Love For Leftovers

Initially, this post was going to bear the title “No Love for Leftovers,” because I have NO love for them at all. Fore me, leftovers for maybe one meal and then I’m SO done. I don’t like to think of myself as a food pusher but that doesn’t mean I’m not one. I feel great shame in admitting that when faced with having to eat my own leftovers, I do push food. My victims probably don’t like it any better than I do.

When my kids were in college, they were all about the leftovers. But now that they’re grown and enjoy cooking for themselves, the needle on the enjoyment meter points to “Not So Much” when they’re met with a teetering tower of plastic containers.

And so, dear readers, you may ask: “Then why not make smaller batches?” The short answer to that question is: I’m trying. The long answer consists of a walk through my personal history starting with my parents and grandparents who passed along well-established survivalist habits from WWI, WWII, The Great Depression and The Dust Bowl. It could be my genetics but I suspect that “nurture” trumps DNA all over the place. That makes the better question: “What ON EARTH are you going to do with all those leftovers?” Today, I have what I think is a pretty darned good answer!

Cauliflower Gratin!

This is so simple and fast you are going to drop your teeth! Using 4 ingredients (that’s right FOUR), I intend to whip up something glorious!

Remember the Potato Leek soup from day-before-yesterday? It was delicious. And I’ve had two meals of it which is my max. So today I’ll be using that, plus a small head of yellow cauliflower (another refugee from the fridge), PLUS some pita chips that have haunted my pantry for a couple of months (HOW LONG??? … yes, that’s right, but if you put them in a Lock & Lock container, they’d probably make it through the rest of the year), AND 1/2 cup of grated Gruyere (my favorite cheese).

Again, this is NOT vegan, but it IS vegetarian, and if you make that soup recipe with the suggested alterations, this CAN BE vegan (I have a substitute option for the cheese later on). So … here we go!

Cauliflower Gratin

  • 1 1/2 cups Potato Leek Soup (see 2/5 blog post)
  • 1 1# head of cauliflower (any color)
  • 1/4 c. bread crumbs (I’m using the aforementioned pita chips)
  • 1/2 c. grated gruyere

Preheat your oven to 375. This makes a smaller portion (surprise!), so I’m going to use my countertop oven to save energy.

This saved my bacon over Christmas when my oven went out!
Break the cauliflower into florets
Bring 4 cups water to boil, add florets, cook for 3 minutes til not quite tender.
Assemble the FOUR, count ’em FOUR, ingredients and baking dish.
Florets, soup, gruyere, “bread” (aka PITA) crumbs.

Again, this is the leftover Potato Leek Soup from Wednesday’s blog. I used my Ninja “Bowl” food processor to make the crumbs with the pita chips and I also used the Ninja for the cheese to save having to grate it by hand.

A small handful of chips yields about 1/4 cup crumbs, and 2.5 oz. of gruyere, blitzed in the Ninja, yields about the 1/2 cup suggested. You can always add more cheese, or use more crumbs, depending on your taste.

As I mentioned, this is a vegetarian recipe; however, to make it vegan, start with the soup recipe. Be sure to follow the conversion suggestions on that blog: Coconut milk/cream instead of heavy cream, vegetable stock instead of chicken stock, and plant-based butter/marg or olive oil instead of real butter. Alternatively, you can leave the fat out altogether and saute’ the veg in broth instead.

From there, continuing with the vegan alterations to the soup, to make the cheesy crumb topping, use your food processor to crumble up toasted cashews with nutritional yeast and there you have it … “cheesy” goodness. You won’t get the melt but the texture is still good. I also recommend making your own plant-based Gruyere to crumble over the top if you have the time. Miyoko’s Artisan Cheese book has a super simple process for doing it and it is fantastic!

Now, getting back to our cauliflower recipe …

Use 1/2 of the soup in the bottom of the dish.
If you don’t like the odd lump of potato, you can blitz while you have your food processor out.
Arrange cauliflower in dish.
Cover with the remaining soup.
Combine crumbs and cheese
Sprinkle crumbs and cheese over the top of the cauliflower.
Bake at 375 for 25 minutes.
BeeYOOteeful … GBD all over!

If you want a nice, neat slice, let it sit for about 15 minutes out of the oven. Otherwise, dig in.

For ONCE I didn’t make a huge batch and I am so proud of myself! Just shows to go ya (as my daddy woulda said) that you CAN teach an old dog new tricks! Just need to stay learned, is all.

This recipe serves 2-4, and if you want it as a side dish, it should make for about 4-6 reasonable portions.

I hope this inspires you to take a look at your leftovers and use your imagination. Get in there and think outside that box!

If you’re like me and you really dislike having the same thing 4 or 5 days in a row, this is a great way to save money, save time, use what you have in your fridge that might otherwise get thrown out (you can also use broccoli instead of cauliflower), practice your cooking skills, and discover some delicious food in the bargain.

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