I have a problem.
My problem is leftovers.
I love them, I hate them (mostly I ignore them and have to chisel their leaky gross containers out of the fridge a month too late).
I love cooking and baking so much that the thought of eating something I already made seems like a terrible waste of an opportunity to try something new. My roommate and my boyfriend do an amazing job of trying to keep up with my manic food making, but sometimes there’s just TOO MUCH FOOD.
So…I’m trying. I am not going to waste food anymore. I am going to be more responsible about portion sizes when cooking and shopping. I am going to use perishable ingredients before I have to scrape the blue fuzzy stuff off of them. I am going to eat the same thing more than one time. Call it a New Year’s resolution (yes, I know it’s June. Would you rather have me wait another 6 months? Didn’t think so).
OK, leftovers. Let’s see what you have in store for me today…
* Baked sweet potatoes. Got them in the CSA; had some for dinner. Only a few days old, and still totally edible.
* Key limes (left over from the marmalade I made a few weeks back)
* That delicious jar of spicy fennel seed pasta sauce I…oh, no. Guess we compost that one. Gross.
* Dried flaked unsweetened coconut. Why did I even buy this?
* Butternut squash. Delivered in my CSA in December; somehow still kickin’ around. Miraculously, still good.
* Mustard. In fact, 4 different bottles of mustard. In fact, 4 different bottles of the same two kinds of mustard.
* Beets, radishes, random crisper drawer veggies in various levels of freshness. Good thing beets keep well.
* The garden. While not technically a leftover, homegrowns can really spice up a dish. Plus, no grocery shopping!
OK. Well, I’m hungry. What’s the game plan? Wait, I think I have an idea…
First, let me say that the best way to avoid leftover doldrums is to prepare your basic foods separately, and to plan your meals in such a way that the flavor or texture of the main ingredient is altered. For example, when I bake chicken breasts, I make several more than I need for that meal. Maybe I put BBQ sauce on some of them, and dust the others with garlic powder and olive oil. Then I can use the leftovers for chicken pot pie, pulled chicken enchiladas, sandwiches, cold chicken salad…etc.
One of my favorite cold weather meals (and it DID get cold again; stupid coastal weather…isn’t it supposed to be summer?) is a good old-fashioned root roast. Chop up some beets, sweet potatoes, carrots, garlic, onions, parsnips, maybe some oca, yacon, or mashua (if yer’ feelin’ fancy – or are lucky enough to have some growing in your yard, like we do), certainly some winter squash if it’s handy…toss everything in olive oil and salt/pepper, and bake at 400 degrees for about an hour, or until tender.
We often make this here at the house because it’s a great staple for our varying diets (my roommate is a vegetarian, so I try to make family-style meals meat-free, if possible), and it is remarkably versatile. Tossed with some more oil and some bow-tie pasta, it is an excellent hot main course. The same dish the next day makes a great cold pasta salad.
…But I want something different today. Something less standard. Something that will use up more of my space-hogging pantry items.
The first time I made this salad (yesterday), I just used some pre-baked sweet potatoes that were sitting in the fridge, and made a dressing for them. You can see in the images I’ve taken that my second go-round was a little more complicated than that. Really, you can use any root vegetables/squashes in this, and it will be tasty. I bet eggplant or zucchini would be awesome, too. When you roast veggies like this, make a LOT. Like, WAY more than I say in the recipe.
Trust me. You’ll eat them.
And so, I submit for you, my “get all this stuff out of my kitchen” lunch discovery:
Root Vegetables in Lime Curry Dressing
(serves 3-4 with decently-sized meal portions)
for the roast:
2 large beets, peeled and cubed
1/2 small winter squash, peeled and cubed
2 medium sized sweet potatoes, scrubbed clean and cubed, skin on
3 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
2 Tbsp olive or sunflower oil
coarse sea salt and pepper to taste
for the dressing:
2 tsp whole cumin seed
1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes
2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp powdered ginger
2 Tbsp prepared mustard (I use this)
juice of 3-4 key limes (approx. 1/4 c)
1 tsp honey
1/4 c sunflower oil
also for the salad:
1/2 c unsweetened coconut (shredded/flaked)
1 sprig of fresh mint, chiffonade..ed (what is the past-tense of “chiffonade”, anyway?)
To make this salad, the roasted veggies must be cooked and cooled. Do this ahead of time. To prepare the roast? Toss everything in olive oil, sprinkle on some coarse sea salt and pepper, transfer into a casserole dish, and bake at 400 degrees for roughly one hour, or until they are tender (but not too squishy).
To make the dressing, grind the hot pepper and cumin together (I use a mortar and pestle, but a spice grinder would be OK too). Transfer the crushed cumin/pepper into a small bowl (at least 1 cup capacity). Add the curry powder, ginger, mustard, and honey. Squeeze in the lime juice (make sure to strain out the seeds), and whisk everything together until smooth. Slowly drizzle in the oil, whisking constantly until the dressing is homogeneous and fully emulsified.
At this point, taste the dressing. Add more honey or more lime juice as necessary to balance the flavors (remember that the root roast will be fairly sweet). Pour the dressing over the cooled root vegetables, and toss to coat. Sprinkle the salad with the coconut and mint, and serve.
This salad will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week, and is a great on-the-go lunch for those busy work days.