Your fridge might be stocked to the brims, but you can still open it and feel like there’s nothing to eat. So what’s a hungry person to do? Well, use up as much of the stuff as possible, of course! Read on for some of our favorite ways to use up all of those ingredients in the fridge. But first, here are some general tips:
- Experiment with food pairings. Sure, basil goes well with tomato and mozzarella, but it also pairs well with coconut and curry, vanilla, strawberries and spinach. My absolute favorite resource for this is Karen Page and Andrew Dornenberg’s book The Flavor Bible. It’s essentially an encyclopedia of all of the creative combinations of foods chefs across the globe rely on for creating recipes.
- Know your ratios and techniques. You don’t have to rely on recipes to cook great food, and you don’t have to be a slave to an ingredients list. I’m going to recommend another indispensable book here, Pam Anderson’s How to Cook Without a Book.
- Have a special section in your fridge for foods that are close to their expiration date. This should be right in the front, where your eyes are immediately drawn to when you open the door.
- Keep a list of perishables in the fridge on the door of the fridge. You can even make magnets with pictures of the foods you have on hand.
- Consult The Cook’s Thesaurus to find substitutes for ingredients you don’t have on hand.
Soups & Salads.
1. Vegetarian Chopped Salad.
Note: Feel free to experiment here. You could substitute iceberg or Boston lettuce for the romaine — and almonds, walnuts or pecans for the hazelnuts.
- 1/4 Cup red wine vinegar
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons finely-chopped shallot
- 1/2 Tablespoon honey
- 1/4 Cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 6 Cup chopped romaine hearts
- 4 Cups cabbage
- 1 Large fuji apple, halved, cored and diced
- 1 Asian pear, halved, cored and diced
- 1 Mango, peeled and dice
- 3/4 Cup toasted, husked and coarsely chopped hazelnuts
- 1/2 Cup pomegranate seeds
- 1/2 Cup crumbled blue cheese
1. Place vinegar, shallot and honey in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in oil in a steady stream. Add salt and pepper to taste.
1. In a large bowl, toss romaine, cabbage, apple, pear, mango, hazelnuts, pomegranate seeds and optional cheese. Pour dressing over salad and toss to coat well.
Recipe Credit: Epicurious.
Sauces, Dressings, and More.
6. Anything-goes Pesto.
Think beyond the basil: you can, and should, make pesto with any herbs or greens you have on hand: spinach, sage, parsley, arugula, chard, whatever! Alone, together, pine nuts, walnuts, it doesn’t really matter here. If you’d like to use up hardier herbs, like rosemary, thyme, and oregano, you can tone down the flavor with some parsley or spinach. And, if your pesto is a bit much, soothe the flavor with some fresh lemon juice.
- 2 Cups greens, herbs, or other vegetables.
- 1/4 Cup grated parmesan
- 1/4 Cup pine nuts, walnuts or almonds
- 1 Clove garlic
- 1/4 Cup olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Lemon juice (optional)
1. Place greens, parmesan, nuts and garlic clove in a food processor. With the food processor running, pour olive oil in a steady stream until combined. Transfer pesto to a small bowl and salt and pepper to taste. If the pesto is too bitter, add some lemon juice to taste.
11. Chinese-Style Stir Fry.
- 1/2 Cup vegetable stock
- 3 Tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 Tablespoons corn starch
- 1 Tablespoon mirin
- 1 Teaspoon Chinese chile paste
- 8 Ounces firm tofu, cut into 1/2″ cubes
- 1/2 Head bok choy (or napa cabbage, Swiss chard, celery or collard greens) cut into 1-inch dice
- 12 Ounces broccoli florets (or any of the above greens)
- 4 Carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
- 8 Ounces mushrooms (white or shiitake), stemmed and julienned
- 1 8-Ounce can sliced water chestnuts, drained
- 1 14-Ounce can baby corn, drained
- 2 Cloves garlic, minced
- Cooked brown or white rice (for serving)
1. Place vegetable stock, cornstarch, miring and chile paste in a small bowl. Whisk well. Measure out 1/2 cup of the mixture and transfer to another small bowl along with the tofu cubes. Set remaining mixture aside for now. Let the tofu sit out for about 30 minutes at room temperature.
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil on the stove. While waiting, place a large bowl of ice water next to stovetop. Cook diced bok choy in boiling water for about 2 minutes, and then transfer, using a slotted spoon, to the ice water. Remove bok choy from ice water and set aside. If the ice has melted, add more. Cook broccoli in the same pot for 1 minute, and again transfer to ice water, then place it in the bowl with the boy choy. Set broccoli and bok choy aside for now.
3. Taking care to reserve the sauce, drain tofu. Coat a large skillet with cooking spray or vegetable oil, and turn heat to medium. Once the skillet is warm, add carrots and mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes. Stir in tofu, boy choy and broccoli, water chestnuts, corn and garlic. Cook for an additional 1-2 minutes. Stir in reserved sauce and cook until thickened. Transfer to serving plates and serve immediately.
Recipe Adapted From: Martha Stewart.
16. Pasta Salad.
- 3/4 Pound Orecchiette or other small pasta
- 1/2 Pound thin asparagus (broccoli could probably work here, too)
- 1 Medium zucchini, sliced lengthiwise 1/4″ thick
- 1/2 Small eggplant, sliced lengthwise 1/2″ thick
- 7 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
- Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 1/2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 Small shallot, finely chopped
- 4 Ounces feta cheese
- 1 Cup coarsely chopped parsley
- 1/3 Cup pitted coarsely chopped Kalamata olives
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta to al dente according to package instructions. Drain, rinse well under cold water, and drain again. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.
2. While you’re waiting for the water to boil, preheat a grill pan and brush asparagus, zucchini and eggplant with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, and grill over medium-high heat. Grill until the asparagus is crisp-tender and a little charred, around 2 minutes, flipping several times. The zucchini needs about 3 minutes, and the eggplant will need about 5 minutes, and both need to be turned once.
3. Remove grilled vegetables from heat and transfer to a work surface. Cut the asparagus into 1″ pieces, the zucchini 1/2″ pieces crosswise, and the halve the eggplant lengthwise before cutting crosswise into 1/2″ pieces. Add vegetables to pasta and toss to combine.
4. Place lemon juice, shallot, and remaining 5 tablespoons olive oil in a small bowl. Whisk to combine, pour over pasta, and toss to coat. Stir in cheese, parsley and olives, season with salt and pepper and toss. Serve at room temperature.
Adapted from: Food and Wine.