Repurposing Food, Otherwise Known as Leftovers

by Anne Maxfield on April 1, 2013

Accidental Locavore Fridge BeforeThe Accidental Locavore was interested to learn earlier this year that repurposing food was one of the food trends for 2013. Like calling prunes dried plums, repurposing food makes leftovers sound like something more marketable – or thought up by a focus group. No matter what you call them, leftovers are one of those galvanizing family topics – love ‘em or leave ‘em.

Now, I happen to be in the camp that likes leftovers (and I might possibly like leftovers better than repurposed food). First of all, it’s a meal – lunch or dinner – that you don’t have to dream up. No worrying about coordinating meat and veg, just heat (sometimes) and eat. Secondly, with a lot of foods, particularly braised or slow-cooked meals, they’re much better a day or two later. Another advantage with braises, it also gives you an easy way to get rid of the excess fat. After a day in the refrigerator, it solidifies and is easily picked off.

If we’re really talking about repurposing, I think the trend is more towards actually thinking up new forms for the leftovers to take than just reheating – which you’re probably doing already. If you pick up a rotisserie chicken, serve some of it for dinner and turn the rest into a chicken salad for lunch, that’s repurposing. One of my favorite repurposed things are the leftover potatoes from the Christmas roast. Sliced and pan-fried in a little butter, they’re the best home fries ever!

Accidental Locavore Salad With Xanthan Gum DressingThere are certain foods I will not repurpose. Salad is the first that comes to mind.

Although my husband likes leftover salad, I find cold, slimy lettuce unappealing. There are some exceptions.  For example, the other day I was testing a Brussels sprout salad recipe and there was quite a bit left. Mixed with some roasted sprouts found in the fridge, it was better repurposed the next day (and since I was done with the testing, I could add more lemon juice to it, which it needed).

closeup photo of a pile of onion ringsFried food also doesn’t have much appeal after the fact. Besides being a reminder that you’re probably not eating terribly well, there’s the reheating factor. With the possible exception of doughnuts or chicken, there’s nothing fried that tastes good cold. I don’t fry food at home – I hate the smell afterwards and would never refry something. So that leaves heating it in a microwave (soggy and tough) or oven (warm but not interesting).

So, do you repurpose, reheat, wait for it to turn into a science project or just toss? What are your favorite leftovers?

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Anne Maxfield April 2, 2013 at 2:42 pm

The lettuce is only slimy after it’s been dressed and allowed to sit around for a day or so. Tender greens get soggy pretty quickly.

Bonnie Szantyr April 2, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Slimy lettuce? Where are you buying your greens and how do you store them. We love salads so make one big enough to last for two or three days for lunches and maybe another dinner. We never have slimy lettuce, or slimy anything else.
Note, though, my husband and I are the only members of the family who will eat leftover salad. The rest insist they can’t eat slimy lettuce. Go figure.

Anne Maxfield April 2, 2013 at 11:46 am

So, I’m guessing the original paella wasn’t a lot of lobster…

MC April 2, 2013 at 11:32 am

Repurposed food is a very old concept with a very new name – at least in English. The Moors combined leftovers from previous meals, often mixing it with rice, and they called the new created dish – baqiyah – which is said to be the origin of the word paella.

Anne Maxfield April 1, 2013 at 4:22 pm

I don’t mind leftover pizza, but it has to be reheated. Agreed on the soups stews etc!

Anne Maxfield April 1, 2013 at 3:43 pm

Salads definitely, that’s my lunch most days (or winter version-dumped into ramen noodle soup)! Chilaquiles also make use of some interesting repurposing.

Jeff Parker April 1, 2013 at 11:52 am

Salads are my go to destination for the leftover. Leftover taco meat? Taco salad. Leftover roast? Butter lettuce, stinky cheese, tomatoes, dried fruits, nuts, and quick homemade vinaigrette! Cheers

mercyn620 April 1, 2013 at 9:47 am

For years repurposed food was my lunch of choice, packaged and brought to work. I purposely made a little extra for use as lunches.
I do not like leftover salads, pizza or hamburgers.
Soups, stews, and casseroles are great leftover meals.

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