A few weeks ago, I was in Rockville, just outside Rockland, having a grand time giving a talk about “Grandmother’s Recipes” at the beautifully restored Rockville Chapel. Some who attended brought samples of their grandmother’s handwritten recipe notebooks and others spoke about their memories of grandmother’s and mother’s cookery. I always find these kinds of discussions so interesting, and I learn a lot.
One person spoke of a family dish called “Must Go Soup.” This is made of bits and pieces of leftovers all collected and made into soup quick before they spoiled. That inspired another person with German heritage to recall that the soup was called “Wochenende Suppe” or “Weekend Soup.” When I was growing up, this frugal dish was called “Looney Lou Soup,” because my mom’s name was Louise. Mom made a broth by adding water to any pan she cooked meat on, and loosened up all the browned, stuck-on bits, poured it off into a freezer container, and when she had enough, she made soup out of it with vegetables and potatoes. My dad’s name for it was “Heartburn Soup.”
I make soup like this all the time. I never named it. I’ll bet plenty of you, do, too. I look in the fridge and pull out any ragtag bits and see what will go together; if I am well enough organized, I will have saved vegetable cooking water, too, to use as a broth. Herbs, onions, garlic, even a shot or two of good old ketchup can add a bit of flavor. Periodically, I scout the freezer to see what I have squirreled away, thinking, “this is too good to toss but I don’t know what I want to do with it right now.”
In summer, this strategy can work with salad, too. A little bit of leftover chicken, ham, beef, salmon,or leftover vegetables, pasta, rice, beans–not enough to stand alone but too much to throw away, enhanced with a bit of favorite salad dressing, put on a bed of lettuce is just right for a hot night’s supper. It is a bit like a chef’s or Cobb salad, but less organized. Sometimes, I’ll cook a bit of fancy-shaped pasta, add the leftovers to it, add dressing, and serve that on lettuce.
To keep this mixture from being boring, and because most of us have pickles or olives around, you can always add those, too. One rib of celery or a small onion chopped and added can freshen up a ragtag mix.
Don’t forget that taking a bunch of leftover bits and adding scrambled eggs, turns fragments into an omelet or frittata. If your leftovers have a sauce, roll them into a crepe or a flour tortilla. You’d be amazed at what I can foist off on Toby for lunch by making it into a roll-up, especially if I add a bit of cheese.
Really, the trick to constructing a meal out of food that must go before it grows fuzz or acquires black spots, is being disciplined enough to pull out the collection in the fridge on a regular schedule. Weekend soup implies Friday or Saturday, but of course, you can pick any day.
Another trick is not to let a recipe get in the way. If you get stuck using recipes all the time, you risk wasting food. A recipe that calls for a quarter of a cup of chopped pepper, leaves a un-chopped pepper tossed back into the vege drawer where it might melt into oblivion before the next recipe calling for chopped pepper rolls around.
Here is what I made out of leftovers. This is a non-recipe but perhaps it will inspire you.
P.S. Last week, I misspelled the email address for the bookstore that is handling sales of the book I spoke of, Summer Food. Here is the corrected email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sandy’s Must-Go Soup or Wochenende Suppe
Part of a bunch of celery in dire condition
A cup of leftover sautéed chard, kale, and onion
A cup of cooked black-eyed peas
Some leftover rice and chicken (oops, too late, it got fuzzy)
Four pods of peas I missed when I picked peas out of the garden
About two cups of chicken broth with parsley and garlic pureed in it
Two cups of water with chicken bouillon dissolved in it
Chop the celery and cook it with a little olive oil in the saucepan with the lid on. Add the kale and chard, the black-eyed peas, the four pods of peas shelled out, and the chicken broth with parsley and garlic. Stir, and realize it needs more liquid, so dissolve the bouillon in the hot water, and add it. Perfect. Taste, add black pepper. Serve.
Made four servings.