Kitchen Conservation

Sallie Satterthwaite's picture

The honeymoon is probably over by now for this summer’s crop of June brides.

Figuratively as well as literally.

The honeymoon is definitely over by the time you start having to deal with leftovers.

Despite my bragging some time ago that sending Dave to do the grocery shopping has resulted in reduced spending and fewer leftovers, there are still enough to keep me searching for room to put them in an already overloaded freezer and refrigerator.

I don’t know who came up with the idiotic dimensions of the standard refrigerator. It had to be a man.

We bought the current one when we moved into this house in 1984, not thinking of dimensions, and of course, the darned thing extends eight inches in front of the rest of the counters. It doesn’t bother Dave, but it irritates me by competing with room I need to walk past it when he’s standing there in a trance.

Besides, it’s deep enough to lose groceries in.

I’m convinced that you could build a refrigerator flush with the fronts of kitchen cabinets and still lose food in the back. Like the freezer, only the six inches nearest the door get used anyway.

Might as well save the energy it takes to cool off the back 24.

With winter comes relief that I can store a lot of groceries on the cold screened porch. The big box of cheap wine we fancy stays cool out there; so do the candles Martha Stewart says should be chilled.

And so do the leftovers from dinner which were leftovers from dinner the evening before.

We could live for months on stuff we resuscitate from the freezer.

The combinations may be a bit odd: a recent repast, for example, included leftover frozen vegetable soup, leftover ravioli in marinara sauce, leftover eggplant parmesan, with a salad of cold sauerkraut on spinach leaves. I kid you not.

But I do digress.

I’ve found an almost foolproof, waste-not method for getting rid of leftovers. This may rank right up there with The Secrets of the Universe.

Brides, here is my belated wedding gift to you: There is virtually nothing you can find in your ‘fridge that cannot be turned into either soup or salad. Whether you’re looking to get rid of last week’s ratatouille, rice, or red beets, one of these simple options will do the trick.

Place lettuce or spinach leaves on an individual salad plate. Pile with cold veggies and pastas. Dribble a bit of olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice over the top, maybe toss on bacon bits (soy, of course) or croutons. Garnish with feta, if you like, and voila!

Salad.

“What a nice-looking salad,” Dave says, of food which, served in bulk in a bowl, especially cold, would have elicited a rude reaction.

For reasons that escape me, the trick is in making an individual plate of it.

Put the same food – cooked dried beans, for instance, couscous, leftover carrots or squash – into a pan of boiling water in which you’ve dissolved a bouillon cube or a spoonful of miso paste and, voila! Soup.

Broil a slice of bread and cheese on top and it’s no longer just soup. It’s French (fill-in-the-blank) soup.

Use your head: salad in summer, soup in winter. Same food. Same strategy. Same rave reviews.

Other options, of course, require a trifle more work. Like scooping leftovers onto tortillas softened slightly in the microwave. Add a dash of salsa, roll tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate. They make a good lunch or a side dish to dinner, although really wet leftovers need to be drained well.

Do the same thing by folding you-know-what in circles of pizza dough, then bake in the oven. Anybody can do broccoli; I’ve used up cooked turnip greens and cauliflower by hiding them in a ricotta and cheddar-stuffed calzone.

For that matter, you’d be amazed what you can toss into your bread maker along with a basic dough. Page through your recipe book sometime. When its authors include ingredients like sauerkraut, apple butter, cooked oatmeal, and chili beans, it only looks like a clever new bread they’ve invented. Truth is, they were probably getting rid of leftovers.

Honest, I’ve seen every one of those ingredients called for in bread recipes – different recipes, of course.

And surely by now you’ve discovered what a delightful flavor sour milk or yogurt adds to homemade bread.

So if you were raised on the mantra, “Waste not, want not,” as I was, and regaled with stories of starving Chinese children, bid guilt adieu.

Repeat after me: Salad in summer. Soup in winter.

The secret of the universe, that.

The hardest part will be to remember what’s in it when your admiring mother-in-law asks for the recipe.

[Sallie Satterthwaite of Peachtree City has been writing for The Citizen since our first issue Feb. 10, 1993. Before that she had served as a city councilwoman and as a volunteer emergency medical technician. She is the only columnist we know who has a fire station named for her. Her email is SallieS@Juno.com.]

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