James is funny about leftovers. Unless it's something so delicious he can't stay away, grilled shrimp, sliders, creamy cheesy pasta -- he pretty much can open the fridge and just not see food. At first I thought it was that he honestly couldn't see it. So I switched to clear storage containers. No change. I started leaving notes pointing to the location of treats James might enjoy for lunch. No change. I had to come to grips with the fact that leftovers, even from a particularly delicious meal or a sugary cake, don't speak to James. Food doesn't whisper his name as he walks by the fridge. Food rarely calls to him downstairs. James, it seems, is not like me.
Although I didn't grow up in the depression or taking pride in the "cucina povera" of my region I have a pauper's fear of waste -- especially waste of good food or ingredients. So I am likely to turn leftover steak into a high end grilled cheese or a dinnertime spaghetti sauce. Some dishes take a little more creative effort and I often turn to empanadas to turn leftover stews into a brand new dish.
Not too long ago I whipped up turkey picadillo with -- you guessed it -- leftover roast turkey. That spicy sweet stew of tomatoes, raisins, chiles and meat is perfect over rice but just as good wrapped in flaky dough of flour (3 cups), 1 egg yolk, 1/2 cup butter, salt, and about 1 cup of milk (when I have milk I want to use up in the fridge), as I've read is the custom in Southern Argentina. No matter where it comes from, the milk makes for an easy to roll, tender dough.
Months ago, anticipating a day like today without much in the house to cook and fewer ideas, I encased that leftover Cuban style stew in flaky pastry rounds and stored them, unbaked, in the freezer to be brought out triumphantly as a brand new dish. James love empanadas.
On the side, taking a hint from the vaguely Cuban flavors we already had going, I made one of the big man's favorite salads -- fresh avocado (from our friends backyard tree) and thin slices of red onion drizzled with olive oil and red wine vinegar.