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Leftovers: The Smarter Way To Cook at Home


Love your leftovers? After reading this, maybe there’s hope to start an even greater repertoire with what’s left in the fridge or those restaurant takeout bags! According to the USDA, Americans waste a staggering 30 percent of their food (largely those perishables such as fruits and vegetables), but between good planning, smart food storage and clever re-use methods, the opportunity to conserve abounds. On that latter point, one local chef and cookbook author is mastering reinvention with the release of her new book which teaches readers to “cook smarter, save time and money, and enjoy great meals crafted from leftovers,” aka great ‘second meals’.

James Beard Award-winner Sara Dickerman Secrets of Great Second Meals goes well beyond zapping last night’s leftovers and instead dives deeply into creatively reinventing new meals that are nourishing, sophisticated recipes. Her methods also help impart confidence to cooks to be spontaneous and flexible.

Take, for example, that extra salmon or clams you enjoyed the night before at Ivar’s Acres of Clams. That now becomes a component for another meal entirely, in perhaps a rice bowl, or a terrific soup. Secrets of Great Second Meals lists the top ten most versatile dishes for multiple meals, food preservation and storage tips, flavor pointers and how to take improvisational liberties. Think of this as the approachable home economics lesson we always needed to slay our seconds and whip up new favorites.

Flexible recipe examples include, “The Frittata: Meatball Frittata with Mozzarella and Tomatoes (extra ingredient: meatballs),” “The Fish Cake: Black Cod Cakes with Cilantro, Scallions, and Tomato Salad (extra ingredients: cooked fish and cooked potatoes)”, “The Chicken Salad: Ginger-Scallion Chicken Salad with Cucumbers (extra ingredient: roasted chicken)” and many more.

If you’d like to meet the author for a free book talk in Seattle, she’ll be presenting at The Book Larder (4252 Fremont Ave N) on Feb. 27, 2019 at 6:30 p.m. to inspire even greater second meals!

With winter weather upon us, Sara shared with us a warming, flavorful miso soup recipe perfect for a seafood variation for those leftover Ivar’s clams, crab or shrimp added to this base!


The Almost- Instant Miso Soup


Makes 1 serving (about 2 cups)

This is the kind of soup I make for myself for a quick deskside lunch during a busy day. It’s a charismatic broth poured over some extra tofu and veggies for a very pure- feeling but savory meal. If you want to treat yourself a bit like a guest at a fancy restaurant, place the chunky bits in the bowl in an artful way and then pour the broth over them with a flourish. Even if you’re dining alone, you deserve a little flair.

(Photo credit: Sara Flotard, used with publisher’s permission)


  • 1 1/2 cups water or dashi
  • 1 tbsp white miso or chickpea miso
  • 1 tsp gochujang paste (available at Korean and Asian groceries; I very much prefer the favor Wholly Gochujang, which is also available at Amazon.com)
  • 3/4 cup roasted tofu
  • 1/2 cup cooked baby bok choy or other greens
  • 2 or 3 shiitake mushrooms sliced thin if raw or in bigger chunks if already cooked
  • Toasted sesame seeds to garnish
  • Extra ingredients: roasted tofu, cooked bok choy or other greens


  1. Bring the water to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low, whisk in the miso and the gochujang, then add the tofu, bok choy, and mushrooms and let them warm through. Use tongs or a slotted spoon to pull them out of the broth and arrange them in a serving bowl.
  2. ­Pour the broth over the tofu and vegetables and sprinkle with the sesame seeds.


  • Change the vegetables. Almost any vegetable tastes good in this context, but especially roasted mushrooms or asparagus; diced cooked squash; potatoes or sweet potatoes; English or snap peas; and/or cooked greens such as pea vines, spinach, orchard.
  • Add some seafood. Try floating some grilled shrimp, steamed clams, or crab meat in the spicy broth along with the tofu.

From SECRETS OF GREAT SECOND MEALS by Sara Dickerman. Copyright © 2019 by Sara Dickerman. Reprinted by permission of William Morrow Publishers.