Waste not: Repurposing leftovers for new dishes


rsz_food_keri_whiteI’ve been trying to apply bal tashchit, the Jewish commandment forbidding destructive or wasteful acts, to my culinary pursuits of late.

The origins of the teaching specifically prohibit cutting down fruit trees during wartime; rabbinic interpretation extends the prohibition to “needless destruction” of anything that could be useful to people, including energy, clothing, water, money and more (thank you, chabad.org).

My family does not welcome leftovers. Does anyone, really?

Aside from the turkey sandwiches after Thanksgiving Day, do we honestly look forward to any dish, again, a day after it has been eaten and enjoyed? Largely, no, but that doesn’t mean you have to waste the food. I’ve been on a mission to repurpose leftover food recently, and, so far, it’s gone pretty well.
The key is to present version 2.0 as something that doesn’t resemble — at all — the original version.


A few examples:

For roast chicken: Remove all meat from bones and make chicken quesadillas or chicken salad. If you are highly motivated, make soup or stock from the bones.

For meatloaf: Make very thin slices of the cold meat loaf. Use them to make gourmet meatloaf sandwiches on hearty white bread, topped with crisp lettuce and slathered with mayo, ketchup and hot sauce.

Bolognese sauce: Use a slotted spoon to remove the meat from the sauce and place it in a saucepan or microwave-safe bowl. Add a small amount of the sauce and heat, either over a low flame or on 50 percent power. Serve on soft sandwich buns and call it a sloppy Joe.

Dressed green salad: Sauté the dressed salad until the leaves are totally wilted, and then break several eggs over top to make shakshuka.

See, the trick is to fool your family into thinking this is a new dish without a trip to the grocery or a long spell in the kitchen.

I recently accomplished this with leftover Caprese salad — the repurposed version produced a fresh tomato sauce that made my fettuccine — and my family — very happy.

The original Caprese was picked clean of the fresh mozzarella, so all that remained was a bunch of sliced heirloom tomatoes, a drizzle of nicely seasoned olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and pepper and some torn basil leaves. This provided a wonderful base for my sauce.

If you want to enjoy a Caprese salad today and the sauce tomorrow, double the amount of the ingredients in the recipe listed below and add a pound of fresh mozzarella pieces to the salad. Refrigerate the leftovers, and proceed with the recipe for tomorrow’s dinner.

Fresh tomato sauce from
leftover Caprese salad (or not)
Serves 4-6

3 cups cut tomatoes
1 large clove garlic
¼ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
10 fresh basil leaves
1 pound pasta
Parmesan to serve, if desired

Puree the tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, salt and basil leaves in a blender until the consistency of chunky salsa. Taste, and add salt and pepper if needed. Set aside.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Pour the sauce over the pasta, top with Parmesan cheese and serve.

Note: The cold sauce on the hot pasta produces a dish that is warm, but not hot. If this is unappealing to you and yours, zap the sauce in the microwave before tossing.

Keri White is a Philadelphia food writer.

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