Hash: A Simple Meal Based On Leftovers
No one loves to waste food. It’s not a guilty pleasure. It just happens when good people lose time to plan and execute.
I saw a billboard the other day that stated that the average American wastes 290 pounds of food per year. Given that each person eats about 4.5 pounds of food per day (according to the USDA), that 290 pounds would feed one person for OVER 2 MONTHS! Does that not stop you in your tracks? Does that not make you say “DAAAMN” (channeling Martin Lawrence, of course)?
I wonder…are our eyes just bigger than our stomachs? Does subsidized food and bulk-buying make it all seem cheap enough to waste? Or have our refrigerators given us the comfort to delay and delay long enough to create a cold compost? Regardless of a deeper cause, we all should feel compelled to channel our Depression-era relatives and figure out a way to put that food in our bellies instead of in the trash can.
One of my favorite, EASY ways to accomplish this is to gather up all the bits and pieces and…MAKE A HASH! Hash is defined as “a dish of cooked meat cut into small pieces and cooked again, usually with potatoes”. Meat or no meat, I think it’s the perfect way to use up various items in your refrigerator. It’s also economical, filling, easy to prepare and can be flavored in so many ways.
The hash in the picture above is onion, potato, tomato, fried egg, cilantro, fermented shishito peppers and Cotija, all of which I had just bits and pieces left over from other dishes. Here is a breakdown of the various elements and how they can varied based on what’s on hand:
- Hash Base
- Onion: any type of onion is fine or try leeks, scallions or just extra garlic if that is all you have
- Root vegetables: I tend to use potatoes as at least part of the hash but you could use parsnips, carrots, kohlrabi, beets, celery root, sweet potatoes or winter squash
- Delicate vegetables: if I have any on hand, I will add eggplant, summer squash, tomatoes or okra
- Garlic / Spices: this is where you can have fun playing with different flavors – curry powder, chile powder, smoked paprika, cumin, Herbs de Provence, or whatever else you like
- You could just eat the hash itself without adding protein but I find it makes the meal more complete. A fried egg is my favorite but add leftover bits of chicken, bacon, sausage, tempeh, tofu or beans.
- Herbs: depending on how you spice the dish, you could use all types of fresh herbs on top – cilantro, parsley, dill, basil, savory, chives, tarragon
- Cheese: I don’t think cheese is a must-have for hash to taste great, but it doesn’t hurt either. Just toss on whatever you like and have on hand.
- Something pickled or spicy: given that this dish can be a bit heavy, I really like adding either something pickled (peppers, kimchee, sauerkraut, relish) or just a liberal squeeze of Sriracha or dash of Tabasco.
This really is a “no-recipe” recipe but here are a few directions:
- I used 1 onion, 3 medium red potatoes and 1 large tomato for my hash base and it was enough for 2 large dinner servings. Increase the amount of vegetables you use according to the number of servings desired and also the amount of protein you are planning to add to each plate (if you have a large chicken breast for each serving, you won’t need as much hash base, for example).
- Saute each type of vegetable separately, including the onion. The trick is to cook the vegetables through by the time the outside is browned but not burnt. If you have a number of vegetables you wish to cook, perhaps cooking them in the oven (keep them separate on the baking sheet) may work best. You can then remove each item once it is finished and return the uncooked items to the oven.
- Once your hash base is cooked, or simply chopped in the case of anything you want to keep raw, like tomatoes, just toss it all together in a big bowl and divide between your plates. Then top with your protein and garnishes.