Adri explains how ‘leftovers’ can be raised to the next level – good for everyone, especially if you are single or busy
It is early January in Corfu, Greece, a storm is raging outside and the rain is coming down hard. I am alone at home inJoying the solitude after a full and busy season in the Corfu Buddha Hall kitchen. I took off my cooking ‘hat’ in November and hung it aside to rest. I am no longer a ‘cook’ just a guy who deeply inJoys good food and cook’in. And now I am in the mood and in the situation to cook for one.
I had soaked a pack of chickpeas last night with the intention of cooking it, sometime in the days to come. Today, in this weather, it feels like a good chickpea day. There are several dishes that I plan to make from these rich and highly nourishing beans. I will share a few of them with you, later on.
But before I get into the nitty-gritty of the how, I would like to introduce you to what may be, for many of you, a new concept in meal-planning. I call it: planning4leftovers. Using leftover cooking is not a new idea. My mom has been doing it since I was a baby. However, in most peoples’ minds and especially cooks the idea of re-using leftovers is usually considered as uncool, or a necessary-evil at best. And here, I want tell you to deliberately plan4leftovers! Leftovers are great! Cooking with leftovers is beneficial! You will learn to love ‘thinking leftovers’ and delight in cooking them.
Because they will:
- save you a lot of time
- enhance your nourishment and
- add more variety and
- yummyness to your meals
Most peoples’ lives are very busy. Singles and couples find it challenging to cook complete and nutritious meals, not to mention how difficult it is to cook some dishes in small portions. Many of the participants who came to the groups, in the centers I cooked in, said how much they enjoyed the variety of dishes offered, but at home they do not have the time, patience or skill to manage ½ the variety. And I say to you, if planned correctly it is not only possible but it is easy to achieve.
The basic concept of planning4leftovers is to intentionally cook meals with extra portions and cleverly use them to enhance future meals. The ‘leftovers’ can be used as:
- Ingredient: leftover organic black beans that were frozen can be used to enrich a freshly made paella – making a richer paella in less time and effort.
- Side dish: a leftover vegetarian pate that was frozen served with a freshly made salad will definitely leave you feeling more nourished and perhaps also a bit posh.
- Extra course: broth soup that was saved can be served effortlessly as an opening course before serving a freshly made pasta dish.
- Emergency meal: a substitute for cooking a meal when you find yourself short in creative-will, energy, time or ingredients. For example, leftover rice from the day before with dhal that was frozen from a week before.
While it is possible to make complete meals out of ‘leftovers’ it is not the intention here. Nor is it to eat the same meal 3 days in a row. The main idea is that you always try to cook something fresh and supplement it with a complementing leftover; creating a more pleasurable and nourishing meal experience than you ordinarily would have had time to make.
And the art of it is to do it in such a way, that your family and friends will never suspect… or think: leftovers? Moreover, even if you told them the truth, they would not believe you -– your own mind included! You will all love it, delight in it and praise it – Hallelujah.
There are two underlying principles that make this concept possible, using:
- ingredients that keep their taste, texture and nutritional value after storage and reuse is the foundation for healthy and tasty leftovers meals.
- economy of scale: the energy (time + effort) to prepare certain types of dishes, like sauces or beans and rice for 1-2 portions requires the same energy as preparing 4-8 portions. So why not plan for more?
Let me demonstrate how this concept works in a practical way in daily cooking. I will use the chickpeas that I plan to cook today as an example for this demonstration. First, I will show you how I portioned the ‘leftovers’ and then, I will explain how they can be stored and used creatively in future meals.
First, I soak 1 pack (500gr =10 portions) of chickpeas over night, knowing that only 50gr is necessary for a single portion. I did that because I know that cooking 50gr of chickpeas takes as much time as cooking 500gr of chickpeas: that is 30 minutes in a pressure cooker or 1-2hr in a pot. So in order to save myself lots of cooking in the future, it would be best to cook all 500gr (10 portions) in one shot. If you do the math that’s 5hr saved. So what can I do with all these chickpeas now?
1/3 of the cooked chickpeas I will freeze as-is for future meals. For example I can defrost a portion of chickpeas to make a Chickpea Salad to accompany a freshly made curry; or as a base to bean and rice loaf; or to enrich paella with texture and protein for nutrition.
Another 1/3 of the cooked chickpeas I will use today to make 4 portions of hummus. I will freeze 2 portions of hummus for another time and will use 2 portions over the next few days. Tonight, perhaps, 1 portion of hummus with boiled veggies and another portion I will refrigerate as a snack with chips for sometime later in the week, possibly when I watch a movie.
The last 1/3 of cooked chickpeas, I will refrigerate for use tomorrow. I will invite some friends to share a Moroccan chickpea and vegetable stew with a side of couscous.
So let’s take a quick inventory and review what we got out of a pack of chickpeas (500gr). I will have hummus with boiled veggies today – approximately 40 minutes cooking time; tomorrow I will have Moroccan stew with couscous – 30 minutes cooking maximum; and some day in the future, when the mood strikes, I have 2 portions of hummus ready in the freezer, and at least one portion of frozen cooked chickpeas as a base for a main course or as a side dish.
Can you begin to see the hidden potential here? Once you start applying regularly planning4leftovers in your daily cooking with dishes like curry sauces, pasta sauces, dhal, veggie loaves, bean pates, soups, broths and many others your ‘leftover inventory’ will multiply and the combinations and choices you have for planning more juicy meals grows. With practice you can learn to create such a rich ‘leftover inventory’ so in an emergency you will not even need to cook: just defrost, heat and eat.
Got-it? I hope you do. This article is an introduction to the concept of planning4leftovers in daily cooking. Over the next four weeks I will add more examples and recipes that will help spark your imagination and attune your mind to this new way of thinking. Also, in this article are links to several chickpea related recipes, I invite you to try them and see how planning4leftovers can work for you.