Something Out of Nothing

Making some tweaks to Your Kind of Salad; so don’t mind the construction as things shift slightly!

As a Lebanese girl, I pride myself on being a good hostess.
Three of the tenants I try to adhere to:
– Be hospitable
– Be generous
– Be ready for anything
That last tidbit is a lesson well-learned from my family’s kitchen. My Mom and Dad are wonderful hosts; my Dad getting drinks and shaking hands and my Mom encouraging everyone to be comfortable and have a bite to eat.  One of my mom’s greatest feats in the kitchen is the phenomenon of “making something out of nothing.”
Bringing home 3 friends for dinner without notice? No problem. The friend who stopped by unannounced but ended up staying to chat? No problem. And my favorite: everyone’s tired, we’re due to grocery shop tomorrow and no one feels like eating anything in particular? NO PROBLEM.

I’ve often teased my mother that she can make a feast for 12 with some limp lettuce and batteries.  This feat is due to a well-stocked pantry, a little creativity and some patience.  Skills I hope I’ve acquired.

I put this to the test Friday night. It had been a LONG week; a busy weekend, work travel, some evening events. I never got to the grocery store last week so when I invited my two girlfriends over for wine and snacks Friday night I knew I had a challenge on my hands:

Make dinner for 3 with what was in my fridge/freezer after not grocery shopping for two weeks.

Of course I could have gone to the store Friday after work, or gotten take-out; but I liked the idea of a challenge….and not wasting what I had on hand.

What my fridge looked like when I got home Friday night at 6:45pm, friends expected at 7pm:

Top Shelf: Seltzer water, Regular Water, Giant Cookie (from a work mtg)
Second Shelf: sun-dried tomatoes, 3 Apples, Figs,  4 individually wrapped Whole Wheat dough balls and 1 Chicken Sausage I had thawed from my freezer that morning. 1 oz of Gouda cheese. (Baking Needs and Pickles in the back row).
Third Shelf: Leftover Four Onion Soup, 1 White Onion, Sabra Lemon Hummus, 1/2 lb Bacon I thawed from the freezer, 1/2 pack leftover
La Tortilla Factory WW tortillas.

Sort of a motley crew, right? Good thing I was inspired that morning with the following recipes:
Appetizer: Hummus/Crisps (using WW Tortillas & Sabra)
Dinner: Flatbread Pizzas (no cheese? no problem).
– Balsamic Fig, Bacon & Onion Pizza
– Caramelized Onion, Chicken Sausage and Gouda Pizza
Dessert: Apple Tart
Beverages: Wine, Beer, Seltzer

What my fridge looked like after I took out the ingredients for dinner:

I wasn’t kidding when I said I hadn’t gone shopping in almost two weeks.

First things firsts:
I got out the seltzer water, chilled a bottle of white wine and opened a bottle of red. Friends are fine watching you cook as long as they have a glass of wine in their hands. I mean, MY friends are anyway :).

Out came the appetizers:

Sabra Hummus, sun-dried Tomatoes, Homemade Sea Salt & Pepper
WW Tortilla “Crisps” (Simply cut tortillas into pieces, spray with olive oil, salt and pepper and bake on a cookie sheet for 15 minutes until crisp).

My friend Nursey had also brought yummy Trader Joe’s Arancini bites; which I put out as well. Yum!

Once the girls had wine and a snack in their hands; I got to work on the flatbreads.  Since I had packaged my dough into 4 individual bags; I rolled out each one individually, so I could make four flatbreads.

Vowing I would find a way to use the Four Onion Soup; I simply drained the onions (and reserved the broth to use as stock for rice or veggies) and spread the onions as a base for the first flatbread. I diced up the chicken sausage (which was fully cooked) and sprinkled that and the little bit of Gouda cheese on top. A hearty sprinkle of black pepper and this was ready to bake.

After 15 minutes, we had this:

Not too shabby, right?

While the girls nibbled on this, I got started on the next pizza.

I sliced the white onion and figs and laid them out with the strips of bacon all together on a baking sheet. I drizzled it all with balsamic vinegar and honey; and let it bake in a 350 oven until caramelized.

I threw the figs into the food processor with a little more honey and water; and processed into a fig jam which I used as a base . I layered the fig jam on two of the flatbreads and then covered each with the crisp bacon, and balsamic onions and a few fig slices and baked everything together for 15 minutes.

Mmmmm, figgy.

While the girls dug into the fig pizzas (and cracked into the second bottle of wine Nandrea had brought); I got working on dessert.

I reserved the last  dough ball for dessert and made a quick Apple Tart. I simply peeled and chopped three apples, tossed them with brown sugar, white sugar, cinnamon and pecans. I folded the mix into the WW dough; sealing it like an Apple Calzone. I had leftover apple filling; so I made a quick apple crisp by pouring the remaining apples into a ramekin, covering them with a bit of flour-butter-sugar-cinnamon mixture and baking both this and the Tart  for about 20 minutes.

I also put out the big cookie; because really, who doesn’t like a big cookie? And served it with this amazing Dickinson’s Coconut Creme Curd and Vanilla Curd. Delightful!

Although this was not most perfect dinner effort; and there are definitely some tweaks I would have made to the dishes (those damn “four onions” still tasted off) but for a “something out of nothing” dinner; I think I did all right. And most importantly; my friends were warm, cozy and happily stuffed (with leftovers to take home) while in my home.  A night any Lebanese girl could be proud of.


7 Comments Add yours

  1. Cutie Patooty says:

    “Your” Mom will be so proud of you! My favorite “we have nothing in the house to feed people” dinner she has made is the smoked oysters covered with lemon juice and parsley served with syrian bread. (bread in freezer-can of oysters in pantry-done) and pasta with sauce. (box of pasta, one of Dad’s endless supplies of premade homemade tomato sauce or chili-done)

    1. “Mom” definitely has a gift 🙂 Those smoked oysters, or red sauce or chili always remind me of “Dad” dinners. I think of Mom’s dinners as chicken cutlets or linguine with clams or Syrian bread, cheese, olives, grapes and seafood salad platters as her “whatever dinners”. All good though!

  2. Lisa says:

    I think I might make a habit of stopping over uninvited if this is what you make for dinner. Looks and sounds delicious! Very impressive.

  3. Lizzy says:

    I loved this post. I have so much in my pantry and I’m thinking about skipping or going light on the grocery shopping this weekend and this just gave me so much inspiration. Using leftover onions is genuis. The fig pizza looks amazing and you are so creative with the dessert. love you!

    1. Love you!! I hate to waste food; so sometimes creativity is a must!

  4. Jen says:

    Personal salad challenge: can you do this with your freezer!?!? Here’s what’s in mine – ponder this motley crew:
    – popsicles
    – box of baking soda
    – box of filo dough
    – dorot herbs from Trader Joes (cilantro and garlic)
    – vodka
    – left-over meat sauce
    – frozen mahi-mahi fillets
    – sprouted grain raisin english muffins


    1. Jen,
      I accept your personal challenge!

      – Baked Herb Fish en Papiette (Mahi Fillets covered with Cilantro & Garlic baked in Filo)

      – Home-style Meatballs (Blend raisin english muffins into crumbs, mix with leftover meat sauce and Garlic; form balls and bake. Many Italians (and this Lebanese girl) like a raisin or two in their braciole, meatballs or gravy; it cuts the acidity of the tomatoes without sugar)

      – Boozy Granita (popsicles, vodka); blend popsicles (all flavors together is ok) in blender to slushy consistency, add a healthy belt of vodka; pour into cups; and put back in the freezer. Serve with straws for a refreshing boozy treat.

      And the box of baking soda? Well, just leave that in there; it serves its own purpose by just being there!

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