When I was young the term “left-overs” instilled pure, unadulterated fear into my immature, teen-aged heart. I wasn’t the only family member who felt this way, either — not by a long shot. You could easily see my one brothers’ eyes glaze over, the skin of the others’ cheeks become tinged with a greenish-greyish hue. My older sister would usually slink out of the house after hearing those two words… but not before having made a face and sticking her tongue out at me from behind my mother’s back. My dad, who loves absolutely everything would even look a little solemn at those woeful words and my little sister didn’t often have a choice in the matter (that’s what little sisters are for) and had to stick around, whether she wanted to or not.
You would think that I would have learned from such displays of anger and disappointment and that I would never, ever in a million years endure an evening that is based on left-overs, let alone create an entire meal from something so vile that it would remain “left over” for longer than a fortnight. Because, really, that is what left-overs are; food that is still there after a certain amount of time. Food that has outstayed it’s welcome. Food that has been… well, let’s be honest: left over after the other, more popular food has been eaten and enjoyed.
Everyone has them, sitting in their fridge as we speak. A Tupperware container full of cold, sauced pasta, a foil-wrapped pile of grilled vegetables, a few frozen portions of lasagna… whatever the genre, whatever the denomination, they’re there, awaiting the time-honored tradition of left-over night in your house.
I have to say that I do believe I am the world’s most tenacious eschew-er of left-overs. You might say I am an Olympic Left-Over Evader. I will look at a container in the fridge and pass it over. I will know, on my way home from work, that there is already a perfectly good meal in the fridge or freezer, but because it is not new, not exciting, not tantalizingly up-to-the-minute, I don’t want it. There are nights where I eat toast-sticks and popcorn in order to avoid eating something made from food that has been patiently waiting to be eaten for who knows how long.
What does all of this have to do with the sparkling dish pictured above? Well, as much as I hate to admit it, this was our “left-over meal” quite recently. Left-overs, in a different way: we had a sweet potato that had lingered just a few days longer than I thought it should. We had a whole butternut squash lounging on the windowsill, which had remained uneaten for way too long. We had a half bag of Arborio rice in the cupboard that really, should have escorted itself out the door months ago. And, lastly we had a heel of Pecorino Romano that was dying to be used up — leaping out of the fridge at me every time I opened the door.
So left-over night became butternut squash and sweet potato risotto night. Redolent with memories of childhood left-over nights… with a new twist to make those nights just a little bit less painful and a little more delicious.