Friday, February 27, 2015

Luscious Leftovers - Part IV

Venerating Vegetables - Take 3


Roasted Vegetable Pizza with Cheaters' Cheese

Are you sick of For The Culinarily Challenged's series on Leftover Vegetables? Great! This the last one!

Pizza is a GREAT way of using leftover veg. Not only is it fast, easy, delicious, low fat, looks fancy, and is vegetarian and kid friendly, but you can even use the leftovers of leftover veg!

Let me show you.

Roasted Vegetable Pizza with Cheaters' Cheese
Difficulty Level: Easy
Total Prep and Cook Time: 15 minutes
Serves 2

Before we begin, I feel I should clarify what I mean by "Cheaters' Cheese".

When you think pizza, you usually think of tomato sauce, vegetables, pepperoni and other meats, all topped with a nice soft neutral tasting mozzarella. Unfortunately, good mozzarella tends to be pricey, so I came up with a cheap alternative that's just as tasty and, once baked, will pass for pizza cheese.


1 Large Regular or Whole Wheat Pita Bread - This will give you a thin, crispy crust pizza that you can bake according to my instructions below. If you prefer a thicker, softer crust, try a store bought pizza crust - these come already shaped and prebaked in the bread section of the grocery store, or as balls of dough in the freezer section. IF you go with a store bought crust, FOLLOW THE BAKING INSTRUCTIONS ON THE PACKAGE. Food manufacturers have scores of experts testing the best way to get the most mileage out of their products, so bake at the temperature and for the time they recommend.

1/2 a Cup of Roasted Vegetables - Have some leftover vegetables from when you were making pasta? Some leftover grilled veg. from a BBQ? Use 'em.

1 Head of Roasted Garlic - It may seem like a lot of garlic, but remember that roasting sweetens it and removes its harshness, making it ideal for a quick pizza sauce.

1 Can of Tomato Paste (5.5 oz - 156 ml) - Plain, herb, or garlic flavor - it doesn't matter. Choose the one you like.

1/4 Teaspoon of Sugar - this will kill that bitter right-out-of-the-can taste of the tomato paste

Salt and Pepper - to taste

1/2 Teaspoon of Dried Basil or Oregano + more to sprinkle over top

2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil - Divided - 1 Tablespoon is for your sauce, the other is for drizzling over the pizza right before it goes in the oven

6 Tablespoons of Water

1/4 Cup of Grated Cheese - This can be any hard cheese you have lying around. For the pizza in the photo, I used old cheddar, but if you have some parmesan in the fridge that you keep for pasta, that works too. You could also use regular cheddar, swiss, gruyere, or asiago (that's a Spanish cheese that was popular for a while). Is the cheese a little dried out? No problem! If 

1/4 Cup of PLAIN (unflavored) Greek or Thick Yogurt - Greek Yogurt is much thicker than regular yogurt and can be found in the grocery store with the other stuff for a little more money. Yogurts tend to have phases of popularity among foodies, and right now Greek Yogurt is in its heyday. I prefer it to regular yogurt because I find it makes a more convincing substitute for sour cream that is both rich, stomach-friendly (yogurt contains a bacteria that helps your stomach, and is easier on people who are a little lactose intolerant), and comes in a variety of degrees of fat content i.e. 0 %, 2%, and 14%. If you don't want to splurge on Greek yogurt, try the regular stuff, just make sure it's not too runny.

Cooking Spray or Olive Oil - for greasing your pan.


1 Baking aka Cookie Sheet

Measuring Spoons

1 Box Grater

2 Regular Bowls

2 Regular Spoons

1 Regular Fork

Preheat your oven to 425 oF .

Grease your baking sheet and put the pita or pizza crust on top.

In a regular bowl, combine the tomato paste, sugar, roasted garlic, salt, pepper, basil or oregano, water, and 1 tablespoon of Olive Oil, slowly mixing and mashing everything together with an ordinary spoon to make sure the garlic, water, and oil is well incorporated. Mix too fast, and you'll end up with a shirt that looks like you wore it while committing an axe murder. 
When you're done, the sauce should be spreadable. If it isn't, add a little more water, a tablespoon at a time until you get a spreadable consistency.

In a separate bowl, combine the yogurt and grated cheese with a fork. This is your cheaters' cheese.

Using the same spoon you used to mix the tomato sauce, spread said sauce over the pita bread or crust.

Top with as many roasted vegetables as you like.

Spoon the cheaters' cheese over the top of your pizza in any pattern you like.

Drizzle the pizza with the remaining tablespoon of Olive Oil and a pinch of basil or oregano.

Bake for 10 minutes.

Cool for 3 minutes and serve!

Stay tuned for next time when I'll be showing you how to repurpose leftover meats!

-Samantha R. Gold

Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Luscious Leftovers - Part III

Venerating Vegetables - Take 2 


Welcome back to For The Culinarily Challenged's series on Luscious Leftovers! For those of you just joining us, I'm teaching the world how to repurpose leftovers, a great way to save money and prevent food waste. I started with fruit, and am now doing leftover veg. After that I'll be tackling leftover fish, meats, bread and other starches.

Pasta is a great vessel for re-purposing leftovers, especially vegetables.

Let me show you.

Not Quite Perished Veg Pasta
Difficulty Level: Easy
Total Prep and Cook Time:
Sauté method - 30 minutes  
Roasting method - 1 hour - Why take the extra time? Because roasting makes the garlic soft and sweet, and concentrates the flavors of the vegetables a bit more than the first method. It also happens to be the type of thing you can prep, shove in the oven and walk away from until the last 15 or 20 minutes when you need to boil the pasta.
Serves 2 to 4

There are many different types of pasta dishes. Some consist of cooked pasta topped with a hearty tomato, vegetable, or meat based sauce. Some have a cream based sauce. And others consist of a few ingredients that are chopped up and sautéed or roasted before being mixed with a few extra ingredients and tossed with fresh pasta.

This dish falls into the third category.

It doesn't matter if your bell peppers are a little wrinkly, your tomatoes a little too soft, or your  eggplant lackluster. Pasta is very forgiving.

To those who are calorie and/or cholesterol conscious, you'll be happy to know that there's almost no fat in this dish.

Here's How You Do It


3 Tablespoons of Olive Oil

At Least 2 Cups of Leftover Vegetables - Coarsely Chopped - For this dish, I like to avoid starchy veg like cooked carrots, sweet potatoes, and squash. Stick to stuff like tomatoes, eggplant, onions, bell peppers of any colour, mushrooms, celery, zucchini, and broccoli. The dishes shown in the picture were made with bell peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant, and a little onion.

Sauté Method - 2 cloves (pieces) of peeled garlic, finely chopped as the flavor will be more intense
Roasting Method -  1 Whole, Unpeeled Head, as roasting garlic sweetens and removes its harshness

1 Teaspoon of Basil or Oregano - OR - If you're feeling REALLY lazy - 1 Teaspoon of Pesto

Salt and Pepper - To Taste

Hot Pepper Flakes - Optional - To Taste

1/4 Cup of the Water Used to Cook the Pasta - The starch in the water will allow the sauce to adhere to the pasta

1/2 Cup of Tomatoey Liquid - This can be some thick vegetable cocktail like V8, tomato juice, tomato paste mixed with some water (ratio of water to paste should be at least 4 to 1 or until the mixture has reached a pourable consistency), some crushed tomatoes right out of the can, or some passata. This will tie the sauce together.

1/4 Cup of Red Wine or Balsamic Vinegar - This adds a nice richness. Any leftover red wine will do if you don't have the balsamic.

1 Cup of Hot Water - The water is only necessary for the sauté  method, as it speeds up the cook time of the vegetables a bit

1 Box (454 g) of Long Pasta i.e. Spaghetti, Spaghettini, Linguini, Angel Hair (Capellini), or Fettuccini - Prepped according to package directions - Remember that the thinnest variety, like angel hair, will cook the quickest.

TOPPING - Optional

Grated Cheese of any kind - This doesn't have to be parmesan. If you have a piece of cheese like cheddar or swiss or some fancy remnant of a cheese platter that's going a little hard (though I'd avoid using blue cheese as the flavor is kinda strong), grate it up and serve it with the pasta. No one - except maybe a cheese snob - will know the difference.


1 Knife and Cutting Board

1 Large Pot

1 Strainer

1 Frying Pan

1 Pair of Tongs

1 Wooden Spoon

Measuring Cups and Spoons

1 Regular Bowl - for the pasta water

1 Wooden Spoon

1 Frying Pan for the Sauté Method
- OR -
1 Baking Pan for the Roasting Method (the biggest one you have)

2 Small Sheets of Aluminum Foil

1 Kitchen Timer


Make sure your ingredients and equipment are all within easy reach, and this is going to be quicker than you think.

Put the pasta water on to boil, and your frying pan on a nearby burner on medium high heat.

Dump the Olive Oil in the pan.

Check the oil by throwing in a piece of a vegetable from your pile of chopped up ones. If it sizzles a bit within a few seconds of contact, the oil is hot enough.

Add the rest of your vegetables, and stir them around with a wooden spoon to get them evenly coated with oil and soften 'em up a little. Don't worry if the vegetables don't quite fit in the pan. They'll shrink as they cook.

Add salt, pepper, hot pepper flakes if using, and either basil, oregano, or pesto and stir to incorporate.

Cook for about 10 minutes and then add the tomatoey liquid, wine or balsamic, and water and let it bubble away in the pan uncovered until the vegetables are tender. The best way to figure this out is to scoop out a piece of what was the toughest raw vegetable i.e. broccoli, eggplant,  and give it a taste.

If it's soft enough for you, add the finely chopped garlic, and stir it around for a minute to incorporate.

Taste and adjust for salt and pepper, and add the cooking liquid from the pasta.

Give it another quick stir, toss with the freshly cooked pasta and serve!   


Preheat the oven to 375 oF.

Using a sharp knife, cut the very top off the head of garlic, just exposing the insides. Put it in the 2 sheets of foil, and pour 1 Tablespoon of Olive Oil over it, and season it with a pinch of salt.

Wrap the garlic tightly in the foil.

Dump the remaining Olive Oil in the baking pan and toss in the vegetables.

Add the basil, oregano, or pesto, some salt and pepper, and the hot pepper flakes, if using.

Mix everything up with your hands so the vegetables are evenly coated, and pour the balsamic vinegar or red wine over everything.

Nestle the foil wrapped garlic among the vegetables in the pan and stick the whole thing in the oven.

Set a timer for 45 minutes.

After the 30 minutes, in a large pot of salted water, start cooking your pasta.

When the pasta water is cloudy and the pasta almost cooked, scoop some water out into an ordinary bowl with a ladle.

Drain your pasta and put it back in the pot.

When the 45 minutes are up, take the pan out of the oven.

Using tongs or oven mitts, take the foil wrapped garlic out of the pan and set it aside to cool.

Dump the tomatoey liquid and pasta water into the pan and stir it around with a wooden spoon.

When the foil is cool enough to handle, open it up. The garlic will have shrunk, and be tender, sweet and delicious - see the image below - with none of the harshness it had when it was raw.

Carefully squeeze the cloves out of the skin into the pan - they should pop right out - and stir everything with a wooden spoon, mashing the cloves a bit to make sure they're well incorporated into the sauce.

Dump pan's contents into the pot with the drained pasta, toss with tongs so everything's nicely mixed up and serve!

Stay tuned for next time when I'll be showing you a third and final way of repurposing leftover vegetables before moving on to meats!

-Samantha R. Gold

Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.