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Oct 4, 2011 09:07 AM

"Chopped" Challenge - The Home Cooking edition….

So here's an idea - we all have days where we're confronted with loose ends / bits and pieces / foods we need to or should use up, but aren't entirely sure how to incorporate them ALL (or most of them, at least) into a semi-coherent meal.

I thought it might be a fun challenge for us hounds to try to come up with ideas. Each day, one or more hounds share whichever crazy combo of ingredients they have sitting on the counter / in the crisper / wherever, and we suggest what they do with them.

The great thing, of course, is that none of you get to taste the end result and bitch about it, only the cook can pronounce a winning combo.

May I start? Here goes:

1 strip steak
1 Chinese eggplant
1 fennel bulb
1 large king trumpet mushroom
3 tomatoes
3 garlic cloves
1/2 green pepper
a bunch of fresh mint & scallions

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  1. Why do other people's odds and ends look better than mine?

    If I had your stash, I'd make a salad of the tomatoes and fennel. Like this, w/o pine nuts is fine:

    Then I'd stir fry the rest of the ingredients and make a sauce, serve over rice or, better, thick wheat noodles.

    4 Replies
    1. re: tcamp

      The problem with stir-frying the eggplant is that it takes forEVAH to be well-cooked. It does not take well to quick preps.

      1. re: linguafood

        Cut the eggplant up and microwave it for a minute. It gives you a big leg up on cooking it completely, and because it spends a shorter time in contact with oil, it absorbs less.

        1. re: sr44

          That's a cool trick! I may just have to do that!!

          1. re: linguafood

            Salad with fennel, tomato, green pepper and 1/2 scallions
            Stew with steak, eggplant, mushroom, garlic, rest of scallions (I know, not quick); some rice on the side
            Mojitos with the mint :)

    2. Here is my list of odds and ends:

      Cooked pinto beans
      Numerous green tomatoes
      4 or 5 sweet potatoes
      Shishto peppers
      Several chinese eggplant
      feta cheese
      frozen chicken breasts
      Miscellaneous fresh herbs growing on the deck

      6 Replies
      1. re: tcamp

        I'd exclude frozen stuff, just because.... well, it's frozen, not thawed, so you don't *have* to use it today.

        1. re: tcamp

          Maybe this wouldn't work...but "crazy idea": was in the rules

          make a salsa with the green tomatoes, shishito peppers and egg plant
          make sweet potato pancakes and serve salsa on top.
          serve pinto beans with the arugula and feta as a salad
          defrost the chicken and bake with the fresh herbs

          1. re: ROCKLES

            rock, I love how you think, great sounding interesting dinner

            1. re: ROCKLES

              I've never made salsa with green tomatoes. Would you treat them like a tomatillo? And the eggplant - peel ? chop?

              Great ideas!

              1. re: tcamp

                I'm thinking tomatoes like a tomatillo -yes.
                eggplant-slice and drain very well, not sure if I would want to broil or just leave raw (chinese eggplant is not as bitter raw right?) . then thinking I would want a nice bite to the eggplant

            2. re: tcamp

              fried green tomatoes on a bed of aruglua with smattering of feta crumbled on top.

            3. I'm not at the odds and ends part of the week yet, but I'll return when I am. In the meantime, I think I would just S&P your strip steak and grill it then make a ratatouille-ish with the rest, chopped fresh mint and green onions atop.

              Great idea for a thread, lingua!

              1. What a great idea! I have a ton of leftovers from two recent events and I am driving myself crazy trying to figure out how to turn them into normal meals and not waste a bunch of food. Here's my list:

                These are the items that need to be used in some kind of reasonable timeframes so the food doesn't go bad:

                Fresh from the garden tomatoes

                English cucumbers

                Cream cheese w/balsamic vinegar

                Cheese - lots of it: Havarti, sharp cheddar, Jarlsberg, Bergonost, Gjeitost, Provolone, Fresh Mozzarella, shredded cheddar

                Deli meats - lots of it: Smoked turkey, canadian bacon, salami

                Pineapple tidbits

                Half and half

                Heavy whipping cream (half gallon, seriously)

                Potato lefse dough, uncooked

                Oh yeah, and about 10 lbs of bread scraps

                Swedish meatballs

                Also have in vast quantities, but with a longer lifespan:

                Lingonberry jam

                Russet & Yukon Gold potatoes

                Spam (don't get me started...)

                Jarred pimentos
                Jarred artichoke hearts
                Canned mushrooms
                Olives - black and green

                We made about 400 sandwiches for a wedding reception on Saturday, thus all the sandwich type stuff. The other odds and ends are leftovers from my parents' 50th annivesary party the weekend before. After preparing for both events, I am so disinterested in my kitchen at the moment but cannot bear to let good food go to waste.

                I welcome your suggestions!

                12 Replies
                1. re: jlhinwa

                  Some kind of strata with the bread, cheese, deli meat, cream, maybe some of the jarred items? Salad with the cukes and tomatoes.

                  1. re: tcamp

                    A strata is a great idea, and the family especially loves them. I have been so confounded by all the stuff we have that I haven't been able to think straight. Thanks!

                  2. re: jlhinwa

                    Wow, you've got a mess on your hands! How much freezer space do you have? If plenty, I would say to freeze the bread and use it for stuffing, or make it into breadcrumbs and freeze. You could take a lot of that cheese and make it into fromage fort, but cheese keeps relatively well (unless it's shredded). My mother uses half and half to make yogurt (a trick she learned from an Indian friend) - that will extend its lifespan considerably - you can use the pineapple tidbits as a fruit mix-in.

                    I agree with tcamp though, that a strata would be a great way to get rid of a lot of stuff - the problem is that you're going to have a HUGE amount of strata. Have a brunch party to get rid of it? As for the lefse dough, could you make dumplings with it, using the swedish meatballs as a filler? Chop them up a bit with some of the other meats and wrap in the dough? You could also make a sort of pan-Scandinavian shepherd's pie and use up some of your veg/cheese/other stuff at the same time?

                    1. re: biondanonima

                      I have a side by side fridge/freezer combo in the kitchen and then another one (aka as "the beer fridge" in the garage). So more than most kitchens but not a whole freezer chest.

                      I was planning to make breadcrumbs and my husband was going to make stuffing, but we just don't need that much. Of all the food items we have, that is probably the least costly and nutritious if we have to dump some of it. I hate wasting food--would rather use it, give it away, and/or donate.

                      If it were a couple months from now, it would be my turn for making meals for our local homeless shelter and a favorite is breakfast casseroles that can be put together the evening before and baked for a hot meal. I probably made a dozen of those last fall, if I made one.

                      The yogurt idea is a good one...I will have to give that a try, and pineapple is my daughter's and my favorite fruit flavor,

                      Great idea on the lefse dough also. I keep the potato/cream/butter mix separate and don't mix in flour until I am ready to bake, so it could very easily go into some kind of meat pie.

                      Thank you so much!!!

                      1. re: jlhinwa

                        Just a thought, but maybe a call to the homeless shelter and asking if you can arrange a switch with someone fro a near time slot. Keeps that karma ball rolling and a good way to use some of your leftovers.

                      2. re: biondanonima

                        melt all that cheese into a fondue and start dipping?

                      3. re: jlhinwa

                        This is ALL supposed to go into one single meal? How many people are you feeding?

                        I don't feel half as bad about my list now. Probably going with the stir-fry suggestion & throwing the tomatoes & fennel in as well for good measure -- my man can't abide raw fennel.

                        Also, we already had the other strip steak grilled with mushrooms yesterday, so I was sortakinda hoping to mix it up some more.

                        I'll likely serve the stir-fry over Chinese 'scallop' noodles.

                        In any event. This should be a fun thread. Keep 'em coming.

                        1. re: linguafood

                          One more fennel thought....years ago I made a crock-pot braised fennel and celery dish. Butter and spices (don't recall what exactly), cooked slowly for hours. Very yummy veggie side.

                          1. re: linguafood

                            Oh gosh, not one many as I can make over the next week or so. I have five people at home to feed (all adults except my 10-year-old who eats well), along with the occasional houseguest (currently have one). I also like to bring in leftovers to work.

                            The stir-fry sounds great! This is a very fun thread!

                            1. re: jlhinwa

                              Yes, great thread I hope it gets reposted on a monthly basis, to this first one doesn't get to be one of those awfully long ones no one can read or open.

                              1. re: Quine

                                We could do like the WFD thread and number it, if necessary.

                        2. I would roast the eggplant make a puree of some type, maybe with some of the garlic, mint and scallions (which you could also roast). I'd also roast/partially dehydrate the tomatoes and use them and their reduced juices to make a dressing for a salad of the fennel and pepper (both raw, thinly sliced). Grill the steak, saute the mushroom with the rest of the garlic - serve the steak atop the eggplant puree, top with mushrooms, salad on the side. Make some scallion compound butter if you have butter and put a slice of that on the steak too!