I hate wasting food. I hate throwing out leftovers. It’s a hangover from my upbringing. I can still hear my parents’ voice in my head, telling me about the poor starving children in Europe.
Usually there’s no waste at my house though because these days I’m cooking just for two, which means small portions and not much extra. But at holiday time it’s back to mama for my grown daughters and their families, and like most other old-fashioned Jewish mothers, I always cook too much of everything. My kids leave with doggie bags. Still, there’s always plenty of food left in the fridge.
My husband Ed is good about whatever I serve. He’ll eat sandwiches and warmed over meat (especially if I make gravy). But that can feel pretty sad after the festive celebrations. And I don’t want my meals, even if they’re leftovers, to be something we “have-to” eat instead of “want-to” eat. So I try to make those scraps of this and that into something delicious for two.
Brisket, one of the usual main dishes for us at Rosh Hashanah, is easy to rework. Most of the time I chop it up and add it to cooked bulgur wheat or brown rice casseroles such as Mujadarah, a favorite for us. Sometimes I mix it with cooked grains like farro or wheatberries, add leftover cooked veggies, sun-dried tomatoes, chopped dried fruit, chopped nuts – whatever I have in the fridge or pantry -- make an appropriate vinaigrette and there’s salad for dinner.
Other times I feel the need to go beyond my old standbys. One year I mixed the chopped leftover brisket with veggies and made it into a stuffing of sorts, which I then placed inside the hollows of two acorn squash. It was all done ahead of time and when Ed and I wanted dinner, all I had to do was pop it into the oven to heat through.
I have to say here that this particular dish was such a hit I have made it in a variety of ways – different vegetables, depending on what was leftover. Matzo meal instead of bread crumbs during Passover. Once I made it without meat and mixed in about 3/4 cup of grated Swiss cheese (and topped it with some grated Parmesan).
Last year I made Brisket Chili. This is a hearty dish, perfect on a chilly autumn day, and I felt really clever and thrifty because not only did I use the leftover brisket, but also the leftover pan juices (instead of canned broth) and leftover onions from cooking the brisket (so I didn’t have to sauté onions first).
I always make a whole brisket. We’re a big family, but also I actually like leftovers. If we have any this year maybe I’ll try using the meat to make hash. Or a thick vegetable soup. I’ll keep you posted and you let me know how you use your leftovers in the comments below. Shana Tova!