One of the things you figure out when you like to cook is that you usually make more than you need…and when you learn how to make leftover food recipes, the more meals, the merrier! Get my recipes for a hearty soup and a clever take on chicken ravioli, two ways. Click to skip to the recipe
One of the things you figure out when you like to cook is that you usually cook more than you need. This is a by-product of not getting it totally right the first time or making sure you don’t run out of food!
On the one hand, say your making soup and upon first taste, you discover that you were a little heavy-handed with the salt. No problem, you just add more liquid or starch and the taste is repaired to delish status!
You now have not only yummy soup, but enough for an extra meal down the road. Win! Win!
On the second hand, you’ve invited pals to dinner who notoriously travel in packs and bring along more pals at the last minute. Therefore, you cook two chickens instead of one.
Both of these happened to me during the past week.
The results were some great leftovers that I morphed into two really yummy dishes. The first was what started out as my butternut squash soup and ended up as a cheesy, thick butternut and potato soup.
It’s hardly a recipe, but here’s the lowdown.
Cook onion and butternut squash chunks in oil in a deep pot over medium-high heat until the veggies are soft.
At this point, I remove the pot from the heat and a splash of sherry or dry white wine. I return the pot to the heat and add chicken or vegetable stock. Season with salt and pepper. Cool the soup to room temperature and use a blender to pulse the veggies to make a smooth soup.
But then, I returned the soup to the pot to reheat and found that it was a tad too thin and a bit too salty. So, I added a couple of spoonfuls of leftover mashed potatoes as I warmed the soup over medium-high heat. I tasted the soup and it wasn’t too bad.
So, I add more potatoes.
Then hubby came in and asked if I was making cheese soup. The butternut squash had given the soup a cheesy golden glow.
So, I nodded in the affirmative and added some grated cheddar cheese. I kept adding potatoes and cheese until the soup was rich, and velvety and hearty and really, really good.
I cooled it again, pulsed it again, reheated and poured it into bowls. Hot pepper sauce and parsley were the perfect garnish. Voila!
The second dish takes advantage of leftover chicken and wonton wrappers in place of pasta to make a yummy chicken ravioli that tastes as good as it looks.
Leftovers are not an afterthought, they’re the new way to cook smart and cook well!
Chicken Ravioli: Two Ways
Make these on a day when you have leftover chicken. You can store extra ravioli in a single layer in a resealable plastic bag in the freezer. To serve, bring them to room temperature before you drop them into boiling water.
2 cups cooked chicken
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated, about ½ cup
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon coarse black pepper
1 package Wonton wrappers, about 36
For brown butter sauce:
½ cup butter, 1 stick
4 to 6 sage leaves
For red sauce:
1 cup prepared marinara sauce
2 to 3 tablespoons half and half
Toasted pine nuts for garnish
Grated parmesan cheese for garnish
Servings: 4 or more
Time: 30-minute cuisine
Place the chicken into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to mince the chicken. Place the ricotta cheese, basil leaves and Parmesan cheese into the bowl and pulse to combine. Season with salt and pepper and pulse a final time.
Spread four wonton wrappers onto your works surface. Place a spoon full of the chicken filling into the center of each square. Place a small basil leaf on top of the filling. Wet the border of the wonton square with water. Place another wonton wrapper on top. Gently press with your fingers to seal the ravioli. Use the tines of a fork to firmly seal the edges. Repeat with the remaining wonton wrappers and filling.
For the brown butter sauce, warm the butter over low heat until it begins to froth and turn golden, about 5 minutes. Toss in the sage leaves and continue cooking for two minutes more.
For the red sauce, heat marinara sauce over low heat. Stir in the cream.
Fill a deep pot with water and bring to a boil. Season the water with a generous amount of salt. Lower the ravioli into the pot, one at a time. Do this in batches so that you don’t overcrowd the pot and damage the ravioli. The ravioli will cook in just minutes. Use a slotted spoon to lift the ravioli from the pot. Transfer to the brown butter or red sauce. You pick! Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese and pine nuts.
Growing season for tomatoes, June through September, finds this versatile fruit at its peak in some states, where temperatures remain hot, hot, hot well past Labor Day. Home cooks all over the country are getting ready to tailgate for the big game – that means lots of BBQ sauce and piping hot vats of chili – for that you’re going to need tomatoes – lots of ’em! I found a brand of canned that has never let me down, never tasted bitter or chemically sweet; a brand that offers all the complex and savory flavors the classic tomato is supposed to have. I like this brand so much, I contacted them about sharing one of my recipes to their Tomato Vine Blog. But don’t click on it yet! I’m not done talking tomato.
Every summer and early Fall, I stock up on my favorite kinds of fresh tomatoes, loving the multi colored (and multi-shaped!) variety at farmers markets on Saturdays. My home state of Florida is one of the two biggest producers of tomatoes in the USA; the other is California. Sorry Sunshine State, but I got addicted to Muir Glen Organic that comes from San Joaquin Valley, CA. In fact, I like this canned variety so much that if I run out of fresh, I turn to them for my spaghetti sauces and Real Deal ketchup.
Everyone who knows my cooking, also knows that I prefer fresh ingredients, and don’t turn to canned ones as my first choice. I make an exception when it’s Muir Glen because you can’t tell the difference between their product, and cooking with a sack of fresh tomatoes from the store – that’s actually a huge savings, when you think about it. Recently, I tested a recipe (to be featured in an upcoming cookbook) that called for LOTS of tomatoes. Using canned was far more economical than smashing up fruits from the farmers market. In my Vietnamese Eggplant Stew, I used a 28-ounce can of Muir Glen Organic Peeled Tomatoes, and was on Cloud 9 by dinner time. I also swapped out the butternut squash for acorn squash in this Bon Appetite recipe, and hit a home run using Muir Glen.
Here’s my eggplant-tomato stew; instructions and an inspirational note of where I learned to make it are included. Happy eating, my friends – I’ve modified the recipe, so there’s enough to feed you, plus friends!
This stew, Vietnamese Eggplant, is tomato rich, and will appear in my next book!
Vietnamese Eggplant Stew
Prep time: about 40 minutes
The city of Hoi An in Vietnam has an amazing fresh market and a wonderful cooking school, Red Bridge. This is one of the signature dishes that the chef teaches his students. It’s prepared it in individual clay pots, which adds a wonderful dimension and depth of flavor. This is my version of the dish we created in school. The eggplant is rich and velvety and delicious. Serve the stew as a side dish or add rice to make it a veggie main.
2 teaspoons peanut oil
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 stalk lemongrass, outer layer discarded, sliced
1 (28 ounce) can Muir Glen Organic Ground Peeled Tomatoes
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 large eggplant, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 small red chili, seeded, veins removed, cut into thin strips
¼ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon coarse black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 green onion, diagonally sliced
Heat the peanut oil in a deep pot with lid over medium heat. Add the garlic and lemongrass to the pot and stir. Add the tomatoes to the pot. Stir in 2 tablespoons water. Simmer until the vegetables break down, about 2 minutes. Stir in half of the fish sauce and half of the sugar. Add the eggplant to the pot. Pour in 1 cup water. Add the remaining fish sauce and sugar. Stir in the chili, turmeric, and pepper. If you prefer a smoother stew, this recipe does fine, pulsed in a blender and returned to the stock pot in batches. Simmer until the eggplant is soft, about 5 to 10 minutes. Garnish with fresh basil and sliced green onions.
Farmers Market Tip
Prepare the tomatoes for this recipe by bringing a pot of water to boil. Cut an “x” into the bottom skin of the tomato. Plunge the tomatoes into the boiling water for 30 seconds to a minute. Test the skin by pulling up on the edge of the x. If the skin begins to lift easily, the tomatoes are ready. Transfer the tomatoes to an ice water bath to stop the cooking process. Peel and cut in half. Squeeze out the seeds and chop the tomatoes.
It’s almost Christmas Eve! If you’re looking for a dish that is perfect to serve while gathering around the tree, here is my Company’s Comin’ Gumbo recipe. You can prepare it in the morning and heat it up as the family arrives. This soup/stew has just enough spice to keep you warm and toasty so get out there a carol up a storm!!
This is a great make-ahead meal. You can put it together on the stove anytime of the day and warm it up when the guests arrive. The roux makes the dish… it’s rich, luscious and full of flavor!
Serves a 6 to 8
40 Minutes (or more) ‘til Dinnertime
Preheat the oven to 350°
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup butter, 2 sticks
1 red pepper, deveined and diced into ¼” pieces
1 green pepper, deveined and diced into ¼” pieces
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and diced into ¼-inch pieces
14 ounces andouille sausage, sliced and cut in half
2 pounds uncooked jumbo shrimp (21 to 25 count), peeled, deveined with tails removed
1 (10 ounce) package frozen sliced okra, thawed
2 to 3 cups cooked white rice
Spread the flour onto a baking sheet. Toast the flour in the oven for 10 minutes.
Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Whisk in the toasted flour. Stir in the diced peppers. Cook the roux until it is amber brown, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and garlic to the pot. Add Cajun seasoning, salt and pepper. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Pour in the white wine and cook until the liquid is incorporated. Stir in the chicken broth, clam juice, diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Pour in the roux and cook for 5 minutes. Season with hot pepper sauce and additional salt and pepper. Stir in the sausage, shrimp and okra. Simmer until the shrimp is cooked through and the flavors meld, about 10 minutes.
Serve the gumbo by placing a scoop of rice in the middle of a bowl. Surround the rice with gumbo. Serve additional hot pepper sauce on the side!
Nana Network Tip
Use thawed, frozen shrimp and frozen okra in this recipe. It’s perfect and way less expensive!
The incredible dining experience we had with our tour guide (Jack) in Beijing
Right now I feel like Anthony Bourdain in one of his more exotic filming locales. My husband and I are in Asia and our tour guide here in Beijing, Jack, spent hours with us traveling to and from sites and talking excitedly about food. I feel comfortable calling Jack a foodie; after all, he can rattle off the dishes he likes to cook at home so fast it will leave your head spinning. I asked him if he would take us to experience a local Chinese meal, and the next thing I knew we were driving to the mall! Just when I thought he had misunderstood my request, the mall opened itself up to everything a foodie could hope for: Jack lead us down the escalator to a group of restaurants and what awaited us was nothing like an American food court. Here, Jack explained, we would discover the joy of lunching over a traditional Chinese hot pot.
We gathered around a table with a cooking unit in the center. The server immediately topped the burner with a large pot divided in the center that held curry and mushroom flavored broths. Another waiter placed food platters around the table and handed out chopsticks. First, there were trays of rolled, thin sliced beef (chicken and seafood were an option). Next comes huge platters of veggies and tofu. On these were artistically displayed leaves of cabbage, spinach and lettuce, thinly sliced pieces of yam, cucumber and radishes, needle mushrooms and tiny delights like wedges of tofu, raw fish, and crab meatballs. Lastly, we were treated to dishes of noodles: oodles of noodles made from soy, green beans and wheat.
There were two condiment bowls before us, brimming with sesame and peanut sauce. Jack instructed us to add a generous pinch of fresh cilantro, a pour of dark vinegar, fresh garlic and green onions. While we waited for the broths to boil, he shared the history of the dish. The story goes that Mongolian soldiers in the midst of battle used their large, metal helmets for pots. They foraged for any ingredients they could find and cooked everything over a compact fire.
Sounds tasty, right? I KNOW!
Our chopsticks poised, we placed the meat into the broth. Jack, ever patient, made us wait exactly four minutes, or until the “germs were killed” before we scooped the meat from the broth and plunged it into our condiment bowls. The taste is … daring. The meat was fatty and rich, but the broth was light and highly seasoned. The condiment bowl was SO fresh. After relishing the meat we plunged the veggies into the broth. Both the broth and the condiment bowl were utterly transformed! The broth is a bit richer from the meat and the condiment bowl a bit lighter from the broth. Jack explained that the reason it all tastes so amazing, is the method and order to our dining. Eat the meat first because it heats up and energizes the body, then the vegetables cool the system and the noodles satisfy and soothe.
I have to say—and I think my husband agrees—that this wonderful meal was a fast two hours; so enjoyable we hardly realized that much time had passed. At the end of our meal we pushed our chairs back, turned in our chopsticks, and thanked Jack for feeding us something that HIT THE POT!
With the arrival of fall the time for soul-warming soups is here. Sunset Produce is the best choice for this recipe, but anytime you have grape tomatoes old or new, this is your go-to dish. The cheeses marry so well with the robust, tanginess of the tomatoes that you will want to make this soup once a week!
Serves: 2 to 4
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook time: about 10 minutes
In a stock pot or large skillet, sauté the tomatoes and onion in olive oil over high heat. Add the cheeses, thyme, salt and pepper, and cook until the tomatoes break open and the juices meld with the feta and cheddar, about 5 minutes.
Working in several batches, add tomato juice and tomato-cheese mixture to the blender and puree until smooth. For a more rustic finish pulse the blender a few times instead to leave seeds and tomato pieces, yum!
Heat the chicken stock on high in a stock pot, and then add the mixture from the blender. Stir in the basil, salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with a great big grilled cheese sandwich for dipping—after all, you have plenty of cheese left over right?