What’s left over looks pretty good to me



On a recent morning, I woke up in the worst way, and by that I mean hungry as a bear yet indecisive about what to eat.

I opened the refrigerator to look for inspiration. Eggs. Milk. Plastic tubs filled with “what was that?” Then I came across a couple of smoked jalapenos from the fajitas I’d made a few days earlier. There was a charred avocado half, intended for guacamole but set aside when I changed the menu. In a small bowl were some scorched teardrop tomatoes left over from skewers of grilled Caprese salad appetizers.

A cartoon light bulb lit up above my head.

I sliced the smoky pepper, chopped the blackened avocado and cut up the grilled tomatoes. I poured a whisked mixture of eggs and milk into a pan, distributed the vegetables in it and cooked it on the stove top briefly before giving the thing a turn under the broiler. Owing to its smoky fragrance, I dubbed the creation Frittata Fume. With its greens and reds against the puffed, browned egg canvas, it looked like it could be on a magazine cover. One bite, and the morning turned around.

It seems that every time I grill, I have leftovers. I don’t consider myself an unimaginative guy, but for years it didn’t occur to me to reinvent those leftovers into something other than what they were when they came off the fire. About the only creativity I brought was turning sliced brisket sandwiches into chopped brisket sandwiches. Alas, even that was not my idea. I got it from scores of pitmen, who served it up at their barbecue joints.

Somewhere along the line, it occurred to me that a thing could be something else. Soon, I became the Steve Jobs of barbecue reinvention, taking one basic product and tricking it out.

As a result, at grill time I purposefully put on more ingredients than I intend to use. That way, I can play around for days after. I almost never have a preconceived idea of what I am going to do with that extra smoked cauliflower or pork chop.

That’s the point.

The freewheeling approach allows me to return to a world liberated from precise measuring. It lets me do what a lot of home cooks like to do: experiment.

One of my favorite stratagems is using smoked pork for tacos. Eschew the barbecue sauce and hamburger bun, and think salsa and tortilla instead. Use whatever you have around that seems as if it would go well with pork. I have made it with a Hatch chili salsa, but for something more exotic I like a grilled orange salsa. Citrus and pork make a great combination. With shredded red cabbage, the taco makes for an easy weekday meal.

My go-to dish is charred-tomato salsa. I replace the basic tomatoes and whatever else with smoked and grilled versions. I say “whatever else” because it depends on what’s around. It could be jalapeno one week, habanero the next. It might or might not have tomatillo.

But where I just might like that salsa the most is on eggs. The smokiness adds dimension to creamy scrambled eggs and cheesy omelets. Oh, and if you’ve got enough grilled leftovers around to play around some weekend morning, it just happens to go great on a Frittata Fume.

Frittata Fume

6 servings

If you don’t have a leftover smoked/charred jalapeno on hand, use a canned chipotle. To char an avocado, cut it in half and pit it. Grill the unpeeled halves cut side down over a medium fire until they blacken, about 3 minutes. Or use an uncharred one here.

Same with the tomatoes (which you can char in a vegetable basket over a medium fire, turning a couple of times, for 3 to 5 minutes). The point is, you want to use ingredients from your grill that you have around and supplement them with whatever else sounds good.

6 large eggs

1/3 cup milk, preferably whole

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 smoked/charred jalapeno, halved lengthwise and seeded, then cut into about 1/8-inch half-moons (see headnote)8 to 12 grilled teardrop or grape tomatoes, quartered lengthwise

2 thin slices from a medium red onion, quartered

Flesh of 1 avocado, charred, then chopped (see headnote)

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Position an oven rack 4 to 6 inches from the broiler element; preheat the broiler.

Whisk together the eggs and milk in a medium bowl.

Heat the oil in a 10-to-12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, pour in the egg-milk mixture, then add the jalapeno, tomatoes (to taste), red onion and avocado. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Immediately reduce the heat to low. Cook for about 3 minutes, until the eggs are just set on the bottom yet still somewhat loose on top; slide a thin spatula around and under the edges to make sure they aren’t sticking.

Transfer the skillet to the oven; broil for 1 to 3 minutes, until the frittata is nicely browned. Watch closely to avoid burning it.

Loosen the frittata around the edges of the skillet, then slide it onto a serving plate. Cut into 6 equal wedges. Serve right away.

Per serving: 160 calories, 8 g protein, 6 g carbohydrates, 12 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 215 mg cholesterol, 120 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 2 g sugar

Smoky Pulled Pork Tacos With Grilled Orange Salsa

4 to 6 servings

This dish starts with leftover smoked pork butt. If you don’t have any on hand, call your favorite barbecue joint and ask for a pound of it, unsauced. The oranges (cut sides down), serrano peppers, onion and garlic can be charred in a stove top grill pan.

MAKE AHEAD: The salsa can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days. If you make it in advance, add the cilantro just before serving.

1 pound smoked/roasted pork butt (shoulder; see headnote), shredded

1 tablespoon fresh zest and all the juice from 2 medium navel oranges

Fresh juice from 1 lime

8 to 12 corn or flour tortillas (6-inch)

Flesh from 2 medium, grilled/charred navel oranges, chopped (see headnote)

2 serrano chili peppers, preferably smoked/charred (see headnote)

2 tablespoons diced grilled/charred sweet onion (see headnote)

2 cloves grilled/charred garlic, minced

1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves (see headnote)

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

Sea or kosher salt

A few grinds of black pepper1/2 cup shredded red cabbage (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Combine the shredded pork with the orange zest, orange juice and lime juice in a baking dish until evenly coated. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and roast for 20 to 25 minutes. During the last 10 minutes of oven time, wrap the stack of tortillas in foil and place in the oven to warm.

Meanwhile, make the salsa: Combine the chopped oranges, serrano peppers, onion, garlic, cilantro and oil in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste, tossing gently to incorporate.

Uncover the meat and stir to make sure the pork is evenly moistened. Divide among the tortillas; top with the shredded red cabbage, if using, and serve with the salsa.

Per serving (based on 6, using 12 tortillas): 310 calories, 21 g protein, 26 g carbohydrates, 14 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 65 mg cholesterol, 125 mg sodium, 4 g dietary fiber, 6 g sugar