Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Hearty Bean Soup, Sour Cream Biscuits: Recycling Holiday Leftovers

White Bean Soup With Spinach
Like most everyone I know, I am always guilty of over-ordering or overcooking for a party. I'm not sure why...would any of my guests really go hungry if I didn't have a backup pasta dish or an extra chocolate layer cake? These 'extra's' rarely get served and most times, I'm embarrassed to admit, they get tossed a day or two later because I just can't look at them anymore.

This year, minimalism is my mantra and wastefulness an fading shadow of my former self.

Over New Year's weekend, I ordered two 3 foot heroes for company. In addition, there were two different pasta dishes, a green salad and a large order of eggplant parmigiana. Let's not mention the desserts! The main meal was preceded by an array of delicious hors d'oeuvres provided by my guests. Yikes! You'd think we hadn't eaten for weeks!

Leftover bread from a 3 foot hero....
Needless to say we had a lot of leftovers that even an impromptu 'lefttover' party the next day didn't take care of. But with all of my resolutions still intact, I decided to do something about it. First up: dissecting the hero sandwiches. One of them was 'Italian' style, the other grilled chicken. I had luckily asked for dressings on the side so the bread and meats weren't soggy.

I removed all of the meats and threw away the cheeses. I placed the bread on cookie sheets and baked them in the oven for about an hour to dry them out. After they cooled, I grated them with my hand grater to make fresh breadcrumbs. Placed in plastic bags or in airtight containers, these will keep for weeks and add a freshness to anything fried or requiring breadcrumb toppings.

...is  toasted and repurposed into fresh breadcrumbs.
I diced the grilled chicken and made chicken salad using some chopped celery leftover from a cold vegetable platter. The Italian cold cuts were separated and bagged for freezing. Some of the ham was used in the soup I made today when I realized that I was out of pancetta which the recipe called for.

It was a little work but I felt better about my former wastefulness. I'm not sure I will be cured of over- ordering but I'll be more recycle-friendly in the future as I was today.

The soup I made for dinner tonight is basic white bean soup. I substituted the leftover Italian ham for pancetta and used fresh spinach instead of escarole which was unavailable in my supermarket today. I recommend this soup as a lighter variation of a 'fagioli' type soup that's every bit as tasty even with the substitutions.

I made biscuits to accompany the soup using another leftover: a sour cream dip infused with leek soup. It gave the biscuits a richer taste and were still as light and fluffy as you might expect!

White Bean and Spinach (or Escarole) Soup
2 cans of a navy beans
1 box of beef broth
1 can chicken stock
1 large stalk of celery diced (another leftover)
1 cup fresh spinach (or escarole if available)
1/2 cup chopped pancetta or other Italian ham
1/2 onion finely chopped
4 cloves garlic finely chopped
2 bay leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

  • In a large pot, place beans, broth, chopped celery, garlic and onion and simmer for about an hour.
  • Blanch pancetta (or substitute meat) in boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain and add to soup.
  • Wash and dry the spinach or escarole and set aside. Add to the soup about 5 minutes before serving.
  • Salt and pepper to taste. 
  • Remove bay leaves before serving.
  • Serve hot with warm biscuits
Sour Cream Biscuits
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup sour cream (mine was flavored but plain is fine too)
1 tablespoon water if needed


  • Mix all ingredients to form a soft pastry. Add water if needed to moisten.
  • Roll out to 3/4 inch thick and cut biscuits with a round biscuit cutter (or a beverage glass as my mother used to do)
  • Bake at 400 degrees for about 12 minutes. Serve warm.

No comments:

Post a Comment