Cooking for one

I’m on my soapbox! Just need to vent!  Maybe I’m even being a bit paranoid, but….

At times I feel there is an attitude problem about cooking for one–even more than cooking for  just two! Sometimes while perusing recipes I find  myself getting irritated by  comments on the fact that one didn’t want to put (too)  much effort into cooking for two! If not for two, then surely we wouldn’t put much effort into cooking for one?  Duh!?!

Table for six
Occasionally more than one dines here

Why is it that  people think that cooking for one or even two people shouldn’t take much effort?  OK–it takes more effort to cook for thirteen  than for one  or two,  just in terms of quantity and size of pots. Admittedly some dishes do not lend themselves to making for one or two–so invite the neighbors; roast goose is not something that works well for one or two.  But…

No matter how many you’re cooking for there are times when you need quick, easy recipes–any cook who works outside the home knows that. But that doesn’t mean that there are not times when you want something special without having to invite the neighbors, or eating the same thing for umpteen meals.

Waiting for the roast goose....
Waiting for the roast goose….

I’m all for improvisation and cooking as an ongoing process of tasting and seasoning, but sometimes I do want a tested recipe so I’m always on the lookout for cookbooks for one or two. It can be difficult to take a recipe that serves six or eight and cut it down for one or two servings; you have to make allowances especially for the seasoning and you cannot necessarily do that “on the fly”.

I’ve commented on some of my favorite books by Judith JonesJoe Yonan and Nigel Slater where you do find recipes (and not necessarily “quick” ones) for one or two–these are single people who really like their food and are not bound by how much effort it takes to prepare the dish.


When I saw that the editors from America’s Test Kitchen had put out  “for two” cookbook, I  was excited because I like the way they explain the recipes, and how well they work.  I have tried some of the recipes and am glad to have them.  One bonus of their cooking-for-two approach is a section that cross-references recipes, e.g. all that use cauliflower or bell peppers, so that you can deal with what isn’t used in a single recipe.  Another benefit is that the seasonings are also adjusted. (Personally for my taste, I find many of the recipes a bit under-seasoned–but that’s taste, and no reflection of the worth of the recipes–after all, they have to please many people–and I know that I may need to increase seasonings.)

Many of the recipes involve chops, and/or pre-portioned meats which do play huge role in single-serving-cooking. There are recipes, e.g. for beef stew, where ingredients are modified or cooking methods changed (e.g. beef stew).    Recipes designed for two  are much easier to adapt to cooking for one (without necessarily having extra portions) than recipes for six or so.  If you’re hesitant about improvisation or about how to adjust recipes, then the Cook’s Illustrated  books on cooking for two would be a good investment–as you use the recipes, you learn why they work, and get a feel for how to change or reduce ingredients.

These, as well as books by Jones,  Yonan and Slater (see bibliography), give an excellent jumping-off point for single-serving  cooking.

A son goût.

FAn Overview of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape Appellation and Its Wines


Châteauneuf-du-Pape is one of my favorite wine regions. It’s great to see this information pulled together here. Thank you!

Originally posted on Flora's Table:

As a prelude to our next post in which we will temporarily leave Italy and review a French Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine, in this post we will provide a brief overview of the southern French wine region that goes by the same name, including its history, terroir, permitted grape varieties and winemaking practices.

In General

Châteauneuf-du-Pape is an area encompassing 3,200 HA of vineyards that is located in the southern part of the Rhône Valley, in France, between the towns of Orange (to the north) and Avignon (to the south).

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Appellation Map Châteauneuf-du-Pape Appellation Map – Courtesy of Fédération des syndicats des producteurs de Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Thirteen different grape varieties are authorized in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape vineyards, with Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre (the so-called “GSM“) being the dominating varieties, as well as the traditional core grapes in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape blend (see below for more information about these grape varieties). Other permitted varieties include Cinsaut

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“Pan-roasted” Swordfish

Sometimes a lot of good things come all at one time.  In this case it was the shad roe and another favorite that I haven’t seen in a while: swordfish. Yes, kind of feast or famine (at least figuratively). My shard roe is happily soaking in the salted water (1 tbsp per quart) overnight to purge blood. (I’d not tried this before since I like the “fishy” taste of herring, mackerel and blue fish, but after reading the post from The Garum Factory, I decided to try this way for this spring!

I’m sure that some of you are cringing, thinking that it’s an endangered fish. It was at one time, but we managed to lay off for a while and the population is coming back.  If in doubt about what you’re wanting to eat, here is the link to the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch Official Site. The Fisherman’s Market at my local Harris Teeter does support sustainable fishing, and usually gives the source for the fish.

True, it’s not been long since I actually had so-called Chilean sea bass (Patagonian toothfish) that I purchased when the Fresh Market opened here in Durham.  Today I just couldn’t pass up that lovely swordfish steak.

swordfish steak in skillet
…into the pan

One of my favorite ways of cooking fish steaks is pan-roasting–sear one side on stove-top, and then pop into the oven for finishing the cooking evenly and gently. When I’ve a really special fish (Patagonian toothfish, tuna, swordfish) I tend to go for minimal seasonings to just enhance the fish.  That usually means butter or maybe extra-virgin olive oil, possibly lemon juice and/or zest, maybe parsley, or sometimes even a touch of garlic or ginger–but lightly.  After all, this is a very special, moderately expensive piece of fish here, so I want to focus on it. A simple pan sauce is all this needs.

browned in skillet
…ready for the oven

I did brine the swordfish steak (as suggested in Cook’s Illustrated, and then proceeded with the pan-roasting.  There’s really not a recipe for this–I used lemon juice, lemon zest and butter and a little white wine to deglaze the pan.


  • 1-inch thick swordfish
  • vegetable oil/olive oil


  • Preheat oven to 425°F
  • Salt steak
  • Warm appropriately sized skillet on stove-top over medium-high heat and add oil
  • Sear steak on one side–about 3 minutes
  • Turn and place in oven for about 10 minutes
  • Remove steak to warm plate to rest
  • Deglaze the pan with butter, lemon juice (or white wine) and reduce slightly, adding pepper and herbs of your choice
  • Taste for seasoning, and pour it over the steak.

A son goût!

For those of you wondering about swordfish, here is the link to FishWatch.

Xiphias gladius2.jpg
“Xiphias gladius2″ by Werner – Histoire naturelle des poissons. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –


Wine areators do work


Great to know that this actually works. I was given one quite recently so haven’t used it much yet. I don’t think it’s quite as straight-forward as this one, but does definitely help. Thanks for the tip about old wines!

Areators, what?

Originally posted on thewinelifestyle:

Dear readers,

Have you ever wondered how and if the areators for red wine work? Well, let’s find out.

Recently, I have seen many types of this kind of accessory, which are different from the traditional decanter: they don’t have the function of decanting the red wine sediments, but allow to oxygenate the red wine very quickly. It’s an handy accessory: for example, if we have guests for dinner and we don’t have time to open bottles an hour or two before drinking it!


I really like this type of aerator, the Ventorosso, ease to use, with a very linear and functional design: it is composed of a base, to be placed above the glass, and a sphere on which you pour the red wine, so as to increase its surface exposed to air, “opening” it faster than a simple wine rotation in the glass.


Let’s go a bit ‘in…

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Lentil, cabbage, and bacono salad


I’m on about under-appreciated vegetables this evening. I just reblogged a post on beet soup so now it’s on to cabbage (which I think is also under-appreciated–just relegated to “slaw” which is often just horrible). This is a great modification of this recipe. Thanks!

Al dente adjustment to a Jacques Pépin lentil, cabbage and bacon salad

Originally posted on Gourmandistan:

Lentil, cabbage and bacon saladLike most who inhabit this food-centric segment of the global web, Gourmandistan is not going to question the legendary Jacques Pépin. But we will cheekily update his recipe to add a bit more crunch. Michelle found this 1991 recipe (and its accompanying article declaring “la salade has arrived”) in the New York Times archives when looking for something to do with a Savoy cabbage. We thought the ingredient list had promise, but the cooking methods and the delicate Savoy made the end result a bit mushy and mild. Lentils The next time, Michelle broke the original recipe down to its components, determining that preparing each part separately would keep things crisper. She replaced onions with lots of shallot, added some celery and carrot for more flavor and brightness, and used a regular cabbage instead of Savoy to maintain more crunch even when warmed with some just-cooked lentils. Steve doctored up the simple dressing with a bit more mustard and vinegar, and we had…

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Roasted beet soup


I really think that beets are right up there with cabbage as under-appreciated vegetables. I’ve another cold beet soup recipe some time ago, but I wanted to share this one with any beet lovers out there. Enjoy–either hot or cold.

Originally posted on Chez Chloé:

Spring is here and I’ve got little baby beet seedlings in the greenhouse but I can’t wait 65 days for them to make beets.

Roasted beet soup-7So until then I’m getting organic beets at the store. They are a vegetable, in my opinion, that spans all seasons. We ate this roasted beet soup hot and cold and both were delicious. So if you’re still freezing your tush off- heat it up. If you are in CA and it’s gone straight from winter to summer- keep it cool.


  • 1½ lbs roasted, trimmed beets (about 4-6 medium-lg beets)
  • 2 ½ qts chicken stock- or veggie if you prefer
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 5-6 cloves garlic
  • 1 T honey
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp white pepper
  • 2-3 T sour cream or crème fraîche

It is super simple. The beets are roasted with skin on. I…

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Perfect homemade pasta every time


A simple recipe for homemade pasta. If you don’t have a kitchen scale, you really should get one. They are not really expensive and make a lot of cooking so simple.

Originally posted on homecookexplorer:

This is going to be my shortest blog ever.

But it will show how you can make perfect homemade pasta each and every time.

Here is the trick. I’ll assume you have a pasta maker already.

Start by weighing your eggs (not your flour). 1 egg per person eating your wonderful ooh! and aahhh! homemade pasta.

Next divide the weight of the eggs by .6. This will be the weight of flour to use.

So if you are making pasta for 4 and your eggs weigh out to 215g, then 215/.6 = 358 which would be how much flour to add. The more precise you can be, the better will be your result.

This quite precise ratio will give you the precise amount of hydration to your dough so that when you put it through your pasta roller, it will be perfect. No extra flour needed, no extra water, no…

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Those little “goodfellas”: Brussels Sprouts and Hot Sausage Tortiglioni…


I haven’t made this yet–but I love sausage and I like Brussels sprouts. Since I do a lot of cabbage and greens with sausage, I want to try this, so I’ll just share it.

Originally posted on Flora's Table:

Brussel sprout and hot sausage tortiglioni

2 Servings

Brussels sprouts are not very popular in my country and they certainly weren’t on my family’s table. I don’t think I can recollect one time that I ate them in my house or anywhere else in Italy.

Things started changing a couple of years ago when I decided to host my first Thanksgiving’s dinner. During my “due diligence” period, in my quest for dishes traditionally served in the US for that holiday, I found out that Brussels sprouts were a must as a side dish, stir-fried or roasted, preferably with bacon or pancetta and even with raisins.

Little by little my acquaintance with these little guys turned into a beautiful friendship and now I’m totally in love with them for several different reasons.

Brussel sprout and hot sausage tortiglioni

First, their appearance – because no matter what they say, appearances still count! :-) Their vibrant green has the magical power to put me in a…

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Corned Beef for St. Patrick’s Day


Though it’s too late to get your corned beef this way, you can be prepared for next year! Corned beef is easy, and really good it’s DYI!

Originally posted on Stefan's Gourmet Blog:

Happy St. Patrick’s day! It’s an Irish-American tradition to eat corned beef with cabbage on St. Patrick’s day. I usually don’t celebrate St. Patrick’s day (most people in the Netherlands haven’t even heard of it), but when I came across a recipe for corned beef with cabbage I thought the cooking technique was very interesting. You see, beef brisket is first cured in salt and spices (similar to the first curing of pancetta or gravlax), and then it is cooked. What finally won me over is that the recipe requires saltpeter (potassium nitrate, KNO3 or E252). Ironically, this ingredient is not available in Ireland, and so I bought it for Conor so he could make spiced beef. Although Conor only needed 12 grams, the smallest amount I could order was 2.5 kilograms.

I mailed enough of the ‘dangerous substance’ to Ireland for Conor to make spiced beef twice, and…

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A thousand names for eggplant


I’ve always wondered about all the different names and wide use of eggplant. Here is a great post to answer some of those questions.

Originally posted on The Odd Pantry:

Eggplant display (source: via Wikimedia Commons, user Phoebe (Own work)) Eggplant display (source: via Wikimedia Commons, user Phoebe (Own work))

Writing the eggplant post last week left me in a quandary. Since I live in the US, calling it eggplant seems natural. But then all through my childhood I called it baingan in Hindi and brinjal in English. Some of my readers from the UK will probably want to call it aubergine, while Australians, I hear, prefer the term egg fruit.

United by a common language indeed!

Well it turns out that the names of this humble vegetable have come about through a global game of Telephone (Chinese Whispers in India) involving empires and migrations of peoples. Sometimes the names have gone around the world and even come back to the source, changed, to go another round.


Wight, R., Illustrations of Indian botany, or figures illustrative of each of the natural orders of Indian plants, vol. 2: t. 166 (1850) [Goovindo] (Source: Wight, R., Illustrations of Indian botany, or figures illustrative of each of the natural orders of Indian plants, vol. 2: t. 166 (1850) [Goovindo] (Source:…

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