Zero Food Waste, Week 17: Saving Leftover Salad

zero food waste challenge 2015Morning, everyone! I went right out after I wrote that post on Monday and bought a metric ton of greens — arugula, kale, and chard — all of which have been making me feel much better 🙂

However, the salads I made do bring up the problem of how to handle leftover salad, so that’s the topic of today’s post, after the grocery list.

Canning jar lids, $1.78
Chickpeas, $.85
Steel-cut oats, $2.79
Almonds, $6.99
Avocados, $2.00
Celery, $1.00
Orange juice, $2.00
Total with tax: $17.53

Whole Foods
Coffee beans, $9.99
Yogurt, $3.69
Olives, $1.50
red onion, $1.21
Sweet potatoes, $6.25
milk, $2.39
Kale and chard, $6.00
aged cheddar, $4.03
Arugula, $1.99
Total with tax: $37.03

Grand Total: $54.56

Leftover Salad

Are there sadder words in the English language? Let’s face it, leftover salad is just depressing. It’s one thing when the greens are all crisp and newly dressed, and another thing to be pulling a soggy mess out of the fridge the next day. I pretty much used to just throw away any salad that couldn’t be eaten immediately (which is why I rarely had it except at dinner parties.) But one of the cool things about this challenge for me is that I’ve been getting more creative in the kitchen, repurposing things I once would have thrown out in ways I wouldn’t necessarily have thought of before.

One way to success — and by far the best way if you’re using delicate greens like young lettuces — is to only dress individual portions of greens, and not to put anything in the salad that is too liquid-y (leave the cut tomatoes out of it, that kind of thing.) Then you can seal up the leftovers in a heavy ziploc bag and dress the rest on the next day or three.

However, my favorite new way to deal with leftover salad is to cook it. Yup.

So crazy it just might work: sauteeing your salad

It turns out this works really well with sturdier greens: kale, chard, even the arugula I bought. That’s one key. The other is to use an olive-oil based dressing. I don’t know for sure that this wouldn’t work with a creamy dressing, but I haven’t tried it and I’m skeptical. Anyway, if your salad begins with raw greens that have been shredded, and you then toss them with oil and vinegar or lemon juice, then the next evening, it is beyond simple to flash-cook them in a pan on the stovetop — the oil base is all ready to go, after all! Just saute until the greens collapse a bit and whatever else was in the salad is heated through, and you’re good to go. You can either eat it as a side dish, or toss the now-cooked greens with pasta or rice and maybe a protein source to make a main dish. If you used lemon juice in your dressing and want that flavor back, you’ll probably want to squeeze a bit more on at the end because citrus doesn’t hold up well to cooking.

The mention of protein reminds me that I should say: this also works best if you haven’t put cheese in your salad 🙂 It has a tendency to melt and stick to the pan rather than to your salad. That said, if you have cheese crumbles tossed in your salad already, if you use a nonstick pan, the cheese will still melt and crisp, but it’ll be easy to get off the pan and onto your plate where it belongs. Mmmmmmm.

Any other awesome ideas for leftover salad? Please comment with them!

12 thoughts on “Zero Food Waste, Week 17: Saving Leftover Salad

  1. Kristin says:

    Haha, leftover salad is sad! When I see that it has changed colors, I get so mad I let it get this way and didn’t eat it faster. Looking at your grocery list, coffee is always one of my more expensive purchases too! My building has an amazing coffee machine so I very rarely purchase coffee for home anymore. But when I do, I gravitate towards a Hawaiian coffee. I feel like I’m turning into such a coffee snob 🙂

    1. thesingledollar says:

      I don’t mind being a coffee snob 🙂 I’ll drink almost anything when I’m out, but for home I try to get fair-trade, sustainably grown, locally roasted coffee. I feel like it’s worth it; I don’t go through all that much (usually a pound a month) and it tastes better and makes me feel better too. 🙂

  2. Hannah says:

    My mom always boiled tiny new potatoes and added them to vinegar based salads (and added bacon and boiled eggs) for a substantial meal, but she peeled the potatoes which I think of as too much work.

    For mayo based salad dressings, I typically make a grilled cheese and add the salad to that. No direct heat from the skillet, but it still warms up.

    I also boil up some pasta and add it to a salad like a spinach salad with poppyseed dressing or other sweet salads. That’s pretty good.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Peeling the potatoes is definitely too much work! I actually don’t peel them very often — the skins are good. I like the idea of pasta with a sweet dressing.

  3. Alicia says:

    I’ll take your word on it… I don’t like the concept of warmed greens except for spinach in my omelette, or a warm spinach salad at restaurants 🙂 but I could see it working to throw into a pasta dish.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      You could probably also fold leftover salad (not lettuce, but spinach/chard/kale) into an omelette, actually! Don’t see why not.

  4. This is awesome! I try to teach my kid not to waste food and I try my best not to waste any food either. I usually tend to freeze the leftovers if I don’t want to eat those immediately. Love this post! More people should think about not wasting any food!

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Thanks 🙂 I’m enjoying writing this series — it’s really helping me a lot, and I always get good ideas in the comments too.

  5. Hmm, I actually like next-day salad, but anything that hangs around longer than that gets tossed. I like the idea of cooking it into an omelette

    Oh, and I never peel potatoes for potato salad. I don’t think of myself as lazy, just maximizing the fiber content of the salad! 🙂

    1. thesingledollar says:

      There you go. More fiber is always better 🙂

  6. Haha, the words “leftover salad” really do evoke a sad face :(. I’m with you on only dressing individual portions–that’s what we end up doing with most of our meals actually. We just put everything in the fridge in individual glass containers and then portion out meals one at a time and douse with olive oil/vinegar/spices/sauces as needed. Somehow it seems to keep the food fresher if it’s only chilling with its own self. But, I’m loving your idea of cooking the leftover salad–genius! I’ve thrown dying greens into scrambled eggs before, which works pretty well, but I haven’t tried cooking them on their own. Thanks for the idea!

    1. thesingledollar says:

      I think vegetables keep better on their own because of water transfer or something (I don’t know the right scientific term.) So yeah, assembling every time probably makes for the best salad experience, especially if lettuce is involved rather than kale or spinach or whatever. I’m just too lazy to commit to that all the time 🙂 I was so pleased with the saute idea. I love that the olive oil is already on there.

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