When deciding what to bring to a friend’s house for dinner, perhaps the stale bread should be left at home. But “CBS Mornings” co-host Tony Dokupil defied conventional wisdom, showing up with an old baguette for a recent lunch at the home of CBS News business analyst Jill Schlesinger.
He also brought in chef and author Tamar Adler, who has made a specialty of cooking with leftovers. Her new book, “The Everlasting Meal Cookbook: Leftovers AZ,” goes on sale Tuesday.
“I’m very excited about it,” said Schlesinger, who agreed to allow Adler to rummage through his kitchen for neglected foods that could be repurposed for other meals. “Every single person has this exact situation,” Adler told DocUpil, describing a kitchen full of leftovers as “every single person’s fridge and household situation.”
“The Everlasting Meal Cookbook” is published by a division of Simon & Schuster, which is owned by CBS parent company Paramount. In it, Adler shares his philosophy that “by saving leftovers from a previous meal, you’re already cooking another one.”
He developed that philosophy as head chef at Farm 255 in Athens, Georgia. Often lacking in money and materials, Adler told Dokuupil that he was often forced to improvise.
“We couldn’t afford to buy much… and I just burned the rice. That was my restaurant,” he said.
When asked what home cooks can learn from this, Adler replied, “It’s like no one cares what you cook. I mean, I think what people come for is the experience of serving and People like to host.”
The new cookbook includes more than 1,500 recipes for items like old hamburger patties, moldy tomatoes, banana peels and open bags of potato chips.
Glancing at Jill Schlesinger, Adler pulled several old containers of rubbery chicken, stale noodles, and soggy vegetables from her refrigerator. Adler also found some stale tortillas, which Schlesinger joked he could use “as a Frisbee.”
“It looks very promising,” Adler concluded as he opened a tub of leftover Chinese takeout.
She then pulls a frozen bagel from the freezer that Schlesinger warns her is “not great, but … you do it, girl.”
Adler found more “treasures” in the cupboard, including several canned foods close to their expiration dates and a bag of mixed nuts.
Drawing on the skills and experience of creating “The Everlasting Meal Cookbook,” he planned three meals, employing Doukoupil and Schlesinger to chop, slice and mix.
An hour or so later, they sat down to a meal unrecognizable from what had started out as a depressing affair.
“You can have multiple choices like this before and people will fight,” Dokupil said. Schlesinger agreed.
The first dish was overcooked chicken, shredded and mixed with corn, cilantro and lime – combined with take-out salsa and served on tortillas, which were oven-fried and preserved. The team agreed that it tasted “like a great chicken tostada”.
The second dish started as leftover rice. Adler turned it into a salad by tossing it with olive oil, mustard, two types of herbs, and mixed nuts—which were chopped.
The third dish included frozen bagels and stale baguettes – revived with a sprinkle of water and a little time in the oven. Sliced garlic-rubbed bread is served with a dollop of vegetables – along with some leftover Chinese food.
“This is the most incredible transformation to me,” Schlesinger told the group, as they began to eat.
“It’s just cooking,” Adler said. “While it’s true that I especially like to use what’s there and solve problems like this, I think all cooking is actually solving problems.”