Purposeful leftovers


One of my first jobs was as a PABX (switchboard) operator for a Marriott hotel. One of the benefits of this job for a starving student was that they provided a free meal to all of their employees. The cafeteria either offered food that didn’t cosmetically look good enough to serve to our guests or we got hot food from a cafeteria-style lineup or if none of that looked very appealing, there were hamburgers, hotdogs, salad and fresh soup. We worked the swing shift so our meal was essentially a dinner meal although we really got the same choices that our coworkers got at lunch. After working there awhile, we got to realize that the cafeteria-style food might have been planned to frugally use the week’s ingredients as well as possible. It seemed to us that one day we would get roast chicken. The next day, some suspiciously familiar chicken pieces would be served in a creamy style sauce. The next day, we would get some sort of pasta or rice dish with a creamy style sauce and chicken chunks. One of my coworkers was very uncomfortable with this and dubbed this “chicken evolution”. My coworker would grill the daytime coworkers about what was for lunch and decide from there if it was going to be a soup and salad day.

I have to admit, now that I am a full time worker who has to cook for my household; I am guilty of “chicken evolution”. When we made the pork sirloin chops a few days ago, I made sure to buy more than we would need for one meal. A nice chunk of boneless meat or boneless chicken breast can easily be reused later in the week to add protein to another meal. I often make too much of a chicken dish so that I can add chicken chunks to pasta or salad. I look at this habit as being frugal with my time. It is just as easy for me to cook one pound of meat, as it is to cook two or three pounds and we can eat that food a second time without being bored. I really think this habit is a working girls healthy eating best friend. If I can whip up a healthy, made from scratch meal on a weeknight, I am less apt to eat junk.

I am a little behind on this post; I should have posted this a couple of days ago because we really made this meal the next day after our barbeque. What we did is we made the Spicy broccoli soba sauté recipe from Moosewood Restaurant New Classics and added reheated, leftover sliced pork on top. I have one tip about this recipe. I have made it several times. The recipe calls for one half pound of soba noodles. Soba noodles are expensive everywhere I shop for them and I have difficulty finding them. It seems like the stores I like to go to run out. Soba is quick cooking and thin in texture so it is really quite nice to use in this recipe. I have decided I really don’t mind a thicker textured noodle. Whole-wheat spaghetti makes a fine substitution. It has a similar nutty whole grain flavor. If you can find a whole grain angel hair, it would work well too. Whole grain pasta is definitely better on your pocket book than the soba. Also, since I don’t like to have a half-pound bag of pasta lying around, I double the recipe to use the whole pound since we like the leftovers for lunch.

Spicy broccoli “soba” sauté with barbequed pork

Adapted from the Moosewood Restaurant New Classics Cookbook by the Moosewood Collective

½ of a leftover barbeque pork sirloin chop per person, sliced

½ cup soy sauce

4 tsp sugar

4 tsp toasted sesame oil

2 tbsp cornstarch

2 tbsp brown rice vinegar (available in health stores) or rice wine vinegar or lemon juice

1 pound whole-wheat spaghetti

2 tbsp safflower oil

6 garlic cloves, minced

½ tsp cayenne

8 cups bite sized broccoli florets

½ cup water

1 cup sake

2 large carrots, peeled and grated

In a large pot, bring 6 quarts of water to a boil. Meanwhile, whisk together the soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, cornstarch, and brown rice vinegar until smooth. Set the sauce aside. When the water boils, add the spaghetti and boil according to package directions. While the noodles cook, warm the oil in a large saucepan or wok over medium heat. Add the garlic and cayenne and cook one minute or less until golden, stirring constantly. Don’t let the garlic burn. Stir in broccoli, water and sake. Cover and cook 3 to 4 minutes until the broccoli is tender but still bright green. Stir in the carrots and reserved sauce. Cook for a minute or two, until the sauce thickens. Drain the pasta and then add the pasta to the broccoli mixture, tossing until the pasta is coated with the sauce. Serve the pasta in bowls and top the pasta with the warm sliced pork.