Posts Tagged ‘cooking for one’

Leftovers Wraps for One

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After I ate last night’s broccoli side shoots for one, I had several shoots left over, and tonight I pulled them out of the refrigerator for another veggie dinner. I also had last night’s Semi-Korean dipping sauce chilled, a couple of leftover hard-boiled eggs, a handful of roasted peanuts in my snack bag, and a head of romaine lettuce in the garden begging to be used. With the addition of a green onion from the onion row, my meal came together.
First I rinsed the biggest outer leaves of the lettuce quickly and set them in the dish rack to drain. Next, I thinly sliced the white part of the green onion while a small heavy saucepan heated up. I sliced the green parts separately, and chopped the cooked broccoli and eggs roughly. By this time the pot was hot, and I put in 2 tablespoons or so of oil and threw in the onion whites. They sizzled furiously as I stirred for about one minute, then the peanuts went in. After another minute, I added the chopped broccoli and about a quarter cup of the sauce, plus a glug of good soy sauce from the bottle that hangs out by my stove. After about one more minute of stir-frying, I turned the heat to medium, cooked just until the broccoli was hot, and stirred in the green onions. The chopped eggs were tossed in after the pot was removed from the stove. It was plated, wrapped in the romaine leaves a spoonful at a time, drizzled with more of the sauce, and eaten. Prep time and cook time together totaled twenty minutes.
Cooking for yourself is a great time to go improvisational because if something goes wrong you can shrug and, in a worst-case scenario, eat something else. That’s not so bad. And odds are that you will make some delightful discoveries along the way. The more you think through your available ingredients, putting them together on your mental palate, the less likely you are to make awkward combinations. And I want to put in a plug for prepping vegetables and possibly cooking at least some of them as soon as they hit your kitchen, so that you have fodder for really fast, really good meals. I recommend that any aspiring improvisational cook, or for that matter any cook, read Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal. It’s a delightful read and a quick education in skilled use of leftovers.
Incidentally, when you find a sauce that suits you like my sort-of-Korean sauce suits me, make it in larger batches, keep it in the refrigerator, and see how many different ways you can use and enjoy it.

Vegetables for One

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I hear people talk about how difficult they find it to cook vegetables for themselves. I’m on my own tonight, so I decided to try it. I started with a bunch of mustard from an area where I’d sown mustard greens thickly as a quick cover crop. The greens were thinned to 2″ apart in the seedling stage, and now are about a month old and maybe 8″ high. I grabbed a handful and pulled them out by the roots. Then, still holding the stems together as a bunch in my left hand, I used my right hand to snap the roots off of each stem at the point where they snapped rather than bending, taking the lower yellowed leaves away with the roots, and put the roots aside on the mulch and avoided dirtying the leaves. It’s important to break the stems where they snap. If they bend almost double instead, they have acquired more fiber than you can chew. Then I took the rootless mustards inside and washed them quickly. They grew upright due to the crowding, and that keeps them clean and saves washing. This entire process took five minutes, plus another minute to snap off two young tender garlic scapes and rinse them.
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Then I heated my skillet over fairly high heat, and while it was heating I cut the garlic scapes crosswise into 1″ lengths. When it was hot, I put in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and tossed in the garlic scapes. I put in the cut-up bud sheath from the top of the scape too, but I ended up picking it out later because it was too large and tough. No issues, you are alone and there are no mistakes. While they sizzled, I cut the mustard bunch crosswise into 1″ sections.
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After the scapes had cooked about three minutes, I added the stem ends of the mustard, cooked a couple of minutes, and then added the rest of the cut-up mustard and a large pinch of salt, stirred and fried a few minutes, and added a heaping quarter teaspoon of ground chipotle chile. If you don’t care for heat, Spanish smoked paprika would work well. Keep tossing every minute or so.
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Just before they were done, I added a good dash of Red Boat fish sauce, which is easily obtainable at Asian markets or online and is the closest substitute for Italian colatura. Stir another minute, check doneness by eating a leaf section and a stem section, and keep cooking until it tastes good. Keep the heat fairly high but not hot enough to brown the leaves. When done to your taste, plate it. I think everything tastes better on red plates.
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Then I looked in the refrigerator for a cheesy protein component. I suddenly went all Greek and crumbled some wonderful locally made goat feta over the top. If not using feta, check the salt. If really hungry, top the greens and feta or other cheese with a fried egg.
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Eat in solitary splendor. You are doing a good thing for your body and it tastes good. How cool is that? So eat on the patio under the romantic lights.
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Have a little dark chocolate for dessert, because life is short.