Using Up What’s Left– Easy Stovetop Gratin


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This simple formula is a great way for a beginning cook to gain confidence.
Beautiful, nutritious, delicious food.
Zero waste.

How often do you find a near empty refrigerator but for a few tired looking stray items? Those remnants in a vegetable drawer or on a shelf that are still ok, but not looking too great in their quasi-limp, or overly-dried-out state. You probably have a slice of a bread-like product sitting around, too.

Before you decide to toss them, try a quick reconfiguration in a skillet. If you have olive oil, salt, some parmesan cheese (which keeps for a very long time due to its dryness), and a clove or two of garlic on hand, you can come up with a warm and tasty side dish. At one point, you actually liked these foods enough to pay for them, so eat ‘em up!

This is a very quick mock “gratin,” without egg (although it would be delicious served with eggs), but it does include the cheese and a crumbled bread component. For speed and simplicity it was cooked on the stovetop instead of an oven.

What you see pictured was made in about 5-7 minutes with:

  •    Some leftover limp kale
  •     One not-so-fresh zucchini
  •     A sad Roma tomato
  •     The chunky stems from broccoli florets
  •     A test batch of chickpea muffins, crumbled (only some of this was used; the rest became croutons. If you have any gluten-free “bread,” toast a piece and then tear it into little bits, like oversized bread crumbs)
  •     Parmesan cheese
  •     A squeeze of an unused ½ or ¼ of a lemon (optional)

Note: it’s always worthwhile to keep a few lemons around; the smaller ones tend to be the best value and are usually juiciest.
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I cut up the vegetables into fairly uniform sizes (broccoli stems like matchsticks) while I warmed a cast iron skillet with olive oil. The broccoli was added first since it takes a few minutes longer to cook. Next the pepper went in and cooked for another minute or two, followed by the kale, Roma tomato, crumbled muffin and a few more drops of olive oil to the pan so the bread would get coated. Then I added a tablespoon or two of grated parmesan, and turned off the stove (cast iron retains its heat).

I continued to stir for another minute so the cheese would melt and bind to the vegetables. Salt and pepper were added to taste and a squeeze of a few drops of lemon juice, which really made the savory little dish come alive. Fresh garlic could go in, too.

Keeping your kitchen stocked with a few basics enables you to make something out of what looks like nothing.