It's no secret I love a good leftover. I mean, there are certain foods that just taste better after you've put them in the fridge and the flavors have married and set. Fried chicken; pizza; spaghetti?? Oh, man. SO GOOD. Hot OR cold! But who wants to eat spaghetti or fried chicken the same way over and over? In our house, I will make it for dinner, and then again for Adrian's lunch. So if we ate the same thing as a leftover, he would have it for dinner, for lunch, and for dinner again. Not the most favorite thing in the world.
On the other hand, it is also no secret I am extremely frugal. I cannot stand to throw away anything - ESPECIALLY food. I grew up with meager means and I know how many hungry people there are in the world. It's just not okay to throw food away simply because you don't want to eat the same thing too many times in a row.
Sometimes, I will freeze the leftovers if there are a ton. If I make chili or soup or some kind of pasta meal that goes a long way, I will make Adrian's lunch and then freeze the rest. We will defrost it and warm it up to eat a week or two later when the shelves are becoming bare and there is no time for a grocery store run.
But a lot of times - I reclaim it. I know that's not a proper culinary term, but it works for furniture. When you say you have "reclaimed" wood or furniture, it means it was originally used for one purpose, but was re-used for another. And when you use that term, you're using a word that makes hand-me-downs or leftovers sound trendy and relevant. So in order to make my food that is leftover at home sound trendy and relevant, I call it reclaimed food.
The kids have always teased me about it...although now that they are older, the teasing is more light ribbing with a side of respect and awe at the reclaimed culinary abilities I have honed as a skill in my home. They've always said, "Mom, you take Italian one night and turn it into Chinese the next!"
Well this time, I made Mexican and turned it into Greek! SO YUM.
Our friends, Micah and Ben Hester, came and had dinner with us. It was a nice little dinner of chicken and cheese quesadillas (made from leftover smoked chicken, by the way!) and Mexican rice. It was delicious and we followed it by a great game of Cranium (we're pretty sure the guys cheated, but the girls won), a sleepover, and an awesome breakfast. Lovely time and can't wait to do it again.
But there was quite a bit of chicken and rice leftover. So I froze it. A week later, I had no idea what to make for dinner and had no time to run by the grocery store. I was searching my freezer for something to defrost before I walked out the door for work. I took out the chicken and rice and noticed I had some phyllo dough in there I had forgotten about, too. So I thought about that all day, and here's what I came up with:
Leftover Mexican rice
Pistachios (I had a half uneaten bag so they were leftovers, too!), shelled and chopped coursely
One container feta cheese
Oregano, fresh or dried
Frozen spinach (organic, of course!)
1/2 cup wine
Organic grape or cherry tomatoes
Salt, pepper to taste
Chop the chicken up finely and add to leftover rice. Add pistachios, oregano, and feta (in this case, I had tomato basil feta in the fridge but any feta will do). At this point, you can add olives or mushrooms if you like! Mix together well. Defrost phyllo dough and gently lay out on counter. Pull one sheet out at a time, covering the rest until you need each sheet. Spray the phyllo sheet with cooking spray (I use organic extra virgin olive oil spray) and fold in half length-wise. Place 1/2 cup of the mixture at the bottom, fold a triangle of phyllo over the mixture and then continue to fold up over and over until the triangle completely uses up the phyllo. Place your traingles on a baking sheet and spray tops with cooking spray lightly. I sprinkled a tiny bit of kosher salt and cracked black pepper on top and baked for fifteen minutes until it was a beautiful, golden brown.
Put two tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in pan over medium heat. Meanwhile, sqeeze as much liquid out of the spinach as possible and place in heated pan. Half the tomatoes and toss into pan and add the wine and cook until absorbed by the spinach, about two minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. When heated through, place on plate and top with Mexi-Greek Burrito-kopita. Top with a dollup of Greek yogurt, if desired. I did.
What is sitting on your shelves that you put away and forgot about? Is it one thing that you can re-purpose for another? What about the shelves in your heart, full of memories? What can you re-purpose or reclaim that you can turn into part of the legacy you leave for your kids or the people you love so that in the face of it, they can respect and stand in awe of your ability to do so? Look around for inspiration and serve it with a nice glass of wine......whether it's your leftover food or your leftover life, it makes a great recipe for success.