I relish a bit of leftover innovation. As far as the cook in me is concerned, triumph is successfully turning leftovers into a new dish that is more amazing than the sum of its parts. Not only do I get to reduce my food waste to zero and clean up the refrigerator, but I also get to learn, bit by bit, about what match and what don’t.
Last Friday, I had two leftover ingredients. The first was cucumber, as I had attempted to make tzatziki in the morning. Unfortunately, one does not slice just half a cucumber and leave the other half wasting away in the fridge, so I had no choice but to have the entire thing minced. I used just half for my tzatziki, as I didn’t have enough Greek yogurt on hand; the other half I had stored in the fridge nonetheless, thinking that I would save them from being turned into fertilizer by preparing some salad next time.
That afternoon, I arranged to have The Honourable Nigella Lawson’s Pea and Pesto Soup (a staple from 2007’s Express) for tea; I taught our new kasambahay, who happens to be a good cook, the recipe. While I was waiting for the soup, however, she suddenly reported to me that most annoyingly, the blender broke down – right when the peas, stock, and even the pesto and curry paste (the latter is a twist I decided to try out) were already anxiously waiting to meet their maker (a Nigella phrase) inside the blender jar. I then knew that I would not have pea and pesto soup (I had beef instant noodles instead), and thought of ways on how to salvage the peas, which I was sure were breathing sighs of relief that they were saved from the executioner’s blades. So I had the peas drained and refrigerated.
Last Sunday, our family had lunch in our usual Via Mare Wack-Wack Golf & Country Club. More often than not, we have leftovers from here, and because my cousin from Davao had joined us, our affair there lasted the whole afternoon, including tea-time. One of the dishes we took home was half an order of salpicado, a Filipino localization of our much-favored Spanish salpicao, a beef stew with peppers.
Having used a small amount of my peas (I’d prepared just one and a half cups) the same night our blender broke down in a hastily-thrown-together pasta alla Genovese (using a nice moringa [malunggay] pesto we’d bought), and again in a minestrone I had yesterday, I decided once and for all to use up everything, as well as my cucumber, and some of Sunday’s leftovers. I decided to create Nigella’s Peas with Pancetta, a side dish from her 2012 Italian-inspired tome Nigellissima; the recipe also exists there as a pasta form, which inspired me too – read later why!
So the breaking down of the blender was a blessing in disguise.
Naturally, I always adapted to using ingredients we have at home, so my ingredients pile looked slightly different from what Nigella has.
Peas with Bacon Serves 1-2 (1 tsp.) garlic-infused oil, or pomace oil with minced garlic (1 slice) lean bacon (½) leek, chopped finely (1 cup) frozen peas (¼ cup) cucumber, minced (1-2 tbsps.) white wine enough water to cover the peas in the pan extra-virgin olive oil, for garnishing
I heated the oil and tore up the bacon with my hands (less washing up!) and cooked these in the smallest frying pan I had (Nigella advocates using such), then adding the leek once the bacon was nearly crisp.
I then added the peas, using a wooden spoon to break them apart (they’re frozen, remember), then once I was done doing so, added the cucumber and poured over the white wine and let it bubble away, then added the water. As the recipe above says, the water isn’t really to be measured, but depends on how much peas there are and how small the pan is. Basically, just enough to cover the peas should be added – no more and no less. I took the picture below before I put the water in.
After it had come to a bubble, I then lowered the heat to a simmer and covered the pan. I then shifted my attention to the beef.
After having some rice added to the rice cooker, I decided to do some on-the-spot experimentation. I took out tomato sauce, paprika, rosemary, celery salt, cajun powder, and some cornstarch. I was planning to add actual tomatoes, but felt lazy to chop, so I desisted.
I used my usual olive pomace oil in heating up a second pan, then threw in the salpicado. While it heated up, I added tomato sauce, paprika, and celery salt, then stirred everything so that the beef sauce and tomato blended well. Then, I mixed about a teaspoon of cornstarch with three times as much water, and added this to the salpicado, stirring in the process. I added the rosemary and cajun last, when the dish was all but ready. I then lowered it to a simmer to wait while the peas and rice cooked.
When fifteen minutes had elapsed, I removed the lid of the pan with the peas, turned the heat back to full, and let most of the liquid evaporate away so that a little gravy-like sauce remained. I then also switched off the heat under the salpicado, and added it on top of my rice.
I took just half of the peas and pancetta, as it was a side dish anyway and it was supper time. Naturally, both dishes got the extra-virgin olive oil treatment.
Eating the peas was like drinking olive oil – I tasted the olive oil more than I did the peas, but that may have been because the peas were already “overcooked” – by this time, they’d been cooked twice. The bacon still added that sharp saltiness I love so much, though, and I particularly enjoyed saving the bacon for last in the pea bowl.
The salpicado, as expected, was hotter and spicier, and much better in the process. Granted, there was too little remaining with the usual amount of rice I eat to make me fully enjoy it (if you see above, there’s still a lot of white rice), so I sometimes mixed in some of the peas with the rice. I didn’t taste the olive oil as much with the salpicado, probably because the beef, peppers, and sauce absorbed it more quickly than the legumes did.
Feeling even more Italian (I had prepared the salpicado with the mentality of cooking cacciatore), I read Nigellissima while eating, and it was there that I got the inspiration to cook my meal tomorrow with the remaining peas and bacon. I committed to use it tomorrow in a minestrone-like pasta bowl or a spaghetti meal in itself – expect my blog post on that!