Archive for the ‘Kitchen economy’ Category

This year I’m trying to be more mindful of how much waste I produce in my kitchen. We cook a lot but also love to dine out. Sometimes it’s hard to balance the short shelf life of items in our fridge with the time we have to cook them. I throw stuff into our small freezer constantly. The half can of tomato paste we didn’t use up goes in a Ziploc and into the freezer. Lemons and limes past their prime are squeezed and the juice is frozen into little cubes for future use. Leafy greens, despite my best intentions, are often blanched and frozen as well. Leftover egg whites freeze great and while they may not be ideal for meringues after thawing out, they are great for cocktails.

I recently found myself with a couple leftover nubs of blue cheese that would inevitably go to waste when I remembered an old recipe for compound butter. Compound butters freeze great and can also be made using leftover herbs. A small slice of one of these flavorful butters takes steamed vegetables from simple to sublime in the time it takes for the butter to melt. A hunk of blue cheese butter on a grilled steak makes a home cooked meal feel downright indulgent.

Blue Cheese Compound Butter
Adapted from Alton Brown’s “I’m Just Here for the Food”
Alton’s recipe is about 3x the size of the recipe below which is great for a crowd…but for just two people with a little blue cheese to use up, the modified recipe below is just right.

1/2 tsp olive oil
1 Tbsp minced shallot
Pinch of chile flake
3 tsp dry white wine or dry vermouth
1 Tbsp minced parsley (optional)
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
¼ pound blue cheese at room temperature
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat a sauté pan over medium heat and add the oil; add the shallots and sweat for 1-2 minutes then add the chile flakes to toast. Add half the parsley (optional) and toss to coat with the oil then add the wine. Remove from heat. Beat the butter with a hand blender or in a stand mixer for one minute. Add the shallot mixture and blue cheese and beat to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Fold in the remaining parsley, if using, and transfer the butter to waxed paper. Roll into a log and freeze until hard. Remove from the wax paper and transfer into plastic wrap and then roll in foil. Store in the freezer for up to 4 months.

When ready to use, unwrap the log and slice off as many discs as you need for steak and/or veggies and allow to come up to room temperature for about an hour.

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I am so glad you are still reading because that has got to be the worst title ever. If nothing else, I am pretty honest. Since leftover steak is what this post is about, that is the title. I probably could have gotten away with the title MAGIC! because that is what happens when you take leftover steak and transform it into something different.

There really isn’t any dish that tastes as good the next day. Pizza tastes different, chili and spaghetti sauce may taste better, but trying to recreate the exact meal you had a night or two ago from the leftovers in your fridge rarely happens. Thanksgiving dinner may be the only exception.

Leftovers are a reality for us all however and I think if you are creative, you can find some way to make use of them. Think about how many uses you find for that leftover turkey after Thanksgiving: Turkey soup, turkey pot pie, turkey sandwiches, and on and on.

We had a great meal out the other night at The Met – a Seattle steakhouse that is one of my favorite (and most expensive) guilty pleasures. Truth be told, I can’t finish a whole steak anymore. Especially since our favorite steak at The Met is the long-bone rib-eye. We first tried this steak last winter and decided to go for it again. While we managed some self-control and decided to share the steak, 36 ounces is a whole lotta meat. That meant leftovers.

In the back of our minds, I think the Mister and I were both looking forward to leftovers, since we knew that would mean steak sandwiches. Gavin made up the sandwich below from leftovers from our last steak, and it’s a keeper. This is a very ad-hoc recipe. Feel free to adapt it to your own preferences. You may prefer a different type of bread or cheese. I have made it with caramelized onions and blue cheese and it is insanely delicious. I think the only key elements are the steak (obviously), the mayo and the butter. There is no sense trying to make this sandwich low calorie, low-fat or at all healthy. So don’t try.

Steak Sandwiches

Leftover steak, sliced thin
Onion, thinly sliced
Dijon or spicy mustard (I like Edmund Fallot, the hubs likes Gulden)
Cheddar cheese
Sliced sourdough bread

Butter what will be the outsides of each slice of bread liberally. On the inside of each slice of bread, spread a generous amount of mayo. Add a little mustard to one side as well. Place the slices in a skillet over low heat, butter side down. Sprinkle some or all of the onions on one side and slices of the cheese on the other.

In the meantime…heat another skillet over medium heat. Melt a little butter in the pan and then add some of the onions (unless you want them all raw). Add the sliced leftover steak. Sauté until the meat is warm through and all the pink (if there was any), is gone.

Transfer the hot onion and meat mix to one side of the bread. Top is with the other slice of bread – butter side up. Raise the heat to medium and cook and flip until each slice of bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted. Slice in half and enjoy.

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Last year we took an Italian cooking class from the chef at one of our favorite Italian restaurants. The chef’s famous lasagna was part of the curriculum and we were excited to learn his secrets. We had been making our own lasagna for some time, homemade noodles and all, but knew we could do better. The class was fine, albeit it a little unorganized, and the chef was very knowledgeable and friendly.

Something he said though bugged me and has stuck with me over since that time. When he was separating eggs for the pasta dough, he said “you know the difference between men and women, is that women separate eggs like this (transferring the yolk between two cracked halves of the shell) and men separate eggs like this (placing the yolk into his hand and letting the white drip down into the garbage can). This struck me as needlessly sexist. Maybe it wasn’t meant that way, but it still bugged the shit out of me.

Since then, every time I separate eggs I think about that. Recently, it dawned on me that women separate eggs that way because THEY SAVE THE EGG WHITES! Sure, many male cooks probably do too. And I can’t imagine that a restaurant would throw away valuable product. But I think many men just throw away the egg whites, whereas most women save them.

I am a big fan of eggs. I think they are brilliant whole, but the yolks and whites are also amazing when used separately. I make a lot of custards and egg-based sauces, so I often have saved egg whites in my fridge. Leftover egg whites are great if you can find a use for them. I understand you can freeze them too, but I haven’t tried that yet. If I have three egg whites, I save them for these Swedish cookies I often make. If I have one egg white, I generally mix it in with one or two whole eggs for scrambled eggs. If I have just two egg whites though, I got nothing.

Lately I’ve been making a lot of ice cream. The custard base calls for 5 egg yolks. So, I have had five egg whites to use up after: that’s t three for the cookies and two for…two for…grrr. What can I make with two eggs whites?!

I don’t know where I saw them recently (probably the food network), but I saw meringues and thought, “BINGO!” Meringues use egg whites and I have plenty of those. I did a quick search on the new Epicurious iPhone app and found a simple recipe. The only key really is to make sure you get the egg whites stiff enough.


2 large egg whites
1/2 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 200°F. and butter and flour a large baking sheet, knocking off excess flour. In a bowl with an electric mixer beat whites until they hold soft peaks. Gradually add sugar, beating, and beat until meringue holds stiff, glossy peaks. Drop heaping teaspoons (not measuring spoons) of meringue about 1 inch apart onto baking sheet and bake in middle of oven 45 minutes. Turn oven off and leave meringues in oven 1 hour more. With a metal spatula transfer meringues to a rack to cool completely. Meringue kisses may be kept in an airtight container at room temperature 5 days.

I don’t have a decent pastry bag, so I used a ziptop plastic bag and cut a small corner off and used it as an improvised pastry bag. The meringues are tasty enough, even if they look like little white turds.

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In the winter of 2007, I saw a magazine cover that said “Homemade Maraschino Cherries.” I have been a Manhattan drinker for years and long ago eschewed those bright red abominations found on supermarket shelves. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED those cherries as a kid. Especially if they were served in a Shirley Temple or Mormor’s lime jello molded salad.

I promptly bought that issue of Imbibe magazine and almost immediately signed up for a subscription. Based in Portland, OR, Imbibe magazine packs every bi-monthly issue with cocktail history, bar essentials, recipes, reviews on spirits, beer and the occasional non-alcoholic beverage.

The recipe for maraschino cherries is simple. Put fresh, clean, pitted cherries in a jar and top with maraschino liquor. What could be easier than that?! Well…first, I needed to find maraschino liquor.

Last winter passed and I still never found maraschino liquor. In fact, I had never even tasted it. I figured it tasted like cherries. In May of last year that changed on a trip to the Zig Zag Cafe. The bartender Murray schooled us about many things, including maraschino. First, we learned that it is pronounced maraskeeno. We also learned that it provides many cocktails – particularly those bourbon or gin-based cocktails I love so much – with a sweet, nutty flavor that can’t be beat.

Finally, in the fall of last year I found a bottle of maraschino…in Manhattan. I ended up buying it, toting it home and giving it a good home in my liquor cabinet. It only recently got some action when it made its way into an Aviation, but more on that later.

Local cherries (well, WA state at least) are in season, so I dusted off that old recipe and got to work. Pitting cherries is a hell of a job, made only mildly easier by a cherry pitter. As the recipe says…all you have to do is pit the clean cherries and put them in a jar and top with maraschino liquor.

And wait.

Place the jars in the fridge for a week or two, turning them daily to evenly distribute to liquor. They’ll keep fresh for about a month. Although with that much alcohol, I suspect I they’ll last a lot longer.

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2009 is off to a great start, even with friends getting laid off left and right, and my own job less than stable. I’ve been able to stick to at least one of my New Year’s resolutions, which is (other than being a record!) to live more frugally.I’ve added a few new words and concepts to my culinary repertoire. They include ‘budget’, ‘frugal’ and ‘no waste.’

OK, I’ll be honest. My idea of frugal and your idea of frugal may not be exactly the same thing. I’m still living pretty high on the hog compared to most. There has been such a trend in newspapers (R.I.P Seattle P.I.), magazines and blogs towards frugal cooking, that I have been inspired. I am trying to cook out of what’s in the pantry (lots of dried beans and grains), waste less food and be mindful of sales and deals.
It is a really good discipline to get into, since it is preparing me for the worst case scenario.

I came across a great blog called The Simple Dollar because of their great breakfast burrito idea. The concept is that you can make really tasty breakfast burritos – in bulk – for freezing and reheating later.

With these breakfast burritos in the back of my mind, I continued with my plans of cooking out of the pantry (supplemented by the bi-weekly basket of organic produce we have delivered) and not wasting what we have in the refrigerator.

It started with the cheese. We’ve been working through a big block of mozzarella that we bought for a party a few weeks ago. The cheese would NOT be wasted! There are almost always cans of black beans and corn in the pantry and eggs in the refrigerator. All I needed to buy were some tortillas and salsa. I had a red pepper and an onion left from our produce basket that I sauteed up with plenty of salt and pepper. I probably could have spiced it up even more. Or, I could have skipped this altogether or subbed in fresh scallions. I had the pepper and onion though, so I used them.

Assembly line style, I lined up the tortillas and topped them with cheese, beans and corn, and the pepper/onion mix.
For the eggs, I scrambled one egg per burrito. You could less or more depending on how many of the other ingredients you have. You could even substitute in some egg whites, if you are into that sort of thing. I undercooked them a bit, as Simple Dollar recommended. Then, I spooned the eggs and some tasty salsa on top of the rest of the ingredients and was ready to roll.

Each tortilla was simply placed on a piece of plastic wrap and rolled tight. I wrapped them in a
second layer of plastic wrap just to be safe. All the the burritos were then placed into a ziptop freezer bag and into the freezer.
Reheating the burritos is simple. I’ve already had two and they tasted great. The key when you microwave them is to wrap them in a paper towel. You set the microwave on the defrost setting for about 2 minutes (I turn the burrito over halfway). Then, zap them on high for another 1-2 minutes, unwrap and eat.

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