To some, leftovers are the bane of their Tupperware; to others, a comfort food to be treasured. But don’t let the simplicity of the word “leftover” imply that these partially eaten food items are merely things to be forgotten or stowed away.
The true magic of leftovers is that they are the ultimate multipurpose component of every kitchen. They’re reusable, meaning they bring you more bang for your buck and allow you to experiment with new combinations of ingredients and preparations. That way, if you want to test out a dish that’s super out of left field, you don’t have to risk ruining a perfectly good (or expensive) main course; all you have to do is repurpose a meal you’ve already enjoyed once – if you enjoy it again, even better.
Culinary students interested in making every ingredient and piece of food count should test new ways to get creative with leftovers.
Here’s a start:
Veggies become soup
Leafy greens, root vegetables and starches are great for cooking in abundance. Not only can they be mixed and matched based on the time of day or meal, but they can also be refrigerated and reheated within minutes. Even better, any leftovers from the night before can be thrown together into a crockpot or stovetop pot to form a stew or soup.
The important thing to remember about fresh veggies is that their shelf life may be limited relative to other foods, so that great taste you were able to achieve last night might wear off in a day or so. Combine your veggies with broth, bread and some protein and you’ve got a great soup that you can sprinkle with salt or other spices for maximum flavor.
Soup is also great for dipping and complementing other dishes. No more watching your vegetables go bad!
Sammies become salads
If you made a platter of sandwiches and have a few left over, you’re already halfway to making a salad.
Meats, cheese and condiments can lose their luster once they’ve been sitting out, making the bread soggy or crusty; the same goes for toasted sammies.
Cut up your leftover sandwiches into quarters (or smaller) and toss them onto a fresh salad of spinach, hard-boiled eggs, cherry tomatoes and light dressing. The addition of bread, protein and different types of cheese will provide a new flair to an otherwise traditional salad, and you’ll finally be able to get rid of your sandwiches in a tasty way.
Buddha Bowls are the way to go
Fast-casual customers are loving the convenience and nutrient-dense contents of Buddha Bowls, which bring together fresh (mostly plant-based) ingredients into a large bowl. Akin to a stir fry, you can really include anything in a Buddha Bowl, but the standard options are rice, quinoa or hummus-based and include greens, avocados, legumes and even some fruit.
Throw in chopped roasted potatoes and any grain or veggie leftovers from the night before, then drizzle with a light oil or dressing.
Wraps and omelettes for the win
Perhaps the easiest and most efficient way to get rid of leftovers is to bring them together in a tortilla wrap or a morning omelette. Spinach, cheese, potatoes, tomatoes, mushrooms and everything in between can be dumped straight from the refrigerator to the pan to be cooked for a few minutes.
Or, if you’ve got heads of lettuce that may be going bad soon, scrap the corn or flour tortilla and use the lettuce itself as the wrap – even healthier!
Leftovers are perfect for trying new things with old ingredients, so see how far you can push the culinary limits.