Making the most of food: Traditional no-waste recipes

April 26, 2023 Updated: January 25, 2024

When browsing online, it can feel like there’s always some new technique to remember around how to minimize food waste. Storing lemons in water, sauteing broccoli stems, blanching anything (this writer’s least favorite!). All these things are great, but with so much “new,” it can be refreshing to step back and remember: making the most of our food doesn’t have to be so complicated.

In fact, some of our favorite dishes were designed to refresh leftovers, by combining not-so-desirable produce and other remnants into something delicious. Think: mushy fruit used as pie filling, soft tomatoes blended into soups and sauce, and brown bananas folded into banana bread.

With this in mind, we caught up with some of Spoonfuls’ hospitality friends to hear what traditional “use it all” recipes they love to make. Read on to hear about their favorites and bookmark the recipes for later!

Gul Bahceci | Cafe Mangal

A journey through Cafe Mangal’s kitchen, Gul tells us how she combines leftovers from menu dishes like their stuffed peppers, braised lamb shanks, and tri-bean salad, into a delicious Swiss Chard Soup.

Carl Dooley | Mooncusser

Excited for spring asparagus (so are we!), Chef Carl shares a recipe that puts to use an often wasted part of asparagus: the tough, fibrous ends. Through sauteing and pureeing, learn how to cook with “the other half of the asparagus,” as Carl says, through his Chilled Asparagus Soup.

Kate & Trevor Smith | Thistle & Leek

The Smiths share two incredible recipes with us that turn leftover chicken and vegetables into something new. Their Cold Noodle Salad with Peanut Sauce is great if you’re in the mood for something light or, for something heartier, try their Bubble and Squeak dish, which turns leftover chicken, mashed potatoes, and other veggies into crispy buttery patties. Yum!

Nadia Liu Spellman | Dumpling Daughter and Heirloom

Nadia, a member of Spoonfuls’ Culinary Board, turns to fried rice and shares with us a piece of Chinese food history.

“China has been through many challenging times as a country in the last 4,000 years, and to be thrifty is part of the culture. In Chinese cuisine, there is absolutely no waste. When you cook a whole chicken, you use every part, preparing the different pieces in different ways, and ultimately the bones for bone broth. I grew up in a family where every egg was treasured, as my dad grew up during World War II when each family would get only one egg per week. We take that thriftiness into account in our restaurants. The chefs cook a broth everyday that involves leftovers that could not be used for our customers. In my own home, fried rice is a popular solution for old rice as it contains less moisture, making it better for frying. Add almost anything to sauteed old rice and you have a unique fried rice dish,” says Nadia.

The next time you have old rice, get creative with your own fried rice dish! As Nadia says, “Leftovers or mature produce are sometimes the best intigators for new creations.” For inspiration, check out these recipes from the Dumpling Daughter cookbook: Sally Ling’s Fried Rice or the Fried Rice with Dates, Pineapple, and Scallions

Looking for more inspiration?

Check out our Food Rescue at Home page.

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