THE HALF-EATEN bag of chips usually gets finished. Those last squares of chocolate rarely languish. Why, then, does the fridge door consistently clog up with unfinished condiments and flavor accents?
The final teaspoon of high-end mustard you can’t throw away? Capers left over from last year’s Costco run? We’ve been there. And we can get you out of there. Here are some ideas for clearing out your fridge’s remains . . . and maybe even finding some recipes you’ll love:
To polish off a few condiments at once, go for Thousand Island dressing. My grandmother always kept a jar around for our nightly green salads, and it’s useful as a sandwich spread. You can jazz it up with minced onion or chopped hard-boiled egg if you like, but fundamentally it just involves mixing two parts each of pickle relish and mayonnaise with one part ketchup.
Another idea: deviled eggs. Again, you can get as fancy as you want, but start by scooping out the yolks of 12 hard-boiled eggs, mixing them with 4 tablespoons mayonnaise, 2 teaspoons yellow mustard, 2 teaspoons relish, and salt and pepper to taste before spooning the mixture back into the eggs.
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Mustard: Salad dressing saves the day once more. Writer Nora Ephron’s classic version from her novel “Heartburn” calls for mixing 2 tablespoons Grey Poupon with 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, then slowly whisking in 6 tablespoons olive oil until thick and creamy. Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten turns leftover mustard into a sauce to spoon over fish before baking it. She mixes 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard with 1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard, 8 ounces crème fraîche, 2 tablespoons minced shallots and 2 tablespoons of those leftover drained capers.
Red curry paste: Unless you cook Thai dishes regularly, most of the tub usually remains after a one-night experiment. To chip away at it, we got a tip from www.thekitchn.com to add a teaspoon or two to bowls of chicken noodle soup (or most other mild soups or stews) to give it an agreeable kick. That’s also how we like to use the dregs of our Judy Fu’s hot chili oil.
To dispense with a larger quantity, Laura B. Russell recommends a Red Curry Soup with Broccoli and Shrimp in her cookbook “Brassicas.” An abbreviated version: Whisk ¼ cup of paste into a can of coconut milk in a saucepan over medium heat, add 3 cups chicken broth and a sliced onion and return to a simmer. Add 3 tablespoons fish sauce, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 4 cups broccoli florets, and a pound of medium raw shrimp (peeled and deveined). Stir well, simmer about 5 minutes, until broccoli is tender and shrimp are cooked. (Taste; if it’s too spicy, add more broth.) Remove from heat and stir in 3 tablespoons lime juice and 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro.
They’ll vanish in an instant if used in a classic party dip, combined with mayonnaise and grated Parmesan cheese and baked at 350 degrees until bubbly. Start with 7 ounces artichokes, a half-cup mayo and a half-cup grated cheese. Add chopped green chilies if you like.
Capers: First, don’t worry about these. As Marcella Hazan once noted, capers last indefinitely in the fridge. They’re endlessly useful doled out a teaspoon or so at a time in sauces over fish or mixed into dips. Not convinced? Try pasta puttanesca, usually good for using up a few tablespoonfuls. And they’re great in the deviled eggs you made to get rid of that mustard and relish.
Freelance writer Rebekah Denn is a regular contributor to The Seattle Times blog All You Can Eat. John Lok is a Times staff photographer.