover at heart…but there’s one animal’s organ meat that I still can’t quite stomach.

The cow.

Micah convinced me that we should buy a beef kidney a few years ago. It was one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever tasted. It looked, smelled, and tasted like cat food…but even Cheesepuff and Magellan wouldn’t eat it.

And, as you can probably tell from their fluffy
fatness,these guys don't usually turn down food.

Only slightly better was the beef liver, which we cooked just a few weeks after that awful kidney experience. We breaded it and fried it and sprinkled it with lemon juice and ate it on tacos, and it was….pretty gross.

So when one of our Moonshine Meats CSA orders a while back included a pound of beef liver, I tucked that little vacuum-sealed package deep in the cavernous reaches of our freezer and crossed my fingers that the appliance elves might make off with it before Micah remembered that he wanted to try cooking beef livers again.

He found that bag o’ beef liver last week and put it in the fridge to defrost.

Yay. More cow guts.

We looked at different preparations before finally settling on this recipe for Barbecued Beef Liver from Allrecipes.com, because the description promised,

“Beef liver simmered in a sweet and tangy sauce will tempt the picky eaters in your family! Even our teenagers like this.”

And one reviewer said,

“This recipe is the bomb!!!! The liver taste is gone. I eat it likes its hamburger.”

(Plus, we figured that smothering almost anything, even a hunk of organ meat, goes down easier with a heaping helping of barbecue sauce.)

So smother we did, with lots of barbecue sauce and a big pile of leftover mashed potatoes from Friday night’s dinner.

Notice how you can't really see the beef liver in this picture?
That's exactly what I was going for.

The mashed potatoes were delicious, of course. The barbecue sauce was sweet and tangy, just as promised. But the beef liver…well, it still tasted like beef liver. Thank goodness the ratio of taters to sauce to liver was something like 5:4:1.

If you like beef liver, by all means, try this recipe! And if you don’t like beef liver, just skip the first few ingredients and make the barbecue sauce, because it would be pretty tasty on pretty much anything…even, kind of, on beef liver. 🙂

What’s in it:

  • 1 pound of beef liver, thinly sliced (we soaked ours overnight in lemon juice, though we also could’ve used milk)
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3/4 cup canned diced tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup Pabst Blue Ribbon
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil

Step-by-step:

  • Whisk together the ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, canned tomatoes, and beer. Enjoy the rest of the PBR while you cook those stupid beef livers, if you have to. (If you don’t like beef liver, I recommend only doing this step and skipping all the rest.)
  • Mix the flour, salt, and pepper in a plastic bag. Add the liver slices, seal the bag, and shake it up to coat the liver.
  • Heat the canola oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the liver pieces to the skillet and brown on both sides.
  • Pour in your barbecue sauce, bring to a boil, then simmer for about 20 minutes.
  • To serve: put the liver at the very bottom of your bowl or plate. Ladle on a very generous helping of your delicious barbecue sauce, and pile on a big heap of mashed potatoes for good measure. Make sure every bite includes a tiny tidbit of liver smothered by plenty of the other stuff in your bowl.

Micah and I tend to agree on most food-related subjects, but as we ate supper tonight, he said he would make this recipe again. (Really?) I guess that means he’s in charge of finishing our leftover liver, since he’s clearly more of a liver lover than I’ll ever be.

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supper tonight – 3.25.12 – kitchen disaster + leftovers mashup = not too bad after all…

If you’ve been keeping up, you know these two things about me by now:

  1. I’m a walking disaster in the kitchen.
  2. I absolutely must use up every last little bit of anything leftover in my refrigerator.

Yes, I’m a Depression-era housewife scavenging scraps in a minefield. Nothing gets thrown away if I can help it, but I just might die in an explosion one day.

So tonight, for supper, Micah and I had an interesting challenge. Our leftovers included a big hunk of ham steak and some Branston pickle from the ploughman’s platter I enjoyed at the Royal Peasant Friday night, about two cups of potlikker (the last of it, unfortunately), and four cornmeal pancakes from last Sunday’s breakfast.

Yeah, about those pancakes….they were a disaster.

Here’s what happened: while looking for cornmeal pancake recipes a few weeks ago, I came across two that I really wanted to make. One from Hillbilly Housewife, which turned out quite tasty, and one from Mark Bittman in the New York Times, which I didn’t get around to trying until last Sunday.

I didn’t have pine nuts and didn’t want vanilla (in case we might use leftovers in some savory dish later)–but otherwise, I followed Mr. Bittman’s directions exactly, because he’s kind of a smart dude who knows what he’s talking about.

Where did I go wrong? I have no idea. But somehow, when I got to the step where Mark Bittman’s batter was described as “spreadable but still thick,” my batter was a watery, soupy mess. I retraced my steps, double-checked my measurements…and I still can’t tell you what my mistake was.

Skeptically optimistic, I tried spooning a bit of my runny batter on the griddle. It spread super thin and bubbled like cornmeal lava. Undaunted, I let my test pancake cook for about five minutes (thinking that the longer side of Bittman’s “3-5 minutes” would probably serve me best).

After five minutes, I decided to check and see if my pancake’s underside was golden brown like Bittman said it would be. I can’t tell you whether it was golden brown or not, because my pancake turner did not succeed in flipping this little disc of cornmeal. Instead, I ended up with a strange, mushy polenta nugget, which tasted very good when I finally gave up on cooking it, but was most definitely not a pancake.

The batter is too thin, I decided….so I added more cornmeal.

Too much, apparently, because my end product tasted fine, but it was dense like a sope, not fluffy like a pancake. Copious amounts of maple syrup were needed, and the cakes were still pretty heavy and dry.

The recipe ended up making 12 pancakes, so the extras went into the fridge.

(There’s something so demoralizing about having leftovers of something you didn’t enjoy the first time around…especially if you’re neurotic about using those leftovers whether you like them or not….)

Fast forward to tonight, when I saw those stupid corn pucks taunting me from their little square plastic container in the fridge: Betcha can’t make us into a delicious dinner!

Armed with my potlikker (the elixir of the gods), and a few other quality ingredients, I set out to turn last week’s kitchen disaster into some kind of edible supper.

corn pucks + ham + Branston pickle + carrots + mushrooms + potlikker = not too shabby

What’s in it:

  • 4 leftover cornmeal pancakes
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • about 4.5 ounces of ham, cubed
  • 3 small carrots, sliced on the bias
  • 1/4 pound mushrooms
  • 2 cups potlikker (you could sub your favorite broth/stock)
  • 1 tablespoon Branston pickle (you could sub a different tangy relish or chutney)

Step-by-step:

  • Preheat your oven to 350°F. Wrap the pancakes in foil and throw the packet in the oven for about 10-15 minutes.
  • While the corn cakes warm, heat the olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat.
  • Add the diced ham and cook for about 3-4 minutes.
  • Add the carrots and mushrooms and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
  • Add the potlikker and Branston pickle. Simmer and reduce until your potlikker broth is good and thick and syrupy.
  • Put two pancakes on each plate and top with the mixture from your skillet.

The verdict? Dodged another mine tonight. No explosions. It really wasnt bad at all. The sauce was sweet, salty, tangy, smoky; the mushrooms and ham, hearty and savory; the carrots, sweet and tender. It was almost enough to redeem those disastrous pancakes. 🙂

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quick lunch – 3.12.12 – leftovers mashup + quinoa

I’m on spring break this week (woohoo!), so Monday I decided to cook a midday meal for Micah and enjoy it with him on his lunch break.

The challenge? Leftovers.

Besides my neuroses about eating my food from contrasting dishes, I’ve also got a serious obsession with eating or using every last tidbit of leftover anything. Sometimes, that  just means I’ll eat chili every day for a week at lunch because we made a big batch. Sometimes, leftover vegetables go into a soup. Sometimes, that leftover soup becomes pasta sauce. And sometimes, I’ll save things like 3/4 of a cup of potlikker from a batch of collard greens.

Yes, I hoard cooking liquid. But if you’ve ever slurped up a spoonful of potlikker, you know why. It’s smoky and salty from the ham hock that simmered in with the greens, it’s tangy from a splash of apple cider vinegar, it’s spicy from a dash of hot sauce, and it’s sweet from a sprinkling of brown sugar. This humble stuff is amazing all on its own, and when you cook with it, you can work magic.

Besides this 3/4 cup of heavenly broth, what else did I have to work with? About two cups of leftover butterbeans from a veggie-filled supper last Tuesday, a couple of pork sausage patties from Sunday’s lazy brunch, some lovely cherry tomatoes, and a bag of rainbow quinoa.

The delicious result:

This came together in about 30 minutes (most of which was inactive time as the quinoa cooked), and Micah and I both enjoyed this hearty one-dish meal.

What’s in it:

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/3 cup quinoa
  • 3/4 cup potlikker
  • two cups cooked butterbeans
  • two cooked patties of pork breakfast sausage (about 2-3 ounces), crumbled
  • about a cup of cherry tomatoes, halved (or quartered, if they’re big ones)
  • a little oil for drizzling over the top

Step-by-step:

  • Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add the quinoa. Stir it around in the hot oil for about 5 minutes. (It’ll smell yummy and nutty as it starts to toast.)
  • Add the potlikker, bring the pot to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  • Cover and cook for about 20 minutes.
  • Stir in the beans, sausage, and tomatoes, and warm on the stove until the whole thing’s heated through.
  • Divide into two bowls. Or eat the whole pot by yourself, because that’s kind of what I wanted to do. 🙂
  • Drizzle with a little more olive oil, or (even better) a splash of red chile oil and cilantro oil. (We cancelled our cable and no longer have the Food Network, but we’ll always have the magic of Bobby Flay’s flavored oils.)

You could substitute your favorite variety of beans, any kind of sausage, a different grain….you could even use regular old chicken broth instead of the potlikker, if you have to. But if you happen to cook and eat a mess of greens any time soon, save the juicy goodness that’s left in the pot. It’ll change your life.

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