leftovers: the dos and don'ts

As a kid, nothing brought down a good day like hearing we're having leftovers for dinner. Sure it was fine the first time around, but the second time? Ew. The stickiness of macaroni and cheese, the mashed potatoes that clearly lost their will to live... It just tastes old.

It's true some ingredients only respect freshness. So, a few rules of thumb:

Don't reheat things with dairy. I may be wrong, but all of the things I remember tasting gross the second day had cheese or milk or eggs in them.

Don't use the microwave unless you absolutely have to. You can reheat anything that comes in small pieces (like rice dishes) or anything that melts (like butter), but as a general rule, just don't. It torches food unevenly. I mean, how is it possible that an enclosed heating device can manage to burn the outer edges of food while leaving the middle frozen solid?

Don't reheat seafood. Fish, even shrimp, can be delicate and fickle. I don't trust it on the second go 'round. Besides, if it's been in your fridge for more than a day, it's a little suspect anyway.

Now certain things only get better the more "leftover" they are. You make it, you put it in the fridge and let the flavors get to know each other. The garlic, the pepper, the thyme, whatever you've used -- they all work the night shift to bring you something unique the next day.

Do enjoy your chili for a week or longer. Whenever I'm making food for new parents or anyone who will likely store it for a long time, I think chili. Nothing else has its extraordinary ability to get more delicious as time goes on.

Do take your time when enjoying a good homemade tomato soup or pasta sauce. Those Italian spices especially love to hook up in the fridge and create more flavor as the days go on.

Or try this...

This dish is a spiced carrot and butternut squash soup recipe I got from Gordon Ramsey. After putting in too much orzo, it's a little pasta-heavy. But I ate it for days and it was just as good as the first time... if not better.

What are your favorite leftover meals?


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