Wednesday, March 10, 2010

dinner for one

What do you eat when you're alone? Cheese and a handful of crackers, straight from the box? Indian take-out from the place around the corner? A can of soup? Or maybe you set a plate at the table for yourself with a napkin, fork, and knife and eat a proper meal. A cheese omelet with salad on the side, a single pork chop, a bowl of spaghetti with homemade tomato sauce. Maybe some dessert if you've been good that day.

I fall into the former category. I like feeding other people, hence this whole dinner party blog thing. When I'm alone, I tend to make things like fried eggs, bowls of cereal...and fried eggs. For some reason, cooking for myself doesn't excite me. When I was single, I went through a gross phase where I ate quesadillas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I eventually threw away the bag of tortillas just to break the cycle. Thankfully, solo dining isn't an issue for me anymore. I always have someone to come home to and have dinner with, which is one of the best things about being married.

But Dan was out of town last weekend, leaving me to feed me, myself, and I. There was this guy too, but he's on a strict all-kibble regimen.
I won't lie. I ate a quesadilla. Okay, two or three quesadillas. I made them with pepper jack cheese, sauteed onions, and roasted butternut squash and they were delicious. And then I felt a little ill. Flashbacks, I guess.

Why do I spend so much time and effort making food for other people, only to slap together the most basic, mindless meals for myself? I love to eat and I actually really enjoy being alone (no offense, Dan) but for me, food is best enjoyed in the company of others. I think about special meals eaten with my friends and family almost every day. Those single-girl quesadillas, hurriedly wolfed down after work? Not so much. But maybe there's hidden pleasure in eating alone, eating whatever you want. You can eat stinky food, messy food, dishes that other people don't like, drink all the wine, sit on the floor in your pajamas (although I do that all the time).

I resolved to do better, to eat better. And so I made a dinner fit for watching the Oscars by myself. In my pajamas. I thought about what I would make for my usual Sunday night suppers--roast chicken and vegetables, a hearty soup or stew, a big chopped salad. The thought of buying one chicken breast kind of made me sad, so I went for something different, a recipe I've had bookmarked for awhile: roasted broccoli with shrimp.

Yes, I've waxed on about roasting's power to transform vegetables, especially broccoli. It really is the best way to cook it in my book. But this recipe added shrimp to the mix. And chili powder, and cumin, and a hefty dose of lemon. It was roasted broccoli times a thousand. I ate it with a side of steamed white rice and a significant amount of white wine. It was delightful. Although washing all the dishes by myself sort of sucked.

Roasted broccoli with shrimp
By Melissa Clark via the New York Times.
I divided the recipe in half to feel little old me.
(serves 2 to 4 people)

2 lbs. broccoli, cut into bite-size florets
4 Tbsp. (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. whole coriander seeds (or 1/2 teaspoon ground)
1 tsp. whole cumin seeds (or 1/2 teaspoon ground)
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. hot chili powder
1 lb. large shrimp, shelled and de-veined
1 1/4 tsp. lemon zest (from 1 large lemon)
Lemon wedges, for serving

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, toss broccoli with 2 tablespoons oil, coriander, cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and chili powder. In a separate bowl, combine shrimp, remaining 2 tablespoons oil, lemon zest, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Spread broccoli in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 10 minutes. Add shrimp to baking sheet and toss with broccoli. Roast, tossing once halfway through, until shrimp are just opaque and broccoli is tender and golden around edges, about 10 minutes more. Serve with lemon wedges, or squeeze lemon juice all over shrimp and broccoli just before serving.


Margaret Pinard said...

Hmm... interesting subject for a post on your blog! I've been single for quite a while now, and so have delved into this subject a little more. I loved the musings of Jenni Ferrari-Adler's "Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant" and was amused by Judith Jones's similar attempt in "Pleasures of Cooking For One" and would recommend them both from a library.
I do enjoy cooking for myself, usually baking. I give myself the fresh-from-the-oven experience, and then bring the rest of the batch to work the next day. :-)

Anonymous said...

Nice post, and glad you'll be dining with Dan again soon. What will be your celebration dinner for two?

Daniel said...

I was wondering the same thing, anonymous.

That's right...Put away the kibbles and quesadillas. I'm back!

Lisa said...

Margaret: Thanks for the book recs, I've wanted to read "Alone" for awhile. I also commend you for baking for yourself and not eating it all--that takes some major restraint!

Anony: Me too!

Daniel: Aw, I was planning on making you a kibble quesadilla.

Anonymous said...

I didn't want to mention the kibble. Glad someone else did instead :)
Tulipan Dulce Kibble for dessert?

Unknown said...

I use alone time to cook the stuff Jennifer won't like. We have very diverging tastes. I just wish it didn't have to be that way because it is rare that I get to eat some of my favorite dishes. Occasionally I'll throw in a good quesadilla or bowl of cereal.

Beth said...

Hey, I've eaten this! I first read about it at The Wednesday Chef, where the recipe is applauded for its "tasty inventiveness." I was sold. Boy, I should really make this again soon — thanks for the reminder!

Lisa said...

Tender Branson: I guess I'm lucky that Dan and I have similar tastes. I think the only food he does not like is potatoes. Weird, huh?

Beth: Yes, I saw it there too! I think "tasty inventiveness" sums it up quite well. Wish I had invented it!

Ellen said...

I usually always cook for one and when I'm feeling lazy, I go for omelettes. Eggs always satisfy me and I at least feel like I'm cooking...just a little bit. Lately though, it's been homemade pizzas on pita bread—yummy and easy!

Jennifer said...

My book group just read "What we eat when we eat Alone"-it's amazing to hear what people conjure up to eat when they are alone!

This dish sounds SO good!

Nathan Hall said...

When Juliette was out to dinner with her mom last week I made a great banh mi (vietnamese sandwich on french bread) with pickled daikon and carrots. I won't bother with the recipe here since it's fairly rudimentary and easily found online, but it made a tasty and easy dinner for little old me.

Daniel said...

Rudimentary, huh? So I guess you didn't make your own head cheese.

Lisa said...

Jennifer: I agree. It's such a range of things, right?

Docta: Wow, impressive! We usually buy banh mis--need to try making them soon. (Don't listen to Daniel.)


Blog Widget by LinkWithin