Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Eating lately: The transfiguration of leftovers

One of the welcome things about meal planning in warmer seasons is that leftovers become more appealing. You can turn those bits and bobs from the refrigerator into a kind of "composed salad plate" and feel sophisticated rather than merely virtuous for using things up.

Lately I've found that this recipe for roasted tomatoes is a reliable way to tie these kinds of meals together. The best part is you don't even need to wait for tomato season -- the long, slow cooking plus the steep with herbs and garlic at the end mean that even canned tomatoes will become plenty flavorful. This is such a versatile and easy recipe that I've added a 28-oz. can of good-quality whole peeled tomatoes (I buy the San Marzano brand, because if you're going to do something you might as well do it right) to the short list of items I keep in my lean pantry.

Here are some meals we've had featuring these tomatoes recently, plus a few other ways we've been enjoying leftovers.

First, as a side dish with a big kale-and-romaine Caesar salad for a light meal:

The Seattle restaurant that is the original source of the roasted tomatoes recipe serves them with toasted bread and a bit of chèvre, and I recommend not deviating from that -- we've tried other cheeses but the goat cheese is really the best partner for the tomatoes for some reason.

Here are the tomatoes again, alongside roasted asparagus with a poached egg, and a little pile of potatoes gribiche:

More tomatoes, hard boiled egg, oil-cured olives, and a lentil-barley salad that I made by tweaking this simple, simple recipe:

Using up a different kind of leftovers here in the next two photos. We had accumulated several loaves of slightly stale pita bread, so I brushed them with oil, sprinkled them with a little salt, and put them in a low oven until they were golden brown, then crumbled them up into smaller pieces. First I used the pita to make fatteh with chickpeas and braised carrots:

The next night, I made a classic fattoush salad, and served it with more lentils (same recipe as above, but this time just lentils, and I added a bit of Dijon mustard and chopped parsley) and more hard-boiled egg:

You can see that a clutch of hard-boiled eggs is also a very useful thing to have on hand for these sorts of meals. 

When I snapped the first few photos for this post, some weeks ago, I was thinking of this paean to leftovers that I had recently read in Slate; Sara Dickerman's description of the joys of repurposing somehow reminded me of my new dish towels. Now, of course, looking at these plates with their common elements remixed in different ways reminds me of a capsule wardrobe!

What dishes show up again and again on your table at this time of year?


  1. Your meals are restaurant-worthy, Sarah --- I just love these food posts of yours, and I pinned several of the recipes. The roasted tomatoes look especially good, and I have to say I'm SO envious about all the hard-boiled eggs on your plates! (No eggs here, sadly, as our 17 year-old is allergic (although he IS in the process of being de-sensitized, which I'm hoping will be fully successful (he can now eat baked goods with eggs, and will hopefully try a scrambled egg challenge in December), but I suppose when he goes off to university in the fall I would feel more comfortable cooking regularly with eggs then). I really enjoyed the Slate article (even though I am one of those boring people who (very sadly, because I still lack imagination in the kitchen) mainly just re-heats leftovers!) and I love the connection you've made to re-purposing in general as well as to a capsule wardrobe ... all these concepts are really part and parcel of the same thing, aren't they? :)

    I feel like I'm still waiting for my garden to start producing before our meals will look any different than they usually do. Mind you, I'm not entirely sure we really eat all that differently in summer than we do in winter...I make my family eat chili no matter the season ;) . That being said, I am trying to make a concerted effort to take advantage of Canadian grown produce ... we're eating a LOT of sweet peppers, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers ... and the other day I bought some locally grown asparagus, a veggie I hardly ever buy because it seems it's nearly always from Mexico. Hmmm .... this post is making me want to make good on my resolve to visit more farmers' markets ...

    1. Aw, you're too kind Marian! I'm glad these food posts are useful to you and hope that you enjoy the recipes you've bookmarked. That's a bummer about your son being allergic to eggs -- my daughter was allergic as a toddler and I was so relieved when she grew out of it! It would be nice for his sake too if he could eat eggs, they would be such a quick and convenient source of protein for a busy university student.

      We're not getting anything out of our garden yet either (we always seem to get the seeds/plants in the ground much later than I intend...) but our neighborhood farmers' market did open for the season last week. I haven't been yet but you're inspiring me to check it out asap!

  2. I love how you repurpose leftovers. My kids will absolutely NOT eat something they've just recently had so I find I have to mix it up a bit. And those tomatoes look DEVINE (though I have to admit I'm not a huge fan of goat cheese - any cheese really)

    Currently our meals have involved a lot of eggs and almonds and rice and beans (basically the bits and bobs we have in the pantry and fridge) because I haven't made it to the farmer's market or grocery store and am feeling a little chapped at the food I had to toss this week because we were gone so much. (I'm terrible at summer meal scheduling/using),

    1. Well, in the interest of transparency I should say that the meals pictured above were "grownups only" meals. The vagaries of work and activity schedules mean that we all eat dinner together about half the time -- and when it's just my husband and me I do like to take the opportunity to serve something my daughter would reject.

      I think the tomatoes would be good with no cheese at all if cheese isn't your thing -- we've tried them with feta and ricotta salata though and found them mysteriously underwhelming.

      I've had good luck lately with taco night, maybe that would be another kid-friendly way to use up the bits and bobs? I hear you on the difficulties of meal planning with irregular summer schedules -- this stuff is definitely a work in progress for us.

  3. I feel better knowing these are grown-up only meals. Although my kids are now 18, they definitely haven't developed these kinds of tastes. While so much about our impending changes makes me sad, I'm actually really looking forward to cooking for just one or two. I might even get back on the meal planning train. (Irregular schedules derailed that months and month ago.)

    These examples of your meals remind me that dinner doesn't have to be a big production. Love that.

    1. Oh yes! Sophisticated tastes mostly lacking here, as well. And keeping it simple is definitely where it's at, especially in the summer.

  4. This ALL looks delish and has inspired me to do something a little different from our (pretty stale, pun intended) normal rotation of meals. Yum!

  5. This ALL looks delish and has inspired me to do something a little different from our (pretty stale, pun intended) normal rotation of meals. Yum!

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