As a young girl I sat at my mother's kitchen table listening to her converse with friends as they sipped pots of strong black coffee, wondering how they knew what to say to each other and when to switch from one subject to the next without hesitation. I looked for signs, gestures, changes in expression, but saw none.
I believe my life-long career as a listener began at this point, not because I was interested in what other people had to say, but because I didn't know what to say myself. But to talk to strangers! To network! To move toward inquiring about jobs was more than I could handle, which is why I initially became the Leftover Chef. It gave me something to do in between collecting unemployment checks.
My idea was to "create a brand" for myself, which is what my job club had advised. You see, I was listening!
I realized that I was someone on a fixed income who could demonstrate how to get by without buying anything. My elevator speech unfolded right before my very eyes. Night after night after I prepared dinner from the few fixings in my cupboard, an idea began to form. TV's Food Network made altogether too many demands on the budget, requiring that the cook had actually gone grocery shopping earlier in the day to prepare for some themed repast. Stews, barbecue, Southern cooking, tiered desserts, French omelettes. Not in my condo, which was now seriously underwater; I carved my meals from the back of my refrigerator and from the very shadows of canned food shelves where I had never gone before, a kind of Star Trek of the stomach. I decided to share, collect recipes and market myself to a niche that as far as my preliminary research had indicated, was nicheless. And so I offer these recipes.
All recipes are meant as guidelines for your own hands and tastes to annoint. They are not from a famous food author who has spent a lifetime researching the cuisine of a certain culture. No way. They come from daily life, from ingredients that the average household has forgotten.
In time the innards of the refrigerator become exposed. Ketchup, mustard, relish, chutney, horseradish, jams, not to menton the many food items a shopper may capture one weekend from the supermarket thinking to experiment or try a new product only to be swept up in the demands of the week. However, in the world of the Leftover Chef, job routines in addition to a regular paycheck, have ceased to exist, which offers a new-found freedom.
What now stands in full view is the reminder of a food budget poorly managed. This is where the Leftover Chef steps in to concoct all manner of new approaches to eating. See it as a challenge of having to do with less, or a part of the green movement to recycle leftovers.
Use the recipes to plummet through the shoals of your creativity, an invitation to discover your own potential in lean times. Here's the first step:
Half a head of cabbage
Any part of an onion
Tomatoes from the rejected produce section
Any other wilting veggies
Bits of leftover meat (optional)
Salsa molding at back of the refrigerator (dig to the bottom where the stuff is okay)
Liquid of any kind including chicken broth, white wine, or plein de water
Seasonings like chile powder or hot sauce
Noodles of any kind
In a separate pan, boil water, cook noodles, drain and set aside.
Heat up a large frying pan on the stove. Pour in about 2 tablespoons of oil.
Don't cry. Put on sunglasses and dice the onion. Things will get better. If you have different onions wrapped up in plastic like a half of a red and yellow, both or either will work. Saute in the oil.
As the crow flies north, cut the cabbage into strips and place into the pan with the sauteed onions. Mix around on a low flame until everything is soft about 5 to 10 minutes.
Slice your tomatoes and throw them into the pot to create a nice mush.
Slice and add any other wilting veggies like celery or broccoli from the "crisper." Cook everything together for another 5 minutes, stirring during commercial break.
Dice any leftover meat like chicken, turkey, or tofu sausage. If you don't have any, don't sweat it.
Just get the salsa from the side of your refrigerator and measure out about 2 Tablespoons into the mix.
Add a cup of some liquid.
Add seasonings to taste.
Mix in the cooked noodles and cook and stir some more.
Serve with a cool glass of water. For a nice touch, add a lemon slice.