On a recent morning, I woke up in the worst way, and by that I mean hungry as a bear yet indecisive about what to eat.
I opened the refrigerator to look for inspiration. Eggs. Milk. Plastic tubs filled with "what was that?" Then I came across a couple of smoked jalapenos from the fajitas I'd made a few days earlier. There was a charred avocado half, intended for guacamole but set aside when I changed the menu. In a small bowl were some scorched teardrop tomatoes left over from skewers of grilled Caprese salad appetizers.
A cartoon light bulb lit up above my head.
I sliced the smoky pepper, chopped the blackened avocado and cut up the grilled tomatoes. I poured a whisked mixture of eggs and milk into a pan, distributed the vegetables in it and cooked it on the stove top briefly before giving the thing a turn under the broiler. Owing to its smoky fragrance, I dubbed the creation Frittata Fume. With its greens and reds against the puffed, browned egg canvas, it looked like it could be on a magazine cover. One bite, and the morning turned around.
In the modern lexicon, a problem is not a problem. It is an opportunity. And so it is with grilled and smoked leftovers. You can eat the same thing over and over again: grilled chicken breasts, say. Or you can repurpose them into a taco, a soup or - my favorite - a chicken salad sandwich.
It seems that every time I grill, I have leftovers. I don't consider myself an unimaginative guy, but for years it didn't occur to me to reinvent those leftovers into something other than what they were when they came off the fire. About the only creativity I brought was turning sliced brisket sandwiches into chopped brisket sandwiches. Alas, even that was not my idea. I got it from scores of pitmen, who served it up at their barbecue joints.
I am loath to admit this, but when something went on the grill or smoker with a specific intent (say, a link of sausage), I'd eat leftovers of that thing as that thing (a link of sausage). So, let's say I had a barbecue for 12 people and, because there was so much other food, I had six links left over. I would be eating sausage links, as is, for a week.
Somewhere along the line, it occurred to me that a thing could be something else. Soon, I became the Steve Jobs of barbecue reinvention, taking one basic product and tricking it out.
A single link's worth of smoked sausage is now added to black beans, sauteed onion, garlic, tomatoes and hot peppers for a Southwestern chili, or sliced with tasso and chicken into jambalaya. Grilled zucchini is combined with grilled corn kernels scraped from the cob for a new version of succotash. Grilled cantaloupe, originally served with ice cream for dessert, is blended into a cold soup.
As a result, at grill time I purposefully put on more ingredients than I intend to use. That way, I can play around for days after. I almost never have a preconceived idea of what I am going to do with that extra smoked cauliflower or pork chop.
That's the point.
The freewheeling approach allows me to return to a world liberated from precise measuring. It lets me do what a lot of home cooks like to do: experiment.
Any time you use a grill is a good time to throw on something that you might not immediately eat, but this month is particularly timely because all that great summer produce is on the wane. Smoking extends its life and creates versatility for future dishes.
One of my favorite stratagems is using smoked pork for tacos. Eschew the barbecue sauce and hamburger bun, and think salsa and tortilla instead. Use whatever you have around that seems as if it would go well with pork. I have made it with a Hatch chili salsa, but for something more exotic I like a grilled orange salsa. Citrus and pork make a great combination. With shredded red cabbage, the taco makes for an easy weekday meal.
My go-to dish is charred-tomato salsa. I replace the basic tomatoes and whatever else with smoked and grilled versions. I say "whatever else" because it depends on what's around. It could be jalapeno one week, habanero the next. It might or might not have tomatillo.
But where I just might like that salsa the most is on eggs. The smokiness adds dimension to creamy scrambled eggs and cheesy omelets. Oh, and if you've got enough grilled leftovers around to play around some weekend morning, it just happens to go great on a Frittata Fume.
On a recent morning, I woke up in the worst way, and by that I mean hungry as a bear yet indecisive about what to eat.
- Community News Network
Emmy nominations: 8 snub shockers
A lot of beloved shows and stars got Emmy nominations on Thursday morning but there were definitely some snub shockers.
How professors are using Facebook to teach
Technology is an established part of the lives of students. But university lecturers are becoming increasingly frustrated at how they must compete with tablets and laptops for students' attention in the lecture hall.
Why does the Vatican need a bank?
The Vatican Bank's history reads more like Dan Brown than the financial pages, but its worst -- and weirdest -- days may be behind it.
New York to offer free lunch to all middle-school students
New York's $75 billion spending plan for the fiscal year that began last week includes the first step toward offering free lunch for all 1.1 million students, expanding a program now reserved only for the city's poorest children.
Are America's biggest alcohol brands targeting the country's underage youth?
Underage drinkers - those between the ages of 18 and 20, most specifically - are more heavily exposed to printed alcohol advertisements than any other age group, according to a new study. And it's America's biggest booze companies that could be to blame.
Survey shows colleges flouting sexual assault rules
More than 40 percent of 440 colleges and universities surveyed by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., haven't investigated a sexual assault in the past five years, according to a report released Wednesday.
VIDEO: Pilot buys pizzas for storm-delayed travelers
A Frontier Airlines pilot went above and beyond the call of duty when a recent flight from Washington, D.C. to Denver was diverted to Cheyenne, Wyoming due to bad weather.
This is what happened when I drove my Mercedes to pick up food stamps
I climbed the ladder quickly, free to work any hours in any location for any pay. I moved from market to market, always achieving a better title, a better salary. Succeeding.
There's less good music now — here's why
Taylor Swift, the seven-time Grammy winner, is known for her articulate lyrics, so there was nothing surprising about her writing a long column for The Wall Street Journal about the future of the music industry. Yet there's reason to doubt the optimism of what she had to say.
Why North Korean cheerleaders may soon descend on the South
When you think of North Korea, "cheerleaders" may not be the first thing that springs to mind. The Hermit Kingdom is perhaps better known for less savory things like gulag-like labor camps and leadership purges.
Auto recalls break single-year US record with six months to go
With six months left in 2014, automakers have already recalled more vehicles in the United States than in any other year on record.
VIDEO: Foiled beach gear theft goes viral
Video capturing a bizarre confrontation with two women allegedly attempting to steal beach gear on a Florida beach has gone viral.
VIDEO: Sleeping fan suing Yankees, ESPN for $10M
A fan caught on camera sleeping during a recent game at Yankee Stadium has filed suit against the Yankees and ESPN, claiming he suffered emotional distress when two announcers mocked him on the air.
Nation's first soda tax could come to Berkeley
The Berkeley City Council unanimously decided last week to put the 1-cent-per-ounce tax on the ballot this November. Approving the tax would mean a major defeat for the soda industry, which has spent millions to crush the effort nationwide.
12 states now have plans for a minimum wage of $9 or more
Rhode Island last week joined 11 other states that plan to raise their minimum wage to at least $9 over the next several years.
Can plants hear? Study finds that vibrations prompt some to boost their defenses
They have no specialized structure to perceive sound as we do, but a new study has found that plants can discern the sound of predators through tiny vibrations of their leaves - and beef up their defenses in response.
Bombing suspect's classmate hid evidence to shield him, jury told
A college classmate of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev conspired with other young men to protect their friend, "who they knew was being investigated for the Boston Marathon bombings," a prosecutor told federal court jurors.
Backlash has begun against gluten-free dieters
The swelling ranks of Americans adopting gluten-free diets have given rise to another hot trend: people calling the whole thing a bunch of baloney.
VIDEO: A boom in firework sales
This year could be quite the boom for fireworks sales across the U.S. According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, or the APA, sales are already off to a good start.
Happy birthday, America. Now legalize fireworks.
Through the smoke of Roman candles and bottle rockets, the absurdity of Americans' obsession with do-it-yourself explosives is nonetheless clear: One day each year, we gather with neighbors, friends and loved ones to blow stuff up in our backyards. Go, U.S.A.!
Cattle at record signals higher beef costs for July 4th grillers
Cattle futures extended a rally to a record as Americans are gearing up to pay the most ever for beef served at barbecues over the Fourth of July holiday weekend.
Avoidable injuries are killing too many young Americans
Not so cheerful news before your holiday weekend: Some sobering new government numbers show just how many young people die from injuries that could have been avoided.
Higher airfare, crowded planes likely to linger after summer
Air travelers are paying more to fly in the U.S. this summer on crowded planes as carriers keep capacity tight, conditions passengers will have to get used to beyond the vacation period.
Americans falling out of love with shopping malls
Abandoned malls are hot: The Dead Malls Enthusiasts Facebook group boasts almost 14,000 members; a Google search of "dead malls" produces 5.7 million results; and the desolate interiors of these unused retailing meccas keep making cameos in thrillers and horror films.
More Americans are stuck in part-time work
New government data slated for release Thursday is expected to show the economy added more than 200,000 jobs for the fifth straight month - the longest streak since the late 1990s.
Best president? Worst president? Don't read too much into those polls
The questions about who are the best and worst post-WWII presidents are useless. What they mainly show is that Republicans are far more unified around a single story than are Democrats.
Two boys dead, infant critically injured in mobile home fire
Two young children died and their infant sister was in critical condition after fire engulfed their mobile home in a small town in upstate New York Monday night.
A messaging app that doesn't use words at all
About 10,000 people have signed up for usernames for a chat app that isn't even out yet: Emoj.li. It's an instant messenger app that uses no words at all — not even "Yo" or "Hodor!" Instead, it employs only emoji icons.
What states can do on their own about immigration
It's official: Congress won't take up immigration reform this year. This week, President Barack Obama said he'll use executive actions to change policies unilaterally.
VIDEO: Manhole cover 'explodes' in Indiana
Recent heavy rains in Terre Haute, Indiana flooded the city’s storm sewers, which built up enough pressure to blow a manhole cover off at Fairbanks Park.
- More Community News Network Headlines
- Emmy nominations: 8 snub shockers