Tamar Adler’s op ed piece in the New York Times last week struck a chord – eating like we eat during Thanksgiving all year round: “Thanksgiving Thrift: The Holiday as a Model for Sustainable Cooking” (November 22, 2011). Her premise is simple – we prepare a nice holiday dinner (typically with lots of leftovers), and spend many days eating and recreating turkey and many side dishes, ‘shopping’ our refrigerator for breakfast, lunch and dinner options.
So while we’re inspired on Thanksgiving, as well as other upcoming holidays, to eat with enthusiasm from our leftovers, we can use that mindset throughout the year – each week, in fact, if we’re creative.
Planning out menus for the week (coordinating with school or meeting schedules) means you’ll ultimately spend less on food. Additionally, not as much food will go to waste, and you may just have a more satisfying dining experience each night, without having to think about what to make, whether you have the appropriate ingredients, and who will be making it to the dinner table.
Ideas for Thanksgiving turkey (a large roasting chicken might provide similar reincarnations) start with the carcass – still with some turkey meat and maybe some skin on it (add neck and gizzard if it hasn’t been used previously) – while the dark and white meat is reserved for other dishes.
Make a large vessel of turkey stock – you won’t be sorry – add some fresh carrots, onions or other vegetable scraps you may have been saving in the freezer. After you strain the stock, the first day can give you turkey soup with some leftover vegetables (maybe Brussels sprouts or green beans), adding either cooked noodles or bulghur wheat for variation. Include a salad and there’s a simple supper. Store the remaining stock in freezer, making certain to label the container and date (most frozen items start to lose their nutritional value after six months).
That same day, you might take pumpkin (or squash) puree and create a curried squash soup with some of the turkey stock (freeze for another time, perhaps), or use your cranberry compote with miniature pumpkin muffins.
Turkey pot pie can make great use of the stuffing, corn, and gravy, too or stir fry turkey pieces adding a few more vegetables and wild rice.
If you still have turkey meat to spare, add a garlic mayonnaise and top with fresh greens for a great sandwich. Trim any extra turkey pieces and place in freezer bags, ready for another quick meal a few weeks from now.
While those of us living in remote parts of the North Country, where there might not be easy access to grocers or specialty food stores are aware, having a game plan is what it’s all about.
½ pound dried cannellini beans (about 1 cup) soaked overnight in cold water to cover
6-8 cups chicken or turkey stock
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely minced (about 1 cup)
3-4 garlic cloves, finely minced
¼ cup finely chopped, fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 bunch of kale, center stalks removed, coarsely shredded (about 6-7 cups)
3 medium carrots, peeled and coarsely diced (about 2 cups)
3 celery stalks, coarsely diced (about 2 cups)
1 large boiling potato, peeled and coarsely diced (about 2 cups)
½ small head Savoy or regular green cabbage, cored and coarsely chopped (about 2 ½ cups or substitute more kale)
1 bunch Swiss chard, green leaves only, coarsely chopped (about 7 cups)
1 28-oz can Italian plum tomatoes, with juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
5 thick slices 1- to 2-day old crusty Italian bread, broken into small pieces
Place beans in a medium pot, cover with chicken or turkey stock (start with six cups) and bring to a boil over medium heat. As soon as water begins to bubble, reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until beans are tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring occasionally. The beans can be cooked a few hours ahead of time; set aside.
Heat 1/3 cup oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onion and stir until pale yellow and soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic and parsley and stir a minute or two; add kale, carrots, celery, potato, cabbage and chard. Stir for a few minutes and add tomatoes, the beans and their cooking liquid. If needed, add more stock or water. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to low, cover partially, and cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are tender, approximately 45 minutes. Turn off heat. Stir in bread and remaining olive oil; cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
A few hours before serving, put soup back on low heat and simmer another half hour, stirring often to prevent sticking. At this point, the soup will have “reboiled” (thus, ribollita) and will have a thick consistency.
Taste, adjust seasoning, and serve hot with a few drops of additional olive oil if desired.
Annette Nielsen is a food writer, editor, community organizer and activist on behalf of regional agriculture. She recently edited Northern Comfort and Northern Bounty, two seasonally-based cookbooks for Adirondack Life Magazine. A native of Northville, she lives in Salem, New York with her husband and son.