Cleaning out the fridge is a lot like that ketchup bottle. There’s usually more in there than you think. When we find the time to clean ours out, I try to make one last push to use up whatever we have. I like to think of it as Iron Chef–Battle Leftovers. It’s a fun challenge and the audience expectations are usually low, so you can’t fail!
First start with some inspiration. I opened the fridge and found a head of Napa cabbage, which reminded me of the garlic won ton chips in the pantry. We also had some ground beef defrosting that we usually have on hand for times like these. Together, it was a good start for Chinese Taco Salad.
Next fill in the blanks. It feels good to make the most of those last miscellaneous items you would’ve thrown out. If wilted, veggies can be cut down to usable parts or revived with a cold rinse. I used a few carrots, celery ribs, onion, and garlic. I salvaged some ginger, cutting away the dried skins. I used Tokyo negi as a substitute for green onion, soaked in water for a less pungent taste.
Now build up the flavor. Bring out all the sauces and seasonings that match your dish. For our Asian profile, I pulled hoisin, oyster sauce, sriracha, rice vinegar and sesame oil. Bring some life to the dish. Freshly grown herbs are a big help. I used mint from my in-law’s backyard, picked last week. Nuts and seeds are also a good pantry staple. They add both texture and flavor and stay fresh for a while.
Finally, put it together. Give it a fancy name and pat yourself on the back for making the most of what you got. The end result had a lot going on, but delicious. Crunch and texture from the cabbage, nuts, and chips. The ginger and Sriracha glazed carrots compliment the savory ground beef. Everything highlighted by the tangy rice vinegar and fresh mint. This battle left no leftovers.
Give it a shot. You’ll surprise yourself, literally. A full list of ingredients is below, but on leftover night anything goes.