I always like to do things with leftovers other than just stand there and eat them from the plate, sometimes with the refrigerator door still open. That's so trashy. But sometimes my concoctions turn out better than usual.
Last week we had a butternut squash, which I cut in two and baked in the oven. We ate less than half of it with dinner, leaving a lot of leftovers. My first thought was to use the rest for risotto, because we hadn't eaten rice for a while.
But as I started to bring out the things for dinner, I was reminded that we had half a red pepper in the fridge, not sweet enough to eat raw. And that we had a tray full of small red tomatoes, picked just before the vines got taken down for the year. They had been slowly ripening on the kitchen table for a week, but definitely showing their survivor status. They had hard dark blotches and tough skin, and inside they weren't the true red of a legitimately ripe tomato.
Sounded like both these red things wanted to become part of the risotto. I cut up the tomatoes, discarding most of the skin and cutting away some unappetizing parts of the insides. Cooked them up in a hot pan with olive oil, letting them brown (heck, even a bit beyond that) and then adding marsala to deglaze the pan. After they had cooked for a while, turning dark brown, I decanted them and sauteed the peppers in the same pan, along with garlic, decanting them as well when they were done.
By this time the vegetable count was getting pretty high, so I took only half the squash. As the rice cooked away (click here for the basic risotto tutorial), I mashed up the squash and added it to the bubbling pan. When you add raw bits of squash to risotto they retain their shape and crunch, but if you add cooked squash, it almost dissolves into a rich, creamy orange sauce, which was the mood I wanted now. Just before serving, I added the tomatoes and peppers along with all the brown liquid that had accumulated in the bottom of the bowl.
The risotto was wonderful, the best I've cooked in months.
But there was still squash left.
Plus some leftover mashed potatoes from an intervening dinner. Why not put them together for another leftovers du jour?
I mashed up the rest of the squash, added it to the potatoes, and mixed them up with two eggs. Sauteed a half an onion, then added the vegetables for a frittata/potato pancake.
Some black pepper and a touch of nutmeg tasted good. I thought of grating cheese over the top, but it seemed like overkill. The squash gave the frittata a nice warm glow but if you hadn't known that was the secret ingredient, you probably wouldn't have identified it.
Should I quit while I'm ahead and stop cooking leftovers for a while? All I can say is that our fridge currently holds none and we are feeling exceptionally well fed.