Monday, March 15, 2021

The Life Cycle of Moroccan Lefftovers

I've had more experience with leftovers than you have. The only other statement I can make confidently about me and you is that I've eaten in more restaurants than you have. And the two are not unrelated.

When I was working as a food writer, my fridge was always full of greasy little bags. I was the "Mikey" of the food writing world - the guy they gave impossible, crushing, stupid assignments to. Newsday had me survey restaurants under the 7 train in Queens, and create an overview of all the best Puerto Rican restaurants in NYC. Time Out NY had me track down the best examples in the five boroughs of two dozen cuisines. My first book attempted to find 150 splendid "virgin" restaurants no one had previously written about (I cheated and threw in a few evergreens where conventional wisdom needed adjustment).

When you're fact checking 150 restaurants - or raking through the boroughs for Puerto Rican food - you're not eating every bite. Usually it's a single bite or two, and you bring home the rest. Circumstances forced me to became an accomplished and creative leftover reheater long before I learned to cook. In fact, my cooking could be viewed as an extension of my reheating.

The following shows the life cycle of a few copious foods I had in my fridge for a week. File it under Lefftovers.

Those are two containers of stewed vegetables on the left, three containers of mesmerizingly fluffy and massaged couscous on the right, and a potently concentrated container of short ribs in gravy.
Just for kicks, a kitchen background tour:
  • 1: Big version of my bagel plates
  • 2: Flour for a cracker-making project
  • 3: Semolina (for cracker-making project)
  • 4: Podiatric metatarsal pads
  • 5: Tomatoes "on the vine"
  • 6: Domaine Désiré Petit - Arbois-Pupillin
  • 7: Trader Joe's white grits.
  • 8: Dried flowers to give the place a perky touch
  • 9: Magic mushroom folk sculpture from a hilltop village in Oaxaca
  • 10: Rubbing alcohol
  • 11: Trader Joe's Chili Onion Crunch (my brain's on a permanent loop of believing I've run out. This is like my 73rd jar).
  • 12: Newsylum "Counting the Days" IPA, from historic Newtown CT by John Watson, the former homebrewer I wrote about here (search the page for "beer")
  • 13: Evil Twin "Harlan's Even More Jesus" beer
  • 14: Evil Twin "Even More Jesus" beer
  • 15: Black Diamond Cider "Porter's Pommeau"
  • 16: Trader Joe's "Taste of Vermont" maple syrup assortment
  • 17: Dried fenugreek for cracker-making project
  • 18: Zozirushi "fuzzy logic" rice cooker (has more computer power than Apollo 11. Me and Bob(TM) at one point considered using it to serve Chowhound. Currently inoperable, I'm stumped as to how to proceed).
  • 19: The Tailor of Panama by John le Carré
  • 20: Autographed copy of "Sizzle and Drizzle" by Nancy Birtwhistle
  • 21: Instant Pot. Bought five years ago, never used.
  • 22: Mortar and pestle
  • 23: Rolling pin for the cracker-making project
  • 24: Sample bottles of bourbon from a tasting 6 years ago.
  • 25: Maggi Seasoning ("improves the taste"). Note that this has been moved off my kitchen table since March, 2019.
  • 26: Big bag of spices from Penzey's for the cracker-making project
  • 27: Kayanoya Original Dashi Stock Powder
  • 28: Harry & David Pepper/Onion Relish
  • 29: Harry & David Contry Cranberry Relish
  • 30: Quite possibly the last surviving box of original-recipe Cope's Dried Sweet Corn on the planet
  • 31: Empty bottle of Chimay Anniversary Ale
  • 32: Maker's Mark (no, I'm NOT an alcoholic. Alcoholics don't have this stuff lying around. They drink it all up.)
  • 33: Vast pile of Chinese pu-erh tea
  • 34: Lots of cereal boxes, because I'm a grown-up and can have as much cereal as I want
Here it is in its full plated succulence:

There is a story about how I came to possess this blessed Moroccan wonderment. But I will not share that story today.

So here's the bite-for-bite:

Day two was a clone of Day one. Meat was finished.

Day three, I still had a little couscous and a bunch of vegetables. I broiled some salmon and topped the bowl with chunks of it. One of my nutrition axioms is that there must always be protein:

Day four, I realized I'd fail to properly dredge the vegetable containers, so heavier chunks were disproportionally left over. I served them over soba noodles:

...and topped it with leftover broiled salmon reheated with some onions I sautéd, and sprinkled with chili flakes:

Day five, breakfast. All I had was a precious small container of meat gravy (not vegetable broth). I heated it in a pan with leftover soba noodles, murasaka sweet potato, and chopped pea shoots, then served over an egg white omelet jazzed up with Trader Joe's Italian soffritto seasoning:

Thanks to the legendary Phil Simpson of PMS Graphics for assistance with the kitchen tour.

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