A fun (and useful) game we play in the kitchen every day is unofficially called “connect the dots,” an effort to see the unrelated foods we have in the refrigerator when we have “nothing to cook” – then creating a satisfying meal from those things. In fact, doing so against all odds is a major part of the satisfaction.
At this time of year, however, the game takes on added meaning. It’s no longer just about fixing dinner without having to run to the store, as grand a feeling as that is. No, in the spring it’s about using food preparation for your family to underline the efforts at a fresh post-winter start in other parts of your house and your life.
No, this isn’t the famous “Chicken Soup” for your soul or anything else. We call it… Spring Cleaning for Your Fridge.
There’s even, of course, technology to give us a hand these days – though it is precisely the technology that will take all the fun out of the process. As I understand it, you use a scanner to “log in” everything in your refrigerator and then wait for recommended recipes. Yes, it’s what we’ve been doing mentally on our own for decades. And yes, we are going to keep right on doing it our way.
Before anybody gives us grief, we’re not talking about serving or eating anything yanked from its final resting place at the back of some frosty drawer. Expiration dates and goods sense do definitely apply. What we ARE talking about is using things still perfectly good in your fridge that are struggling nonetheless to find a happy home. Sometimes this challenge is related to their nature – they are unusual, let’s just say.
But sometimes such foods take the form of leftovers in amounts too small to repeat your initial success: a small plastic container of black beans, for instance, or a couple slices of bacon. These items call out to us for use, but they don’t always give us much direction.
If indeed, as the saying goes, we are what we eat – we are also what we keep, meaning in our fridge. If we belong to one or more ethnic or religious groups, for instances, and pursue any particular diet on a regular basis, that will be what we find as leftovers. If we are fans of ethnic takeout, or heaven forbid, fast food from drive-thrus, then we might stumble on a bit of that. Leftover fast food might be the place to start any “spring cleaning,” in fact, though more with an eye toward the trash can.
If we are serious carnivores – steak, pork tenderloin, lamb chops, bacon – then our leftovers will probably give us away to prying food detectives as such. The same if we eat lots of seafood, from salmon to shrimp. Raw food is fine, as long as it’s still good, sometimes making a single chicken breast a true lifesaver with vegetables in a Chinese stir-fry or in some Thai or Vietnamese variation tossed with noodles.
Finally, there’s OUR contribution, the perfectly placed doorway to new flavors crafted from old. We have our popular line of Fischer & Wieser sauces, including sold-everywhere classics like The Original Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce and Mango Habanero Ginger Sauce, plus our Italian and comfort food line created under the Mom’s brand. Don’t overlook our new collection of Asian flavors, Dr. Foo’s Kitchen, or our ever-growing line of Food Trk Fusion sauces inspired by the movement that puts fascinating food on four wheels.
A Latin-style salsa (we make several) has got to be one of the most versatile ingredients of all, turning up in culinary adventures from Mexican to Indian. Don’t say a discouraging word about that last: salsa is awesome in tomato-based Indian dishes, because it actually contains nothing but authentic Indian ingredients.
Once any of these products is opened for the first time, it goes right into the refrigerator and keeps an impressively long time. Just waiting to connect the next dots, you might say. Or, even better, waiting for spring.
SPRING CLEANING PORK ROTINI
For the purposes of this recipe, we look for leftovers in the fridge, in the freezer and in the pantry, all things waiting to make your dinner a little bit better. This dish assumes the people in the house are meat-eaters, since indeed many people are.
1/4 pound bacon, cut into squares
4 tablespoons butter
1 pound pork loin, fat cap removed and cut into 1″
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
About 10 grinds of freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
2/3 cup flour
1 onion, medium dice
2 carrots, peeled, medium dice
2 celery ribs, medium dice
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 bay leaves
2/3 cup dry white wine)
1/2 cup flour
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup Mom’s brand Roasted Pepper Sauce
1 can garbanzos
1 can black beans
2 Yukon gold potatoes, large dice
2 slices ham, medium dice
12 pepperoni slices, quartered
1/4 cup salsa (or a diced tomato)
2 cups cooked pasta (rotini)
1 cup green peas
Melt the butter in a large stock pot or Dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook until it is crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan, leaving the fat. In a bowl, toss the cubed pork in a large bowl with all the dry spices until well coated. Add the flour and again toss until well coated. Fry the pork in the bacon fat/butter mixture over medium high heat, working in batches (don’t overcrowd the pan), cook them stirring frequently until nicely browned. Remove from pan.
Add the carrots, celery and onion to the pan and sauté 5 min over medium heat. Add the garlic and bay leaves, sauté another minute. Add the wine and use this liquid to help remove the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Reduce the liquid until mostly evaporated. Stir in half cup of flour. Stirring constantly, cook the flour for a minute as it dissolves.
Whisk in the chicken stock and remaining ingredients except for the pasta, peas and cooked pork and bacon. Cook until the potatoes are fork tender, return the pork cubes and bacon. Add the peas and the. Completely heat the pork and serve.