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Chef-author Tamar Adler turns to leftovers, comprehensively
Mar 13

Eds: UPDATES: With AP Photos. EDITS: Book published by Scribner on March 14. $30.

AP Entertainment Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - Not too long ago, Tamar Adler's husband was tidying up and picked up a tissue that their son had barely used. Adler stopped her husband from throwing it out.

"I was like, 'No, no, that tissue still has use in it!' And he was like, 'I think that is actually the way we would identify a zombie you versus the real you: Just try to throw something out - anything -and if you don't pounce on it, we know it's not you,'" she recalled.

Adler gets to show off that strong repurposing ethic in her new 500-page cookbook, "The Everlasting Meal Cookbook: Leftovers A-Z," a comprehensive guide from Scribner for reusing leftovers, from potato cooking water to day-old sauerkraut.

"It's not a cheapskate practice. It's a flavor-imbuing practice and a way of conserving what you have. Use it instead of discarding it," she said from her home in New York's Hudson Valley.

Adler turns old Pad Thai into an omelette, makes broccoli stems and wilted leaves into pesto, transforms old meatloaf into pizza, converts stale bread into bread pudding, adds old bacon fat to make cornbread, and even uses peanut shells as kitty litter.

Many things, she insists, taste better the next day, like beans, rice, slow- cooked meat and soups. Other dishes take invention, like when she turns coleslaw into soup and cheesecake into a milkshake.

"What I was hoping was that the sheer bulk of it would sort of secretly infiltrate everybody's thinking so that things started just to look usable instead of looking like they should be discarded," she said.

"Slowly it could start to shift and move toward like, 'Oh, maybe I should just not pour this old iced tea down the drain' - not to save the world but just because it'll be great as something else tomorrow."

Adler has always had a bit of the recycler in her; as a teen, she liked shopping at thrift stores. ''There was something in me that was always like, 'We don't need to always have new versions. The old versions are cool,'" she said.

That tendency followed her as she became a James Beard Award-winning author and food writer with experience cooking in such restaurants as Chez Panisse and Prune. Her books include "An Everlasting Meal" and "Something Old, Something New. "

"As I've become a cook and I've learned how much better things taste and how much easier it is and how much less expensive it is to let things go on evolving, it's certainly become more pronounced," she said.

Adler began work on her new cookbook alphabetically, listing foods from A to Z and then attacking them in order, rather than starting with dishes she had already mastered. "That might have been a really bad idea, but it might have kept me out of ruts," she said.

By The Associated Press, Copyright 2021

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