One of the things that we often want in cooking for one (just as in cooking for four or six) is fast and easy, and a technique that can be applied to a number of dishes. I’ve mentioned steam-sauté as a great way to cook vegetables quickly–but here are some other ideas for quick cooking.
Beets can normally take quite some time to cook since they are dense and hard. One of the ways to speed up cooking is by grating or shredding a dense vegetable–think about hash browns! You can use a similar technique with beets (or carrots, parsnips, cabbage)–cut them into small pieces so that they will cook more quickly. Here is an example adapted from Marion Morash’s Victory Garden Cookbook:
Grated Sautéed Beets
- 4 medium beets
- 4 tablespoons butter, or olive oil
- Fresh lemon juice
- Salt and fresh-ground black pepper
- Chopped fresh dill weed or parsley
- Wash, peel, and coarsely grate beets (If small and tender, peeling is not necessary)
- Melt butter in a covered frying pan.
- Add beets, and stir to cover with butter or oil.
- Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, until just tender. (You could add a bit of water or stock–like steam-sauté technique if needed to keep from burning.)
- Season with lemon, salt and pepper and serve.
Although this will serve four, it’s easy to cut this down to a single-serving size–there’s really nothing to measure or adjust–it’s easy to eyeball the amount of butter and quantity of beets needed. What could be simpler!
If you want to get just a bit fancier with your veggies, you could make röstis. This gives you different flavor and texture for very little extra effort.
You’ve probably heard of rösti–maybe just as “potato pancakes”. A potato rösti at its simplest is just grated (shredded) potato, mixed with a little flour to help hold the potatoes together (and maybe some Parmigiano-Reggiano), which is sautéed in a little butter until tender, brown, and crispy. It’s simple, quick, and yummy–and even better, it’s easily made for one or two people as it’s really not a fussy recipe: small for a side dish, or a bit larger for a main course.
Here is a basic potato rösti recipe from Mark Bittman’s Food Matters cookbook Kindle location 1464). This recipe makes four substantial servings, or 12 snack size röstis. Röstis are typically shaped into a cake, but can also be baked in muffin tins or on a cookie sheet
- 1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra for greasing pan and your hands.
- 1-1/2 pounds waxy potatoes (new potatoes, or red potatoes)
- 1 onion
- 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh rosemary or thyme
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon whole wheat flour
- salt and fresh-ground black pepper
- Heat oven to 350° F and grease nonstick muffin tins or backing sheet.
- Grate the potatoes and onion (food processor, or by hand).
- Squeeze dry with paper towels.
- Put in bowl, add Parmesan, flour, and oil (if baking–omit if sautéing).
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Divide between muffin tins and press down, or press into cakes.
- Bake or sauté until crisp and golden–about 30 minutes.
- Let cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.
Obviously, this technique will work well with other vegetables–such as beets, carrots, squash, cabbage. You can see that this is easily cut down for a single serving: you’ll want about one-fourth this amount: 1 tablespoon oil, 6 ounces potato, 1/4 onion, a healthy pinch of rosemary, 2 tablespoons Parmesan, and a scant teaspoon of flour for one large cake, and the cooking time should be about the same since the recipe calls for dividing into cakes. Making these in single serving sizes, I opt to sauté them rather than bake them. I omit the oil from the mixture and add a little to the skillet.
This technique can be used with lots of other vegetables–one of the advantages being that the shredded vegetables will cook more quickly than whole veggies.
Another recipe from Mark Bittman is for beet rösti from his column in the New York Times:
- 2 pounds beets (3 very large or 4 to 6 medium)
- 2 teaspoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup flour
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Minced parsley or a few rosemary leaves for garnish.
- Trim and peel beets as you would potatoes.
- Grate them in food processor or by hand (For a single serving, I’d use a box grater.)
- Begin preheating 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat.
- Toss grated beets in bowl with rosemary, salt and pepper.
- Add about half the flour; toss well, add rest of flour, and toss again.
- Put butter in skillet; heat until it begins to turn nut-brown.
- Scrape beet mixture into skillet, and press with spatula to form a round.
- With medium to medium-high heat–the pancake should gently sizzle–cook, shaking pan occasionally, until bottom of cake is nicely crisp, 8 to 10 minutes.
- Slide cake onto a plate, top with another plate, invert the two plates, and return cake to pan.
- Keep cooking, adjusting heat if necessary, until other side is browned, another 10 minutes or so.
- Garnish, cut into wedges, and serve hot or at room temperature.
This can be readily adapted to other vegetables–carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, turnips–which have about the same texture and density as beets. Once you’re familiar with the technique, you can use vegetables with different textures: summer squash–just squeeze them thoroughly to remove moisture, and remember that they will cook more quickly than beets.