Tamar Adler's new cookbook on leftovers is encyclopedic, smart and useful

Tamar Adler’s new cookbook on leftovers is encyclopedic, smart and useful

Food writer Tamar Adler doesn’t know me. But after spending the last two weeks immersed in her 550-page ode to leftovers, I feel she “gets” me.

I am always writing about why it’s worth the money to buy local meat, poultry and seafood; milk, cheese and eggs; vegetables (fresh, frozen and preserved); beer and booze; And any other food stuff made by neighbors who take my appetites and the environment into account in equal measure. With respect to household budgets, I regularly point out in my prose and recipes, that if I’m going to spend my hard-earned money on local food, then I take pains to waste nary a penny’s worth of it.

Adler’s latest book, “The Everlasting Meal Cookbook: Leftovers AZ” is a handbook about doing just that. It’s encyclopedic in both its alphabetical listings of any ingredient any modern American kitchen might have and its 1,500 quick and mostly easy recipes for using them.

In her lovely lyrical 2011 book, “An Everlasting Meal, Cooking with Economy and Grace,” Adler explored the merits of cooking whole birds, understanding that leaves and stems of broccoli are delicious, eating more legumes, considering tinned fish, and making sure your beef was raised humanely. But she also espoused a philosophy of home cooking that placed left overs as active ingredients in the next meal. Never an exact replica of the previous night’s dinner but the ingredients that happened to be cooked the day before but could be transformed into new and mostly different dishes for dinner tonight.

In her new book’s introduction and in shorter essays leading into each of the 16 chapters, Adler, a cook whose knife skills were sharpened in the kitchen of renowned farm-to-table Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, once again conveys her culinary knowledge with an easy pen. Her fashionably worldly but homey food writing also now graces the pages of Vogue magazine.

But the usefulness of this book, released in March, lies in its imaginative ideas for rejuvenating things like your leftover, already dressed authority. Shred 3/4 cup of day-old Caesar salad into cornmeal pancake batter and slather the cooked pancakes with butter and parmesan cheese, for example. Combine two cups of Greek salad in a blender with olive oil, day old bread, sherry vinegar, cucumber and salad for a gazpacho-ish smoothie. Turn wilted green lettuce salad into a dressing for a new salad by whizzing the old salad up in a blender with chopped spring onions that have been soaked in lemon and just enough olive oil to give it a vinaigrette consistency.

Add blue cheese (in this case Fraffie from Spring Day Creamery in Durham) to savory oatmeal. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

As with her first book, the chapter titles are prescriptive. But inside those chapters are alphabetical listings of ingredients within categories. For example, in the “How To Be Renewed” chapter on dairy and eggs, Adler ranges from using bits of blue cheese crumble in a savory oatmeal dinner to putting spoonsful of whipped cream from last night’s cobbler into your morning coffee.

In “How to Speak Plainly,” she talks about using the remnants of rice and bean dishes for something new. She suggests, for one, making arancini poppers (Italian-inspired rice balls likely made from extra risotto sliced ​​in half, topped with cheddar cheese, ham and pickled chilis, placed under the broiler until bubbly). She rescues undercooked beans by simmering them in a flavorful fatty liquid.

In the “How To Save Your Soul” chapter on sauces and dips, she resurrects a broken aioli (my most frequent kitchen failure) into a creamy, garlicky pasta dish with toasted walnuts, parsley leaves and toasted breadcrumbs. Talk about making something out of nothing much.

The baseline for Adler’s way of cooking is this: Invest in the local food system and have the proper tools in your culinary arsenal to make sure you don’t waste a single morsel. This book is certainly one of them. My copy now lives on the kitchen counter because I plan to use it almost every time I cook.

Looking for a creative use for leftovers, and at the same time a fast dinner? Consider Savory Oatmeal with Last Night’s Greens and Crumbled Blue Cheese, topped with a fried egg. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Savory Oatmeal with Last Night’s Greens and Crumbled Blue Cheese

I am generally not an oatmeal fan as I was forced to eat the instant kind way too many mornings when I was growing up. But I took a risk and took Tamar Adler’s “don’t knock it till you try it” advice to use oatmeal as an interesting way to use up that last chunk of local blue cheese that was sitting in my fridge. You can add eggs or not. If you do, I think olive oil fried ones are a particularly good match. Confession: While I enjoyed the flavor of this dish, I’m still not an oatmeal fan. It’s the texture that gets me. But you may be, so here you go. The idea for the dish comes from Adler’s new book, “The Everlasting Meal Cookbook: Leftovers AZ.”


3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons finely diced shallot
1 cup raw rolled oats
2 to 2 ½ cups vegetable or chicken stock
Black pepper
1 ½ cups cooked hearty greens
Sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/4 cup roasted and chopped tomatoes
2 eggs, cooked as you like them (optional)

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 1-2 minutes. Add the oats and stir for 1 minute. Add 2 cups of the stock and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Simmer, stirring often, until creamy, 8-10 minutes.

While the oatmeal is cooking, warm the greens in a sauté pan or the microwave and live them up with a splash of vinegar.

When the oats are a texture you enjoy, stir the cheese and tomatoes into the oatmeal. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with the warmed greens, a drizzle of the remaining olive oil, and eggs, if using.

Local foods advocate Christine Burns Rudalevige is the editor of Edible Maine magazine and the author of “Green Plate Special,” both a column about eating sustainably in the Portland Press Herald and the name of her 2017 cookbook. She can be contacted at: [email protected]

Add a splash of vinegar to the leftover greens, which you’ll serve with the savory oatmeal. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

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