It isn't fair.
You like to cook. You enjoy reading cookbooks and especially the food section of your local newspaper. But you live alone, and all the recipes you see are meant for at least four people, sometimes six.
It just isn't fair.
So today I made food for solo eaters, for those who cook and dine alone. And if you live with a significant other, family or roommates, you can just double the recipes - or quadruple them, if need be.
All of the five dishes I made were excellent - I wouldn't mention them if they weren't. But one, I will admit, really caught my eye.
I made a mini loaf of Irish soda bread.
Loaves of bread are not the kind of thing that solo diners cook; they involve too much time, effort and energy, and when you're done you have so much bread that half of it is bound to go stale.
But this small loaf is just the right size for one (it makes four servings, so you can enjoy it over several meals). And you can make the whole thing, from start to finish, in only about 50 minutes.
To look at it another way, I could make 20 of these loaves, one after the other, in the same time it takes me to make my other favorite kind of bread.
Best of all, it tastes amazing; I'm afraid I had two of those four servings at one sitting, and I would have had more but a couple of other people were sharing it with me. It's pleasantly dense (no yeast), subtly sweet and studded delightfully with raisins, all under a gorgeous golden crust.
If the soda bread was the most fun, and frankly most amazing, of the dishes I made, the most fulfilling was Chicken Under a Brick. It is a dish that is sometimes served at restaurants, or a version of it is, that you can easily make at home - for just one, if you like.
Two simple restaurant tricks are used to make it. The first makes the chicken's skin crisp: It is pressed down on a hot skillet as it cooks. You could use bricks, of course, as the name implies, but I just wrapped foil around the bottom of a heavy cast-iron pan and used that.
The other restaurant trick comes after the chicken is done. You make a very simple pan sauce by reducing first wine and then chicken stock in the hot pan, dissolving all of the flavorful bits that are stuck to it. The sauce is fairly intense, but because it incorporates the flavor of the ingredients in the pan, it is a perfectly compliment to the chicken.
The next dish for one, a Monte Cristo sandwich, is essentially a turkey-and-cheese sandwich on two slices of savory french toast.
Dipping bread in a mixture of egg yolk and milk and then griddling it always makes it taste better, and the rich, custardy flavor goes particularly well with turkey and a mildly assertive cheese (I used havarti, but it would be just as good with gouda or muenster).
One additional advantage is that the cheese melts a bit while you cook the bread, so you get an extra hit of gooeyness, which only makes a memorable sandwich even better.
My next dish was a Five-Minute Vegetarian Burrito Bowl, which is something of a misnomer. It does indeed take only five minutes to make, as long as you already have brown rice cooked and ready to go. Otherwise, it takes 50 minutes - and you can make a mini loaf of Irish soda bread in 50 minutes.
As it happens, I was prepared. I made some brown rice the day before and refrigerated it so it would be ready when I wanted to make the Sort-Of-Five Minute Vegetarian Burrito Bowl.
The dish is just rice and beans with a Tex-Mex, seemingly healthful twist. Into the brown rice, you mix black beans, salsa, Greek yogurt and shredded cheddar cheese. Microwave it for 45 seconds and you have an unexpectedly satisfying meal.
I topped mine with chunks of avocado for an extra thrill.
My final dish for one was a delightful pasta salad, Orecchiette with Mixed Greens and Goat Cheese. It, too, came together remarkably quickly and was equally remarkably satisfying.
The hot orecchiette (it's an ear-shaped pasta) is mixed with lettuce, which wilts a little, but what makes this dish soar are the other ingredients: creamy goat cheese, piquant sun-dried tomatoes and a light sprinkling of Parmesan for salty sass.
It's fresh and fun. Sometimes, dining by yourself can be its own reward.
MINI IRISH SODA BREAD
Yield: 4 servings
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cold butter
1/4 cup raisins
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup buttermilk
1. Heat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Whisk flour, sugar, salt and baking soda together in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces and work the butter into the flour using your fingers or a fork until it resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the raisins.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and buttermilk. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix with a spoon until just combined. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead very lightly and form a 4-inch circle. (Add a little more flour to the dough if the dough becomes too sticky to handle.) Do not over-knead.
4. With a sharp or serrated knife, score top of dough about 1/2 inch deep in an "X" shape.
5. Place dough on a baking sheet and bake until bread is golden, about 35 to 40 minutes. If the top of the bread is getting too dark while baking, place a sheet of aluminum foil over the top. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Per serving: 209 calories; 5 g fat; 3g saturated fat; 57 mg cholesterol; 5 g protein; 35 g carbohydrate; 9 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 260 mg sodium; 51 mg calcium
Recipe by onedishkitchen.com
CHICKEN UNDER A BRICK
Yield: 1 serving
1 teaspoon toasted ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped
3 sprigs fresh oregano, leaves finely chopped
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 chicken breast, 2 chicken thighs or 1 thigh and 1 leg
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
1. In a small bowl, combine the cumin, smoked paprika, crushed red pepper, garlic, oregano and lemon zest and juice. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Place chicken in a bowl and coat with the spice mixture. Let sit for 10 minutes at room temperature (or up to 12 hours in the fridge; if refrigerating the chicken, remove it from the refrigerator 45 minutes to 1 hour before cooking to let the chicken come to room temperature).
2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
3. Coat a saute pan large enough to hold chicken with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and bring to a high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and place in the pan, skin-side down. Place aluminum foil on bottom of another saute pan and coat in nonstick spray or oil. Place this pan on top of the chicken and weigh down with bricks or other heatproof weights. Cook the chicken until the skin starts to brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to the oven and cook for about 20 minutes.
4. Remove the pans from the oven and remove the weights and top pan. At this point the skin should be lovely and dark brown. Check the chicken for doneness; it should be cooked through but still succulent and juicy. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
5. Remove the excess fat from the pan and add the white wine. Cook over high heat until the wine has reduced by more than half. Add the chicken stock, season with salt and reduce by half. Spoon the juices over the chicken and sprinkle with chives.
Per serving: 720 calories; 36 g fat; 6 g saturated fat; 197 mg cholesterol; 16 g protein; 14 g carbohydrate; 2 g sugar; 3 g fiber; 615 mg sodium; 113 mg calcium
Adapted from a recipe by Anne Burrell, via the Food Network
MONTE CRISTO SANDWICH
Yield: 1 serving
3 slices white bread
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 slices Gouda, havarti, Muenster or similar cheese
2 slices turkey
1 large egg, beaten
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
Strawberry and/or orange wedges, for garnish
1. Spread 2 of the slices of bread with mayonnaise. Top each slice with 1 slice each of cheese and turkey. Use the remaining slice of bread to form a double-decker sandwich.
2. Slice off the crusts (this step will help the sandwich stay together). Wrap the sandwich tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 6 hours.
3. Combine the eggs and milk in a bowl. Heat the butter and oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Unwrap the sandwich, compress it slightly and dip it in the egg batter to coat evenly. Gently place it in the skillet, and fry, turning once, until golden brown and hot, about 3 to 4 minutes total. Garnish with the strawberry and orange, if desired.
Per serving: 729 calories; 52 g fat; 23 g saturated fat; 329 mg cholesterol; 39 g protein; 28 g carbohydrate; 8 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 1,743 mg sodium; 512 mg calcium
Adapted from a recipe by Mama's on Washington Square, via Food Network
FIVE-MINUTE VEGETARIAN BURRITO BOWL
Yield: 1 serving
1 cup cooked brown rice
1/2 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
2 to 3 tablespoons salsa, or to taste
1 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon shredded cheddar or Mexican-blend cheese
Diced avocado, diced tomato, guacamole, pico de gallo, etc. for toppings, optional
1. Prepare brown rice according to package instructions.
2. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine rice, black beans, salsa, plain Greek yogurt, and shredded cheese. Microwave on high for 30 to 60 seconds, or until heated through. Top with diced avocado, diced tomato, guacamole, pico de gallo, or other desired toppings.
Per serving: 458 calories; 11 g fat; 3 g saturated fat; 10 mg cholesterol; 16 g protein; 76 g carbohydrate; 5 g sugar; 15 g fiber; 916 mg sodium; 146 mg calcium
Nutritional analysis calculated with 2 tablespoons avocado, 2 tablespoons pico de gallo, 2 tablespoons of diced tomato and 1 tablespoon guacamole.
Recipe from healthy-liv.com
ORECCHIETTE WITH MIXED GREENS AND GOAT CHEESE
Yield: 1 serving
1 cup dried orecchiette pasta
2 cups Mediterranean-style mixed salad greens
2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes (packed in olive oil), chopped
1 tablespoon goat cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
Pinch black pepper
1. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite according to the package directions, stirring occasionally. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the water.
2. In medium bowl, mix the salad greens with the sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese and Parmesan. Top with warm pasta and the 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water. Toss to combine and wilt the greens. Season with a pinch each of salt and pepper, or to taste. Garnish with additional Parmesan, if desired, and serve.
Per serving: 363 calories; 8 g fat; 5 g saturated fat; 16 mg cholesterol; 18 g protein; 55 g carbohydrate; 4 g sugar; 5 g fiber; 418 mg sodium; 208 mg calcium
Recipe by Giada De Laurentiis, via the Food Network
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