Pizza Salad

On my never-ending quest to reinvent leftover food I was recently faced with a dilemma.

To be honest, the root of the problem can be traced back to me.  I made two large pizzas for three people.  What was I thinking?!  All of the leftover pizza was portioned in sets of three slices, wrapped in foil, and placed in the refrigerator.  And, there it sat, practically untouched, for three days. 

It wasn’t bad pizza…at least I didn’t think it was bad.  The problem was, there was too much of it and I shouldn’t have expected people to eat leftover pizza for days on end.  If I was still in college, then yes, leftover pizza might be all you get.  Be happy to have something to eat.  Live with it. 

So, I either had to eat all of the leftover pizza or figure out a way to reinvent it.

Pizza Salad

(serves 3)

Ingredients:

3 slices of leftover pizza (with various toppings)

Iceberg lettuce (one third of a head of lettuce, rough chopped)

1/3  cup Kalamata olives

¼ cup Dried Parmesan cheese

Vinegar and Oil dressing, to taste (I used store bought Italian dressing)

Directions:

Slice the pizza toppings away from the crust with a knife.  Allow the pizza topping to warm to room temperature.

Cut the thick crusty edge from the pizza and toast briefly in an oven.

Fill serving bowls with cold chopped iceberg lettuce.

Drizzle salad dressing on salad.

Rough chop the toppings and scatter them across the salads.

Add chopped Kalamata olives and top with parmesan cheese. 

Serve the salad cold with warm breadsticks (formerly known as pizza crust).

Weekend Leftovers (and the Daily News)

I hate to say it but, it’s the weekend and I have too many leftovers in the refrigerator.  That’s a great thing for a weekday, when time is precious for us working folks, like us.  Yes, my wife and I have been deemed “essential” by the powers that be, but it drives me nuts when the weekend arrives and I discover that leftovers have overtaken the fridge .  This is my weekend crisis, along with worrying about the ever-expanding, impending virus.

A good weekend, for me, is when I get to play in the kitchen and make some food that can turn into leftovers for the upcoming week. 

But, today, it’s necessary to scoop together a meal from all of the leftovers.

How could I possibly tie all of these leftovers together to make a single, cohesive meal?  There’s shrimp in a garlic butter sauce with noodles, scalloped potatoes with ham and a chicken salad, intended for sandwiches.  Three mish-mash leftovers with only one or two servings each, among them.

I say, tie them together with some fresh bread.  Garlic bread should work.  Half of the bread for a small bread loaf and the other half for garlic knots, or in this case, a braided garlic loaf.  Add some fresh lettuce and we have a brand new meal!  Leftovers can always be boosted by adding a splash of something fresh.

Garlic Bread / Garlic Braid

Ingredients:

1 cup warm water

2 Tbs yeast

1 tsp olive oil

3 cups flour

2 Tbs garlic powder

Pinch of salt

1 quart prepared shrimp with pasta, with garlic butter sauce

1 pint prepared ham and scalloped potatoes

1 pint prepared chicken salad

Fresh lettuce, (any kind will do)

¼ cup olive oil

5 garlic cloves

Directions:

Prepare the bread dough by warming a cup of water and adding yeast and olive oil.  Set in a warm place to allow the yeast to activate for 20 minutes. Add water and yeast to a large mixing bowl and add the flour and salt.

Mix and knead for a minute.  Sprinkle garlic powder over the dough ball, cover with a towel and allow the dough to rise for 15 minutes in a warm place.

Knead dough again to incorporated the garlic powder.  Cover and keep warm for 30 minutes.

Heat an oven to 400°.

Knead the dough and divide in half.  Set one half aside.

Take one half and divide into thirds.  Roll each third into ropes, making one rope slightly larger than the other two.

Lay the ropes of dough on a clean surface, with the longest rope in the middle.  Braid the dough in a French braid. 

Lay the braided dough on a baking sheet and bake in the oven.

Take the remaining dough and form into an oblong loaf.  Place on a baking sheet and place it in the oven.

Bake for 20 minutes.

While the bread bakes, add chopped garlic to the olive oil and heat in the microwave for about 1 minute.  Carefully remove the olive oil and set aside.

Pull the braided loaf out of the oven and leave the other loaf in the oven for another 5 minutes.

Heat the shrimp and pasta in a covered pan, with a little splash of water.

Heat the scalloped potatoes and ham in a microwave oven for a few minutes.

Add the chopped lettuce to individual serving bowls.  Top the lettuce with the chicken salad.

Cut the braided loaf into bite sized portions and put the pieces in a mixing bowl. 

Pour the garlic and olive oil over the bread pieces and toss.

Place the braided garlic bread pieces in a serving bowl.

Slice the bread loaf into 1” slices.

In a large pan, heat about 1/3 of the scalloped potatoes and ham, with a little water.

Add the sliced bread to the pan and let the bread absorb some of the liquid.  Turn the bread over and turn the heat off.

Assemble individual serving plates by adding portions of the shrimp and pasta, along the with the scalloped potatoes and ham on bread slices, and braided garlic bread.  Serve with the a side of chicken salad and a sample of the daily news.

Chicken with Stuffing

Chicken with Stuffing

The turkey went fast this Thanksgiving.   We had enough left over turkey to make a big batch of turkey, biscuits and gravy but that went quickly, too.  The leftover green beans,  yams, mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese have all been eaten.  Why is it that dressing is always the last remnant of Thanksgiving at my house?  Maybe it’s because we always make too much of it.  The dressing was very good this year, mainly because my wife made it.  She knows how to balance the flavors.  I tend to get heavy handed when adding herbs and spices. 

But, the fact remains.  I have all of this dressing to deal with.  Some types of leftovers make great additions to other future meals.  Vegetables and meat can be added to omelets or salads…that’s easy.  But dressing, or stuffing, depending on your preference, is pretty much singular, in nature. 

I was portioning some extremely large chicken breasts the other day and I decided to use a few of the breast pieces to make stuffed chicken. 

Ingredients for the marinade:

¼ cup olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

1 Tbs dry Italian seasonings

1 tsp cracked black pepper

½ tsp salt

Ingredients for the stuffed chicken:

3 monstrously sized chicken breasts

3 cups prepared and cooked bread stuffing (dressing)

Directions:

Combine the marinade in a large bowl.

Butterfly slice the chicken breasts, leaving about half an inch of the breast uncut.

Lay the chicken breasts open and put them in the bowl containing the marinade.  Allow the chicken to marinate for a half hour, turning occasionally.

Heat a cast iron skillet to high.  Once the skillet is hot, sear the cut sided of the chicken.  Sear for about 1 minute and turn the chicken over to briefly sear the other side, about 10 or 15 seconds.  Remove the chicken to a work surface.  Sear the remaining chicken breast in a similar fashion.

Lay the chicken breasts on a work surface with the cut side facing upward.

Compress some stuffing in your hands and lay the stuffing on one side of the chicken.  Fold the chicken over along the seam and secure with toothpicks.  Repeat the process with the other chicken breasts.

Return the chicken to the skillet and bake at 300° for 30 minutes, uncovered.  Turn the heat up to 350° and bake for another 10 minutes.

Serve hot, along with a vegetable or salad.  I served this with asparagus…

Skinny Asparagus in Lemon, Garlic Butter Sauce

Maybe it’s just me but I don’t remember seeing pencil-thin asparagus in stores until a few years ago. It’s probably just me… When it comes to asparagus I let the price determine which kind I will use. Naturally, the thicker variety is better suited for grilling and the thinner variety is perfect for pan frying, quickly.

Ingredients:

½ lb skinny asparagus

1 Tbs butter

2 garlic cloves, smashed

Juice of ½ lemon

Directions:

Once the chicken has been removed from the skillet, wipe the skillet with a paper towel to remove most of the residual oil.

Add the butter and garlic and sauté the garlic for about a minute, or until the garlic begins to turn light brown.

Set the heat to low and add the asparagus.  Stir briefly and cover.  I used a piece of aluminum foil. I like the flexibility I get with foil. Let the asparagus steam for about 4 minutes.  Uncover and gently stir the asparagus for another minute.

Remove the pan from the heat and serve hot.

Extra Pasta – Braised Beef in Marinara

I had lots of left over penne rigate from the other day and I decided to bring it back for another spin.  The pasta was originally sautéed with diced tomatoes, garlic and anchovy and then tossed in a satiny-buttery sauce.  The dish was simple and mild, which makes it a great starter for this bolder dish.

This is a quick meal, especially because the pasta was already cooked.  Thinly sliced beef cooks in a matter of a few minutes.  From start to finish, including the salad, this took about 30 minutes to make.  The cotija cheese is used like dried Parmesan in this recipe.  It adds a slightly sharp flavor and it helps to thicken the sauce. 

Ingredients:

1 Tbs olive oil

4 green onions (separate the white and green portions)

16 oz tomato sauce

1 Tsp Italian seasoning

8 oz can of sliced mushrooms

Thinly sliced beef

½ cup cotija cheese

16 oz cooked pasta (penne rigate)

Directions:

Dice green onions.  Separate the white parts from the green.  Set the green parts aside.

In a large skillet, set to medium heat, add olive oil and sauté the white parts of the green onions for one minute. 

Add tomato sauce, Italian seasoning and mushrooms.  Simmer for 5 minutes. 

Add cotija cheese and whisk to incorporate.  Simmer for an additional 5 minutes.

Remove sauce to a bowl and keep warm.

Add 1 Tbs olive oil to the pan.  Set heat to high.  Add the strips of beef and stir constantly  until cooked to  rare (about 2 minutes).

Return the sauce to the pan, turn the heat to low and stir with the meat for a few minutes.

Add the cooked pasta to the skillet and stir to coat the pasta with the sauce.

Turn the mixture out to a serving bowl and top with green onions and a dusting of cotija cheese. 

Serve with a fresh salad.

Tres Tacos (Three Tacos)

In my never-ending attempt to rid my refrigerator of leftovers I found myself falling back on a familiar theme: Tex-Mex.  Mexican cuisine can be made with all sorts of things and that’s what makes it so easy to rely on, when having to decide what to scrape together for dinner.

For this meal, corn tortillas tied everything together.  I made three different types of tacos, two with beef and one with turkey.  All of them shared some of the typical taco toppings like lettuce, tomato, onion, cilantro and sour cream.  Each one had at least one signature ingredient and each had a different kind of cheese.

Each taco had its own, unique quality.  Everyone that ate them had their own favorite.

This was fun to make but, I have to admit, it didn’t come together as quickly as I wanted.

I had some tomatoes from the garden that needed to be used so I cooked them down to a sauce and added jalapeños, onion and garlic.  I pureed the sauce after it cooked for about 40 minutes.  Normally, I would use picante sauce from a jar but I just can’t resist fresh sauce, when I have the ingredients in my garden.

One more comment before we jump into the recipe.  I sometimes use two corn tortillas per taco, instead of just one.  These tacos are prepared like “street tacos”, which is to say they resemble authentic Mexican tacos.  They are not the crispy corn tortillas that you might find at a grocery store, or ones that you might get at a fast food restaurant. 

The tortillas are heated just to a point where they are still soft and pliable.  Doubling up on the tortillas means that the tacos are more durable.  I hate tacos that fall apart in my hands!

Ingredients:

½ cup beef barbacoa

½ cup cooked ground beef

½ cup cooked ground turkey

1 cup prepared spicy tomato sauce

1 Tbs chipotle in adobo sauce (diced)

¼ cup sautéed sliced mushrooms

½  cup borracho beans, drained

¼ cup spicy mayo/sour cream sauce

½ cup grated cheddar cheese

½ cup cotija cheese

½ cup grated Monterey Jack cheese

¼ cup diced tomatoes

½ cup shredded lettuce

¼ cup diced onion

½ cup cilantro

6 pitted black olives, chopped

¼ cup sour cream

18 corn tortillas

lime wedges

Directions for the salsa:

If you don’t want to make fresh salsa, use a store bought salsa of your choice…otherwise, this is what I did to make the salsa for this dish.

Dice 6 to 8 small to medium sized tomatoes.  Add to a large pot and simmer at low heat.  Dice ½ onion and smash 3 garlic cloves and add those to the pot.  Add 1 tsp dry oregano and 1 Tbs cumin powder.  Simmer at low/medium heat for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the sauce from burning on the bottom of the pot.  Puree the contents.  Now you have fresh sauce!  Set this aside.

finished salsa

While the sauce is cooking, prepare the rest of the ingredients for the tacos.  You will be chopping, peeling and slicing vegetables so keep a bowl handy for the refuse. 

carrot, mushroom, lime and olives
onion, tomato and cilantro

Peel, chop and dice all of the vegetables.  Set aside.  Grate the cheese and set aside.

Break apart and crumble the meat.  Lay the meat in separate piles on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and warm in the oven at 250° for about 15 minutes.

Heat a pan, or a comal, on the stove to low/medium heat.  Add a little oil and cook the tortillas on each side.  Add a little more oil after two or three tortillas are cooked.  The tortillas should cook for about 20 seconds on each side.  Remove to a plate and keep warm.

I kept forgetting what I was going to put on each taco so I decided to write it down on a 3×5 index card.  Not a bad idea, especially for someone with the attention span of a gnat, like me.

Even after writing this down, I still switched the cheese on two of the tacos…go figure!

Directions for assembling the tacos:

I recently got some taco holders as a gift and, although I don’t use them often, they made it easy to assemble tacos and they made a nice presentation.

I worked on all three tacos simultaneously.

For the barbacoa taco:

Start by adding some barbacoa.  Add borracho beans, followed by salsa and cheddar cheese.

For the ground beef taco:

Start with ground beef.  Add minced chipotle sauce, salsa and cotija cheese.

For the turkey taco:

Add ground turkey, followed by mushrooms, followed by the mayo/sour cream sauce, Monterey Jack cheese and black olives.

Top all three tacos with lettuce, tomato, onion, carrot, cilantro and finally, a small dollop of sour cream. Serve with lime wedges.

Leftovers…I mean, Nachos!

I was pondering what to make for dinner the other day.  I didn’t really want to cook but I was hungry.  Sound familiar?  I opened my refrigerator and saw several small containers of leftovers.  After a quick survey of the items it became obvious that Nachos was the best, and easiest solution. 

This was one of those times when the amount of the leftovers was exactly what I needed to make a meal. 

Ingredients:

1 cup Shredded chicken (left over from chimichangas)

½ cup refried beans  (left over from chimichangas)

¼ cup tomato sauce (left over from salsa roja)

3 Tbs diced onion (left over from chimichangas)

1 chipotle pepper in adobo (left over from chimichangas)

2 slices processed American cheese (left over Egg sandwiches)

1 cup sliced Muenster cheese (left over from white cheese sauce)

2 smoked serrano chiles (left over from salsa verde)

Restaurant style tortilla chips – not leftovers!

Just look at the amount of empty storage containers this meal provided.  This is what victory feels like for the home cook!  I couldn’t be any more proud!

Directions:

Distribute tortilla chips on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.  I like to use parchment paper because it makes for very easy clean up. 

Lay the slices of Muenster cheese across the tortilla chips.  Slice the serrano chiles and scrape away the seeds.  Mince the serranos and sprinkle on top of the cheese.  Mix the refried beans with the tomato sauce and drop dollops of the bean mixture on top of the cheese.  Mash and mince the chipotle pepper and adobo sauce and combine with the shredded chicken.  Mix by hand and distribute the chicken over the refried beans.  Sprinkle the diced onions over the nachos.  Finally, tear apart strips of the American cheese and place on top of the nachos. 

Bake in a 400° oven for five to ten minutes, or until the cheese melts.

Serve with sour cream, salsa, lettuce, tomato or any other toppings you desire…but try to use up leftovers in keeping with the theme of the dish!