08/06/2012 07:10 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Kitchen Ninja: Mastering Leftovers



Here at FOOD52, we like to cook smart. We like to cook economically. We like to cook, as the writer Tamar Adler puts it, with grace. And cooking intelligently, economically, and gracefully means making -- and using -- leftovers.

But let’s not call them leftovers. Let’s call them, as FOOD52 user Verdigris does so poetically in this Hotline thread, ingredients. Here, then, are eight inspiring ways to use your ingredients all week long -- without a trace of taste-bud fatigue.

Soup: Looking to use up roasted vegetables? Simmer them in stock, add a splash of milk or cream (if desired) and puree. Want to repurpose cooked meat or fish? Flake or shred it into a finished soup, add a cooked starch and you’ve got a balanced meal. 

>>RELATED: See our 7 Favorite Summer Soups.

Hash: Crispy potatoes make everything new again. Pan-fry your cooked vegetable or meat with cooked (or shredded) potatoes, or if you’re feeling fancy, form the mixture into patties beforehand. You can substitute cooked rice -- or any grain, for that matter -- for the potato. 

>>RELATED: Check out a great, basic recipe for hash browns. 

Introduce The Egg: Eggs are your cooked ingredients’ best friends. The quickest, easiest variation: warm up your ingredients (we’re fans of the pan-fry) and throw a fried egg on it. A runny egg yolk can do wonderful things to last night’s dinner. For more options, lace a frittata with your cooked vegetable, meat or pasta, or throw the mixture into a savory pie shell for a quiche. Add some chopped fresh herbs, and make sure to taste for seasoning.

>>RELATED: Check out 10 recipes for Breakfast for Dinner!

Sandwiches: The sandwich is a tried-and-true vessel for cooked ingredients, and it is dear to our hearts (see: Amanda’s Kids’ Lunch). The key: get creative. Doctor up store-bought mayo. Make your own aioli. Introduce a raw ingredient or two, and dig in.

Crostini: These are the sandwich’s elegant, refined cousins. As meganvt01’s suggests, toss cooked vegetables with balsamic vinegar, basil, good-quality olive oil and soft cheese. Use to top garlic-rubbed toasts, and drizzle with some more olive oil.

Liven up a grain: Some FOOD52 favorites -- Leftover Salmon Kedegree, Thankful for Leftover Turkey Jambalaya, Turkey Tetrazzini -- use grains as a blank canvas. Since the cooked ingredients are more of a garnish than a base, feel free to switch up the seasoning from that of your original dish. Rice and pasta work well here, but you can also use farro, quinoa, bulgur or couscous.

Bread pudding: In the spirit of aargersi’s Don’t Hold the Anything Breakfast Bread Pudding, don’t hold the anything in your bread pudding. Using her bread-to-liquid ratio, layer your own savory bread pudding to your heart’s content. We’re always a fan of pudding for breakfast... or lunch, or dinner, for that matter.

Pizza or Flatbread: Use leftover vegetables -- plus some bacon, if you’re in the mood -- as a topping. Get creative; you don't have to be authentic!

How do you use your leftovers creatively?