Let’s Cook: Cooking for One
It has been said that there is “nothing new under the sun.” However that theory is being challenged when it comes to dining.
I recently read an article that mentioned reservations for one are becoming quite popular. Many of you can recall that dining alone was considered as enjoyable as unplugging the clogged kitchen sink.
Times are changing as people are constantly bombarded with news, social media and chatter at the office. These situations are the catalyst for many wanting some peace and quiet; why not have it while enjoying a meal?
Most of us would agree that a bit of solo time without a bunch of racket changes our approach to life. We have the time to clear our mind, tap into our creativity and realize that having a well-organized sock drawer makes our mornings easier! It is for these reasons and more that I have decided to give a few tips on cooking for one. Dining at home for one can be enjoyable, and I speak from experience.
Having been a bachelor until age 28, I did a fair amount of solo cooking. I realized that meals I had enjoyed at home or meals that I made for company in my apartment could be converted to single servings. I found myself at the end of the day looking forward to cooking in my compact kitchen, making recipes that I enjoyed for one, and then sitting down and relishing not only a good meal, but an attractive table setting as well.
After Jan and I were married, I looked forward to our meals together. We shared not only a nice meal but the details of our day. From time to time, we would set our table with china just because we enjoyed it. It did not have to been a special occasion. When Jan went back to graduate school, I once again found myself dining solo. One evening I took the time to make a fine meal, set the table and just enjoy the quiet of our home. When Jan arrived home several days later, the china was still out and she asked who came to dinner! She reversed this role several months later when I was at a convention and came home to discover that she treated herself to this satisfying delight. This proved a point that dining solo can be enjoyable. It is also the perfect time to use your best tablecloth – you will feel better if you stain it rather than Aunt Lucille.
With my work in Minot, I have talked with many live-alones who still enjoy good food. Many of them are retired so they have the time to prepare and fuss over a delicious meal. There is also the fact the many folks like a relatively inexpensive meal or the choice to cook healthy. Here are a few tips for those of us who like to be like Amelia Earhart and go solo and soar high with flavor and choices. Besides, it is fun to cut up celery and use your favorite casserole dish all while listening to some of your favorite music. Dancing around the kitchen, adjusting the seasonings, and lighting a candle makes one feel not only good, but creative-and that is important.
The first rule of cooking for one is to think that part of your meal can be used again. For example, left over ham becomes a mini savory ham pie with peas and gravy or a ham popover with your favorite cheese (you know the kind that nobody else is the house liked). Use your creativity and remember that if it doesn’t work out to be a blue ribbon winner, who is going to know! You can always try again.
Let me plant just a few ideas for delicious solo delights. Eggs! If eggs could be dancers, they would be the Radio City Rockettes because they can kick up a meal in minutes. Poached eggs with fresh spinach, omelets, hard-boiled eggs, egg salad on rye, deviled eggs, and let us not forget about a mini custard. Cheese and eggs go together like hot cocoa and marshmallows. So use a variety of cheeses – finely grated cheese goes well on just about anything.
Soups are another hit for solo diners, and they often freeze well. The beauty of soup is that is can be made year round and with much variety. Summer vegetables, fall show stoppers include beets, squash and carrots after a frost. Winter soups can features different grains and certainly split peas. A good soup is a meal, and left overs allow you to catch your favorite movie with ease.
One of the most popular requests that I have received when working with people who live alone is for potato salad. I have written several articles on creamy potato salad but never on warm potato salad. I have come to enjoy the inviting beauty of warm, soft potato salad especially when it is paired with sausage. You will enjoy this easy recipe, and remember to use a cloth napkin and that pewter napkin ring with the Scandinavian design.
Warm Potato Salad with Savory Sausage
2 or 3 small red potatoes
1 large sausage such as Polish Kielbasa
2 teaspoons oil
A good dash of red wine
1 teaspoon or more of Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon of red-wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch of green onions sliced thin
2 or 3 fresh sprigs of parsley finely chopped
1 teaspoon of butter reserved
Boil the potatoes with skins on in a small saucepan with a dash of salt until tender. Place the sausage in slightly oiled small skillet and prick the skin. Brown on both sides, while cooking slowly to bring out flavor with cooking lasting between 20 and 25 minutes.
Mix all dressing ingredients in a bowl whisking well. When potatoes are ready, drain them and slice them into thick slices and dress with reserved butter then toss the warm potatoes with the dressings and set aside. Remove sausage from pan and keep warm while adding a dash of wine to the skillet to create a delicious serving juice. Pour juice over sausage and serve with warm potato salad.