My longtime friend, Chef Jean Denham has a new book with the intriguing title, I Have Leftovers . . . What Do I Do Now? Chef Jean is a frequent contributor to this blog and I’m pleased to offer the following interview and one of her special recipes. Be sure to visit her website: http://achefsjourney.com. Her other books are: Share a Recipe, a Chef’s Journey…Home, Pizza Pizza Pizza! and Black Beans and Corn.
So, Jean, this is cookbook #5. I know you came to your culinary career later in life, as I did with my fiction-writing career. Way back when, did you ever imagine you’d be the author of numerous cookbooks?
Never in a million years did I see myself writing cookbooks for the public. I have done several over the years for different age groups (youngsters just starting to cook, college age students, and a couple of cookbooks for newlyweds), but those were all gifts to family and friends. The only big dream for my life was to go to culinary school before I died. My bucket list still has some goodies in it, but I have accomplished my one huge dream.
2. Your husband really hit the jackpot food-wise. He’s married to a woman who is not only a gourmet cook, but also writes books about the experience. I’m trying to imagine what your life is like when you’re testing recipes for a new book. Tell us about a typical day.
Imagine a zoo….that’s what it can become. I have a large island in my kitchen and our best recipe tastings are done gathered around this island which is covered in food. When I was working on the pizza book, we would sometimes have 6 or 8 testers and 6 to 8 different pizzas and/or crusts to test and rate. I’m fortunate that most of my neighbors are foodies and love to come help us. When I’m not doing tastings in my kitchen, I will cook up 3 or 4 dishes and distribute around the neighborhood. When we first moved here, I’m sure they all wondered about the crazy lady sending food to them every two or three days – but now, they love the food and they love to critique and they are all great at it.
In addition, I have the greatest support group online, we came together about 6 years ago on a cooking forum and we all bonded and they are the greatest help I could ask for. No matter what S.O.S. I send out, whether it’s a questions about what goes with ‘this’ or have you ever tried this method, or where can I find something that my little town has never heard of – they are all right there ready with ideas, support and even sympathy when called for.
3. The title of your new book is I Have Leftovers . . . What Do I Do Now? How did the idea for this book come about?
We raised 4 children and in addition, my husband had 4 children from a previous marriage, so leftovers have been a large part of my life forever! In fact, I love to work with leftovers as much as starting from scratch. For years I didn’t write the ideas down and I would have to tell the family, “Sorry, no way can I ever make this again”. Then I got smart and started keeping notes and journals of ideas. Even now, though, without the exact same leftovers handy in the frig, a lot of the dishes can never be recreated exactly.
The above is how I feel about leftovers, but the reason for the book, is testing so many recipes for previous books, I ended up with 2 freezers full of leftovers, and of course with the economy the way it is, my need to empty freezers and the country’s need to be thrifty came together in, I Have LEFTOVERS…What do I do Now?
4. How do you promote your cookbooks?
We travel often in our trailer and my husband, Roy, is the ‘smoozer’ in the family. He loves to talk to strangers. We always have a supply of books with us when he stops at shops, farmers markets, any little store we run across that carry books. Very few have told him no and they were places that I just wouldn’t fit in, so we’ve been very lucky. All the local bookstores in our hometown of Port Angeles and nearby Sequim carry my books.
As to promoting, I’m not real good at that side of the business, but I do religiously accept every friend request on Face book, hoping when I post my pictures and recipes, they will get wider exposure. We do also have a website, achefsjourney.com where the books can be purchased and may I add, Roy has joined me in selling boutique items on the site. He is a wonderful wood craftsman and is now selling a line of pepper grinders and salt mills that are just beautiful. So, we’re covering all the bases – season food from my book with his pepper grinders and enjoy a dish while reading Marliee’s books.
5. Would you please share a recipe from your new book with Book Blather readers?
I'd be glad to – this recipe is a wonderfully easy and fast soup to make on a busy week night.
Tomato Soup with Meatballs
Making use of leftover meatballs.
For a quick dinner, you can use commercial soup such as Campbell’s Cream of Tomato or Pacific Natural Foods Creamy Tomato, both are tasty alternatives. But, making this soup from scratch is so easy and fast that you might not mind spending the extra few minutes to have all the flavour offered in it. Combining the dry milk with 2% milk gives you a creamy texture without the fat of a heavy cream, plus it ups the calcium.
28 oz. diced tomatoes or 3 cups fresh
1 cup chicken broth
2 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons chopped onion
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups 2% milk mixed with 1/2 cup dry milk powder, heated
20 leftover meatballs.
In a soup pot, combine the tomatoes, broth, butter, onion and baking soda; simmer 30 minutes. If you want a smoother soup, remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes then pour into a food processor, blender or use an immersion blender, and process until it is the smoothness you prefer. Return to the soup pot and add the milk mixture along with the meatballs; simmer just until hot, don’t allow to boil. Makes 5 servings