The Secret Life of Leftovers

It was a family reunion, a three-day weekend, the equivalent of running a B&B and small restaurant. There were hotel reservations to make, airport shuttles to run, guest towels and groceries to buy. For weeks ahead of the event, I shopped, I schlepped and I prepped for a party of 24, all arriving from out of town.  I cooked and they came. They stayed. They played. And they conquered the food.

Our Summer "Festivus" 2011
From sundown Friday through brunch on Sunday, we ate, we drank and we celebrated from meal-to-meal, plateful-to-plateful, forkful-to-mouthful. And from the oohs and ahhs and multiple requests for recipes, I know they enjoyed the food.  
“This is the best thing I think I’ve ever tasted” – it was said of the chocolate babka. 
“I must have the recipe for your shrimp and arugula salad,” my cousin insisted.   (It’s all a trick of the dressing, a simple mint pesto.) 
 “And what’s this? Curry in grilled chicken salad? What a great idea.” 
Ahhh,if they only knew . . .the subtleties and secrets of leftovers. 

As any deft cook will tell you: with good ingredients in hand, you make do and waste not.

Take that 4-ounce slice of Gorgonzola left from the night before, combine it with a generous “schmear” of cream cheese from yesterday’s breakfast.  Add a pat of butter for that extra umami oomph and roll-off-the-tongue sensation. Toss it all into a food processor, and presto-bingo, you have created something new, a creamy explosion of flavor.  “Where did you find this wonderful spread,” they’ll ask. “Oh,” you’ll answer nonchalantly, “It’s just something I whipped up 20 minutes ago, straight outta the fridge.”

What to do with the lemon and lime rinds from mixed drinks? Throw them into a pitcher with tap water (or better yet, sparkling water) with a few berries and voila - fruit water! So elegantly simple and refreshing. 

You have day-old dinner rolls (or better yet, a challah or brioche), with leftover grilled veggies, sun-dried tomatoes and olives. Crack a dozen eggs, chop an onion (or better yet, a shallot), add the dribs and drabs of half-and-half and the whipping cream served with coffee and dessert the night before -  throw it all into a baking dish with a slice or two of muenster, salt and pepper and in twenty minutes you have. . .frittata . . . golden brown and company-ready. 
And what do you do with a surplus ingredients or the items you forgot to use?  You put them in surprising combination for supper tonight. 

Leftover grilled and fresh peaches on a bed of arugula with pistachios. 

Kitchen magic?  It’s all in the leftovers.  

You know the party's over, when your "endless biscotti bowl" 
and flowers are exhausted.

And if on Monday morning, you’re still looking at a fridge too-full, take the last of the coffee cake, pastries and party spreads into the office.  To be done and gone!  By 10 a.m.  

What do you do with your party favorites and leftovers?   Do share.  
And thanks for stopping by. 

Photos: V and MHenoch


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