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ExtraVeganza logo, © variomatic

Sometimes you try a recipe and it immediately turns into a favourite. That happened this summer, when I served spinach pesto for the Italian Kookgrrls Cookalong.

I made it several times since and always to a great success. It came to a garden potluck and we spooned it out as a starter at a special dinner for my mother-in-law and one of her friends. The verdict is unanimous: this dish is GOOD!

So here’s the recipe, translated and slightly adapted from the Dutch vegetarian cookbook Gezond genieten: Mediterraan koken by Jan & Ineke Stevens.

Spinach pesto

Spinach Pesto with Olive Crackers (1st Kookgrrls Cookalong: Italy)

Ingredients

  • 300g clean fresh spinach
  • 2 tbs pine nuts
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic (to taste)
  • 3 sprigs of fresh basil
  • salt & pepper
  • a good variety of olive oil (extra virgin)

When it’s still wet from washing, put the spinach in a saucepan and cook the leaves on high for a couple of minutes while turning them over a few times — until welted but still bright green. Drain thoroughly.

Blend the cooked spinach together with the garlic (it’s best to start with one clove and add more if necessary), pine nuts and basil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Slowly add the olive oil until the pesto has a smooth consistency. Using a good type of oil improves the taste!

Now that’s easy, isn’t it?

This spinach spread is good with toast, crudités, as a side dish, on a sandwich and probably with pasta. And it’s perfect for bentos!

Courgette Flower Bento #193

Courgette Flower Bento #193

Summer Picnic Bento #191

Summer Picnic Bento #191

Bulghur Bento #190

Bulghur Bento #190

Don’t you think today’s office lunch looks really cheerful?! :D

Flowery Fall Bento #197

First tier
Red Batavia lettuce, French onion, cucumber and radish flowers finished off with African Peper Mix, salt, yuzu powder and nori cutting. Nooo, I did not do that by hand. ;) Oven-roasted butternut squash with coriander seeds in the cup, and a tiny tomato from the balcony.

Second tier
Seitan stroganoff and minty leek bulgur with a fresh mint blossom.

Third tier
The fruit tier: kiwi, red grapefruit, orange and home-grown yellow raspberries with a bundle of mint.

On the side
Dressing for the raw vegetables and more proteins: a soy caramel dessert.

A little of the fresh mint went into the bulgur, the rest I used for a cup of herbal tea. :)

This bento mostly consists of leftovers: the seitan, grains and pumpkin were all on the menu the past few days. The citrus wedges I put aside yesterday when I was having a bowl of fruit. So you see: it really doesn’t have to be a lot of work!

Now, maybe you’re wondering what happens to the cut-off pieces of crudités — I know I used to when I was a beginning bentoïst! But there are several solutions.

  • In this case they’re hidden beneath the flowers. :)
  • You can snack on them while compiling your bento.
  • They can be placed in an airtight container and refrigerated until evening or the next day, when you can throw them in a salad, soup, tofu scramble, stew or whatever.

Maybe you have an even better idea? Whatever you do: wasting them is not an option. ;)

ExtraVeganza logo, © variomatic

This is the first time in my 5 years of bento-ing that I’ve actually heated up an office lunch. One of the tiers anyway. Fall has definitely started so it was comforting to have a warm meal!

Heat Up Bento, 25-09-2012

Left(over) tier
Turkish rice with chickpeas, red lentil-cauliflower curry and briami (Greek layered vegetables from the oven). All leftovers from this week’s menu.

Right tier
Cumin spiced quick bread, dried apple and date, mixed sprouts, lettuce, mini plum tomatoes, corn on the cob and cucumber.

This office lunch for Friday May 11th completely consists of leftovers from previous days’ dinners. Fitting the theme, I had meant to submit it to the bento of the week challenge on the Bento Blog Network… Alas, I was too slow in posting. Never mind, the most important thing is getting to eat a meal like this! :)

Mushroom Bento (11-05-2012)

(Apologies for the overexposed pic!)

Left tier
Spicy spinach with sesame, tempeh bacon baran, nasi goreng (fried rice), beet cress, oven-marinated cremini mushrooms, mix of red leaf lettuce, rucola & turnip tops hiding underneath mushroom mix (purple oyster, fennel & Japanese nemeko), purple asparagus and two radish flowers.

Right tier
White asparagus cosying up to mushroom gravy, cucumber, nut mix (raisins & peanuts), bruschetta, soy tofu and cherry-rhubarb crumble — a combination of Jamie Oliver‘s and this recipe (or in Dutch).

I’d like a lunch like this every day!

Meatless Monday Bento (23-04-2012)

This week’s Meatless Monday Bento was chock-full of leftovers again.

There’s:

  • rice hiding under chilli (actually the last chowder-y bit of spicy tortilla chip soup without tortilla chips ;)
  • cauliflower-leek-radish stir-fry
  • a cooked apple with cinnamon and lemon juice
  • my very last hazelnut Easter egg
  • and a strawberry especially saved for the occassion.

So the only things left to do were:

  • throw in some seedless grapes,
  • cut a white and a red radish
  • & chop some cilantro.

Done!

Hello Japan! is a monthly mini-challenge focusing on Japanese literature and culture. Each month there is a new task which relates to some aspect of life in Japan. February’s mission is ‘Cooking Japanese’!

A while ago I promised you the recipe for Japanese sesame-crusted rice patties from The Vegetarian Table: Japan cookbook by Victoria Wise. They’re easy to make and you can do that from scratch — or use leftovers like I did. Don’t you just love leftover cooking? It feels like spring cleaning! ;)

Ingredients

This is what you need according to the recipe.

  • 1.5 cups basic steamed rice, warm or reheated
  • 1 tbs flour
  • 0.5 ts salt
  • 1 large or 2 small scallions, trimmed and minced
  • 1 tbs sesame seeds, preferably black
  • vegetable oil for frying

And here’s what I used instead. ;)

Ingredients for Japanese rice patties

As you can see I took some wilting leek, a mix of black & (toasted) white sesame seeds and ordinary cooked (not steamed) leftover Surinaamse long-grain rice.

Preparation

  1. Place rice, flour salt and scallions (= everything except sesame seeds and oil) in a medium bowl.
  2. With wet hands, mix until well blended.
  3. Form the mixture into ca. 6 patties, rewetting your hands as you go to keep the rice from sticking. But if you’ve ever made sushi you know that, right?
  4. Sprinkle both sides of the patties with sesame seeds, set them on a plate, and let rest at room temperature for 1 hour. I put them in the fridge and continued the next day.
    Japanese sesame-crusted rice patties resting before processing
  5. When ready to cook, pour a small amount of oil (more than enough to coat the pan but not so much as to float the patties), into a frying pan and heat until beginning to smoke.
  6. Place as many patties as will fit in the pan and fry over medium heat until lightly golden; about 1 minute. 
  7. Turn and fry until golden on the other side, about one minute more. Note: the frying took a little longer on both sides in my case and I actually turned them over twice.
  8. Transfer to a platter and continues until all your rice patties are fried.
  9. Serve right away.

Appreciation

Experimental Bento, 27-01-2011Now it’s important to look at the last remark. Serve right away. That’s not what I did: I left them to cool and put them in the fridge for next day’s lunch. So I have no idea what they taste like warm… Pretty dumb, I know. :\ And when I had them in my bento the following day, well, I admit they were a bit dry. This may have been caused by either one or all of next three options:

  • that I didn’t serve them right away,
  • refrigerating the patties, both before and after frying (refrigerating is known to dry-out rice, you shouldn’t really put sushi in your fridge either),
  • the use of Surinam long-grain rice instead of Japanese, which is supposed to be more sticky i.e. more moist.

Although the recipe didn’t call for an accompanying sauce I made a spicy soy-lemon sauce from the same cookbook for a dip. Alas, that was no real solution since it was too strong for the patties and took away their subtle flavour.

Will I make this recipe again? Yes, but only when I’ll be eating the sesame-crusted rice patties right away and/or have some Japanese rice to use up. I rather like Victoria Wise’s cookbook, so the fault probably lies with me. ;)

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New recipe(s) tried for the Whip Up Something New! Challenge!

Whip Up Something New! button

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Join Beth Fish’s weekend cooking with a food-related post!

Beth Fish Weekend Cooking logo

ExtraVeganza! buttonMy Monday lunch won’t be much of a surprise as I mentioned on Saturday it would contain quinoa. The following day I shared my Thai bean sprout salad recipe, revealing a tweaked version could be found in today’s bento too.

Well, I was glad with my meal anyway. ;) I made the leftover quinoa stir-fry with kale chilli and nuts look fancy by shaping it with an onigiri mold. But looks come second and yes — it still tasted good (both with and without shoyu)!

Quinoa Bento #131

Upper tier

  • Red lettuce
  • Taugeh (bean sprouts) & cilantro
  • Soy sauce fishy
  • Toasted peanuts
  • Homegrown garden cress
  • Mix of cucumber, grated carrot, a little bit of celery stalk and cilantro
  • Dressing container for the Spicy Bean Sprout Salad

Lower tier

  • Meatless Monday logoQuinoa stir-fry with kale chilli and cashews, nori details
  • Cherry tomatoes with basil
  • Radish flowers
  • Sauteed mushrooms with fresh herbs (left over from my Sunday lunch of mushroom bruschettas, inspired by Stephanie in the Whip Up Something New! challenge)

On the side

  • Pear and kiwi fruit
  • Ontbijtkoek with soy margarine & agave syrup (last minute addition, not shown)

I hope someone can answer the following question for me. I know 25 grams of (dry) beans in a meal combined with grains provide sufficient protein. Now bean sprouts were mung beans just a few days before… And the nutritional value of sprouty greens is much higher concentrated than their full-grown adult versions. So: does eating bean sprouts and grains at the same time work as well?

Just for the sake of argument I’m ignoring here that quinoa is really a grass seed and no grain. ;)

Other sources of protein in this bento are cashews, peanuts, mushrooms.

Meatless Monday button

Cherry tomatoes, too old to eat

Oooooops, I forgot to EAT these cherry tomatoes… Can’t throw them away though — let’s make some fresh tomato paste!

Making tomato paste in 4 steps, under 10 minutes

Cooked in a little bit of boiling water for a few minutes with an additional tomato, black pepper, salt, one-third of a basil herb cube (crumbled) and a pinch of sundried tomato and basil mix from FairTrade. For sieving I like to use a saucepan so I can hold both handles in one hand, locking pan and sieve together. Oh, and don’t forget to wear an apron! ;)

Fresh tomato paste made cherry tomatoes

And here’s the end result, to which I added a little boiling water in order to completely clean out my saucepan ;) Reheat to thicken if necessary. All done in less than 10 minutes!

Weekend cooking logoOf course there are many ‘optionals’ as well: you can add Herbs de Provence, onion, garlic, smoked paprika etc. And the options for using your fresh tomato paste are endless!

Photo set of the making proces on Flickr.
Dutch post on the Kookgrrls’ weblog.

Why don’t you join in the Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads as well?

I didn’t have time before to update you on this week’s bento #86: Gringo Bento. Called that way because of the Mexican foodies :) Although the American Heritage Dictionary classifies gringo as ‘offensive slang’, it has a positive ring for me because it sounds like the name of my gorgeous tomcat Ringo :)

Gringo Bento #86

Don’t you love the (organic) blue maize tortilla chips?! This must be a very healthy bento because I even exceeded the five colour rule ;) How many tints do you count?

The tier on the left contains corn cob, a slice of zucchini, parsley, homemade salsa picante (recipe below), a piece of carrot and something I call an avocado gringo, because it’s neither a quesadilla nor a burrito since it hasn’t been baked or grilled afterwards like the first, nor wrapped liked the latter. It consists of four layers of multigrain wheat tortilla with guacamole, salsa, lettuce and cheese in between.

As you can see I brought some red grapefruit in another side container. The bento box tier on the right contains pepitas (popped pumpkin seeds), sour cream for the bean dish, dried strawberries as a sweet, a mix of corn salad and plain lettuce and frijoles (kidney beans) with red bell pepper, corn, onion and zucchini.

It was yummy :)

CSA (and organic): lettuce, corn salad, corn, parsley, carrot.
Organic: wheat tortilla’s, tortilla corn chips, onion.

Salsa picante

Making salsa picante is really easy!

Needed:

  • 4 tomatoes without skin & hearts, roughly cut (look at Gnoe’s tip!)
  • 1/2 onion, peeled and roughly cut
  • 1 red pepper, de-seeded (or sambal, chili sauce or tabasco to taste)
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic (to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon of oregano
  • 4 tablespoons of tomato ketchup
  • salt & pepper to taste

Put all ingredients in a food processor and shred until smooth — or almost smooth. Et voilá!

If you don’t have a blender just cut the ingredients with a knife. This recipe is so flexible! You can use leftover tomatoes that have gotten overripe, or you could replace them by canned tomatoes, pureed etc. Instead of ketchup you can also take some tomato paste and add a bit of sugar or honey for sweetness. There’s almost no excuse not to make this salsa!

Last but not least, here’s Gnoe’s tip to undress tomatoes ;) The easiest way to peel tomatoes is to immerse them in boiling water for 1 minute after cross-cutting the skin. Drain, and immerse in cold water for about 5 seconds (or hold under the cold tab). The skin comes right off!

Recipe courtesy of Eethuis Iris

I should have taken my 66th bento on my 13,5 km NS-hike with the Wandelgrrls: Bieslandse Bos, from Delft to Zoetermeer. Why? Because it makes me think of the famous song Route 66! And… MaaikeB brought her first bento ever for lunch! She’s got the most beautiful bento box, a gift all the way from Tokyo. Lucky grrl! :)

Anyway, we took off early (for a Sunday morning) so I didn’t have much time to plan a real lunchbox. That’s why bento #66 only traveled by train from Utrecht to Apeldoorn on Monday ;) And it contained the following…

Upper tier

  • Salad of grilled zucchini and bell pepper, lettuce, tomato, spring onion, capers and basil leaves

Lower tier

  • Dried cranberries and strawberries
  • 1/4 mini quiche made of leftovers: chard, goats cheese (feta) with basil, pine nuts and egg
  • Carrots
  • Walnut
  • Basil and parsley

Gnoe goes ExtraVeganza!

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