Celebrated chef Joyce Goldstein has just added to her book collection with Solo Suppers: Simple Delicious Meals to Cook For Yourself. In part one of a three part series, she offers tips on shopping and cooking for one, plus the recipe for a perfect solo supper.
A recent government census found that more than half of American families number two or fewer people and about a third are single person households. Yet most recipes are still written for four to six people, leaving the solo diner or couple who prepared it with a mountain of leftovers. If you do the math and try to cut a recipe down to a single portion or one that serves two, you often find that there's not enough sauce and the seasonings and timing are off.
Plainly there is a need for recipes written especially for the small household. That is why I have written Solo Suppers: Simple Delicious Meals to Cook for Yourself. Recipes for one can be doubled quite nicely.
Shopping for one or two may be more challenging than cooking for a larger household. As a solo cook and diner, while I like to take advantage of the weekly specials, I don't want to go crazy and buy more food than I can eat. I don't want to be bored with nights of eating the same meal, and I hate wasting food.
So, just before I go to the market I look at my calendar for the days ahead and see how many nights I am in and how many I am going to be dining out. I try to buy what I think I will need to keep me well fed and happy but not leave me with a fridge full of food that I do not have time to prepare or eat before it spoils. I have become quite creative in meal planning and planning how to use leftovers.
There are two kinds of leftovers. One is the simple reheatyou've made a small batch of stew or soup and reheat it as is. The other is creative reusea bunch of beets is a vegetable side dish one night and part of a salad the next, or a large piece of pan-broiled tuna is an entree one night and added to pasta the next.
Soup is a great place to creatively recycle leftover meat, poultry, bits of greens and vegetables.
The Perfect Solo Supper
When I cook for myself at home, a big bowl of soup can be my entire mealthe perfect solo supper.
I begin with a simple base and keep adding relevant ingredients until I have a stewy, filling soup. In the winter, legumes, grains, and pasta are the means to achieving a comforting and satisfying soup meal. Leftover bread or tortillas also add body to extend a stock base.
Tortilla and Lime Soup
On a vacation in the Yucatán in Mexico, I tasted my first bowl of sopa di lima. In its pure, stripped-down form, it was a delightful first course that awakened my appetite. Over the years, I have played with the basic recipe and added diced avocado, corn, and even rice to make the soup substantial enough to be supper.
Sopa di lima is usually made with chicken, but I find that shrimp work well too. My one caveat about this soup is to be careful not to "overheat" the stock with excessive chiles. The first bite may be fine, but heat increases with every mouthful, possibly making the soup too fiery for comfort. What is important is the balance between the tartness of the lime and the heat of the chiles.