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I love having a fridge stuffed with goodies. But there’s also a certain pleasure in the stage where you’ve used up all the obvious things, and you have to figure out what to do with the bits of cauliflower too small to go in the roasting pan, the drying 1-inch hunks of six different cheeses, or the leftover mashed potatoes.

I had leftover white rice and a half-bunch of asparagus, so I went to the pantry and got my giant container of dried mushrooms from Costco. It contains porcini mushrooms along with various other woodland treasures. A few of these steeped in boiling water for a half-hour makes the best vegetarian broth you can imagine.


Asparagus, rice and wild mushroom soup.

The key, of course, is having a well-stocked pantry. The ingredients I always have on hand are good canned tomatoes, canned beans (the more kinds the better), and pasta. The NYT just had an article on all the things you can do with olive oil, lemon and salt. I would add garlic to the list. These are the indispensables! Always come home from the grocery store with a lemon, and the kitchen gods will smile upon you.

I wouldn’t call myself frugal, but I don’t like to waste leftovers. For the cauliflower bits, I’d cook them and stick them into macaroni and cheese. I’d turn the leftover mashed potatoes into fried potato patties, maybe with curry spices, then serve with yogurt sauce. And there’s nothing more fun than a collection of bits of mismatched cheese. My favorite way to use them, along with whatever odd veggies are sitting about, is cheesy pie.

asparagus pie

Cheesy pie with potatoes and asparagus.

This takes eggs and thick yogurt, so you can’t make it on an empty refrigerator, but all the cheeses blend together beautifully. Since it doesn’t have a pastry crust, I like to think that it saves on calories (dream on, sister!).

How to Make Cheesy Pie

For the optional “crust,” grease a glass pie pan with butter and sprinkle with crispy panko bread crumbs.

Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C).

Open your wine (white is best with this). Have a sip but don’t suck it all down right away. Save some for the meal.

Assemble your leftover veggies, cut into small bits. If they are not cooked, blanch or microwave until almost done. Potatoes definitely need pre-cooking. If using greens or juicy vegetables like tomatoes, squeeze out any excess water.

Take all the cheese bits and cut them into cubes. Grate plenty for the top. Include blue cheese if you have it (yum!).

Beat 3-4 eggs together with 3/4 cup thick Greek yogurt. You should have a thick but pourable batter. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.

Arrange the veggies and cheese cubes over the breadcrumbs in the pie pan. Pour the egg mixture over, then top with more grated cheese. Bake it for about 20 minutes, then check its progress. When the eggs seem cooked and it’s just beginning to brown, turn the oven to broil to get the top nice and golden (carefully supervise this process).

This is far more foolproof than quiche. A very flexible and forgiving recipe!