Sunday, May 19, 2013

dab-dish cooking

I am not obsessive about too many things in life, which is why my house looks the way it does and my children are frequently wandering around wearing mismatched socks.

But using up food leftovers? I'm a fanatic. Maybe it's because we produce some of our food ourselves, and know how much work is involved. Or maybe it's because I am really cheap. Or enjoy a good challenge. Take your pick. They probably all apply.

I was leafing through my newly-acquired collection of Workbasket magazines, and came across an article by Mariana Prieto from the March 1951 edition, called "Dab Dishes":
   Have you ever gone to the ice box and found it crowded with saucers of left-overs? There will be a dab of this and a smidgen of that, not enough for a complete serving for all the family, yet too much to throw away. Then that's the time to make what I call a "dab-dish."
   With the high cost of food, I've found that these dishes cut my grocery bill considerably as well as delighting my family as new taste treats. There are limitless food combinations that you can make so that your own imagination and creativeness can help you in mixing these dab-dishes.
Dab cooking! There's actually a name for it! I doubt that my family has always been delighted with my "new taste treats" but they are usually pretty good about shoveling it down. Mostly because they have little choice in the matter.

(As an aside: I love that all her left-overs are on saucers, in a time before Tupperware.)

This past week, I had a ton of left-overs gifted by my mother-in-law after a Mother's Day meal at her house.
  • Monday, the steak was cut into strips and made into fajitas in the crock pot, along with sliced onions, green peppers, a packet of taco seasoning (because I didn't have fajita seasoning on hand) and a can of diced tomatoes with jalapenos. Note: saute the onions and peppers in a little olive oil BEFORE adding to the crock pot to get the proper texture.

  • Tuesday, the french bread became croutons for our salad. This is a great use of left-over bread, second only to garlic bread. Cube it, toss in olive oil mixed with a little salt and italian herbs, and broil until toasty.

  • Wednesday, the broccoli and potatoes went into a chicken casserole with cream-of-mushroom-soup and cheese sauce. My family draws the line at reheated leftover veggies. The only way to get them down is to mix them into a casserole.

Do you cook with dabs of this and that? If so, what is your favorite dab dish creation? I am always on the hunt for new ideas.


  1. It's difficult to have a favorite as the final dish is totally ad hoc. But I, too, am obsessive about using up leftover food. As a general rule:
    Cooked vegetables go into salads and soups.
    Cooked and cubed chicken becomes a main course pasta dish.
    The real favorite, I think, is the luncheon salad made with leftover beef, which is cubed and tossed with small cubes of Swiss cheese, sliced/cubed onions and olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste. Just add good bread!

  2. This winter we have been turning leftover beef or chicken into pot pies. Good way to use up some leftover veggies as well! The tough roast beef I made yesterday I suspect is destined for this, but maybe the rest will become fajitas! I love that suggestion.