You’ve worked all week: shopping, cleaning the house, prepping ingredients, baking and cooking for the big feast that brings us together around the table to celebrate our gratitude for abundance, life…and this year, more than ever…each other.
The table is set; the candles lit, the wine opened or chilled. The house is fragrant with the perfume of foods cooking to perfection.
When I was growing up, my big Italian and Irish clan enjoyed the feast my mother and I had prepared with abandon, loosening their pants and taking short walks so they could come back and eat more.
My mother was Italian and so while there was a small army of people around our table, she prepared for an entire regiment! In her defense, people wandered in and out of our house all day so she always had to be prepared to pull together plates for early visitors or latecomers.
As a result, holiday leftovers were on the menu for days after the big feast.
As time has worn on, I have fallen in love with the idea of re-purposing foods from my feast to create delicious dishes all weekend long without being in the kitchen all day. They change along with my menus but the idea is the same: I use what’s left to create new dishes to keep us nourished from the leftovers from the big day.
Here are some of my favorite tips:
· Of course you can simply re-heat leftovers from Thanksgiving for meals over the weekend, but l love to let my creativity loose since I am usually off those days and have more time to spend creating in the kitchen.
· Leftover root veggies can be simmered in water and pureed into a richly flavored bisque.
· Leftover cranberry sauce can be spiced up with minced garlic and jalapeno peppers for a yummy sweet and spicy salsa to serve with chips while you enjoy a movie.
· I use my leftover dressing as a topping to shepherd’s pie. This way, I can use the dressing more creatively than simply reheating it and with tender, juicy veggies underneath it makes for the perfect casual feast. I serve it with a fresh salad and everyone is happy.
· Leftover whole grain dishes easily and quickly become the base for a stir-fry dish or with the addition of a light crisp vinaigrette can become a most delish grain salad.
· I take all the leftover bread from our feast and cut into cubes, let it dry overnight or in a warm oven and then combine it with leftover cooked root veggies (and a can of organic chickpeas) from the feast to create a quick version of the hearty Italian soup known as Ribollitta or bread soup. Served with some steamed greens, this thick soup makes a meal!
· Desserts? Well, there are rarely any leftovers on them, I must confess, but if there are, we just share them with friends and try not to gobble them all up (see what I did there? LOL!).