Leftovers That Don't Taste Like Leftovers


Last night's meat and potatoes might leave your family understandably cold on the second go 'round, if offered as is. With a few minor alterations and an adventurous culinary spirit, however, you can wind up with a makeover as inspired as Scarlett O'Hara's drapery dress.

Last Night's Side Dish = Today's Meal

Stop throwing out leftover rice. In fact, start making double the amount, so you'll always have plenty on hand for this irresistible dish.

Fried Rice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cups leftover rice
leftover meat (optional)
chopped scallions, spinach or other leafy greens (optional)
2 teaspoons Asian fish sauce (optional)

  1. Heat vegetable oil in a wok or large skillet and add minced garlic. Fry for 30 seconds.
  2. Add the leftover rice, breaking up the clumps and pressing it against the sides of the wok with a wooden spoon. Stir fry for two or three minutes.
  3. Add a handful of chopped scallions, spinach or other leafy greens.
  4. If you're partial to Asian fish sauce, add a teaspoon or two of that.
  5. If there's some leftover steak or pork hanging around the fridge, slice it thin and toss it in!

Stale Bread = Breakfast (and Hors D'Oeuvres!)

Let the ducks eat someone else's leftover loaves. From now on, you've got dibs on your remaining baguettes.

French Toast
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup orange juice
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
leftover bread
butter or vegetable oil for frying

  1. Combine wet ingredients.
  2. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
  3. Dip slices of leftover bread in batter, then fry them in butter over medium heat until golden brown.

2 tablespoons olive oil
sea salt
leftover baguette, cut in inch-thick slices

  1. Pour olive oil on a cookie sheet, spread it to cover the entire sheet, and salt liberally.
    Lay the slices on the tray, press them gently with your hand, then flip them so the other side is oiled too.
  2. Bake in a 350° oven for 20 minutes, flipping at the 10-minute mark.
  3. Top with cheese, tuna salad, or any other sandwich fixings found knocking around the pantry.

Lackluster Veggies = Soup
... And Soup = Muffins

Blended soups go further when fortified with a helping or two of leftover veggies. If the family eventually gets tired of the soup, treat it as the secret ingredient that ensures the muffins will be moist.

Catch-All Soup
Start with any basic soup recipe requiring the use of a blender as one of its final steps. Split pea and cream of butternut squash are good, easy choices. Follow the directions, but sneak a few cups of leftover cooked veggies into the blender along with the designated ingredients. Adjust seasonings to taste. If you want to spice things up further, add a chipotle pepper to the blender before returning the soup to the pot for its final heating. Serve with sour cream.

Try these recipes for flavorful soups that will soak up your extra vegetables:

Catch-All Muffins
Choose a muffin recipe that calls for a cup or two of applesauce, such as this one for Applesauce Cake. Pretend that "applesauce" is another word for "leftover soup" and see what kind of kitchen magic you can conjure up.

About the Author:
Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the award-winning zine, The East Village Inky, and the author of four self-mocking autobiographies, including "The Big Rumpus" and "Dirty Sugar Cookies: Culinary Observations, Questionable Taste."

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