Sunday, September 13, 2009

Recipe: Reinventing leftover veggies

According to a Cornell Professor, home-cooked meals get shoved to the back burner when parents work long hours.

Busyness is definitely an enemy of cooking. I tend to look in my fridge and panic - what to make tonight? I search for recipes but only have some of the ingredients for any one recipe. Or I commit to a recipe that looks great, only to get to a step that says something like "chill overnight" -- alas, I rarely read a recipe thoroughly before I begin.  Recently, my fridge has been packed with great local produce. But cooking on a regular basis can be overwhelming. I struggle to keep up.

Take kale, for example. I got a huge bunch from my CSA, and I boiled it up for dinner one night. But the pot runneth over with kale. My small family could not consume it all, and it landed in the fridge. For days. And it never looked appetizing again.  

This brings me to my point: what to do with leftover veggies?  They might be great the first time around prepared very simply, say, steamed and served with butter and salt, or a little balsamic vinegar. The second time around? A little creativity is needed.

There are plenty of foodies out there who will provide real recipes on the web. I am not one of them. I am a clumsy cook who just keeps trying. I will record ideas, share my colossal failures, and revel in my small successes. I make no guarantees about the recipes I post here, but I encourage you to experiment with them.

Here are three ideas for what to do with just about any leftover veggies.

1) quiche
2) lasagna
3) veggie pot pie

1) Quiche. No crust necessary.
This recipe is based on the Gourmet cookbook, a book I use often.
Preheat oven to 375F. Butter a glass pie plate generously.
Chop up leftover veggies and place in the bottom of the pie plate (eye-ball the quantity, you want enough to cover the bottom of the pie plate, but still leave room to add the eggy goodness).
In a large bowl, beat 4 eggs, 2 egg yolks, 1 Cup milk, and 2 Cups cream with a fork.
Add 1 tsp of salt and 1/8 tsp nutmeg.
Pour egg mixture into the pie plate (over the veggies) and bake for about 30-40 minutes.
Serve with crusty bread and/or raw veggies.

2) Lasagna. No boiling needed.
Note: do not be fooled! Boiling noodles is not necessary, and do not bother with "no-boil" noodles.
Put a layer of uncooked lasagna noodles in the bottom of a baking dish.
Cover noodles with generous amount of tomato sauce (home-cooked is easy, just saute onions and garlic, then add tomatoes, then add a couple tablespoons of sugar, salt and basil, simmer for a while).
Add a layer of leftover veggies.
Add a layer of ricotta cheese.
Repeat, with noodles, sauce, veggies, and ricotta, until the pan is full.
Top with a layer of mozzarella and grated parmesan.
Cover the pan with foil and bake for about 45 minutes or until noodles are soft.
Cook uncovered for about 5-10 minutes if you want to brown the top.

3) Veggie Pot Pie. Not your traditional pot pie, but still good.
Note: you need both leftover veggies and leftover mashed potatoes.
Preheat oven to 400F.
Melt 2 Tablespoons of butter in a pan over medium-low heat, cook chopped onion until soft, add 6 T flour and whisk while cooking for 3 minutes (this is a roux and it needs 3 minutes to get rid of the raw flour flavor).
Continue whisking while adding 2-3 Cups chicken broth slowly.
Simmer and stir in herbs (dried or fresh, try nutmeg, parsley, and thyme-or something else-depending on what you think would taste good with your leftover veggies).
Place leftover veggies in a baking dish, and pour sauce over the top.
Spread leftover mashed potatoes over the top and bake for about 15 minutes.


  1. Actually the pot-pie should be baked for about 30 minutes.... :-)

  2. Yes, you're right!

    And, if you're feeling really adventurous, I've heard that putting it under the broiler for a few minutes will brown the top nicely.

    And, if you don't have enough mashed potatoes, you can supplement with bread crumbs and cheese.