So many good recipes come from scrounging up bits and pieces left over in the kitchen. Crescent Dragonwagon, easily one of my top five favorite vegetarians, talks about not just leftovers but “planned-overs”, intentionally making extra batches of one thing so that it can be used in a recipe for something else the next day.  Making extra risotto to use in tomorrow’s risotto cakes, doubling up on the potato curry to make samosas soon after.

I do this when I remember to, and it’s a great idea (in fact, I’ll be trying out some quinoa hash cakes later today with what’s in my fridge right now), but really the point of this entry is to talk about the stuff that you left sitting out last night and really want to do something with so you don’t feel guilty by throwing it out.  Banana bread would be the classic example – the browner the bananas, the better bread they make – but I’m talking even more obsessive.  A few days ago I didn’t finish a bottle of beer I had with dinner and, in an “omigod do you even realize how much food we greedy Americans throw away, like, every hour?” moment, I could not bring myself to dump these four malty ounces down the drain.  So I made a quickbread with it and got my Resourcefulness Points for the day.  In fact, I scrounged so well that I didn’t even have to go to the store to buy any packages of anything whose remaining contents I would have to use up again, thus bringing to a screeching halt the cycle of Overcapitalized Wanton Wastefulness.   (OWW.)  I am truly amazing.

This bread has a lovely flavor – a deep sweetness from the dates, yeast from the beer, and the orange zest in the butter just makes the world a better place.  (Instead of butter you could also use some strained yogurt.)  Orange zest is my favorite last-minute addition; I put it in French toast, pancakes, rice pudding, you name it.  On measuring dates, I used displacement – I put the beer and milk in a Pyrex measure and then added dates until the liquid rose to 1 1/2 cups.  If you don’t have a blender, you could get by with chopping up the dates instead before you add them to the liquids.

The recipe I made was a little dense, so for you I’ll write down to add an egg to the batter, even though that’s not what I did myself.  You and I both know it will work without me having to make it again to show you, plus I’m out of dates after making Elle’s date bars and I’ve got to move on to other kitchen stashes to use up.  Lemme tell you right now, this bread is not going to be pretty.  But it sure will taste good.

Date Beer Bread

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour or all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup flat beer (I used Tuborg Christmas Brew)
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup fresh pitted dates or rehydrated dried dates*
1/4 cup oil or melted butter
1 egg

Preheat to 375F. Butter an 8″ cake pan or a 9″x5″x3″ loaf pan. In a large bowl whisk together flours, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Combine beer, milk, and dates, and with a blender (I’ve been using a stick blender and don’t know if I can ever go back!) buzz the three up until the dates are comletely pureed. Add oil and egg, mix well, and add this to the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined (dough will be thick) and empty into prepared pan. Bake 30-40 minutes or until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Serve with…

Orange Ginger Butter
makes enough to serve with the above recipe

2 tablespoons softened butter
1/8 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
pinch of sugar
pinch of powdered ginger

Stir ’em up. Done. I didn’t actually measure any of this, so you don’t have to either.

*Just put a few dates in boiling water and cook until plump.