Gratin with Béchamel Sauce from leftover pasta; Rosé Berry Compote from past peak berries and Coconut Macaroons or meringues from extra egg whites – some of the French-inspired recipes LA food photographer-writer Sylvie Shirazi shared with Nancy Gershman of Expendable Edibles.
Sylvie Shirazi: “The philosophy behind Expendable Edibles resonates with me because one of my earliest memories is of my grandparents never throwing food away, always re-purposing leftovers. They survived the food scarcity in France during WWII. Tops of stalks went into the soup pot. Leftover potatoes went into a gratin for the next day. So growing up I was always aware that cooking meant using up as much as possible. Expendable Edibles reminds me of that mentality.
Waste is a new problem in society. It didn’t exist for prior generations. But everyone has leftovers. And how you deal with it determines how much you can lower your food bill.. It takes time and creativity to reuse leftovers enough so that you’ll want to eat them a second day.”
Keep it in season: Try not to mix Winter with Summer
“My general rule of thumb is to keep seasonal ingredients together rather than try to combine root vegetables with spring vegetables. Otherwise flavors clash and overpower one another.
Knowing what you like in prepared dishes comes with experience. But once you have a good grasp of what goes together in cooking, you can take those ingredients and recombine them in interesting ways. Each culture has its own set of flavors; learning them and creating new dishes becomes easier over time. I’m strongly influenced by the flavors of the Mediterranean and gravitate towards those ingredients in my cooking. You will often find me using garlic, thyme, olives, olive oil, goat cheese and feta in my recipes.”
Gratin with Béchamel Sauce from leftover cooked pasta
“I use leftover cooked pasta to make a quick Gratin with Béchamel Sauce, similar to Mac N’ Cheese. Heat the oven to 350–400 degrees. Layer leftover pasta (dressed or not) in an oven-proof pan and pour the béchamel sauce on top. Pop it in the oven, topped with grated Swiss cheese until nice and bubbly (just enough time to give the cheese a nice golden color).”
Frittata from yesterday’s veggies and pasta
“Throw leftover cooked vegetables and pasta (or rice) into a frittata. Combine eggs with the cooked vegetables, add 2 tablespoons heavy cream, and 1/4 to 1/2 cup grated cheese. Cook the frittata until it sets on the bottom; then pop the pan under the broiler just until the top is nicely browned (about 5-10 min).”
Mixed vegetable soups from roasted vegetables
“Put roasted winter root vegetables (like potatoes, carrots, turnips) or summertime vegetables (like broccoli or corn) into a food processor and turn them into soup by adding vegetable stock. A soup made with leftover roasted butternut squash seasoned with a little olive oil, earthy cumin, salt and pepper can be fantastic. You can top it with the roasted seeds you saved when you carved the squash. People think only pumpkins have seeds that you can roast but really any squash – butternut, acorn – works too.”
Collect negligible quantities in your freezer for a rainy day
“If you find that you don’t have enough cooked vegetables to make a new dish, keep a container in the freezer and put your negligible amounts of leftover vegetables in there until you need them. Once you collect enough, make your soup.”
Create sweet truffles and mix-ins from a disastrous dessert
“When cakes and brownies don’t come out quite right – maybe they got a little undercooked in the middle - roll and smash them into little balls, and dip these balls into melted dark or milk chocolate. Alternatively, throw the balls in ice cream, making a “mix-in” with the bits and pieces. You can also turn failed desserts into decadent parfaits by alternating layers of yogurt sweetened with honey and crumbles of cookies, or whatever you have on hand.”
Make breadcrumb toppings from crushed crackers
“I like to turn crushed crackers into breadcrumb toppings I’ll use in a gratin, or in any recipe that calls for breadcrumbs. A trick for smashing them finely is to put them in a sealed plastic bag and go over them with a rolling pin a few times.”
French cheese spread from garlic, white wine and cheeses
“Any leftover bits and pieces of cheese in the fridge can be made into a French cheese spread called Fromage Fort. Put your cheeses into the food processor, add peeled garlic, white wine (or dry vermouth if you have it) and blitz it until creamy. The taste is very strong -as the name suggests. Try to keep like-cheeses together; either all cow or all goat, or similar strength cheeses. As long as they have the same flavor profile, your Fromage Fort will work out really well.”
Antipasti spread from marinated vegetables
“You can make spreads out of marinated artichoke hearts, capers, red peppers, olives– basically anything that would come out on an antipasto tray. Either pureed or finely chopped, the flavors will all combine well together. I like making different spreads to use in sandwiches and wraps.”
Compound butter with leftover herbs
“Making a compound butter with herbs is a wonderful way to use up extra herbs. Use parsley and chives for example (a few tablespoons per stick of butter), chop them up really finely, and whip them with softened unsalted butter and a pinch of sea salt or fleur de sel which has a delicate flavor. What’s great about compound butters is that they are immediately ready to use, or can be stored for later use. Roll Herb Butter up in parchment paper and store it in the freezer for a few months, or a couple of weeks in the fridge.
See my sweet version of compound butter made with blackberries.”
Broccoli slaw from broccoli stalks
“Everybody throws broccoli stems away but they’re just as edible as the florets. Slice them thinly and sauté the medallions in olive oil and garlic. Or shred them in a food processor with some carrots to make a slaw; dress with Asian vinaigrette made from rice wine vinegar, soy sauce and a few drops of sesame oil and top with toasted sesame seeds.”
Candied grapefruit-mandarin-orange peels
“Instead of throwing citrus peels away, I keep a re-sealable bag in the fridge. When the bag is full, I candy them. It’s a perfect by-product of eating oranges! But you don’t have to candy just orange peels, I also candy grapefruit, mandarin and lemon peels.
Confetti garnish from carrot, celery and fennel leaves
“People dispose of the leaves on carrot, celery or fennel tops too quickly but they can be a great replacement for parsley as a garnish. Collect all three, and use the finely chopped leaves over a raw shredded carrot salad.
See my cooked Carrot and Watercress Salad.”
Wine-steeped Swiss chard stems
“Braise Swiss chard stems by simmering them in white wine and/or broth and olive oil just until tender. Season with a pinch of salt. (This treatment doesn’t work as well on kale or collard greens which tend to have tougher stems.)”
Rejuvenate shriveled up dried fruit with wine
“If you ever find yourself with dried fruit that could use some softening, macerate it with the last drops of wine left in a bottle. Then you can use the fragrant macerated fruit to make a parfait. Or you can swirl the pieces into ice cream (for example, making your own rum raisin ice cream!). Cook the fruit down further and make a compote, adding cloves and cinnamon, dried apricots and prunes.”
Souring dairy products as a baking liquid
“I’ll bake with anything about to go sour. I find it’s the safest way to use up a dairy product on the verge because of the high temperatures. If I find a dairy product (like milk or yogurt) about to turn, I look at their current condition as an excuse to make a cake, quick bread or muffins!”
Coconut Macaroons or meringues from extra egg whites
“Whenever I have only egg whites left over from making a pound cake (or other recipe that calls for egg yolks only), I’ll make coconut macaroons. I mix egg whites, sugar and shredded unsweetened coconut with vanilla, pile them into small mounds and pop them in the oven. When cool, I dip the macaroons in chocolate to make it even more decadent.
Rosé Berry Compote from past peak berries
“When berries over-ripen I may do a couple of things:
- When fruit gets too soft, I use it for jam.
- If dealing with particularly mealy pears or apples, I bake them into tea bread or muffins.
- If the fruit is firmer, I’ll make a fruit crumble.
- If your berries are less than perfect and slightly smashed, I’ll make a mixed berry sauce.
- If I see fruit just beginning to turn and don’t have time to cook them, I’ll wash and flash freeze them to use at a later date.
See my recipe for Mixed Berries in Rose Wine Fruit Soup with Honey Mascarpone.
Panzanella Salad and Savory Bread Pudding from stale bread
“My number one solution for stale bread is Panzanella Salad. Panzanella salad is traditionally a salad of toasted stale bread cubes and tomatoes popular in the summer, but you can make it any time of year with whatever leftover vegetables and stale bread you have on hand. It’s a great way to incorporate any past peak vegetables you might have in the fridge like tomatoes and cucumbers. I will add a little fresh cut basil or an herb that adds a fresh and bright flavor – like oregano – and dress it with balsamic vinaigrette.
Savory bread puddings also use up dried out bread, and can be made using a combination of vegetables and cheeses. (One pairing I often make is spinach, feta and sun dried tomatoes). I tend to jam pack my savory bread puddings with lots of vegetables, cheese and bread. If you’re having a brunch party, bread pudding can be prepared ahead of time. Just let the bread soak in the custard overnight in the fridge and bake the next morning.”
Going away? Flash Freeze wash-n-dried fruits
“Whenever I’m going away and will be out of town for a couple of weeks, I flash freeze my fruit. First I’ll wash and dry them thoroughly, and place them on a sheet pan or on multiple small pans which I stack in the freezer until the fruit is completely frozen. The next step is to pour the fruit all into freezer-safe bag or container. But now because of this 2-step freezing process, they won’t clump!”
My Costco addiction?
“I call Costco The Hundred Dollar Store because I never leave there without having spent at least $100. My Costco addiction is The La Brea Bakery Bread, baked on premises. Its smell is taunting! And because you have to buy it in a multi-pack I will set some bread aside and put the rest in the freezer. Those loaves get me every time.”
Gourmande in the Kitchen: Sylvie Shirazi shares simple everyday recipes on her blog that celebrate the joy that food brings to our lives. Her motto is: cook simply. You don’t always need a lot of time or a long list of ingredients to make satisfying and delicious food. Through her blog, Sylvie hopes to inspire others to follow their instincts, trust their taste buds, and find a sense of confidence in the kitchen.
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