I love leftovers. I have matured a great deal since my childhood days when I would turn up my nose and/or roll my eyes when my mom proclaimed it was leftover night. I now get great satisfaction of using up what is on hand, taking leftover food and re-imagining it into a new dish.
One food that lends itself to particularly tasty leftovers is ham. And when you prepare a ham for two people, no matter how small the ham, leftovers are a forgone conclusion. My mom and I had ham for dinner this week, and I was able two create two new ham dishes on the subsequent nights.
Wednesday night I successfully integrated the ham into a delicious pasta dish. I sauteed some onion in olive oil until it began to caramelize, then added fresh mushrooms and kale. I also added some dried mushrooms (purchased at Costco, but somehow didn’t make it into my post about it). You just need to rinse them and soak them in hot water for about 15 minutes, then add them to your recipe. I used the soaking liquid from the mushrooms to cook the pasta in (whole wheat of course) for added flavour. I diced up about 6 oz of ham and added this to the veggies, then added the pasta and a bit of the cooking liquid at the last minute and cooked it all together briefly. Of course, I seasoned with salt and pepper, and I think the herbs I used were a bit of sage and thyme. The result? A hearty, delicious, ham and veggie-filled pasta.
Thursday night I was a little stumped. Of course, leftover ham is great for sandwiches, but I just wasn’t feeling the sandwich vibe. So I turned to google and typed in “leftover ham recipes,” hoping the internet wouldn’t disappoint. After perusing for a few minutes, I came across this recipe for a ham and polenta casserole – the idea intrigued me and I remembered that I had a tube of polenta that had been in my cupboard longer than I cared to admit. I decided to make my own spin on the recipe. So, for 2 servings, here’s what I did:
I used half of 500 g package of polenta (which is made from cornmeal, in case you don’t know what it is. I think I found mine in the fresh deli section of the grocery store, maybe on top of the fresh olive bar?) and cut it into 6 slices. I cooked the polenta in 2 tsp of olive oil in a nonstick pan on both sides until it was golden.
For the veggies, I cooked a few cups of broccoli florets (of course I didn’t have asparagus in the dead of winter) and a bit of cauliflower in the microwave until tender crisp.
Instead of alfredo sauce, I microwaved 2 wedges of the laughing cow light cheese with a splash of skim milk, a spoonful of Dijon mustard and some garlic seasoning until smooth.
I lay the cooked polenta slices in a 9 inch pie plate, topped with 6 oz diced ham and the cooked veggies. I drizzled my sauce over the veggies, then topped it all off with 2 tbsp light Parmesan cheese (the stuff in the plastic can – high class, I know). Then I baked for about 1/2 an hour at 425.
The result was actually quite tasty. Although it may not photograph beautifully (it’s in the left in the above photo), it was a great way to use up leftover ham, and different than what I would have come up with on my own. The right half of the plate is the medley of roasted veggies I made as a side dish (I wanted to use up the odds and ends in the fridge before going to the market the next day). I just roasted them with olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and some herbs. Tasty!
If you look at leftovers as a negative thing, I encourage you to change your thinking. This may sound kind of nerdy, but I find using up leftovers quite rewarding. I have met the challenge of using up day (or more) -old food, and not let it go to waste, and created a meal that is new and different from the food it started with. I still have some more ham to use up though…any ideas? Maybe quiche? Or maybe I will go for that sandwich…..