February 24, 2024 | Rome, Italy

My love of leftovers

By |2018-06-21T13:04:33+02:00June 21st, 2018|"Suzanne's Taste"|
Chicken curry from dibs and dabs.

have recently been assailed by a slew of articles about what we don’t eat. The preparation of food, including peeling, skinning, chopping and so on, creates an abundance of residue that no one appears to be able to use. This doesn’t even include ingredients tossed by cooks who refuse to use anything twice.

So I checked out my fridge, surveying my own domain of bits-and-pieces of all the lovely things I’d cooked this week —tagliatelle with pesto (using grilled pistachios, not pinoli), cooked beets (biding their time in lemon juice and salt) from the amazing open market in our little ville. There was also a surplus of deep purple salted water with six little new potatoes, leftover from a batch I made earlier in the week to have on hand. They were now ready for potato salad, soup, pizza, and sautéed-in-olive-oil side dishes. Today, I’m serving, fresh tomato puree from a few stray pomodori at their peaks, part of a roasted chicken (again, from our open market. With it will come chicken, or pork ribs from Fabrice, the guru of ouR local rotisserie. To this I’ll add half a fresh fennel bulb, a few carrots, a little celery, a STASH OF SWEET ONIONS (can’t do without them), fresh-from- the-ground and spring garlic. I won’t bore you with the rest of my list, but wait: maybe I should, since the result is “Residual roasted zucchini” for two.

In short, I cherish my leftovers. I save meat and vegetable juices. I put aside risotto or cooked rice of any kind, dibs of tabouleh and dabs of tuna salad. I simply cannot cook without them. And some of the most amazing new dishes evolve from this treasure trove of set-aside food, beginning with myriad frittate that thrive when used with leftover pasta.

Rice, chicken, and tomatoes marry well.

Last month, I wrOte about my garden guru Jean. He’s also a most generous neighbor. His sweet little hens send musical clucks into our mornings. They also produce an egg a day and there are five little birdies. The weekly bounty he often shares with us is sent up in a bucket from his coop below, and I plan immediately to have fresh poached eggs on toast on the fragrant country bread from our bakery around the corner.

I have also come to see beet juice in a new light. Forget water. Why not poach in this pure elixir instead? Why not pink eggs, Dr. Seuss? Why not pink anything, indeed? In fact, the rose-colored delights were a passing hit.

Meanwhile, two little pieces of bio salmon I had tucked away for an evening repast also acquired were also poached in the beet juice, giving them additional panache. A local purveyor of hand-smoked just-caught fish inspired the twist. He takes barracuda, salmon, sea bass and more and beet-smokes and salts them.

As for the rest of the hangers-on, the potatoes mingled with the tuna salad, extending it perfectly for three new visitors coming to lunch, the chicken became a lovely curry, filled out with the ubiquitous onion, the lemony sautéed zucchini slices, a couple of the potatoes, and the juices from a roast duck (nicely preserved in their thin layer of fat) that were sneakily hiding behind the not-so-great-for-martinis but oh-so-good-for-tapenade green olives.

Liquids can also help out. White wine about to turn can add punch to chicken or pintade stock. It can also boost veal, stew and sauces as well as flavor to soup.

Ah, the riches in one’s larder. Even the residual few spoons of polenta in the bottom of a depleted bag might just be the ticket in the dough for buttery chocolate crisps, one of my step-grandkids’ favorite cookies. Even apple parings from tarte tatin or apple pie become crunchy caramelized treats by tossing them with olive oil, a little brown sugar, a pinch of salt and baking them in a hot oven for 20 minutes. Even my lemon peels FOR making citrus chutney you won’t find in shops.

Overshoots from my cooking are rare. But I revel in them when they come. They give me ideas for my next invention.

About the Author:

Suzanne Dunaway, a longtime major magazine writer and artist, is the author and illustrator of "Rome, At Home, The Spirit of La Cucina Romana in Your Own Kitchen" (Broadway Books) and "No Need To Knead, Handmade Italian Breads in 90 Minutes" (Hyperion). She taught cooking for 15 years privately and at cooking schools in Los Angeles, and now maintains a personal website and a blog. She divides her time between southern France and Italy.