November 21, 2017

You know how you wake up the morning after Thanksgiving trying to figure out how you could have eaten so much but still have a refrigerator bursting with leftovers? Well, in my case, this is exacerbated by the fact that I’m a chef and never quite know how many people are going to come to the Thanksgiving lunch in my restaurant in the American Embassy in Uganda.

You can imagine how my Jewish-mother gene gets activated during a holiday, especially when I know that I am cooking for many of our young Marines who are missing their moms’ cooking while on tour overseas. Inevitably, I spend a few hours after the meal is over portioning out care packages to anyone and everyone I see, yet I’m still always left with so much food that it begs for me to get creative with the remnants of America’s favorite food holiday.

Maybe it’s a good thing, then, that I never actually get to eat the Thanksgiving meal — I’m always too busy cooking with my team — so I’ve come up with some simple and tasty recipes for leftovers that I now look forward to eating the next day. I’m sharing three of my all-time favorites here so that they may become traditions in your household, too.

(Levivot Batata in Hebrew)

Orna & Ella is a small, cute café on Sheinkin Street in Tel Aviv. After I opened my first business in the city, I often indulged in these tender little treats when I was pushing myself too hard and needed a break. They spell comfort, and are a fantastic use of leftover sweet potato casserole. You can even throw in some leftover mashed potatoes if you have it.

3 cups mashed sweet potatoes (or a mixture of
sweet and regular mashed potatoes)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter (or margarine)

In a large bowl, mix the mashed sweet potatoes with soy sauce, flour, sugar, salt and pepper, and stir without over mixing. Set aside to rest and come to room temperature for 30 minutes.

Put a few tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter into a heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium heat.

Transfer the mashed sweet potato mixture to a Ziploc bag and make a small cut at the tip for piping. When the oil is hot, squirt tablespoon-sized balls onto the frying pan and flatten into a patty with the backside of a tablespoon. Fry for about 3 minutes on one side and then flip, frying the other side until both sides are golden brown. Be careful flipping because the patties are fragile. Each time you add a new batch of sweet potato patties to the pan, add more oil and butter — but not too much; a thin layer will do. Transfer cooked patties to a plate lined with paper towels and continue frying until batter is used up. Serve with sour cream, yogurt or tzatziki.

Makes about 15  patties.


An Argentine woman named Sheila, who was a retired head chef at a large kibbutz in the north of Israel, once taught me an incredible recipe for empanadas, a deep-fried, stuffed hand pie. Over the years, I have made empanadas filled with ingredients ranging from the traditional meat, raisins and olives to mushrooms, cheese and sautéed shallots.

However, the day after cooking for 200 people is not the day to start making empanada dough, much less deep-frying anything. So I came up with a quick version of an empanada made from Thanksgiving leftovers and store-bought puff pastry. The only thing you have to remember is to take the puff pastry out of the freezer before you go to bed on Thanksgiving and pop it in the fridge to thaw for the next day.

1 package store-bought puff pastry, thawed
overnight in the refrigerator
1/4 cup all-purpose flour for rolling out pastry
1 egg, beaten
9 tablespoons turkey, chopped into cubes
6 tablespoons stuffing
6 tablespoons roasted vegetables,
chopped small
6 teaspoons cold gravy
6 teaspoons cranberry sauce

Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Remove Thanksgiving leftovers and puff pastry from refrigerator and cut the turkey and vegetables into 1/2-inch pieces.

Put a small amount of flour on a clean work surface and roll out the dough to half its original thickness. Keep moving the dough around the counter to ensure it doesn’t stick. Take a bowl that is 5 inches in diameter and use a sharp knife to cut around the bowl, creating as many pastry circles as you can.  Try to cut them close together so that you don’t waste too much pastry. This should yield about 6 pastry discs.

Place one pastry circle on your baking tray and use a pastry brush or your finger to paint a bit of egg wash on the bottom half of the disc. Place a few pieces of turkey, a tablespoon of stuffing, a tablespoon of vegetables, a teaspoon of cold gravy and a teaspoon of cranberry sauce on the bottom half of the circle. (Feel free to substitute other Thanksgiving leftovers, such as green bean casserole.) Bring the top half of the pastry circle down over the top and press gently to seal. Take a fork or the handle of a knife and press carefully to form a decorative edge on the seam. Continue filling the remaining empanadas and then brush with egg wash. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes about 6 empanadas.


Another thing I never miss making after Thanksgiving is turkey salad. It’s fantastic on bagels, crackers or leftover toasted challah, but I love it scooped onto a big bed of crunchy salad greens. Truth be told, this is one of my go-to chicken salad recipes, but I like it even better with leftover turkey.

1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds
2 cups of turkey (white or dark meat or
a mix), chopped into 1-inch cubes
3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
3 scallions (white and dark parts),
finely chopped
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon
(or 1 1/2 tablespoons dry)
2 tablespoons crystallized ginger,
finely chopped
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons cranberry sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Toast raw almonds in a dry pan for 5 minutes or until golden brown on all sides. Then, in a large bowl, mix together toasted almonds, turkey, celery, scallions, tarragon and ginger.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard, cranberry sauce, salt and pepper, and then drizzle the dressing over the turkey. Mix to combine and chill covered in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Makes 4 servings.

Yamit Behar Wood, an Israeli-American food and travel writer, is the executive chef at the U.S. Embassy in Kampala, Uganda, and founder of the New York Kitchen Catering Co.

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