Land of Leftovers

Bread crumbs, rice, tomato sauce, veggies, even ricotta cheese -- what do these things all have in common? If you're like me, they're foods that often end up as leftovers (or not-quite-all-used-ups) in my refrigerator. What else do they have in common? They are fantastic as the beginnings of a beautiful stuffing!

Now, when I say stuffing, I'm not necessarily talking about what you put in a chicken or turkey. (Although that can be a heavenly option as well!) I'm talking about making creative stuffings for everything from firm vegetables to crispy bread shells to soft, juicy fruits. Just about anything can be stuffed. And, for many foods, stuffing can be the key to enhancing their flavors and textures.

The stuffings in the recipes that follow range from a savory bread stuffing for a sweet onion to a creamy sweet stuffing for a fresh peach. As with many culinary quests, you are only limited by your imagination! That's what makes creating stuffings with leftovers so much fun. It requires you to take a look at what is obviously a bit of leftover chicken and rice soup and turn your head a bit until ... Ta-da! It becomes part and parcel of a wonderful stuffing for an eggplant. All it takes is seeing the contents of your refrigerator in a whole new light.

To get your journey started, I'm offering four great recipes this month. The stuffings call for a variety of ingredients that can often be found in your refrigerator as leftovers, but options for making it from scratch are there too. Enjoy them!

As always, I look forward to hearing from you about your recipe ideas and comments. You can always post comments in the BBS using the forms provided in the articles or email me directly at .

Stuffed Onions

While removing the centers of the onions can be a bit tedious, it's well worth the effort! Use some of the centers in the stuffing and save the rest for another use.
  • 2 large sweet onions
  • 1 c. beef broth
  • 1/4 c. dried mushrooms
  • 3 T. dry sherry
  • 1 c. sourdough bread crumbs (I use the leftovers from hollowed out bread bowls)
  • 1/4 c. crumbled, cooked sausage

Remove any dried outer layers from the onions. Cut the tops and bottoms off of the onion. Using a melon baller, remove the inner sections of the onions from the top. Allow at least 1/2" of onion to remain as a shell. Reserve 1/2 cup of the inside of the onions for the recipe. Save the rest for another use.

In a small saucepan, heat the beef broth to boiling. Remove from the heat and add the dried mushrooms and sherry. Cover and allow to stand.

Meanwhile, bring a 4 quarts of water to a boil. Gently lower the onion shells into the water and allow to boil for about 10 minutes or until the shells are softened, but still able to stand on their own. Remove from the water and drain upside down on paper towels.

Remove the mushrooms from the broth and chop coarsely. Combine the mushrooms, bread crumbs and sausage in a medium bowl. Add enough of the beef broth mixture to generously moisten the stuffing.

Place the onions in a deep loaf pan. Carefully spoon the dressing into the shells, pressing it into all of the spaces as you go. Once the onions have been stuffed, pour any remaining beef broth into the bottom of the pan and add enough water to cover the bottom 2 inches of the pan.

Bake, covered with foil, for about 30 minutes at 400 degrees or until the stuffing is heated through and the onions are tender.

  • Yields: 2 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour

Stuffed Eggplant

Once the eggplant's been baked, the flesh becomes soft and deliciously flavored by the pesto and mozzarella.
  • 5 T. olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 medium eggplants, sliced thinly lengthwise
  • 4 T. pesto
  • 1 1/2 c. grated mozzarella cheese
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and add the garlic. Fry the eggplant slices lightly on both sides and drain them on paper towels.

Carefully spread the pesto onto one side of each of the eggplant slices. Top with the cheese and a few torn basil leaves. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roll up the slices in a pinwheel fashion, secure with toothpicks and place in a greased baking sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Serve immediately.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes

Calzones

These simple calzones are made even easier by using refrigerated biscuit dough as the shells. This way, you can devote more time to the heavenly filling!
  • 3 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 c. thinly sliced green onions
  • 1/2 lb. chopped portabella mushrooms
  • 3 large tomatoes, chopped (I sometimes use some leftover tomato sauce instead and omit the garlic and basil leaves)
  • 1/4 c. finely chopped basil leaves
  • 1 (12 oz.) can refrigerated biscuits
  • 1 tsp. water

Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet. Add the garlic, onions and mushrooms. Cook for about 3 minutes or until tender, but not browned. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the basil leaves and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, separate the biscuit dough into 10 biscuits. On a greased cookie sheet, press out each biscuit into 4-inch circles.

Place about 1/3 cup of the tomato mixture into each of 5 circles. Place the remaining biscuit circles over the filling and press the edges with a fork to seal. Brush the water over the filled calzones.

Bake at 375 degrees for 13-18 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.

  • Yields: 5 servings
  • Preparation Time: 30-45 minutes

Stuffed Peaches

Choose ripe, juicy peaches for this simple dessert. They are sure to make it shine -- whether you serve it mid-week or after Sunday dinner.
  • 4 ripe peaches or nectarines
  • 1/2 c. ricotta cheese (I use any that I haven't used to stuff shells or layer into lasagna!)
  • 1 T. light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. ground star anise or nutmeg

Cut the peaches in half and remove the pits. Arrange them, cut side up, in a shallow baking dish.

Place the ricotta cheese in a small mixing bowl. Add the brown sugar and mix until thoroughly combined. Using a teaspoon, spoon equal amounts into the hollows of each of the peach halves. Sprinkle with the star anise.

Broil for 6-8 minutes or until the peaches are hot. Serve warm.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 10 minutes

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