We love meal prepping in my house. By “we,” I mean “I,” and by “love,” I mean “appreciate the time savings.” The problem with meal prepping is the leftovers. Big batch meals are easy to make, but with just two adults and a toddler in the house? Even the best lentil soup in the world gets a bit tired after three nights straight. The happy medium, I find, is nextovers.
Nextovers are dishes that are made with component from another meal that have been made over into a slightly different dish. To pitch one of my odder recent concoctions, I made a zucchini lasagna with no cheese on top. It came out a bit watery and the zucchini didn’t cook down quite as I would have liked, and I was not excited about the leftovers. I chopped some of it up into bite-sized pieces and cooked spaghetti in it, adding water as needed to keep it from drying out. We ended up with a vegetable-forward spaghetti that was enough different from the casserole to be enjoyable.
Leftover zucchini lasagna? Meh. Nextover zucchini pasta? Now you’re cooking with fire. If I had leftovers from that, I probably would have added some egg and low-fat ricotta to turn it into zucchini-spaghetti pie.
Nextover cooking requires confidence, bravery, and creativity. I can’t teach you those in a four-part blog series. What I can do, however, is give you a few building blocks to help you build them in yourself. During the rest of this month, I’ll share some tips to inspire you as you dig deep and find the courage required to bid leftovers farewell and explore uncharted space in the kitchen. We’ll also talk about how to modify ideas and recipes to create concoctions that have a better chance of earning Guiding Stars.
Next week, we’ll focus on choosing a flexible main ingredient. Nextover cooking is often focused around picking a protein, but it doesn’t have to be. If you don’t want to eat chicken or beans five days in a row, no worries. Your commanding ingredient can be a grain or a vegetable just as easily.
On September 18th, we’ll build on our discussion of mains to explore creative pairing. We’ll consider what a balanced meal looks like and talk through some pantry staples that make excellent first officers for any commanding main. I’ll explain how to stock your galley with a reliable crew: seasonings that are a delight anywhere you use them.
On September 25th, we’ll consider best practices for bringing our ingredients together for a dinner mission. I have a few favorite ways to make my leftovers into nextovers. I’ve learned a few things in arriving at those techniques. I’ll give you a code to work from as you boldly cook something no one has cooked before.
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