Photo Credit: James Ransom
One meal's leftovers are another meal's treasure. It's true: say it out loud, make a sign that hangs above your stove, repeat it daily. This concept helps get dinner on our tables on many harried weeknights, and it's also one that gives us reason to cook on a busy Monday -- even if there's a looming deadline on Tuesday. We find ourselves thinking often about how one meal can become two -- they want to multiply, and they're good at it -- you just have to give them the right ingredients.
1. Put an Egg On It. (Or Put It in an Egg)
Jean-Georges’ Ginger Fried Rice (photo by James Ransom)
Always have a carton of eggs at the ready in your fridge. If you do, you can tuck your leftovers into a frittata, or fold them into an omelette. You can make them into a scramble and serve with toast. Even better: A nicely fried egg looks good on everything -- salads, grains, risottos, you name it -- and it also does two dinner-specific, crucial things. First, it beefs everything up, and second, it gives whatever it's atop a nice, creamy, yolky sauce. In just about five minutes. Are you running to the stove yet?
2. Greens Are Your Best Friends
Spicy Grilled Chicken Salad with Noodles (photo by James Ransom)
Have leftover beans? Hard-boiled eggs? Chicken breast from last night? Throw it on top of a salad, but the key here is in the details. Use a substantial green, like dandelion or kale, to offer new flavor and texture to last night's dinner, and dress it all in a bright, beautiful vinaigrette. (One of our favorites is to toss roast chicken and greens with a warm mustard vinaigrette.) For bonus points, combine this tip with tip number one, and put an egg on it.
3. Learn to Love the Day-Old
First, your saving grace: it's important to know that a lot of dishes -- soups and grain salads, in particular -- improve with age, as their flavors develop and get acquainted with one another. But aside from that, there are things that we sometimes buy just for leftovers, like bread. How else will we make ribollita, bread crumbs for cauliflower, or savory bread pudding? This all means, basically, that we stare at our baguettes until they get old. Triple points for topping any of these with an egg.
4. Leftover Rice Is the Best Rice
Thankful for Leftover Turkey Jambalaya (photo by Sarah Shatz)
Leftover rice is a blank slate. Put it in a jambalaya or a casserole, or, if you have leftover risotto, make arancini. But the paragon of leftover meals, the reason we make rice just to let it sit in the fridge for a day, is fried rice. (Start with a couple of tablespoons of oil in a non-stick pan; then scramble in a couple of eggs, add the veggies of your choice and the leftover rice, and stir until everything is heated through. It's that easy.) Hearty and filling, this is one of the best back-pocket tricks we've got.
5. Wrap It
Putting yesterday's protein and veggies in a sandwich or a panini goes almost without saying, but leftovers and tortillas are a match made in heaven. Tacos, quesadillas -- all are fair game. Just don't forget the salsa.
6. For Dinner, Think Breakfast
Sweet Pea and Leek Pancakes (photo by James Ransom)
If you have leftovers and a skillet, you can make both hashes and pancakes -- and you should. With a bit of flour or leftover mashed potato to act as a binder, most leftovers will make a fine savory pancake. Take salmon, or zucchini, or a whole lot of peas. And we can't talk about breakfast without mentioning hash, which will welcome mostly anything, be it Brussels sprouts or sweet potatoes, with open arms.
Get More Easy Leftover Recipes for Dinner From Food52:
Rhonda's Spaghetti with Fried Eggs and Pangritata for One
Leftover Salmon Kedgeree
Sweet Potato and Cilantro Quesadilla with Fried Egg and Cumin Oil