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Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.

February 17, 2012

Just like Michael Corleone, I thought I was out of the game but here I am back again.  The game is of course the writing-a-blog-about-food-that-I-cook-and-eat-game so I guess that’s where the similarities with me and Michael Corleone stop.   And so ends my poor attempt to cover up my over 6 month hiatus from blogging by bringing up cool things like  movies about the Mafia and Al Pacino. 

But let me make one thing clear: I have not stopped cooking, I have just stopped writing about it.  In the last 6 months I actually have stepped up my kitchen adventures, due in part, no doubt, to the bigger kitchen I now enjoy and my new toys like my super ultra cool KitchenAid Mixer (ode to it and its wonders to come).  But the biggest culinary theme that has been recently on my mind and that has finally fueled me to sit down and write this post is my obsession with not wasting food.  Having a huge kitchen (and a huge apartment that can  easily accommate large hungry groups) and living on a bigger shared grocery budget with The Great Criticizer (you didn’t forget about him did you?), things can easily get out of hand at the grocery store.  So one of my many New Years’ resolutions was to get better at using everything I buy- meaning not only carrying out the recipe for french onion soup for which I purchased 4 pounds of onions even though I am so tired and its snowy and I could totally just go for a bottle of wine and a bunch of cheese but ALSO using up those little odds and ends like the rest of the tomato paste in the can after you use the one tablespoon the recipe calls for (freeze it in individual portions for a quick thaw the next time you make that pasta sauce that needs an extra thickening agent).  My more recent attempt of making the most of out what I bought came after our Superbowl party.  To try to make things simple (yeah right, I know as much about simple as I do about budgets and the teams that played in the Superbowl), we decided to do a make-your-own-Italian-sub party.  I bought about a ton of deli meat (ham, turkey, salami, capicola, etc.) and cheese and a friend was kind enough to supply us with 4 loaves of french bread that were about as tall as me and, voila, party food.  Then of course, I decided I would be remiss if I did not at least attempt to also make homemade giardiniera and pesto for condiment options and of course we need some dips and spreads to get the party started and oh don’t you think a soft pretzel would be a perfect make-you- feel-like-you-are-right-there-at-the-superbowl treat.  And simple goes right out the window. 

The party was great and most of my last minute add-ons were a hit but the next day I had 2 full loaves of french bread already half stale, about 5 pounds of lunch meat, cheese to last a lifetime, and enough dips and spreads to throw another party.   So I have compiled a list of things I did with my leftovers after scouring the internets for ideas.  I hope it inspires you to be creative with your leftovers.  Oh not to be all crusadey about this but if you want your mind blown by the amounts of waste that happen in American food consumerism, check this out. 

 2 loaves of half stale french bread:  I cut one of the loaves into cubes.  I put half the cubes in my food processor along with garlic powder, salt and pepper and my favorite italian dry herbs and made some homemade breadcrumbs.  The other half I coated with garlic butter and baked until golden brown to make croutons (which I will top the aforementioned french onion soup with along with a few slices of melted provolone).  The other loaf I also cubed and froze in two large freezer bags.  I know I can make more croutons with them but I also intend to do a little research on the chances of bringing them back to life in a savory (or sweet) bread pudding.

Ham (so much ham) and cheese (so much cheese): What to do, what to do? Ham and cheese fritatta! So easy and fast.  I sauteed some veggies in butter, popped chopped ham pieces into the pan, poured an egg mixture in, and sprinkled with cheese.  This stays on the stove for just a few minutes then goes right into the oven and bakes until set.  Give it a few minutes to cool and flip the pan onto a large plate to serve in slices like a crustless quiche.  I loosely based my fritatta on this

Pitas:  I have no idea how I ended up with 2 packages of leftover pita bread at my Italian sub party but I think it showed up with some delicious hummus so I’m not complaining.  The first night I filled the pitas with some shredded jerk chicken (my good friend Jake Lohman made jerk chicken drumsticks for the party) and topped it with an avocado black bean dip I had put out as one of the party appetizers (super simple- just black beans and chopped avocado, tomato, green onion, and red bell pepper with a squeeze of lime tossed in rice wine vinegar).  I took the rest of the pitas, cut them into slices, split them, brushed them with oil, garlic and some red pepper flakes, and baked them until crispy.  And then I sat down and ate the whole pan of them with the symphony of leftover dips in my fridge. 

Finally, and perhaps one of my proudest culinary ideas to date:  Italian sub pizza. I was able to use all the ingredients that we used for the subs: pesto instead of marinara, topped with salami and cappicola, giardinera,  and torn up pieces of provolone.  I don’t know what was more delightful, the fact that I repurposed (yes, I just said repurposed and yes I am addicted to Chopped and yes you could totally play a drinking game while watching Chopped by drinking every time they use the word repurpose) my leftovers or the feeling of eating a gooey, cheesy, tangy, meaty, Italian sub on whole wheat homebaked crust.***

***Finding a good pizza crust I could make in my new KitchenAid was a bit of a challenge.  I have heard that every chef (accomplished or aspiring or otherwise) has that one thing that often hangs them up everytime they attempt it.  Ok maybe not accomplished chefs but my point is I make a crappy pizza dough.  I make a fine homemade bread, my biscuits rise beautifully, I even puffed up soft pretzel dough like a pro but everytime I go for pizza dough, it falls flat.. literally.  Maybe I used some bad recipes, maybe my yeast was shot (each time, seems unlikely yes) or maybe I made too many attempts Michael Corleone references and now I have bad Italian food karma- I dont know.  But I was finally able to do something thanks to old Martha. So thanks Marty, you’re the best, I don’t care what anyone says about you.

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