I don’t own a microwave because I don’t like what it does to food’s texture. Generally, you’d use the same method to reheat that you used to originally cook the food, but there’s many ways to repurpose leftovers if you want to be creative.
With a simple medium or large strainer set over a pot with a couple inches of boiling water, I can add hot moisture to anything. This works really well for any individual food: grains, root vegetables, greens, beans, plain pasta, and meat.
Using the oven takes a lot longer, but sometimes that’s the best option. Think shepherd’s pie or casserole. When I make a meat sauce, like ground lamb ragout (or a vegetable equivalent), I like to use a small oven-proof dish in the oven. I cover it with shredded cheese or maybe breadcrumbs to make a crusty top. Sometimes I put pasta or rice in the bottom of the dish, and sometimes I use slices of baguette to scoop out the ragout.
If I’m reheating Thai or Indian food (rice with a sauce), I just use the stovetop. The moisture in the sauce keeps the rice from getting dry and crunchy. But also, if I have something like polenta, I may pan-fry it for a different texture. When polenta is first cooked, it’s like a thick porridge. Once it cools, it holds whatever shape it was cooled in and can be put into squares, triangles, or circles. Put it in a pan with some hot oil and you can sear the edges into a patty. You can pan-fry almost anything with a little hot oil—just another way you can creatively repurpose an otherwise plain ingredient.
And then there’s the buddha bowl option. Cooking food elements separately, combining them in a bowl, and connecting them with a complementing dressing.
Here’s how this looks in action. I have some plain rice and roasted beets and carrots. I can:
Reheat everything as-is and add a protein—rice sits next to the vegetables, sitting next to the protein. I’d steam the rice and saute the vegetables.
Mix together the rice and vegetables as a pilaf in a pan with a tiny bit of water, adding herbs/spices to change the flavor profile and sauteeing it all together. Top with an egg for a simple protein.
Mix together steamed rice and diced room temperature vegetables. Stir in a Dijon-based dressing for a vegetable salad with a hard-boiled egg. Serve as is, on a sandwich, or over greens.
Buddha bowl option: Use the grain as the foundation, dice the vegetables, add a protein like beans, eggs, or meat, sprinkle with sesame seeds or chopped green onions, then drizzle a tahini-based dressing. Warm, cold, or room temperature—all in a bowl.
Since I’ve mentioned eggs a few times today, tomorrow we’ll go into how eggs can transform leftovers and turn side dishes into main courses.
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