Why do leftovers get such a bad rap? To me, a fridge full of unconsumed culinary creations is like a painter’s palette ready to inspire some creativity. But in my case, it all happens at the stove. It must be the short order cook in me who loves conceiving of meals from parts of other fantastic meals. It all began when I was in my 20s, before the advent of Top Chef, when my theme would be leftovers. It was a great lesson in flavor integration and textural diversity, and some of the most memorable meals resulted.
One key ingredient that can bring all leftovers together in harmony is the incredible, edible egg (a dozen-or-so of which are likely in your fridge right now). If you can get comfortable with the concept of an egg-derived dish for dinner, a whole new world of savory delight can be opened up to you. And the best part is that you have the freedom to invent as you go.
If you’re feeling a lack of creativity, or perhaps a wave of intimidation at the thought of flying solo this way in the kitchen, allow me to inspire you. I recently created two dinners on the fly, made entirely of eggs, leftovers and other common ingredients, both of which have now ended up in my permanent recipe catalog. Included below are those recipes, as well as links to my recipes for the meals that yielded the initial leftovers. It’s like getting 4 recipes for the price of one! Enjoy the process, and please feel free to share your results with me.
Black Bean Soup Mexicana (Serves 1)
Link HERE for my BBQ Black Bean Soup recipe
2/3 cup Leftover BBQ Black Bean Soup
1 cup brown rice
1/3 avocado, diced
2 tsp olive oil
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro
Cook the brown rice fully, and place into a large microwave-safe bowl. Ladle the black bean soup over the rice, and cover with a moist paper towel. Microwave until hot (1-3 minutes). Remove and top the soup with sliced avocado sprinkled with smoked salt. Heat oil in a small frying pan. Fry two eggs in desired style, and season with a bit of salt and pepper. Perch eggs atop the avocado. Sprinkle with cilantro and a finishing salt. Serve and enjoy the deep, rich flavors, while getting a serious serving of protein! Pair with a refreshing lager or pilsner.
Decadent Polenta Cakes (Serves 1)
Link HERE for my creamy Polenta recipe
3 Tbsp olive oil
Polenta, cut into 3 x 3 inch ‘cakes’
2 Tbsp flour
1 large garlic clove, minced
6 oz spinach
This takes an extra strategic move after initially enjoying the polenta. In creating leftover polenta, transfer it into a pan that allows the cornmeal to cool in a flat, round ‘brownie’ form, 1½ inches thick and flat on the top.
Heat 1 and 1/3 Tbsp olive oil (1 Tbsp + 1 tsp) in a pan until almost smoking. Dredge the polenta cakes in flour and delicately tap off excess. “Fry” the polenta until brown on both sides (about 3 minutes a side, taking care when flipping, since the creamy inside can become unstable). Transfer to a plate and keep warm in a toaster oven. In the polenta pan, heat 2 tsp oil and fry up 2 eggs any style. Season with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, in a separate large fry pan, heat 2 tsp olive oil. Add garlic when oil is hot. Add spinach when you can first smell the fragrance of the garlic, and sautee. In a shallow bowl, layer spinach then polenta then eggs. Top with some grated parmesan cheese if desired. Serve and enjoy this restaurant-style delicacy! Pair with a serious sparkling wine, like a vintage Spanish Cava.