What’s old is new again
It’s no surprise to anyone who knows me that I really like to cook, and I’d say it’s true regardless of what I’m making. So, as fun as it is for me to find a fun new recipe and go buy whatever I need to make a specific meal, I also really enjoy the challenge of “I have x, y and z in my fridge, what the heck do I make?” – and I certainly deal with this far more often.
But there’s an additional challenge: my parents. Despite claiming the contrary, my parents are not really big on leftovers, and can be easily skeeved by day-old food. (If you can explain how I was raised by these people, I’m all ears). Thus, in an attempt to minimize waste (of food and money) I’ve gotten pretty good at not only using leftovers, but DISGUISING them. On one hand, this frustrates me, because I know how much food they must waste when I’m not around. But at the same time, I enjoy the challenge – it’s great practice. I mean, leftovers have a bad rap, no question. But people are suckers for good marketing and a pretty package. So it’s no mistake when ‘last night’s steak’ becomes a breakfast hash, or leftover chicken becomes chicken salad- it’s marketing, by taking the ‘old’ and regifting it – in a prettier, more palatable package.
I had a fun experience with this today – I figured walking you through the thought process might be more fun than just telling the story outright. Here’s what I was working with:
Ingredients: low-sodium tomato juice that mom wanted to get rid of, and a half-used container of sour cream
Inspiration: tomato soup, my dad’s favorite – my mom & dad could eat tomato soup with crackers for dinner all the time.
Goal: creamy tomato soup
I was literally walking out the door to dump this for my mom, because I don’t drink vegetable juice and she said it was “awful.” But when I opened it, it smelled really good. I poured a small glass, and it tasted pleasant too – like a gazpacho. I could have stopped here and served it as a soup, I guess, but I was afraid they’d recognize the taste and not be into it. And so the experimenting began.
1. Juice + heat + sour cream – verdict: looks right, but too sour-cream-y
2. Add the universal taste maker (butter!) – verdict: still too sour-cream-y. In black bean soup, that seems appropriate, but it isn’t meshing well. Tastes, I dunno, Mexican?
3. Aha! I decided to play up the Mexican flavors (it is cinco de mayo, after all) & add dried cilantro – verdict: getting there! but it needs something… what other flavors go with the Mexican theme?
I hope we…
4. Add TEQUILA – verdict: Success! This added a really nice dimension to the flavor, and really sold me on the ‘Mexican tomato soup’ idea. I just needed to balance all the savory flavors with a little sweetness.
5. Add… corn syrup? Not one of my favorite ingredients but I didn’t have my first choice (agave nectar) and there was some corn syrup in the pantry leftover from another recipe – verdict: great! (I’m sure brown or white sugar would have worked just as well).
At this point it was basically done. I brought it to a boil to concentrate the flavors a bit, added a bit more butter for mouthfeel (great food-snob word!), and will attempt to serve it for dinner tonight. Hopefully the ‘critics’ like it!
Update: THEY LOVED IT! Served with some guacamole on the side, it was a cinco de mayo success! 🙂