Readers have regularly asked for recipes for a single portion. Each time I see a book with that theme, I check it out and do a story.
Among the most notable was from Judith Jones, Julia Child’s book editor, “The Pleasure of Cooking for One” in 2009.
Now, there’s a new one from America’s Test Kitchen that may finally satisfy all who want to prepare a commercial patio furniture dish for one. That’s because “Cooking for One” ($29.99) brings easy, new techniques to the game.
Never has it seemed more important. It’s not just that some people are staying safe alone during this pandemic, it’s that others are not.
Jack Bishop, chief creative officer at America’s Test Kitchen, said he and his wife were empty nesters in Boston, until commercial patio umbrellas the pandemic. Now, their adult daughter has moved in. That might make you think dinner for three, right?
But the reality is, every one in his home is on different schedules as they work in this remarkable time when down is up and everything is abnormal.
On any given night, each member of the Bishop household is cooking dinner on their own schedule for one.
America’s Test Kitchen is uniquely qualified to capture and release the secrets for cooking for one, whatever the need. As a multimedia company with a mission to create perfect recipes and find the best cooking tools and ingredients, they publish commercial pool furniture cookbooks, magazines, Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country, and PBS television shows for both.
“Cooking for One” celebrates dining solo while satisfying two groups, said Bishop in a interview.
One is the 36 million Americans who live alone. The other is those who don’t like leftovers and don’t want to cook more than they need. The small batch cooking advocated here helps with scaling back and eliminates wastefulness.
“Most recipes are done for four to six people and the math to cut them down is not easy,” he said.
The emphasis of “Cooking for One” is on simplicity and one pot recipes.
“If you are cooking for one, you are also doing all the dishes, too,” Bishop said.
But improvisation is a fun part of the book. Each recipe reminds cooks how to personalize it. It suggests using what’s in the fridge and depending on personal taste.
Part of their mission was this said Bishop: “Let’s put together a book that really helps people navigate more efficiently, Monday through Friday.”
Many are simple but clever recipes he said pointing to one of his favorites, Lemony Spaghetti. It’s cooked in one pan, a covered skillet, with broth. When the pasta is nearly ready, you uncover the skillet and reduce the liquid, which melds with the starch from the pasta resulting in a sauce that coats the noodles.
Once you learn the method, anyone can do many more things with this recipe, said Bishop. He can do 50 things with this recipe.
He is also a fan of sheet pan dinners. One is shared here for a dish with sausage, sweet potato and broccoli rabe.
Desserts, including the Chocolate–Peanut Butter Truffles, are recipes that have leftovers built in.
The book, a hefty 325-plus pages of recipes, is easy to use. But a well-stocked pantry is the foundation of all things cooking. Do as the editors advise and you can not just cut down grocery shopping but also reach into that pantry for anything you crave.
There are recipes for 5-ingredient soups, perfect for the coming season, and even a Clean Out Your Fridge Soup. How satisfying will that be?
Sheet Pan Sausages
1 sweet potato, unpeeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 tablespoon oil, divided
¼ teaspoon table salt, divided
¼ teaspoon pepper, divided
4 ounces broccoli rabe, trimmed and cut into 1½-inch pieces
6 ounces sweet Italian sausage
2 tablespoons Mustard-Chive Compound Butter (see recipe), softened
Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and place sheet on rack.
Toss sweet potato, 1 teaspoon oil, teaspoon salt, and teaspoon pepper together in bowl then arrange in single layer over one-third of hot sheet. Toss broccoli rabe, remaining 2 teaspoons oil, remaining teaspoon salt, and remaining teaspoon pepper in now-empty bowl then arrange broccoli rabe in single layer over opposite third of hot sheet. Place sausage in center of hot sheet then roast until sausage registers 160 degrees and broccoli rabe stems are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.
Remove sheet from oven and transfer sausage and broccoli rabe to plate; tent loosely with foil to keep warm. Return sheet with sweet potato to oven and continue to roast until sweet potato is tender and golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer sweet potato to plate with broccoli rabe then dollop with mustard butter. Serve.
Notes: You can use a regular potato in place of the sweet potato if you prefer. You can also use any flavor compound butter.
Mustard-Chive Compound Butter
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons minced fresh chives
5 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
Whip butter with fork until light and fluffy. Mix in chives and mustard and season with salt and pepper to taste. Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest to blend flavors, about 10 minutes, or roll into log and refrigerate.
Notes: Melt the extra compound butter over a steak or dollop on a baked potato.
It can be refrigerated in airtight container for four days or frozen, wrapped tightly in plastic, for up to two months.
With Garlic and Pine Nuts
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons oil, divided
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
3 ounces spaghetti
teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ cup chopped fresh basil or parsley
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
½ teaspoon grated lemon zest plus 2 teaspoons juice
Cook garlic and 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over low heat, stirring frequently, until garlic is pale golden brown, 7 to 10 minutes. Stir in broth, spaghetti, and pepper flakes and bring to boil. Cover and simmer vigorously over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until pasta is nearly tender, about 10 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened slightly, 3 to 6 minutes. Off heat, stir in remaining 1 tablespoon oil, basil, Parmesan, pine nuts, and lemon zest and juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.
Notes: You will need a 12-inch nonstick skillet with a tight-fitting lid for this recipe. You can use just about any shape pasta you prefer in this dish, though covered cooking times will vary slightly.
Substitute whatever toasted nut you have on hand for the pine nuts and any hard cheese for the Parmesan. Make it heartier: Stir in baby spinach or peas.
Chocolate–Peanut Butter Truffles
2 ounces (½ cup) confectioners’ sugar
¼ cup creamy or chunky peanut butter
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces and softened
Pinch table salt
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine, divided
Using rubber spatula, mash sugar, peanut butter, butter, and salt together in bowl until well combined and lightened in color. Divide into 8 portions, roll into balls, and place on parchment paper–lined plate. Freeze for 15 minutes.
Microwave two-thirds of the chocolate in 1-cup liquid measuring cup at 50 percent power, stirring often, until nearly melted, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in remaining chocolate until melted and smooth. (Return chocolate to microwave if not fully melted, but for no longer than 5 seconds at a time.)
Working with one piece at a time, drop peanut butter ball in melted chocolate and, using 2 forks, gently flip to coat all over. Lift ball from chocolate with fork, allowing excess chocolate to drip back into measuring cup, then return chocolate-coated ball to plate. Repeat with remaining peanut butter balls. Refrigerate truffles, uncovered, until chocolate has hardened, about 10 minutes. Serve.
Truffles can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.
Notes: You can use any type of chocolate (chopped bar or chips) that you have on hand. Level up: Sprinkle the truffles with chopped nuts, sprinkles, or coarse sea salt before refrigerating.
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