Reinventing Leftovers + Forging Connections | NOW & AGAIN, JULIA TURSHEN


We are so excited about Julia Turshen’s new cookbook, Now & Again, and to celebrate we are sharing her wonderful Introduction about the power of reinventing and sharing food, as well as a recipe from the book and its “It’s Me Again” counterpart!

Julia won hearts and acclaim with her previous cookbooks, Small Victories and Feed The Resistance. Now she’s back with Now & Again, with more than 125 delicious and doable recipes and 20 creative menu ideas to help home cooks of any skill level gather friends and family to share a meal together. It comes to life with her funny and encouraging voice and includes:

  • can’t-get-enough-of-it recipes
  • inspiring menus for social gatherings and holidays
  • helpful timelines for throwing a party
  • oh-so-helpful “It’s Me Again” recipes for reinventing leftovers
  • tips on how to be smartly thrifty with food choices

Now & Again will change the way we gather, eat and think about leftovers and, like the name suggests, you’ll find yourself reaching for its pages time and time again.

The following extract is from Now & Again: Go-To Recipes, Inspired Menus + Endless Ideas for Reinventing Leftovers by Julia Turshen, Photographs by David Loftus


Introduction

Now & Again has three goals.

One is to dismantle the idea that making a full meal has to be both difficult and expensive. The second is to show how leftovers can be an invitation to really fun, inventive cooking. The third and final is to make sure you have all of the tools you need—the inspiration and information—to gather people around your table because that is the best part about home cooking.

Julia Turshen © Gentl + Hyers

But first I owe you some full disclosure. Now & Again started as a completely different book. Based on my love of leftovers, I had an idea to write a book about reinventing them called . . . wait for it . . . It’s Me Again. Cooking with leftovers makes me so excited: you’re already halfway there! I was very thrilled about the idea. I was also sure it wasn’t enough. I wanted to give you not only ideas for how to reinvent leftovers but also recipes for what to make in the first place.

In thinking about what these recipes would be, I kept coming back to a question a lot of friends and family seemed to be asking me: what should I serve with it? This question also ties into what and how I really cook at home every day. I rarely ever cook just a single thing. Even if it’s just a salad next to a roast chicken or a toasted pita underneath scrambled eggs with a little yogurt spooned on top, I tend not to cook stand-alone recipes, but rather a few simple things that all complement one another and make the sum greater than the parts. I am all about what goes with what.

For me, creating menus isn’t about entertaining, which can feel intimidating. It’s about storytelling. There’s always something(s) alongside the main thing on my table. And it’s in the relationship those things share that full pictures get painted and stories are told. It could be as simple as meatballs with spaghetti, with maybe a little garlicky toast to sop up the sauce or a tangle of peppery arugula to add something green and to balance the whole thing. Each of those things is made better by the relationship it has with its friends. By assembling all of them, the meatballs and the salad and so on, I’m not just making food. I’m making a meal with a clear point of view and a story.

My forever goal for what I cook, eat and for the recipes I write is to feel connected. I’m always searching for and celebrating this feeling. It doesn’t matter to me if it’s a fancy lobster dinner or an omelet at the diner (honestly, I prefer the latter). I am just as excited about the popcorn from the hardware store as I am about the spiciest fried chicken in Nashville, the most lovingly baked bread, and my family recipes handed down for generations. All of these things are connected to something. In preparing them and eating them, the experience becomes more than just food. It’s tied to a feeling.

Food, after all, isn’t just something we eat. It’s a lens through which we can understand ourselves and all of the folks that came before us. It’s also the lens through which we can, remarkably, better understand one another. Cooking is an easy way to connect with people, both those you know and those who are different from you, on a regular basis.

As a teenager, I wrote menus in the margins of my school notebooks. It was my favourite way to daydream. Those menus felt like little fantasies of the life I might one day lead, of the dishes I could make to celebrate special occasions and holidays, and of the ones I could stir up when comfort was needed. It was my way to imagine and connect with the world beyond my classroom. It was also a way to connect with myself and with the independent life I so very much wanted to live. As an adult, I can attest that bringing these menus to life for everyone I care so deeply about, and for all of the people I want to know better, gives me enormous joy and satisfaction.

This idea of connection, both with the dishes on the table and with the people sitting at it, is why I arranged this book by menus instead of stand-alone recipes. Some are incredibly easy, like the Simple Backpack Picnic Lunch on page 215 that is just sandwiches, some nectarines and nuts, and some cookies. It’s not much cooking. But it’s the perfect balance of things, each in relation to the other. It’s also tied to a memory, and it’s a way for me to evoke that memory. Food, in other words, is an effective way of chronicling life. For example, those particular sandwiches were the same ones my wife, Grace, and I had on a hike near our home in upstate New York. While I might not always immediately recall exactly where the trail was, I will always remember the sandwiches. And in remembering them, the whole day comes back to me.

Some menus in the book, like the one for Thanksgiving, are more involved. But no matter how few or how many components, each menu is built on food that’s entirely doable. There are also timetables for each menu, so it’s clear exactly what and how much you can make ahead, plus lots of thoughts throughout on things that go well with the menus that require no work whatsoever (like sometimes orange wedges are all you need after a big meal). There’s even a list of great things to delegate on page 278.

And then, It’s Me Again, which are all of the ways to reinvent the leftovers. Grace and I live in a small, rural town and eat almost all of our meals at home. Therefore, we always make a bit more than we can finish at a single sitting. Tomorrow’s meals are always informed by what’s left over from today and so on. It’s proven to be a really relaxing, effective cycle, and we’re always sure there’s something good to eat. All of the recipes in this book come from that similar place of plenty, from the feeling that there is more than enough. And where there is more than enough, there are leftovers. And where there are leftovers, there are endless opportunities for reinvention. These suggestions are some of the most fun parts of the book. They’re full of ideas for how to turn the leftovers into entirely new dishes that, as Grace says, “don’t taste like the same thing again!” Note that all of these ideas for leftovers are applicable whether or not you made the original recipe. So, for example, if you’re staring at some cooked chicken in your refrigerator and are feeling uninspired, turn to the Coronation Chicken Salad on page 61, or take your seemingly boring leftover broccoli and make the Broccoli Fritters on page 113. All of the recipes are categorised by type at the back of the book (page 280) to make referencing them extra easy.

There are no rules here. The full menus are there if you’d like to follow them. But it’s also wonderful if you want to pick and choose recipes, maybe something from one menu paired with something from another. Or just make a single thing, call a friend to bring over a loaf of bread and a green salad, and call it a day. Whatever works for you works for me, so long as it means you’re happy in your kitchen and you’re providing yourself and the people you love with food that makes you all feel good.

Speaking of those people, one last thought from my friend and fellow cookbook author Nicole Taylor before we get into the kitchen. I was talking to her about how gathering people for a meal can make everyone feel connected and welcome and supported—all wonderful, positive things. And she asked me a question that fundamentally challenged and changed me: when was the last time you had more than one person around your dining table who didn’t look like you? Cooking for someone is a powerful thing to do. Invite someone new over. Connection and change happen at the table, and you’re all welcome at mine.


SPICED BANANA BROWN BREAD

Serves 8 to 10

This loaf, a cross between whole wheat brown bread and good old banana bread, is my preferred way to use up overripe bananas. Unlike many banana breads, this loaf isn’t too dense or oily. Made with all whole wheat flour and sweetened ever so slightly with maple syrup, this is also bona fide healthy. Serve with soft butter or cream cheese. You can also stir some honey, maple syrup, or molasses into your butter or cream cheese. If you like nuts in your bread, stir a large handful of chopped nuts into the batter just before it goes into the pan. Walnuts or pecans are especially good.

  • 2 cups [280 g] whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • 2 superripe bananas, peeled
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup [240 ml] buttermilk
  • ½ cup [160 g] maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F [180°C]. Spray a 9-by-5-in [23-by-12-cm] loaf pan with baking spray. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Spray the parchment paper for good measure and set the pan aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves.
  3. Put the bananas into a large bowl and mash with a fork until broken up really well. Add the eggs, buttermilk, maple syrup, and vanilla and whisk until thoroughly mixed.
  4. Fold the flour mixture into the banana mixture just until combined. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the batter into the prepared pan and then smooth the surface so it is even.
  5. Bake the bread until dark brown on top, firm to the touch, incredibly fragrant, and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, about 50 minutes.
  6. Let the bread cool in the pan on a wire rack to room temperature. Once cooled, lift the bread out of the pan and then peel off and discard the parchment. Slice and serve.
  7. Leftovers can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 4 days (these slices are best when toasted before serving).

IT’S ME AGAIN

BANANA BREAD FRENCH TOAST

Leftover Spiced Banana Brown Bread can be repurposed into decadent French toast. It’s actually worth baking an extra loaf just to be sure you can make this. For every serving of French toast, beat an egg with a splash of half-and-half and a healthy shake of ground cinnamon. Dip slices of the banana bread in the egg mixture and panfry in butter. Serve with sliced bananas, whipped cream, and a drizzle of maple syrup. Yum.


Watch the trailer for Now & Again here.

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