Friday, February 22, 2008

Cooking for One

Inspired by a recent conversation with Anna, I thought I'd share some of the cooking tricks I've learned that help when you're only cooking for yourself.

When I'm at home with my family, I love to help with our big, elaborate meals. I think nothing of hanging out for an hour chopping and cooking for the night's dinner, and I bake ALL THE TIME. We have all the spices and ingredients you ever need, and when I make that batch of cookies or muffins I know my family will help me eat them. It's just about as hard to make a meal for one or four people, and therein lies the problem.

By yourself, it's too complicated and tiring to cook long things. Food goes bad, and even if I did want to invest tons of money accumulating every spice, vinegar, and canned good I would need, I don't have room in my tiny NYC apartment.

Problem #1
I can't eat a whole loaf of bread before it gets stale.

Traditional Solutions:
A. Eat sandwiches every day for a week
B. Freeze half a loaf of bread
C. Toast it when it starts to get a little off
D. Eat moldy bread by accident and spit it out

Sarah Solutions:
A. Turns out peasants back in Europe didn't like to waste bread either! There are gobs of recipes that actually CALL for stale bread. It's kind of amazing.

-French Toast: A real baguette gets stale the next day anyway, and it sops up the egg and milk and spices and tastes absolutely mind-blowing. Try it with Apricot or Peach sauce from Trader Joe's instead of maple syrup.
-Panzanella (Italian Bread Salad): One of my favorite salads, so simple to make and so satisfying
Italian or French Bread
-Mozzarella (fresh a bonus!)
-Drizzles of balsamic vineager, good olive oil, S&P, and fresh parsley.

Instructions: Cube everything into equal sizes, using the proportion of bread:vegetable:cheese you see fit, and enjoy.

Pita Bread
-Make Pita Chips in the oven. I just stick the pocket on the oven rack and break it apart into chips when it gets hard. If you're feeling less lazy, you can also do that beforehand on a cookie sheet, and sprinkle salt and spices and a bit of olive oil on it to make it more tasty.

C. Don't eat bread. Legumes and beans make terrific grain salads, are good for the last remaining carb-o-phobes, and keep you on the clock.

D. Forget about what I said about freezing bread. I keep a slice or two in the freezer in case I need breadcrumbs - I'm planning on making a casserole or eggplant parmesgan sometime in the next few months, and this is way easier than storing a jar of breadcrumbs in my too-small aparetment. This also works for stale-ish bread that you know would make terrific french toast.

Problem #2
I get really excited and buy tons of produce in the market, and then it goes bad.
This is kind of Sarah-specific, as I am terrible at planning meals and always buy random food that doesn't go together and then, on top of that, miss one or two ingredients I need to make a meal.

Bananas: I hate overripe bananas, so I'll slice one that's getting a little brown and stick it in the freezer. I either add the frozen banana to oatmeal later or eat them out of the freezer. They taste creamy, like sorbet, and also go well with peanut butter (in fact I am eating frozen banana and peanut butter right now...)

Try to keep frozen and canned food around that will go with the random stuff you bought, so at least you can get creative when you try to use the stuff up

When produce starts to go bad, COOK IT IMMEDIATELY.
I just learned how to roast vegetables this week, and it's kind of amazing. Chop stuff up, add some olive oil and spices, and bake it at 400 degrees until it's soft. Great warm or cold.

Make soup! Soup is kind of a single girl's dream food. You can freeze it in containers and have a healthy meal later, bring it to work. If you make chili you can use it in other dishes like nachos. Also, many soups are based on beans and tomatoes, which are two of my favorite foods, so I may be a little biased for this one.

Ok, another day, another Sarah "Cooking for One" blog post...

1 comment:

Anna said...

Thanks for the tips...actually very helpful! Also, remember to un-peel the banana before you freeze it, an unfortunate mistake I've made many times.