We all know the frustration of preparing a dish and making various components for it, only to have leftovers. We all hate waste, but what do you do with that extra squidge of tomato sauce or pie filling? Well, APPCA member Chef Jim Huff of Traveling Culinary Artist in New York City has a lot of thoughts about this–and some marvelous tips. Here he is with them: 

Recently my baking sous-chef, aka my wife, and I made a delicious and easy Meyer Lemon Tart—from this recipe: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/lazy-marys-lemon-tart and had extra filling after topping off  our tart shell. I wasn’t about to toss it so I grabbed a handful of Trader Joe’s Meyer Lemon Wafer cookies and crumbled them into the bottom of a ramekin. I should have added melted butter to them but time was of the essence. We baked the ramekin along with the tart, then cooled the tart and the ramekin in the fridge overnight. When I took the ramekin out for lunch dessert I realized that during the baking process the cookie crumbs in the ramekin rose to the top and the filling baked underneath the crumbs! It was Awesome!!! I couldn’t stop eating it!

This successful spur-of-the-moment rescue of otherwise wasted ingredients got me to thinking about other ways I work with “overruns.”  BTW the term overruns is a throwback to my life in the garment industry!

Cooking for two can be challenging when you try cutting recipes from 4 to 6 servings, so very often you are left with extra ingredients that you had to purchase due to packaging sizes. The best examples are canned beans, canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, etc.

Of course it’s often easier to make the dish to the full amount of servings and then store it for another meal.  After all as a personal chef, that is what I do for my clients.  But sometimes I want to try new recipes and increase the variety of what we consume in a given week. Hence, leftover ingredients…

Some examples of how I use up the bits and pieces:

  • Generally, it’s easy to use up lots of the bits and pieces in soups and stews and stir-fries.
  • A 1/2 a can of beans that have been rinsed and drained are often used the next night, added to a simple tossed salad or dropped into a quick soup using up other leftover raw and/or cooked vegetables. Also I frequently will add them another vegetable such as sautéed green beans or blanched broccoli.  Chickpeas are great in ratatouille.
  • Extra canned tomato products work great in soups and stews, even when not called for in the recipe.  It’s also good to use them as a base for a quick pan sauce.
  • One of the most obvious uses I learned as a child from my mother is the extra egg batter from making French toast: scramble it and add to the serving platter.

  • It’s always easier to imagine using up extra herbs by making pesto and freezing or even simply chopping and mixing with small amount of olive oil and freezing in ice cube trays to be added to soups, stews and sauces. Or mince garlic and stir the herbs and garlic with some sea salt. Spread on a tray and let dry for a few days to create a rub. (Bonus: your kitchen will smell divine!)
  • Half a bag of spinach or other greens can be chopped and stirred into rice pilaf, quinoa, or couscous as well as soups or stews. Once I was out of parsley that I wanted to add to some simple boiled new potatoes. I found the extra spinach in the fridge and tossed it into the pan of drained potatoes with butter and garlic for a colorful side dish.
  • When dealing with extra parts of fresh vegetables I often create a mélange of roasted vegetables and serve them over pasta, rice, quinoa, couscous or my wife will put them chilled over cottage cheese for her workday lunches.
  • A great way to finish off pieces of cheese along with other ends of the jar ingredients like sun-dried tomatoes, olives, artichoke hearts, etc. is to make pizza.  The combos are boundless.
  • We have always used up extra pie/tart fillings by baking them separately in ramekins with and without crusts.  Good for a quick individual dessert for lunch or afternoon tea. Do you have extra pie dough? Reshape the dough into a disc and freeze or roll it out and make tartlets in muffin tins or get out cookie cutters and make cookies sprinkled with sugar or sprinkles.

  • Buttermilk is always a challenge, as I have never been a fan of drinking a glass of it!  I push myself to use it up in salad dressings, sub for milk in baking muffins, quick breads or even bread machine recipes.
  • Have leftover cooked grains? Sure you could just reheat them but for more imaginative repurposing Google things like “Leftover Risotto.” You’ll get anything from Classic Arancini to Risotto Stuffed Mushrooms, or dig around in your own fridge and produce Risotto Fritters stuffed with mushrooms and cheese!

Of course, there are plenty of well-known uses for bits and pieces like Parmesan rinds in your slow simmering tomato sauce and leftover wine (an anomaly in my house) for pan sauces. It just takes a little creative thinking but it’s easy to find places to tuck the odds and ends into other dishes, sometimes adding some extra nutrition and flavor profiles along the way.

Let’s bring in more ideas! What are some of your favorite ways to repurpose “overruns?”

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