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A Repurposing Recipe for Leftover Vegetables Soup

PM Dining Critic Hal B. Klein shares a quick recipe for reducing food waste.

photo by hal b. klein

I had a swell time hosting a duo of cooking demonstrations on the Pittsburgh Magazine stage at this year’s Pittsburgh Home & Garden Show. I learned that bagels are as hard to demo as they are easy to make (once you get a few technical things down, that is). Nobody was into watching five minutes of me kneading dough or talking about how bagels have a lower hydration percentage than most other bread. Shocking. 

My other showing, “Leftover Vegetables Soup,” was more engaging. That’s good because as a country we throw out a lot of food that we could have eaten. While there are no precise statistics on how much uneaten food comes directly from the home, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that more than 20 percent of landfill is food waste and, according to a 2017 report issued by the National Resources Defense Council, of the 125 to 160 billion pounds of food per year that go uneaten, 43 percent is from households. 

We can do better.

There are straightforward ways to reduce food waste such as weekly menu planning and using proper storage methods, as well as more challenging (at first) preparations such as fermentation. Plus, if possible, we all should make an effort to compost scraps, peels and the occasional rotting piece of produce rather than throwing them in the garbage.  

Or, you can find novel, and often not too difficult ways, to repurpose what you have. This soup is a quick reminder that it’s just as easy to turn what’s sitting in your fridge to dinner as it is to let it go to trash. 

Leftover Vegetables Soup
Use what you have on-hand and add, if necessary, add other ingredients to round out the flavor.

For the demo, I used:

  • ½ carrot I had leftover from a salad I made the day before, plus two more carrots
  • 3 stalks of near-wilted celery
  • A small onion that was sitting toward the back of a shelf
  • ½ head of cabbage leftover from a stir-fry I made two nights prior to the demo
  • 3 heads of baby bok choy
  • Some leftover beans and the water I used to cook them in
  • A stray kielbasa
  • A 32oz. can of whole peeled tomatoes
  • Parsley, because there always seems to be leftover parsley   

Start by shredding the cabbage and cutting the remaining vegetables into bite-sized pieces. Next, break up the kielbasa into chunks and add it to a pot set over medium heat. Once the kielbasa starts to release its fat and begins to brown, add the vegetables and a little bit of olive oil. Sweat the vegetables for about five minutes, stirring occasionally, and then add the tomatoes, using your hands or a wooden spoon to break up the large pieces. Add the beans and cooking water (if you’re not using beans, add a few cups of water or the stock of your choice). Check for seasoning. In this case the combination of kielbasa, tomato and the bean cooking water was solid — all I needed was a few cracks of black pepper and a couple pinches of thyme. Cook at a slow boil for 20 minutes and finish with a few dashes of sherry or apple cider vinegar. Garnish with parsley. 

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