Mr. Glib and I have done a fair amount of entertaining in these waning days of summer. I hosted my book club, then we hosted an ill-conceived but well-executed Sunday Funday following my office party (which went, oh, until 4:00 am). Then Cody had a guys’ night of steak and lobster. And in the meantime I’ve made a few meals for ladies’ lunches and friends who would appreciate the drop-off of a home-cooked meal.
The net result, other than a few extra ell-bees around my thighs, is a surplus of leftover vegetables. Sunday morning, I woke up early and was determined to use them before I’d have to pitch them. Pitching them … WASTING them … would make my grandmother, a consummate child of the Depression, exceedingly disappointed, were she still around to know.
My maternal grandmother, Mamere, recycled long before it was cool or anyone used the word “green.” She kept her air conditioning at 80 degrees when she wanted it really cold. Hell, she didn’t even have A/C until the mid-80s and she lived her whole life in NEW ORLEANS. But she wasn’t cheap, per se; she just appreciated the value of things and would never waste a morsel of anything (or take anything for granted). But her character in its totality is a story for another day.
So I consulted my newest and largest cookbook – below – to see how to build a base for what would be an “all kinds of almost-rotting vegetables” soup. Looks like all I needed was broth, onion, salt and pepper, and olive oil. Check, check, and checkity check.
Here’s what I pulled out of the fridge: scallions, celery, broccoli, carrots, a smidgen of red pepper, and radishes (which I didn’t use).
I also found the innards of some grilled potato skins and leftover spicy green bean almondine (!)
I had a not-entirely-ancient onion, which I chopped up most of. I used my favorite knife, which cost $19 at Ikea. I typically think you get what you pay for when it comes to cooking equipment, but this knife has stayed sharp and awesome for more than a year. Those Swedes are on to something.
I often use a tip I learned on Veronica Mars – keep a spoon in your mouth when chopping onions to avoid tearing up. Pay no attention to the fact that I was cooking today on five hours’ sleep and zero showers.
I sautéed the chopped onion in a bit of olive oil with celery and a couple of garlic cloves that were seriously past their prime. Oops. A modified mire poix (or, as they say in New Orleans, “holy trinity.”) The bell pepper would come later.
I had exactly one cup left of barley so tossed that in after five minutes or so of sautéing. “Fields of Gold” played through my head (“upon the fields of barley…”), only to be replaced with the immeasurably inferior “Kiss Me” (“out of the bearded barley…”). Note my beloved “Cook” cutting board from my cousin @blathering. My friend Taylor – husband of DIY blogger extraordinaire Molly – initially thought it spelled another word that starts in “C” and ends in “K.” I can be irreverent, but not in the kitchen, folks.
I had two already-opened boxes of chicken broth (as Mamere would scold, “Good night! You fiend!”) so I dumped both of those in. I also threw in about a cup of leftover chicken meat (and the carcass pieces).
Next, after adding the rest of the vegetables, I added some red wine (leftover, again), a bit of water for consistency, and some of that green-capped awesome hot sauce whose name I cannot pronounce because I’m an ugly American.
Heirloom tomato for good measure…
So now I have lunch for the week (for me and a couple of friends) and for dinner tonight. And you know, it was fairly tasty. Maybe it was the hot sauce, maybe the chicken marrow, or maybe, just maybe, the knowledge that I saved my psyche from tossing cups of old veggies down the disposal.
Stir frys, soups, frittatas? What’s your favorite way to use up random leftovers? Or do you make your depression-era relatives cry as well?