Eating alone is OK

9780451493606As a single person who cooks, I often find myself eating alone–and I don’t find that to be a problem.  Eating alone doesn’t mean that you are lonely.  It simply means you can please yourself as to what you cook and eat.  Many seem to think that it’s a barren occasion and one that does not deserve much attention to the food.  I disagree.  It’s when there can be the most attention to food.

What Do You Cook When No One Is Watching? from Taste magazine sums it up nicely.  True it’s promoting a cookbook (SOLO by Anita Lo) which I suspect I will buy after I’ve seen the sample on my Kindle.  There are not many cookbooks addressed to cooking for one so it’s delightful to think there is another to peruse.

A son gôut!


Monkfish sous vide

I’ve been thinking about sous vide cooking, reading about it, and I’m finally going to try it, especially since it CAN be done without any fancy equipment–except a beer cooler. That I can handle–in fact, I already have one–I just had not thought of it as a kitchen appliance.

I’ve been wanting to try sous vide cooking, especially reading about it Stefan’s Gourmet Blog posts. Being somewhat budget conscious, I’ve explored alternatives to the water ovens and circulators usually used in sous-vide cooking. I’ve looked at articles on how to turn your slow cooker into a sous-vide machine and discovered that requires some additional equipment and “hacking” to work; that’s also not for me.

There seem to be a lot of reasons for using this technique, not the least of which is to avoid heating up the kitchen and overworking the A/C! There’s also the appeal of the evenness of cooking and not being able to overcook unless you give a lot of attention to the actual cooking. All those advantages and some alternatives to expensive equipment or ones that require engineering know-how at least let me try it. One alternative I discovered was a big pot of water, low oven temperature–not an option in summer for me.  I found references on adding external temperature controls to rice cookers and multifunction pots, using the oven, and, of course, lots of ads for sous vide tools.

So what has precipitated this sudden fit of actually doing it? It’s the hot, muggy, humid, steamy weather we have here in the summer and the fact that I’m a serious fresh-air freak. If it’s at all possible I’ll have the doors and windows open–Frankie especially appreciates this. I want to cook without having all the extra heat–so I’m exploring all possible alternatives, including adapting recipes that normally involve using the oven for the slow cooker–looking for ways to beat the heat.

Krups rice cooker IMG_3796

For food safety temperature is important so I looked at lots of articles giving temperatures for various meats and fish, including on that considered using the keep-warm function on the rice cooker or multifunction pot. Next to the beer cooler method this looked like a possible one for me since I do own a Krups multifunction pot. To check that out I filled the pot with and checked the temperature on the slow-cooking setting–the temperature held at 185 ºF which looks as if it might work for some veggies and, perhaps, for tough cuts of meat. Switching to the keep-warm function and doing a temperature check two hours after I had switched to keep-warm function–but the water started at 185 ºF and I had absolutely no information on what the rate of cooling in the closed multifunction pot was. So–more data, please! I started with water at 110 ºF on keep-warm setting to see what happened. What happened was 165ºF.

So the multifunction pot (Krups) is out for just using the warm function, but I’ve discovered that if the pot is hot and then turned off, it hold a steady temperature for about two hours. Since I’m only doing sous vide for one and quick things, I don’t need a huge pot. This is going to take a bit more tending, but it would certainly be easier for quick things than a beer cooler (my laziness is showing, I know).

Searching for the best temperature to use for monkfish sous-vide produced an interesting array of suggestion. Always preferring data, I was glad to see Monkfish sous vide temperature experiment which tested throughout the range of temperatures that I found and gave a description of the fish texture at each.

From ChefSteps I also found the following temperature guide for fish and from Amazing Food Made easy temperatures and times in the range of 10 to 30 minutes:

  • Tender  40ºC/104ºF
  • Tender and flaky 50ºC/122ºF
  • Well done 60ºC/140ºF

For my monkfish, I think tender and flaky is a good option; for tuna, I might go for just tender–or even rare, depending on the grade. Now for time specifically for monkfish to be medium the general consensus seemed to be “medium” at 140ºF for 10 to 30 minutes. Since my tap water is at 140ºF with the beer cooler I should be good to go–though it seems strange to not have to be concerned about time but since it won’t go above the water temperature anything in that range should work.

For seasoning? Well, simple seemed good for my first try so I went with salt, freshly ground black pepper, and butter. I used the rice-cooking mode to bring the water up to 140ºF, put the monkfish in, closed the lid and crossed my fingers. It just seems too simple even though I’ve cooked other things by putting them in liquid and then turning off the heat and letting the residual do the cooking.

The results? The best monkfish I’ve ever eaten. Okay, so I’ve not had anyone else’s monkfish cooked sous vide, but it’s the best monkfish I’ve ever cooked. I cooked it at 140ºF for 30 minutes. Temperature check at the end of the cooking was still at 140ºF. The fish was tender and just starting to flake. I’m still trying to find some adjectives for it. If i have to pick one I think it will be just plain luscious!

Now that I’ve done all the temperature experiments on the Krups multifunction cooker (in slow-cooking mode and keep-warm mode), and on how it holds temperature, I see more sous vide in my future.

Related links:

Grocery shopping for one

Do you think about advertising while you’re grocery shopping?  Most likely not! I know that I don’t–but I try to do “perimeter” shopping, making a foray into the center of the store only for specific items–like drain cleaner, paper towels, or dish detergent.  Where I shop, the immediate thing from the entrance is produce (with a big display of locally grown goods), which leads to the meat and fish/seafood counters; a left turn there takes me past the dairy, and refrigerated juices; another left leads me to frozen goods. If I take a right turn at the butcher/fish/seafood counter, I find myself at a counter of prepared fruits and melons (usually in big quantities that are too much for one).  Next in line is the bakery and then the delicatessen.  Continuing through those, I end up at the Asian food bar,  the rotisserie chickens and other prepared meats, and the salad bar.  My usual trek through the grocery store most often involves only a quick dash to the dairy case, then meat and deli. I don’t see a lot of processed food on this circuit. I’d never really given much thought to whether or not my shopping was being manipulated by sales-motivated display methods.  The links below contain some information about store layout and methods used to induce us to buy “stuff”–things that we did not come into the store to purchase: impulse purchases.


links of hot Italian sausageMeat purchases are pretty easy–thanks to chops, steaks, and a butcher/fish counter that will cut to order; packages of  chicken parts, rather than whole birds, and house-made sausages that I can buy one or two at a time. Careful consideration of the dish that I want to make can allow alternative cuts of meet: beef shank instead of large chuck roast for post roast.

The real difficulties come in produce where things are sold bunched, bagged, or otherwise in quantities that don’t fit single-serving cooking. Some produce just grows in too large a quantity–heads of cauliflower, heads of cabbage or lettuce, a whole stalk of Brussels sprouts…waste just waiting to happen unless we make a serious effort to prevent it.


One of the difficulties of cooking for one (or even two) is the produce that goes bad while waiting quietly in the refrigerator for you to do something with it.  I love peppers–and I like variety, but I simply cannot use a whole red and orange or yellow bell pepper before they begin to get a little mushy around the edges, no matter how carefully I store them.  So do I do without them?  Even  some ready-to-use packages that are available in the produce department are still more than I want. Buying more than I can use is like throwing money away–and it gets worse if you consider the amount of food waste by consumers after purchase, let alone the waste between harvest and the appearance in the supermarket.

My supermarket likely has something that will help with this dilemma:  a salad bar.

green on the salad barIf you’ve always thought of it as a place to make a salad with all sorts of veggies and trimmings, and pour salad dressing on it, top it with some croutons, and take it back to the office to eat  you need to look at the salad bar from a different perspective. Take a closer look at what’s available there to purchase by the pound–thinking about what you need for a meal, rather than making a salad.

As much as I love salads, packaged greens often go bad before I use all of them. My other objection to big prepared baby spinach on the salad bar (Harris Teeter)packages of greens is the lack of variety–I simply don’t want spinach as my greens for a whole week.  If your market has a salad bar, you can get single-servings of mesclun, spinach, and other greens from the salad bar. I can also get some that loose greens in the produce department–I’ll purchase that either place, depending on what my schedule is and how salad-crazy I am at the time. Since the salad bar usually has several kinds of greens out, I can have mixed salad greens without buying lots of each kind.

salad bar-broccoli-cauliflower IMG_6051I like cauliflower and broccoli too, but again a head of cauliflower is a bit much, so even at $3.99 a pound it is less wasteful and probably cheaper in the long run for me to buy what I need for a single meal from the salad bar–and I avoid having to do the prep myself–added benefit.

My most frequent purchase from the salad bar is bell pepper strips, for salads, and sometimes for seasonings.  If I need a lot, for example making the dandelion greens and sausages or  chicken with sweet peppers, I will either buy whole peppers, or use frozen ones since they are to be cooked.  The salad bar that I frequent usually has a variety of colors, so I can have that without red, yellow, orange, and green going bad in the fridge. (I prepared bell peppers on the salad bar (Harris Teeter)have to admit, somewhat shamefacedly, that I’m one of the people who will stand there and pick out the red, orange, and yellow and leave the green ones behind.)

I don’t buy tomatoes off the salad bar–I think that the refrigeration changes the texture of them, so I usually get grape/cherry tomatoes from the produce section. They seem to be one thing that I use easily before they get funky.

Onions and whole carrots keep well julienned carrots on the salad barenough that I buy those in the produce department most of the time and keep them in the fridge; but if I want  julienned carrots to make a quick serving for a meal or for a salad–I may just take the lazy way out and use the salad bar rather than the packaged ones in the produce department. That’s my idea of convenience food.

I don’t often by cucumbers from the salad bar since I prefer the English ones–and the salad bar usually features the American slicers so they are not worth the per pound price. Other things that may be purchased from the salad bar include sliced mushrooms, julienned radishes, or fresh mozzarella when you want just enough for one serving.

Another frustration of buying produce for one is fruit. As much as I like cantaloupe, honeydew, berries and other fruit, getting variety leads me to use the fruit side of the salad bar often. I can usually find assorted berries, mangoes, pineapple, and melons there.

Most of the items on the salad bar really aren’t that heavy–and considering that you have avoided the waste of unused produce, it seems to be a reasonable price.  Even some of the heavier items like melons, broccoli and cauliflower, are a bargain for me since it allows me to have variety in my meals and minimizes waste.

Not everything I want is on the salad bar, so the solo cook has to deal with more produce than you’re going to use quickly. What are the options?

Hard-copy or digital?

Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single CookI’m a sucker for cookbooks–especially by an author that I know has great recipes and knows about cooking for one!  I have Joe Yonan’s book Serve Yourself and love it–now I find that he’s got another that I want–Eat Your Vegetables.  Now comes the debate–do I do hard-copy or digital?

I do love books–and I’m sure that I’ll never be without some of the “hard copy” in my possession. But–there are advantages to the digital, especially as e-readers improve. But there are several attractions of digital versions–given my aversion of house cleaning it’s certainly much easier to dust the e-reader than a shelf of books. And, I love being able to have a selection of books no matter where I am.  There’s the price, too–since the e-edition is usually less expensive (though I can’t use the word “cheaper” here). Then there are some of the downsides….

Right now I’ve got reading material in several different e-readers: Kindle (just the third generation, not the Kindle Fire), Google,and  Kobo account.  That is frustrating.  I have the Kindle app installed on laptop, notebook, droid….you should see me trying to figure out where to look for Nigel Slater’s Ripe! Is it in Google, or Kobo–I am sure it’s not the Kindle–since there are color photographs, but….

[Hiatus here…skulking on the internet for availability in various e-readers,  and discovering eBook management and  converter software]

I’m back–just finished reading the introductory material to Eat Your Vegetables, and quickly perusing some of the recipes. It’s another winner for cooking for one–in digital format!

Love digital, but I still do  buy hard-copy when a book that  I want to read is not available electronically!  For example, Nigel Slater’s cookbooks, when they aren’t available on Oyster, either–tough to be an addict!

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.

Cleaning out the fridge….

cropped-img_2208.jpgOne of the things that I particularly “hate” having to do is to “clean out” the refrigerator.  That’s not just because it means that I am going to find some very revolting, icky, slimy celery in the crisper or that I’m composting food, which is, admittedly wasteful.  It’s the fact that refrigerator seems to be a good reflection of life in general around this household.

When the refrigerator needs a major clean-out, it also likely means that there are dust bunnies that are likely bigger than the cat, stacks of laundry, and other chores that desperately need attention as well, because I’ve not found the time to do them–even a few minutes a day. (I could do with a house elf!)

Since I consider myself a foodie, it’s a pretty sad commentary when I’ve let the refrigerator get to the major clean-out state–it means that I’ve been too dependent on those one-a-day multivitamins and sandwiches rather that cooking quick but healthy meals for myself or even popping something into the slow-cooker! It means that I’ve let other things take over–more than I should.  After all, 30 minutes to cook a meal would really be well spent–and I would probably be more efficient at other tasks after the break.

I’ll admit that I hadn’t realized how much a major indexing project (the book was over 1000 pages–and the deadline was moved to a sooner-rather-than-later date after I started the project) was going to affect my daily routine.  I hope that I’ve learned something, and the next one won’t require cleaning out the refrigerator because I’ll have done a little advance planning or used my software-mandated breaks from the computer more wisely.

Regrettably, meal-planning is not the answer here–I don’t do well with the if-it’s-chicken-it-must-be-Tuesday sort of thing. Perusing what was in the freezer didn’t do me much good either–mostly food that will be great in cooler weather, but totally unappealing in hot weather, or else things like stock, or soup base which wouldn’t be fast to make right then.

Each time I have to clean out the fridge, it’s a bit like making New Year’s resolutions–I solemnly vow to not let this happen again–but then most of us know what happens to New Year’s resolutions.


The fridge is now tidy–the slimy celery and other small pieces of residual vegetables have gone to the compost bin (that stuff had a real head start on breaking down!) so I’m ready to start again, though  I haven’t gotten to the laundry or to chasing out the dust bunnies (at least those are not going to get slimy) this afternoon.

Trying to keep the New Year’s resolutions…

I’m really trying to keep my New Year’s resolutions, though sometimes I think that I should simply resolve each year to try to do better on keeping LAST year’s resolutions.  But it’s a new year, new start, so here goes!

I’ve just gotten back from the grocery store–with only one thing that wasn’t planned–That was a veggie that I’ve never seen in this Harris Teeter before–a Boniato (Cuban sweet potato). While I gripe loudly and constantly about how crowded the grocery store always is on Sundays, it’s what seems to work for me–so I gripe and still shop on Sundays–unless I ran out of milk on Saturday!

The grocery shopping took a bit longer than usual, but I went with the idea of doing some meal planning on the hoof.  (I like to shop by what looks good and what’s on special, so meal planning at home doesn’t necessarily work for me.) I went with a set number of meals in mind–and the meat (at least vaguely) in mind, then walked around looking to see what was on special, and what looked good–in other words,  produce and meat.

Knowing that we can expect some cooler weather over the next week did influence my shopping, and so did the fact that I’m still knee deep in course prep for the medical terminology courses that I’m teaching.  I need cool-weather dishes that I can pop into the oven (Römertopf is out on the counter–and I can scarcely believe that I’ve not posted about cooking something in them before this.)

The result of my meal planning on the fly was this and I’m going to keep you posted on how well I succeed with this–hoping for some peer-pressure here:

  • It’s really too-warm-for-the-season weather here today, so I’m having something light (and “leftover”)–cod re-warmed with the tomato sauce that I brought home from the Italian restaurant, and cauliflower and black olive gratin (had all the ingredients in the fridge except the cauliflower.  I purchased enough for one good-size serving from the salad bar–cheaper than a whole head of cauliflower when I know part will likely go to waste.)
  • Lamb (shoulder chops to be cut up) braised with veggies–in the Römertopf–with an under-appreciated vegetable–turnips.  Personally I love them raw too, and like the sweetness that they add to soups, so they get used a lot.  Doesn’t hurt that they store so well either.
  • Chicken thighs to roast (most likely Römertopf  again) with some root vegetables (have carrots, turnips, parsnips, and some cabbage).  There will be at least two meals from the chicken thighs.
  • Since I have some lovely ham stock (courtesy of a friend sharing ham and the ham bone with me) I’m going to make some bean and kale soup for one warm cozy supper.
  • While I was perusing the New York Times Health section and stumbled onto a recipe for a turnip gratin that is a possible for a side dish with some of the chicken.
  • Then last, but not least, is a fresh black pepper and onion sausage that most likely headed into the Römertopf with some potatoes, to be accompanied by some cabbage that’s been quickly microwaved with a bit of extra-virgin olive oil.

After my meal planning, I’ve got a couple servings of meat (chicken thighs and pepper-onions sausages) that are flexible and should lend themselves to other things if my appetite doesn’t fit my plans.  The sausages could always end up in another “one-pot” dish.  There are also some salad makings in the fridge, and some fruit (Fuyu persimmons, apples, and oranges) for dessert.

One of the things that I like about recipes like those for the cauliflower-black olive gratin and the turnip gratin, is that even though they say “serves 6” they are SO easy to cut down to size for single-serving cooking.

So that’s my plan for this week–regular cooking that is healthy, and doesn’t promote waste from things that just don’t get used.  There are some lunches to be made during the week since most of my courses are online this term–meaning I’m home to fix brunch or lunch for myself.  Maybe that Boniato will fit there.

I’ll be posting more about these meals, but, please, wish me luck with the New Year’s resolution!  Now, off to the kitchen to do the cauliflower-black olive gratin to go with my cod in tomato sauce!

Eating for one….

I think that an increasing number of use are eating alone, at least part of the time…that’s not a bad thing, even though there are some problems with it.  I’m always on the lookout for suggestions for cooking and eating for one.

I thought I’d pass along this link to The Kitchn where you’ll find some comments on single-serving cooking and eating.

Risotto–even for one

Risotto is a favorite food–sometimes it’s comfort food and sometimes it’s a treat for a special occasion.  I am addicted to that luscious, sensual, creamy texture.  Depending on the additions it’s an all-season dish–veggies or shellfish in warm weather, or sausage and meat for cold-weather, stick-to-the-ribs comfort food.

There was a time when risotto was a special-occasion, dinner-with-friends dish for me. I’d invite friends for a meal and make risotto.   One day while making spinach risotto to go with pan-seared tuna, supervised by the cat, stirring and adding liquid, stirring…and thinking…I decided that there must be a way to have risotto in single-serving quantities.  Thinking of restaurants, I was sure that there was some “trick” that would allow finishing off one serving at a time;  I needed to figure out what that was.

I’ve tried the recipe given by Barbara Kafka in Microwave Gourmet (p.  114)  and that’s good for quick risotto but, to me, not quite as luxurious as the long slow kind.  The advantage there is that she does give quantities for serving one or two.  I kept going back to restaurant line cooking, and wondering how I would do risotto in that situation–I certainly would not be making it totally “to order”–I’d be finishing it off as ordered.  As much as I like risotto, it seemed worthwhile to try to find a way to have it more often.

I was using one of the recipes from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (pp. 242-245) as usual–still stirring, thinking, and stirring….   Maybe I could take some of the risotto out while slightly undercooked, before adding the cheese and butter and any final ingredients and freeze it for later use. (Can you see the light bulb appear above my head with this though?)

Judging that there was  more than enough for two of us in the batch that I was working on, I grabbed a small container and took out a single serving (fairly large single-serving), sealed it carefully so that there was no air space, and put it in the freezer.

A couple of weeks later, I pulled it out of the freezer and let it thaw in the refrigerator.  Now to see if I had something edible.  I’d taken it out of the original batch when I though I had about ten minutes of cooking time left.  Now, back into a pan, add some broth, and more stirring.  It took a bit of effort to get it mixed with the liquid as it was stiff, but after that it seemed to be a good consistency.   As soon as the rice had that bit of “bite” –tender outside, but still firm at the center, I added the parmigiano-reggiano, and a bit of butter and it was ready to eat.

I have not done a side-by-side tasting with this method and the microwave risotto or with risotto freshly made with the classic technique, but I felt that this was a bit creamier than the microwave method, and it took about the same amount of time.

Rice for risotto needs to do two things:  to have soluble starch to dissolve in the liquid to give the creamy texture of risotto, and to have enough insoluble starch to have that “tooth” or “bite” at the center of the grain that makes risotto such a sensual (and sensuous) delight.  I’ve most often used Arborio rice for risotto, and that’s what I used for this, and for the microwave trial, and from the same batch of rice.   Two other varieties of rice used for risotto are Vialone Nano, and Carnaroli.   These three varieties offer a bit of difference in the consistency of the risotto due to differences in the kinds of starch that predominate.   The Vialone Nano has enough e “bite” while having enough soluble starch to have the creamy texture of risotto, albeit looser, and maybe a bit less creamy.  The Carnaroli  has an even firmer “bite” with the creaminess, with the Arborio being sort of in between, and the most readily available (and the least expensive) of the three.  I have not tried this technique with either the Vialone Nano or with the Carnaroli–maybe that’s a future experiment, but with the Arborio I was pleased with the result.

There are so many variations that make risotto a meal in itself:  you can add meat, vegetables, fish, or shellfish easily as you finish the thawed risotto and vary the seasoning easily.   Quick-cooking vegetables could be added as you start the finishing step; harder vegetables can be sautéed  or partially cooked before you add the risotto to finish it.

One surprisingly good addition to risotto (from Marcella Hazan’s recipes) is celery!  I’m always looking for things to do with the celery that’s left after I use the one or two ribs called for in recipes; when I saw her recipe for “Risotto with Celery” I just had to try that variation on risotto. Her recipe (p. 249 in Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking) calls for 2 cups finely diced celery for six serving of risotto.  It’s added in two different stages (if you’re making risotto in the classic way):  half at the beginning  when the rice is added, and the remainder  when the rice is about half-cooked  so there is some texture variation.  This is a great side for grilled meat or fish.  I really liked it to accompany a grilled lamb shoulder chop.   (I’m starting to feel that celery may be an under-appreciated vegetable and not just an aromatic seasoning.)

For finishing liquid, if the original batch of risotto was made using broth, you could finish it with water, though I find I usually have some broth in the refrigerator.   I’ll concede that you may not have the melding of flavors that you would have were the veggies or meats cooked with the risotto for the entire cooking time, but the result is good enough when you consider the shorter time, and the fact that you can have this in single-serving quantities.

Another lovely “comfort” food with Arborio rice that is a favorite of mine is “Boiled Rice with Parmesan, Mozzarella, and Basil” (again from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (pp. 258-259).  Here is a summary of the recipe:

Boiled Rice with Parmesan, Mozzarella, and Basil

Servings: 4, but halving the recipe works well.


  • 4 tablespoons or butter
  • 6 ounces of mozzarella (fresh)
  • 1-1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 2/3 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
  • 4-6 fresh basil leaves (shredded)
  • salt


  1. Cut room-temperature butter into small pieces and cut the mozzarella in  small pieces (grate on the largest holes of a box grater if it’s not too soft–mine usually is too soft). You want small pieces so that the heat of the rice will melt it.
  2. Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil, add 1 tablespoon salt, and bring back to a boil.
  3. Add rice, stir immediately for a few seconds so that it doesn’t stick together. Cover the pan. Keep at a constant, but moderate boil, until the rice is tender but still has the central “bite”.  Stir occasionally while cooking, about 15-20 minutes.
  4. When tender but al dente, drain the rice and add the mozzarella, then the Parmesan cheese, then the butter; stir well after each is added.  Finally, add the shredded basil leaves and stir in and serve immediately.

It’s not risotto, but then you don’t have the constant stirring that goes with classic risotto,  while you do get a great texture given the soluble starch of the Arborio and the cheese melted into the hot rice.

I’ve yet to try the Cook’s Illustrated baked risotto, but that looks like another possible alternative and perhaps adaptable to smaller quantities.  As well as I like rice and risotto, I have a lot of exploring to do to find out what works best for single-serving cooking.

A son goût!

House cleaning–a digression.

My apologies for the rather large hiatus between posts.  End of the year got a little hectic and some things just kind of got put off–among them cleaning and writing.

While taking a break from working on my ASI indexing examination, tax preparation, and course-preparation for the up-coming term,  and contemplating the need to get out the vacuum cleaner, it occurred to me that if you’re cooking for one, you are most likely cleaning for one, too.  Now house-cleaning is not one of my preferred activities–I’d rather be watching birds (Project Feeder Watch count), or cooking, or reading one of my favorite British or Alaska mysteries, or just having quality time with the cat.

I think that solo dwellers who need to do single-serving cooking, probably also have some issues with cleaning.  I’m a renter, which means that I don’t have lots of space, so my wine collection shares my living-room with me and with the cat.  Now dusty wine bottles may be perfectly suited to the wine cellar in a fine old family manor  in the latest British mystery, but they don’t do a lot for decor in my living room.

Predictably, I have to dust them–and   that is certainly a house-cleaning activity.  As much as I love wine, I don’t love keeping the bottles somewhat dust-free.  To add to the issue, I’m allergic to house dust so stirring the stuff up makes my eyes itch, and my face break out–a sure sign that serious cleaning must happen.  Needless to say, I’m looking for an “easy” way to address this problem, as well as the blades of the ceiling fans and other high places that are generally out of my reach without a ladder.

The vacuum cleaner was not the solution.  As you can see, each bottle has its own little cubby-hole, and in order to use the vacuum cleaner, I’d have to lift each bottle out individually, or remove all from one row so that I could vacuum the next row….et cetera.  Not a viable solution to someone who does not have the support staff of  Martha Stewart, and who does not have a frank OCD. I’ve used torn-up T-shirts for dust clothes–maybe rags is a more suitable term–but again, each bottle had to come out individually, and I’d rough up the corners of the labels.

I’ve pondered the cleaning products in the supermarket aisle  often, and not given in to the lure of the latest product because I have to wonder what chemicals are added to get all this super-duper dust attraction or magnetism.  My better sense tells me that I’d likely be helping the environment and my budget if I did not use some of these products, but  stuck with  things like white vinegar and the like that my grandmother used.  Then a little voice says “but your grandmother was not dusting wine bottles, was not working outside the home….well, you can work through that rationalization for yourself.

I succumbed to trying a Swiffer Duster.  It took seeing the one with the handle that extends, meaning that I could reach all the window tops, the ceiling fan blades and not have to tote out the stepladder.  I discovered that this nice fluffy thing did a great job at getting down the cobwebs, and dusting the ceiling fans, lamp shades, picture frames, and even the fake sunflowers in that huge vase sitting on the floor.  Here was a product that made my cleaning easier (not that I’m always “swiffering” around the house–don’t get me wrong).

The dusters did not turn me into someone who would rather clean than do all the other things mentioned above.  It did make cleaning easier.  I might not have kept buying the dusters, but I discovered that the duster was just the right width to slip into each little wine-bottle cubbyhole and at least remove a lot of dust without having to do a bottle-by-bottle dusting, and the fluffy duster did not catch on the wine labels!  Now  I don’t procrastinate so long between dustings.   I still wonder about what chemicals are used, and consider that while I’m using  the dusters, but I’m in love with the fluffy little blue thingy that fits onto that extend-able handle.  So the barrier was broken–a new cleaning product entered my house.  I find I’m much more likely to pick up that duster and use it than I was to even contemplate dusting each bottle the other way.

Well, sharing my domicile with a cat is another “problem”–the beast (an affectionately used term) sheds.  So there is cat hair in the corners.  Yes–you say that the vacuum cleaner takes care of that.  Very true–but I have to get it out and use it.  I’m willing to do that about every ten days, but what about in between those times? The cat does not shed on my schedule.

Well, I discovered the Swiffer Sweeper (while contemplating the price of a new traditional dust mop).  Does a great job on cat hair, dust bunnies and other household things on the floor.  It also goes under the bottom row of wine bottles without jostling them around!  So, despite my thoughts about the chemicals, et cetera, I have “dust mop” and  dusters in the house.  It is much easier to toss that little square of stuff with all the dust attached, rather than having to wash the  traditional dust mop every once in a while. It’s one of the “perks” of an allergy to house dust that you have to clean the cleaning equipment every so often.

So, I’ve given in to the lure of easy cleaning and chemical assistance with something as mundane as dusting–what next? Enough with the cleaning–time to get back to cooking for myself and the cat!