The Genius Trick to Make Leftovers Feel Fancier

Photo: Beth Lipton

Photo: Beth Lipton

Is your fridge full of odds and ends: a carrot here, a little bit of leftover chicken, half an onion? Mine, too. Don’t toss it and order takeout—here’s an easy way to turn it all into a healthy, tasty dinner you’ll be proud to serve and happy to eat. All you need is an eggplant.

Here’s what you do:

1. Gather up all the scraps in your fridge: Any leftover cooked grains (like rice or quinoa), vegetables (cooked or raw), fresh herbs (think parsley, oregano, or cilantro), or protein (this is optional; can be chicken, beef or pork, ground turkey, or beans). In the photo above, I used millet, carrot, onion, broccoli, fresh oregano, and feta cheese.

2. Dice everything fairly small, around ¼- to ½-inch pieces.

3. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil and lightly mist with cooking spray. Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh, leaving just enough behind so that the halves will hold their shape. Rub the insides of the shells with olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Chop the eggplant flesh very finely.

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4. In a skillet, cook the eggplant flesh and any raw vegetables in a bit of olive oil over medium heat until tender. Season as you like (with chopped garlic, or spices like chili powder or paprika, plus salt and pepper). Add any pre-cooked vegetables at the end and cook just until warmed through.

5. Add the grain and sauté until combined with the vegetables and warmed through. Stir in any fresh herbs. Taste and season with salt, pepper, and any additional spices (like hot sauce, if you’re so inclined). If the mixture seems dry, pour in a little broth. Stir in protein, if desired. You’ll want to end up with about 2 to 3 cups of this mixture, depending on how large the eggplant is.

6. Place the eggplant halves on the lined baking sheet. Spoon the mixture into the halves, mounding it in the center. Grab any kind of cheese you have in the fridge, and grate it over the top.

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7. Bake the eggplant until the shells are tender, the filling is hot and the top is beginning to brown, about 30 minutes. Done! Serves 2.

Beth Lipton is the Food Director at Health.

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