Don't let those food scraps and leftovers wither in the fridge!
There is a real joy in using bits and pieces foraged from the fridge to create something new. Whether you find a bit of mashed potatoes from last night's dinner or already-prepped onions that you didn't need all of or the last olives in a jar, making a delicious home for them can be a great tool in helping to eliminate food waste in your kitchen. If nothing else, it gives otherwise-inconsequential tidbits all kinds of new value when considered in light of new potential. Never again will you wonder if you should A) eat those last few bites of corn or B) put them in the refrigerator or C) meh, just toss them.
I usually employ these random bit of leftovers in the making of veggie burgers, soups, and vegetarian stews; sometimes they find their way into pasta or atop toast or in salad bowls. One year I took Thanksgiving's leftover vegetables and threw them in a rustic quiche ... but I completely forgot that until I read about pastry chef Natasha Pickowicz. Pickowicz makes savory tarts, with the leftover ingredients from the night before, for the late-morning staff meal at the NYC restaurant where she works. Taking bits of this and that and layering it all in a nest of pâte brisée, the resulting creations are spontaneous but deliberate, notes Tajal Rao, who wrote about the approach for The New York Times. “I’m always thinking critically about how they’ll cook,” Pickowicz tells Rao. “I’m thinking about creating layers, so when you bite into it, you’re transitioning from tender dough through body and structure.”
The method goes something like this, according to Rao:
Start with a cold pâte brisée, then go from there: Spread a fine layer of cheese such as ricotta or mascarpone, then season it with lemon zest, salt and pepper. Now move onto a denser layer of cooked vegetables, such as cauliflower, potato, leek or squash, lightly seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper. Fill the gaps in the vegetables with pieces of cheese. When the tart comes out of the oven, consider a topping of herbs, lightly dressed salad leaves or even a couple of fried eggs.
To make the pâte brisée – which is a French savory simple crust that somehow sounds more complicated because it's name is in French – and details of the method, you can see the recipes here at The New York Times. You can also take a (small) leap of creative faith and try it with your favorite savory crust recipe. Use your intuition, scavenge the refrigerator, and make your leftovers the star of the show. It's easy, it's fun, it cuts down on food waste and costs, and best of all, it's delicious.