***Edit 11/11/2006 - 7:30am***
Leftovers are the bane of every cook and foodie's existence. On one hand, they add additional value to the meals we purchase or prepare. 90% of my lunches are bento boxes assembled using leftovers from dinner the night before. On the other hand, they often result in the need for resource management, balancing calories against refrigerator space and projected storage time prior to spoiling. Every time I think about having something to eat, I consider what leftovers need to be eaten first, not what foods I actually want to eat. I suppose I could always be like some of my friends and throw out those leftovers. But, in a country where there are still homeless people and children who don't get enough to eat, that gluttonously wasteful act seems eminently shameful to my Taiwanese-Chinese cultural sensibilities. It's like I can hear my mother in the back of my head saying, "Tsk! That's like throwing away money. How did I raise such a wasteful son? The gods will punish you."
In order to silence the demons of my conscience, and because I'm not exactly swimming in so much money that I can afford to waste perfectly good food, I've adopted the quintessential skill of the American housewife; making meals from leftovers. Monday's Japanese hamburger steak becomes Thursday's Italian meatballs and pasta. Tuesday's Hot Dogs become Wednesday's Hot Dog Fried Rice. Friday's Mashed Potatoes are used in Saturday's Whole Wheat Potato Bread or Potato Leek Soup. Sunday, Cat and I eat out.
After our last trip to Peruvian Kitchen, Cat and I brought home a small tub of the Ceviche de Snapper. The plate was so big that there just wasn't any way for us to finish it all. Now, I don't know about you guys, but I'm always leery of eating any raw fish product on the second day. While I know that the strong acid used in making ceviche sterilizes and "cooks" the fish, I also know that when I ate it, I introduced several strains of bacteria present in my saliva, along with enzymes that aid in predigestion and speed the decomposition of food. (Like all little Asian boys, I had parents dreamed that I would grow up to be a doctor someday, which is why I'm a walking repository of useless biology trivia.) So, to play it safe, I always cook ceviche leftovers before I eat them.
What's in a ceviche? Along with fish, it contains onions, lemon or lime juice, chili peppers, coriander, and garlic. Sound familiar? Yep. Those are the basic building blocks for a number of popular Southeast Asian curries and spiced soups. The possibilities abound.
1 medium saucepan or wok
1 large mixing bowl
2 cups of leftover ceviche (Peruvian Ceviche Recipe, Classic Ceviche Recipe)
1 tbsp of thinly sliced lemongrass
1 tbsp of minced ginger
2 tbsp of thinly sliced Thai bird chilies (optional)
2 tbsp of cooking oil (flavorless)
1 tbsp of fish sauce (optional)
2 tbsp of yellow curry powder (feel free to use your favorite)
1 cup of coconut cream
2 cups of water
1 package of rice noodles (enough for roughly four servings)
Thai basil leaves
Salt to taste
This is a very quick and easy recipe. To prepare the curry, heat the oil in your wok on high heat until slightly smoking. Add the lemongrass, ginger, and chilies, and stir-fry quickly for 10-12 seconds to season the oil. Add the curry powder and fry the resulting paste for a few seconds to release the aroma of the curry spices. Add the two cups of water and the fish sauce. Bring the mixture to a boil before adding the coconut cream. Bring to a boil again, then turn the heat down to medium and allow to simmer for 20 minutes, or until a third of the liquid has evaporated. Occasional stirring is required to avoid burning the sauce. Once the curry has reached the desired consistency, gently stir in the ceviche, allow the mixture to come up to a slow boil, then turn the heat down to low or medium-low and let simmer for a few minutes. Remove from heat, then add salt to taste.
To prepare the noodles, let them soak in a bowl of cold water until they reach the desired level of softness, then strain, rinse, and divide into four soup bowls for serving. This step is best done during the last ten minutes of the curry cooking process.
Ladle your curry soup or sauce (depending on how thick you made it) over the rice noodles and garnish with Thai basil.
Makes four servings.
Total prep + cooking time = 30 minutes or less