Recently I read a book by Neal Stephenson that captured my attention wholly for a few weeks in some groovy adventure, right? So how come the big detail that keeps rattling around in my head is a comment that one of the narrators makes early on about midwesterners doing some recombinant cooking?* Now every time I start making dinner, I have this Thing hanging over my shoulder asking whether I’m actually cooking or just recombining. Not that there’s anything wrong with a casserole, mind you – I like a casserole every now and then, myself. But I want to consider myself to be cooking when I’m, er, cooking.

Anyway! That thought, and the sudden grody heat spike yesterday, and a fridge full of leftovers,** got me thinking about recombining. And here’s what I came up with: a few simple dishes, some of them salads, all of them tasty, all of them quick. I don’t have a lot of exact measures on stuff because this is a leftovers thing, but none of it is hard to suss out if you taste as you go. Also, this may or may not be considered cooking.

Chilled Spaghetti and Anchovies
Leftover spaghetti, leftover anchovies that may have come with your pizza last week, a little bit of italian hard cheese (like parmesan or romano). Just chop the anchovies, mix them into the spaghetti, top with a smidge of cheese (not too much – the anchovies are already pretty salty). For fancier, add a few pine nuts.

Apples and Lime
I mentioned this one last post, but it’s worth mentioning again. Red delicious apples, sliced into 12ths, with half a lime squeezed over for each full apple. Shake it all up to make sure the lime juice gets around, and chill for half an hour in the fridge.

Grape Salad
Black grapes, halved, with fresh (the key here is fresh) chopped up oregano. Combine and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Chill in the fridge half an hour and serve.

Strawberry Salad
Similar to the black grape salad – slice the strawberries and add chopped fresh basil (again, fresh, not dried) to taste. Drizzle with apple cider vinegar, chill and serve.

Avocado On Whole Wheat Toast
This bears no explaining. Just smush an avocado half with a fork and spread it like butter onto the toast. If you want fancier, sprinkle some sesame seeds on that business. Might make you give up cream cheese – this stuff is heavenly!

Blood Orange Segments With Yogurt
Also stupid simple: supreme a blood orange, cut it into bite-sized pieces, and mix it into some vanilla greek yogurt. For fancier, add in some chopped peanuts (or walnuts or almonds – I just really like chopped peanuts with sweets). Ps – this is also delicious with fresh apricots. Or blackberries. Or apple hunks.

Cucumber Salad
Cut the cucumber in half; scoop out the seeds and discard. Cut the rest of the cucumber into matchsticks. Add in a handful of chopped fresh mint (again with the fresh***), the juice of half a lime, and a teaspoon of peanut oil. Top with crushed peanuts.

Second Day Rice
Toss leftover rice in a skillet with a little butter and a drop or two of sesame oil, and move it around until it’s a bit sticky. Add salt, pepper, and paprika to taste, squeeze in some lime juice, and add half a jar of sliced mushrooms. Top with sliced green onions.

And there you have it – simple stuff that uses leftovers or easy pantry items. The fruit salads might be a bit of a surprise to you – I never thought about putting those things together until I tried it out, and came away pleasantly shocked at how good it was. I hope you have the same experience =)

So – good stuff, right? Tell me what happens in your kitchen with simple and/or leftovers – I’d love to have more of these gems in my arsenal.


*Casseroles, cream of mushroom soup, Ritz crackers as topping – that sort of thing.
**Also, a couple weeks ago, I had a discussion with a desperate friend with what she claimed was nothing in the fridge. We played this game of What Can You Do With What’s In The Pantry – fun tiemz!
***If you need fresh mint, feel free to come to my house and get some. That stuff grows like whoa in our garden (and out into the lawn, whut. At least it smells nice when we mow, tho’, right?) and I would be pleased to gift you with some.