We recycle. The sentiment extends to food.
We had a friend who'd proudly assert to anyone who’d listen that they hated leftovers and ate absolutely no leftovers, nope, not ever. This left us confused because we know something they apparently do not: Sometimes leftovers are tastier because ingredients get a chance to consummate the marriage, as it were.
This is true of pasta meat sauces as it is of soups, meatloaf and roast pork—let it sit a day or two and I swear to you it will taste better than the moment you first plated it after cooking it! Sometimes in winter we start a soup that morphs from chicken noodle into three different kinds of soup, if not more (leftovers serving as a base for a new batch of soup).
Our friend was not a cook, and perhaps that was part of the problem; though they did not seem to enjoy food in an epicurean way. There was shame and regret, like their religion, but not joy in eating—it filled no voids.
Mom and I start the year recycling elements of the New Year’s meal—leftover caviar becomes a topping to Mom’s birthday omelet. Somewhere between Boxing Day and the Epiphany, we combine leftover cheeses, mousses and pates and make a richly delicious quiche. These are meals made almost entirely out of leftovers but nothing to sneeze at proverbially. Funnily enough, the quiche tastes better as leftovers (so leftovers of leftovers).
This year we discovered a new reason to recycle: Trader Joe’s tapenade. Making your own tapenade is easy enough, but the Trader Joe’s version is pretty darn good. Tapenade can be made in less than 10 minutes, and can be a really satisfying snack/spread/appetizer--but you have to start by buying good quality olives. The beauty of Trader Joe’s is that you can have a variety.
|Halkidiki olives (image credit: Olivellas S.A.)|
Trader Joe’s carries two varieties of tapenade: the original (and mellower) spread is a blend of Kalamata, black and green olives; and the other includes Kalamata and Chalikidiki olives. Kalamata olives are the large, meaty Greek black or dark brown olives. Chalkidiki (or Halkidiki) olives are large green fruit that have all manner of magical lore attributed to them (including as a PMS cure). The tapenade keeps as long as it remains refrigerated, so you can enjoy it as a snack for as long as it lasts.
So far, my favorite quick meal involves tilapia fillets (2 per person). Spread a tablespoon of olive oil to cover the bottom of an oven pan, season the fish lightly with salt and pepper, top with a tablespoon or two of tapenade and add a sprinkling of grated Parmesan. Bake for 15-20 minutes (temperatures depend on how thin the fillets are -- 375 for thinner fillets up to 425-degrees for heftier pieces, or you can broil for no more than 10 minutes).
I put the fish in oven as water starts to boil for rice and finish both at the same time, but this dish will also go well over pasta or a variety of vegetable side dishes. I suggest finishing it off with some Sriracha—but you can also bake in chopped chilis over the fillets.
The fish will flake easily (and you can use cod, sole, flounder, snapper or any other white fish), and it will simply melt in your mouth, the spread will create a savory and soft crust over the fish. The simpler the better, but you can garnish with fresh parsley, cilantro or dill to taste. If you enjoy rice bowls, I can see adding a fried egg to it and taking it all to a whole new level.
Next we may try game hens stuffed with tapenade. I’d also love to try some of the tapenade in black bean soup. We are going to recycle the heck out of this tapenade!