Don’t Chuck Those Summer Leftovers!



Labor Day heralds the end of summer. It's back to school, back to work at a more hectic pace, and back to a full fridge, after a summer that's focused on fruits and veggies. Hearty fare is back in season.

Yet this brings me to my pet peeve. I don't like holding on to almost empty jars of mustard and catsup, or the leftover cup of flour, cocktail mixes and partial bags of frozen veggies. But my Scottish Jewish upbringing also shudders at tossing it all out, and food pantries usually don't accept opened jars or containers.

Here are some tips and recipes that need no set amounts, and that can be used year-round.

· For Salad Dressing: To almost empty mustard and catsup jars, add equal quantities of vegetable oil or olive oil and apple juice, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, and a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice. Cover and shake well. Use at room temperature.

· Soft-Serve Cookies-and-Cream: Empty what's left in containers of ice-cream and sorbet into a bowl. Swirl together, then fold in crumbled cookies or cake, and some chocolate chips. Spoon into glasses and serve.

· Quick Veggie Soup: Place leftover cooked vegetables and potatoes in a blender or food processor. Add a cut-up green onion, a squeeze of lemon juice and enough broth to cover. Whirl to a purée, heat through, season to taste and serve with crackers.

· Triple-Melon Cooler: Put 4 cups melon cubes (may combine cantaloupe, watermelon and honeydew) in the food processor. Add 2 tablespoons honey, 1/2 cup loosely packed mint leaves and 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper. Whirl to a purée. Pour into a pitcher, and add lemon or lime soda. Stir lightly and serve.

· Reduced-Calorie Coleslaw: Combine leftover coleslaw with a package of shredded cabbage. Stir in a generous splash of olive oil, some fresh lemon juice, a handful of snipped fresh herbs (such as parsley or basil), salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

· Quick Gazpacho: Cut up veggies like peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes; place in blender jar. Add a dash of rice vinegar and enough tomato juice to cover. Whirl until the vegetables are coarsely chopped. Season with garlic powder, salt and freshly ground pepper.

Serve at room temperature.

Vegetable-Bin Soup

This is a very forgiving soup; quantities may vary as needed. Substitute whatever fresh and/or frozen vegetables and herbs you have on hand. Wilted is fine, too.

2 Tbsps. olive oil 
1 medium onion, thinly sliced 
1 tsp. minced garlic 
1 medium green or yellow zucchini, thinly sliced 
2 cups frozen vegetables, such as peas and carrots 
2 cups shredded spinach or lettuce leaves 
1 medium tomato, coarsely chopped 
1 and 1/2 cups vegetable broth 
2 cups low-sodium tomato juice 
1/4 cup snipped fresh dill 
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 
1 and 1/2 matzahs, crumbled into coarse crumbs

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat.

Add the onion.

Cook until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add all of the remaining ingredients, except the matzah.

Bring to a simmer. Cover partially and cook for 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Divide matzah crumbs into 4 bowls. Ladle the soup over top.

Serves 4 to 6.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 131; protein, 5 g; carbohydrates, 18 g; fat, 5 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 352 mg.

Late-Summer Chicken Salad

A blackberry-lime dressing transforms leftover chicken spiked with a smattering of chives into a sparkling main dish. Serve with warm crusty breads.

3/4-1 cup blackberries 
1/2 green onion, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces 
2 tsps. Dijon mustard 
1/3 cup rice vinegar 
2-3 Tbsps. honey, warmed 
2 Tbsps. lime juice 
1 Tbsp. grated lime rind 
2/3 cup olive oil 
salt and pepper to taste 
3 cups diced, cooked chicken 
2 Tbsps. snipped chives 
1 cup cooked corn kernels 
shredded arugula or lettuce

To Prepare the Dressing: Place all the ingredients — except the oil, salt and pepper — in a blender jar. Process till smooth. Gradually pour in the oil while the motor is running at low speed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To Assemble: Place the chicken, chives and corn in a large bowl. Pour about half the dressing over top. Toss gently.

To Serve: Spoon over shredded arugula or lettuce. Pass the remaining dressing to pour over.

Serves 4 to 6.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 403; protein, 20 g; carbohydrates, 15 g; fat, 30 g; cholesterol, 53 mg; sodium, 91 mg.

Ratatouille Topped With Tomato-Poached Eggs

A delicious catch-all for "past their best" produce.

1 small eggplant, cut into 3/4-inch chunks 
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper 
2 Tbsps. vegetable oil 
1 large onion, sliced about 1/4-inch thick 
2-3 medium tomatoes, cut in 1-inch chunks 
1 medium zucchini, sliced 1/4-inch thick 
2 green or yellow bell peppers, seeded and cut into 3/4-inch chunks 
3/4 cup Bloody Mary mix from a jar, or tomato juice 
2 Tbsps. catsup or to taste 
1/4 cup basil leaves, shredded 
1 Tbsp. fresh oregano or 1 tsp. dried 
1 tsp. minced garlic 
4-6 poached eggs 
4-6 slices toasted crusty bread

Place the eggplant in a colander. Sprinkle generously with salt. Toss and drain for about 1/2 hour. Rinse and pat dry with paper towels.

Sprinkle with ground pepper. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large deep skillet over medium heat.

Add the onion. Sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, or until just beginning to brown.

Add the eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, bell peppers, Bloody Mary mix or tomato juice, catsup, basil, oregano and garlic. Stir to mix. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to low.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Partially cover. Cook 15 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Stir occasionally.

Break the eggs into a cup, one at a time. Slide onto the vegetable mixture.

Cover and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, or until yolks are set or cooked to desired doneness.

Serves 4 to 6.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 203; protein, 9 g; carbohydrates, 17 g; fat, 11 g; cholesterol, 213 mg; sodium, 863 mg.

Monte Cristo Sandwich, Jewish-Style

The Monte Cristo first made its appearance in the 1920s in the now defunct Monte Cristo Hotel in Everett, Wash. This version, layered with meat and soy cheese, is coated with breadcrumbs or panko, and then fried. Panko are coarse breadcrumbs used in Japanese cooking; they're extremely popular and can be found everywhere these days.

8 slices whole-wheat bread, crusts removed 
2 Tbsps. Dijon mustard 
4 thick slices deli turkey 
4 thick slices deli chicken 
4 slices soy "cheese" 
1/2 cup all-purpose flour 
2 eggs, beaten 
1 cup dry seasoned breadcrumbs or panko 
vegetable oil for frying 
confectioners' sugar to sprinkle

To Assemble Sandwiches: Lay 4 slices of bread on a flat surface. Spread each slice thinly with mustard.

Top each with a slice of turkey, chicken and soy "cheese." Cover with the remaining bread slices. Press down lightly.

Cut each into 4 triangles. Secure with toothpicks.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 6 hours or overnight.

Remove sandwiches from refrigerator. Brush on all sides with flour, then dip into the eggs, then into the breadcrumbs or panko.

Pour about 1 inch of oil into a heavy deep saucepan.

Heat over medium heat to 365° or until a 1-inch piece of bread browns in 60 seconds. Carefully lower the sandwiches into the hot oil, one at a time. Do not cause oil to splatter!

Fry until golden-brown on both sides, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Drain on paper towels, remove toothpicks and sprinkle with confectioners' sugar.

Serve hot.

Serves 4.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 656; protein, 24 g; carbohydrates, 65 g; fat, 35 g; cholesterol, 128 mg; sodium, 1,200 mg.

Tipsy Gelato

Inspired by a delightfully chilled "soupy" dessert from a roadside cafe in the High Sierra mountains. Gelato is the Italian for ice-cream, but it has a denser consistency than our American version.

1/3 cup heavy cream 
2 tsps. confectioners' sugar 
4 large scoops raspberry gelato or ice-cream, softened 
1 cup raspberry or other fruit-flavored soda 
4 Tbsps. raspberry liqueur 
fresh berries to garnish (optional)

Whip the heavy cream until a soft peaks form.

Stir in confectioners' sugar.

Place a large scoop of gelato or ice-cream into each of 4 glasses. Pour 1/4 cup soda over top.

Drizzle 1 tablespoon of raspberry liqueur over each.

Top with a dollop of whipped cream. Serve at once.

Serves 4.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 425; protein, 5 g; carbohydrates, 48 g; fat, 21 g; cholesterol, 117 mg; sodium, 88 mg.

Ethel G. Hofman is a past president of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. E-mail her at: [email protected].


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