The rumors the Dutch royal court had a traditional leftovers day on Fridays are maybe not so odd afterall. They are protestants and therefore should probably not enjoy food anyway. It could however have been a well working ploy, knowing that reheated food tends to gain chararcter. So, taste and frugality might have been forged. So while the crowned heads set the example for their subjects, they grooved on thick green pea soup. Merciless boiled cauliflower sitting quiet for a few days achieves taste and previously prepared potato stew with kale matures stunningly well.
The truth and nothing but the truth
Whether out of thrift, alchemy or common sense, heating leftovers is of all times and cultures. And it usually has a negative aura attached to it. Contrary to fresh food it has already been on the table. All too often it is a hasty solution to provide a meal, and scraps become the Cinderella of the kitchen. But sitting in the pantry or fridge, the leftovers are truly active indeed. While tastes enhance, some of the water content evaporates and through chemical reactions ingredients soften. The scraps acquire character and when reheated they’ll appear as the belle of the ball. Beef stew, curries, enchiladas, quiche and pizza, just some of meals that welcome reheating.
Meanwhile leftover in Italy
In Italy leftover pasta, enriched with some grated cheese, is fried in a pan. Together with the name, the taste changes: pasta al sugo becomes pasta fritta. This delight brightens up the darkest days. The remainders of the Sunday lasagne – these come in gargantuan quantities and finishing them off in one day is inconceivable – taste different on Monday. So much so that one of Italy’s renowned restaurants has it on the menu: a slightly toasted corner patch of lasagne, the quintessence of culinary delight. Caponata – a sweet sour mix of stewed veggies – needs time and hardly ever served fresh.
Bread never dies
Bread should never been thrown away. There are exceptions, of course. Mould and sogginess for example. I personally saw people kissing bread before binning it. Now try to get rid of that image. Stale bread makes an excellent French toast, lovely croutons or canderli. Bread crumbs is the ultimate solutions. And believe me, you can not have enough breadcrumb in the Italian kitchen.
So far we spoke of reheating food and thus one consider the microwave oven. As far as published research shows, this cooking technique does not alter the food in any significant way but heating it. The result therefore is terribly tedious: a mere repetition of what you previously ate. No crust, no bits sticking to the tray, and no slight alteration in taste. Use the microwave oven for what it is best: a stand for your favorite vase on a lace doily.
Free advice on leftovers
If the idea of reheated food somehow brings you down, then try to make it look as something different. Add fresh ingredients, give it another name – yesterday’s pasta does not sound as yummy as pasta fritta. If you are not Dutch and don’t care about squirreling away, do it for the savouriness. Do it out of curiosity, do it out of adventure. Keep one simple rule in mind: sniff your leftovers before doing anything else; if you throw back your head and nausea kicks in, bin it; if not, enjoy.