when there’s “nothing” to eat

What do you make for supper when it’s 4:50 pm, there’s nothing thawed (and no ideas brewing because ZERO forethought), and everyone crashes through the door growling with hunger?

This was the situation I found myself in Friday last week. It wasn’t like I didn’t have food in the house. I spent 500 dollars several weeks back and we were still well-stocked with the four main starch bases: pasta, rice, bread, potatoes. However, we’d worked our way through most of the leftovers — the spaghetti and meatballs, the sausage lentil soup, the sweet potato and egg bake, the never-ending mojo pork, etc — and it seemed there were no readily-apparent and easily-accessible moving parts to glom onto.

Back and forth I paced, between fridge and pantry, fridge and pantry, what to make, what to make, what to make. People moaned. I studied the the pile of assorted veggies my daughter had brought home. People sighed. I opened kitchen cabinets and pondered. People headed for the showers. And then, whilst standing in front of the fridge and staring at the pile of cold baked sweet potatoes leftover from the previous night’s potato bar, I got an idea.

I slipped the potatoes out of their jackets and cut them into thick slices. I smacked two cast iron skillets on the stove and wacked in some butter and bacon grease. Once the fat melted, I arranged the potato slices in a single layer and salted them heavily. While they sizzled and browned (I flipped them once), I opened two cans of black beans into a kettle, added some cumin and smoked paprika (and maybe a couple other spices that I can’t remember), and set them on the stove to heat.

I sliced a couple of the green onions and a handful of radishes that my daughter had brought home and dumped them in a bowl with a chopped avocado (yay, it’s not rotten!), the juice of a half lime, and some salt. I plucked a few green leaves from a rotting bunch of cilantro and tossed them in. I stuck a spoon in the jug of salsa and another spoon in the almost-empty jar of sour cream, and I dug a container of leftover grated cheese out of the cheese drawer. Supper was ready.

What’s this? everyone wanted to know.

“Sweet potatoes with black beans and toppings,” I said. “Here’s how you eat it,” and I fixed a plate so they could see. “It’s like rice and beans but without the rice.”

No one thought much of the meal — it was food, it was good, the end — but I was enormously pleased with myself. It was so ordinary — leftovers and canned beans and a hodge-podge of random bits — and yet it was creative and healthy and original.

And to think, only a short time before I’d felt like there was “nothing” to eat, ha!

What rabbit-out-of-hat dinners have you made lately? Enchant me, please. It’ll still be at least a couple days before I’ll get to the grocery store…

This same time, years previous: prism glasses, on getting a teen out of bed in the morning, the quotidian (5.12.14), maseca cornbread, the quotidian (5.14.12), rhubarb cream pie, hummus.


  • Anonymous

    Some delicious ideas here, for sure.
    What I just made: Moroccan spiced grains salad. I had some leftover rice, cooked blackeye peas in the freezer, a few cubes of leftover roasted sweet potato, and some golden raisins from a bag that'd been forgotten. They'll reconstitute as it sits. Assembly: the beans, plus some bits of crunchy veg (cauliflower, not enough for anything else; a couple sticks of chopped celery; grated carrot). Dressing: lemon, plus a bit of grated rind, salt, smidge of sugar, warm spices[garam masala,pie spice mix], olive oil. Chopped in some olives from the fridge. Chives for a bit of colour. stir and let it sit whilst unloading the dishwasher. Toss in leftover rice, golden raisins, the aforementioned sweet potato. In an hour or two, I'll take it out of the fridge and we'll have it for supper, likely sprinkle some chopped almonds on it or something. Totally different flavour profile from the usual.
    -Carol S-B

  • Rebecca

    Halushki – – fried cabbage and onions (with or without bacon or ham) and tossed with buttered egg noodles.

  • Anonymous

    Also- also- (I have the privilege of being bored) in the guacamole I had diced green onion, from the ones I have sprouted/re grown in water on my windowsill. I don't know why I never tried this before, you get almost twice the green onions! -Anna

  • Anonymous

    I love "moving parts to glom onto," "Enchant me, please." Here's what we had for dinner last night, with disclaimers: 1. I am feeding only two adults, a 5 year old an 2 year old (you wow me with your quantity cooking!). 2. This was a planned dinner, but planned to use up leftovers. We had taco salad. The base was romaine, with some leftover shredded carrot. Leftover ground beef with onions and garlic, sauteed with black beans, cumin and garlic powder. Tortilla chips left from last week's takeout, guac enhanced with salsa from the same takeout. Assorted jarred salsa. I didn't want to shred any cheese, so I didn't. Everyone ate it- win! -Anna

  • Anonymous

    This actually reminds me of the recipe you posted not so long ago…roasted sweet potato salad. I still haven't made it. Both sound delicious to me!

  • Chepkirui

    My mother brilliantly chopped up some unsuccessful baked chicken, added old broccoli and celery, some soy sauce and cornstarch (oh and garlic and onions of course) and put it over leftover rice: chicken and broccoli a la our favorite Chinese restaurant, which we can't visit right now.

  • Hummingbird

    A couple of times a week we have "slop in a bowl". It consists of whatever leftovers are in the fridge, chicken, beef, roasted veggies, salad fixins. Then usually some sauerkraut (yes, really!) instead of salad dressing, avocado or sour cream and some pistachios or sunflower seeds or whatever is in the pantry. Viola! Slop in a bowl, and it's pretty much always delicious.

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