In 2015, Americans threw out 37.6 million tons of food. Nearly all that ended up in landfills. While waste happens at all levels of the food system, one of the easiest—and most cost-effective—ways to curb the loss is learning to cook with leftovers.
For those foggy on how, exactly, to do that, local food writer Sara Dickerman has a new cookbook, Secrets of Great Second Meals. It came out today and she'll be speaking at the Book Larder on February 27. While the book contains over 100 recipes, she calls them “a matrix for a lot of variation.” They teach you to riff.
Dickerman, formerly a cook in restaurants like Chez Panisse and Le Pichet, says she first learned the concepts when creating restaurant staff meals, turning scraps into something cohesive. “And if I messed up, restaurant workers aren't shy to let you know.” She says she’s now brought that approach—cook with what you have, finesse it into something new—into the cookbook.
Starting with simple dishes works best, she says. “Probably the most generous dish of all is a roast chicken.” It gives you a base flavor that can be taken in any direction: enchiladas, chicken salad, the protein in a curry. Aside from that, some of the fundaments of cooking can add vigor to leftovers: citrus, fresh herbs, chilies, and the right amount of salt.
“I think people have lost touch with key cooking skills,” she says. So getting acquainted with basic techniques can help them let loose and play with what remains. “That comfort in the kitchen is really something that can help people reduce waste in the kitchen.”