Julia Turshen has always been a cook. As in, hosting black-tie Valentine’s Day parties for her family when she was six years old, and cooking a full Thanksgiving dinner by age 12. In other words, the woman knows a lot about making a meal from scratch as well as what on earth to do with the leftovers.
That’s exactly the focus of her new cookbook, entitled Now & Again: Go-To Recipes, Inspired Menus & Endless Ideas for Reinventing Leftovers, which Turshen will sign and discuss on September 27 at 7 p.m. at the Aspen Grove Tattered Cover in Littleton. “This book is basically my whole life,” Turshen recently admitted, “It’s so full of memories and stories.” The book is also chock-full of brilliantly simple, never-boring recipes for every kind of meal, organized by menu—from weeknight suppers to al fresco picnics to holiday celebrations—replete with equally genius ideas for using up what’s left.
“I am so happy about [this book] because it’s so accurate to the way I cook and eat on a regular basis,” Turshen says. Living in rural upstate New York with her wife and pups, Turshen eats almost every meal at home; cooking more than they need for a single meal just makes a lot of sense. “If I have something in the fridge from last night,” Turshen says, “it means that today’s lunch or dinner is going to be that much easier because I’m already halfway there.”
But Turshen doesn’t just reheat those leftovers to serve them a second time. “I like to use the same base,” she says, “but change it a little so we have a whole other meal, without starting from scratch each time.” That strategy translates to grilled Vietnamese flank steak becoming steak and kimchi quesadillas the next day, or chicken tortilla soup turning into arroz con pollo by cooking rice in the leftover broth. So smart!
Turshen’s Celebration Chicken with Sweet Potatoes and Dates (recipe below) is a favorite dish from the book that speaks to another goal for Now & Again. “I love it because all you need is a roasting pan and you just mix everything together inside it,” she says. “And it’s easy to make a huge amount and feed a bunch of people.” Helping her readers feel comfortable cooking for others is important to Turshen, who believes that food is a natural, easy way to create community and maintain relationships. “Something special happens when you offer someone something you’ve cooked; it’s a loving exchange,” she says. “The act of bringing people together around the table is really worthwhile, and my goal is to help people feel inspired and equipped to do that over and over again.”
If you go: Chef Ann Cooper and Julia Turshen will discuss Now & Again ($35), and Turshen will sign copies of the book, at the Tattered Cover in Littleton (7301 S. Santa Fe Drive, Littleton, 303-470-7050) on Thursday, September 27 at 7 p.m.
Celebration Chicken with Sweet Potatoes & Dates
Serves 8 to 10
Rosh Hashanah celebrates the Jewish New Year. There are a lot of symbolic foods associated with the holiday, most of them sweet to help usher in a sweet new year. This chicken is a bit of a Rosh Hashanah riff on the famous Chicken Marbella from the The Silver Palate Cookbook by Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso. Just like that extremely popular recipe, this chicken doesn’t require much work and yields a crowd-pleasing, highly flavorful result. It calls for just one roasting pan, in which you both mix everything and cook. There are no extra bowls or pans, no browning chicken in batches, and definitely no fuss. You also get a two-for-one moment: the sweet potatoes and dates (sweet for Rosh Hashanah!) give you an instant side dish.
¼ cup [60 ml] apple cider vinegar
¼ cup [60 ml] olive oil
¼ cup [60 ml] water
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
Two 3- to 4-pound [1.4- to 1.8-kg] chickens, each cut into 10 pieces (2 wings, 2 legs, 2 thighs, and 2 breasts cut in half across the bone), backbone discarded (or saved for another use, like stock), at room temperature
3 large sweet potatoes, about 2 pounds [910 g] total, unpeeled, scrubbed and cut into bite-size pieces
12 large dried dates (preferably Medjool), halved and pitted
A small handful of chopped fresh soft herbs (cilantro, parsley, dill, and/or chives all work well)
- Preheat your oven to 425°F [220°C].
- In a large roasting pan, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, water, garlic, salt, and pepper (you want a pan that’s big enough to hold all of the chicken pieces in a single layer; a disposable aluminum pan is good for this if your roasting pan isn’t large enough). Add the chicken pieces, sweet potatoes, and dates. Use your hands to mix everything together and get the marinade on all of chicken, sweet potatoes, and dates. Warning: the following is a bit messy, but bear with me. Move everything around so the sweet potatoes and dates are in a single layer on the bottom of the pan and the chicken pieces, skin-side up, are in a single, even layer on top.
- Roast until the sweet potatoes are tender (test with a fork or a paring knife) and the chicken pieces are firm to the touch and their exposed skin is nicely browned, about 1 hour. Let the chicken rest at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before serving.
- To serve, transfer the chicken, sweet potatoes, and dates to a large serving platter and pour all of the cooking juices over the top (or serve directly from the roasting pan, giving everything a little mix first). Sprinkle with the herbs and serve warm.
CORONATION CHICKEN SALAD
Shred whatever chicken you have left (discard the skin and bones) and roughly chop the leftover sweet potatoes and dates. Put all of that into a bowl, sprinkle with a generous amount of curry powder, and add a large spoonful of mango chutney (or apricot jam, or just leave it out if you’ve got enough sweet dates) and stir to mix. Add just enough mayonnaise (or plain Greek yogurt) to bind everything together and season to taste with salt and pepper. Fold in some thinly sliced scallions and, if you’d like a bit of crunch, some chopped roasted almonds. Serve on toast or in lettuce cups.
Reprinted from Now & Again by Julia Turshen with permission by Chronicle Books, 2018