The Love-Hate Relationship With Leftovers


Most Jewish women love seeing food on platters after every meal; the surplus proves everyone had enough to eat. But they hate dealing with leftovers.

“I’m serving ‘srevotfel’ for dinner,” my friend said.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“It’s leftovers spelled backwards,” she said. “They sound so much better that way.” 
“Why are you making excuses for something everyone does?” I asked.
Most Jewish women have a love-hate relationship with leftovers. They love seeing food on platters after every meal, because that surplus proves everyone had enough to eat. But they hate dealing with leftovers, the second-class citizens of cuisine.
Stowing bits and pieces in containers is easy. The challenge is — what happens next?
Leftovers are foisted on family members when there’s no chance of guests. They are reheated until they fossilize. Leftovers often linger in the refrigerator until they grow green hair.
But with a dash of imagination and some strategic ingredients, yesterday’s meal can have an exalted future.
The trick is to avoid repeating a dish exactly as it was served. Be creative and turn leftovers into quesadillas, souffles or surprising salads.
With a day or two to develop deep flavor, the contents of refrigerator containers can be a cook’s dream. These foods are already prepped so most of the work is done. Ripe for reinvention, they have the potential to surpass the original meal. Leftovers simply don’t get the respect they deserve.
Vegetable Quesadilla
1 large (10-inch diameter) flour or corn tortilla
1⁄2 cup leftover vegetables at room temperature, diced
3 oz. of any melting cheese at room temperature (such as cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan, or Monterey Jack), grated or sliced thin
Preheat the oven to 400˚. Place aluminum foil or parchment paper on a cookie sheet.
Using scissors, cut the tortilla into 2 equal pieces and place them on the prepared cookie sheet.
Place in the oven until the bottom starts to brown. Remove from oven and flip over the two pieces of tortilla.
Onto half of each piece, spread 1⁄4 cup of vegetables and 11⁄2 ounces of cheese. Do not place ingredients within half an inch of the edge.
Close each piece by folding the empty half over the half layered with food. Return to the oven. Bake for 3 to 5 minutes, or until cheese melts. Serve immediately.
Serves 1 to 2.
Fish Quesadilla
1⁄2 cup of leftover fish at room temperature
1 and 1⁄2 oz. of Monterey Jack cheese at room temperature and sliced thin
2-3 slices of tomato cut paper thin
1 tsp. red onion, chopped
1⁄2 tsp. parsley or cilantro, chopped
1-2 spears of lettuce or 1⁄3 cup iceberg lettuce cut into thin ribbons
1 Tbsp. corn oil
1 large (10-inch diameter) flour or corn tortilla
salsa (optional)
Remove bones and skin from fish and discard. Crumble or dice fish. Have cheese, tomato, red onion, parsley and lettuce lined up and ready to use.
Heat oil in a large skillet on a medium-high flame. Place the tortilla in the skillet. Saute until the surface bubbles and the bottom browns.
Using tongs, flip the tortilla in the frying pan. Onto half of the tortilla, place ingredients in this order: cheese, tomato, on­ion, parsley, fish and lettuce. Do not place ingredients within half an inch of the edge.
Close the tortilla by folding the empty half over the half layered with food. Saute until the cheese starts to melt, about 2 minutes.
Using the tongs, gently turn over the tortilla and saute another 2 minutes.
Using tongs, move to a plate and cut in half with a sharp knife.
Serve immediately with dollops of salsa, if desired.
Serves 1 to 2.
Refrigerator Sleuth Steak Sandwich
spicy brown mustard
2 slices of fresh bread
2-3 slices of leftover steak, cut into bite-sized pieces
Optional Add-Ons (Treasures from the refrigerator): leftover vegetables
leftover salads, drained (no more than a day old)
leftover coleslaw, drained (no more than a day old)
sliced tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, sliced red onion or sliced gherkin pickles
asparagus spears
thinly sliced avocado wedges
Spread the mustard on two slices of bread. Place the steak over the mustard on one slice of bread. Pile on any of the Optional Add-Ons listed above that are lining your refrigerator shelves. (However, using all the Add-Ons in one sandwich would make it unwieldy to eat.) Place the second slice of bread on top and enjoy.
Makes 1 large sandwich.
Main Course Chef’s Salad With Roasted Chicken
8 spears of Romaine lettuce or comparable amount of other lettuce(s)
1 tomato, cut into wedges
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 hard boiled egg, sliced
2 carrots, diced
1⁄4 cup pitted black olives
8 string beans, diced
1 leftover baked potato (if available) sliced with the skin on
1 Tbsp. dill, minced
1 Tbsp. red onion, chopped fine
1⁄2 cup of mushrooms, sliced
kosher salt to taste
freshly ground pepper to taste
1 leftover roasted chicken breast (2 halves), sliced
any excellent vinaigrette
loaf of crusty bread 
Place all ingredients in a large salad bowl and toss until the vinaigrette evenly coats the ingredients.
Serve immediately with a loaf of crusty bread.
Serves 3 to 4.
Your Favorite ­Vegetables SautEed With Onion
1 tsp. cooking oil, or more if needed
1 onion, diced
1 to 1 and 1⁄2 cups of steamed, sauteed, or roasted vegetables at room temperature
salt, if needed
1-2 tsps. fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
Heat the oil in a medium-sized saucepan on a medium flame. Add the onions and saute until softened and starting to brown, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Spoon in the vege­tables and stir constantly until warmed through. Check seasoning while you saute and add salt, if needed. Spoon into a serving bowl and sprinkle with parsley, if desired. Serve immediately.
Serves 2.
Linda Morel is a writer based in New York City. Email her at:



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