We’ve talked in some depth this month about nextovers. We’ve covered focus ingredients and supporting players. Ingredients alone, however, do not a cooking approach make. If you want your nextover expeditions to succeed, you need a reliable procedural code for bringing disparate elements together. Into a federation or sorts, if you will.
What makes a great nextover procedure?
Some dishes are more flexible than others. Don’t pick something that your family has strong expectations over. Grandma’s beloved stew made with half substituted ingredients might evoke a negative emotional response. Don’t pick something that pushes you to the breaking point of your technical expertise in the kitchen. The best procedures for nextovers are going to be pulled from the recipes you are most comfortable with and have the least emotional investment in.
Will it pizza?
I like pizza. I’m pretty good at making pizza. I enjoy playing with the boundaries of what can be called pizza without adding airquotes. I almost always have whole wheat pizza dough in the freezer. So when I’ve got some leftover puree-of-whatever soup in my fridge and drawer full of vegetables begging for a roasting, I make pizza.
Pizza can be a nutritional minefield. Added sodium and sugar in the sauce, saturated fat and added sodium in various meat toppings, or added sodium and a lack of whole grains in the dough are common problems. Use whole-grain dough, and go easy on the salt if you’re making it at home. For the sauce, if you’re not using leftover soup or hummus, use Guiding Stars to pick an option that’s low in sodium and sugar. For the toppings, go easy on the cheese and use lots of vegetables. Fortunately, the cooktime and oven temp for making a pizza from scratch is about perfect for roasting many vegetables.
Will it salad?
Specifically, grain salad. I mean, yeah, you can throw almost anything on a bed of greens and call it a salad. Grain salads, however, hold up better for lunch the next day. Make your nextover and leftover game work together. More to the point, they’re filling and make a satisfying meal.
The biggest trick with any kind of salad, green or grain, is to watch your dressing. Added sugar, added sodium, and saturated fat can add up faster than you might realize. Use them in moderation and pick options that offer heart-healthy fats, like olive oil.
Will it roast?
The Maillard reaction is what we call the process by which food gets all sweet and brown after exposure to heat. We can thank this reaction for the fact that most food tastes better with a little roasting, and most things can arrive at this state by exposure to about 400ºF. The only thing that really varies is roasting time, and even then, you can compensate by chopping slower-cooking veggies into smaller pieces.
When all imagination fails, I chop everything in my fridge and tossing it very lightly with oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper and throwing it on a sheet pan to roast. It rarely fails me, as a procedure. I serve the mess over whatever whole grain I’ve got sidekicking around and call it a meal.