Wednesday, February 4, 2004



Solo Suppers: recipes for singles


A story published today in the Atlanta Journal Constitution recommends a book for single people who sometimes cook a meal for themselves at home.  The author recommends Solo Suppers: Simple Delicious Meals to Cook for Yourself.

Here's what the story says:

The big 1-4 is looming on the calendar. There's a bunch of [darn] cupids flying around buying chocolate and making dinner plans. At least one aisle of every store is bleeding crimson red. And there's a subliminal buzz in the air humming, "it's a couple's world, and don't you forget it."
Yeah, well, buzz off. I mean, if you are one of the estimated 82 million Americans who are unmarried and you don't have a paramour at the moment, turn down the volume on that love machine and crank up the oven.
What you need is a nice meal. I mean, a really nice meal. One that impresses you. One that indulges your desires. One that says, "I'm so [darn] special I can hardly stand it and that spouse-of-the-century cousin of mine and never-a-moment-without-a-date best friend should be so lucky."
Lucky to sit down and enjoy, say, a swordfish steak topped with a Sicilian sauce of pine nuts, raisins and capers followed by a sweet and creamy fruit gratin. In fact, you should cook something really nice for yourself at least once a week and not just during red plague season.
I know what you are saying. I'm single, too, and the excuses are not foreign: It's too much trouble to cook for just me. If I cook, then I have to clean up. It's no fun to cook for one. I don't like leftovers.
Now, you are going to have to ask Dr. Phil why you think you aren't worth the trouble. Cook smart and cleaning up will be a snap. (And most of you have dishwashers anyway.) No fun to cook for one? How much fun do you think it is to cook for four or six every night? Ask your married-with-kids friends. I bet they would love to have one night a week when they could prepare something special, just for them. It's a blessing.
To remind us, so is cookbook author Joyce Goldstein, whose latest effort is "Solo Suppers: Simple Delicious Meals to Cook for Yourself" (Chronicle Books, $19.95). This is not the usual kind of single survival guide that focuses on cooking and freezing or re-manufacturing food left over from recipes intended for six or ingredients packaged for a family. This is a book of recipes for one.
Goldstein is mindful that single people have budgets like everyone else, and eating out or taking home 20 meals a week is too expensive. "Besides, it's a little more awkward to dine out as a single, so you don't want to do it every day," she said.
But she's also attuned to the fact that eating dinner alone seems to take on more meaning. What she doesn't want it to mean is that single people are sentenced to a life of cold sandwiches and microwaved convenience foods. "I'm always so surprised when people act surprised that I cook for myself," said Goldstein. "What am I? Chopped liver? The 'poor me' thing stinks. Get over that immediately. It's about being grown up and accepting that you are an adult and you do have a life."
Spend a little time cooking from Goldstein's book and single life will be delicious. After all, this is a woman who has written a number of Mediterranean-themed cookbooks, including "The Mediterranean Kitchen" (Chronicle, $21.95), considered a classic. And she had to learn how to adjust her cooking volume when she became single 11 years ago after a divorce. She found, like many, that most recipes written for four to six servings don't divide easily down to one, so she had to re-craft and invent some recipes that worked well in smaller portions.
Her food is flavorful and fresh, like kebabs with a peanut sauce and lamb with a Greek tomato sauce and feta. But most of the ingredients are widely available, and many preparations are simple. Some can be done quickly, such as her asparagus and eggs with Parmesan cheese. Some are much more time consuming, and no doubt that will put some single cooks off. But Goldstein doesn't apologize for that, saying she doesn't buy into the notion that single people should "cook fast, eat fast and get it over with."
The few recipes that might have unfamiliar techniques say, making a Parmesan cheese pudding in a water bath are just the kind of recipes that turn a novice cook into a good one. The recipes are written for one pretty substantial portion because most are intended to be one-course meals. Still, they are easy to reduce by using 4 to 6 ounces of a meat or fish, for instance, rather than 8, or easy to share if a friend is coming to dinner. Any leftovers make for a light lunch the next day, but I promise you won't have to make room in the freezer. Goldstein makes a case for making larger batches of sauces and keeping them in the fridge, and she gives guidance for stocking the pantry.
But most of all, Goldstein reminds single people that we do have time to treat ourselves right. "Where are you going? What's the rush?" Goldstein asks. "Chill out and cook and have a nice time."




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