Showing posts with label cooking for one. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cooking for one. Show all posts

Friday, August 9, 2013

Let's Lunch: Vegetables, Me, and Guaca-chi

Guaca-chi. Read on for the recipe.
(Photo by Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post)
When I heard that this month's theme for Let's Lunch, the virtual gathering of food bloggers that I belong to, would be in honor of my new book, "Eat Your Vegetables," I blushed about as red as a nice ripe peach. Really? Little old me?

Oh, who am I kidding? I love the attention, and am excited to see what my fellow Let's Lunchers come up with in answer to the question: What's the first dish that made you fall in love with vegetables? Or, if (like me) you can't remember that far back, what's something veg-heavy that you like to make these days?

For me, it's a hard call, given that: a) I spent the last year developing single-serving vegetarian recipes for "EYV"; and b) I write a column every Wednesday for The Washington Post, Weeknight Vegetarian, that showcases a new family-sized recipe. How on earth could I choose?

Well, this week the two came together when the Post's Food section ran an excerpt from "EYV" and, because it was our annual no-cook theme, included one of those recipes from the book. I thought it would be fitting to share that one for Let's Lunch because, well, I've had a little kimchi thing going for those posts, and why stop now?

So here it is, after the jump: Guaca-chi, so named because, in a Bennifer and Brangelina kind of way, it's a mashup of two of my favorite things: guacamole and kimchi. Or, more honestly, avocado and kimchi, because I don't actually like to mash it up, literally, for this. The avocados stay in chunks, and the kimchi gets chopped, and you sprinkle in a little lime juice and salt if needed, and that's about it. An instant party appetizer, good for those days when you're feeding not just yourself but, in the Let's Lunch spirit, a few friends.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

It's Time to 'Eat Your Vegetables'

An edited excerpt from my new book, "Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook (Ten Speed Press):

One of my obsessions in the 1980s was Bette Midler's comedy album, "Mud Will Be Flung Tonight," and of all the tracks, my favorite is one in which she celebrates cynicism. In a singsong voice, accompanied by abstract plunking piano, she utters reason after reason to find the world disappointing -- starting with the grandiose ("man's inhumanity to man") and descending into the picayune ("it's so hard to keep your ears clean") -- followed by the same punch line, over and over: "Why bother?"

I mention it because "Why bother?" is the answer too many single people give when I ask what they cook for themselves for dinner. Their next remark is usually along the lines of "Why go to all that trouble if it's just me?" Sadly, they think the only time it's worth firing up the stove is when their cooking has an audience.

I understand the impulse, but I have to say, there's really no such thing as just you. Who is more important? And if you live alone, as more and more people do, it's silly to think that every time you're hungry your only choices are takeout, a microwave pizza or an impromptu dinner party. I love cooking for others, and these days I'm often cooking for my boyfriend, Carl. But plenty of nights I don't have any company, I'm enjoying my alone time, and I still want to eat -- and eat well. I'm not going to lower my standards just because I'm the only one who is going to benefit from the care I pour into my ingredients. I happen to think I -- just I -- am worth the bother.

Sure, there are obstacles. Single cooks have to overcome the challenges of shopping in supermarkets selling portions designed for families or crowds. We have to come to terms with leftovers, a boon when they're in small quantities and an annoyance in large ones. But the advantages are formidable, too. At the top of my list: freedom. You don't have to take into account anyone's palate but your own, meaning you can let your cravings lead you where they may. The potential for satisfaction is huge.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Microwaving Office Mugs on NPR's Morning Edition

Is there something other than coffee, tea
or cocoa in your office mug?
Share your recipes in the comments.
When NPR Morning Edition producer Arnie Seipel emailed me recently, I perked up as quickly as if I had just downed a mug of coffee. What cookbook author doesn't fantasize about being interviewed by Steve Inskeep, or Renee Montagne, or David Greene?

It turns out that they had a very specific -- and very fun -- idea in mind. And speaking of coffee mugs, they feature very heavily into the concept. Arnie had recently turned David onto one of his favorite breakfast recipes, scrambled eggs in an office mug, and David had latched onto it with gusto. Given the early hour he has been getting to the office, he needed quick and hearty sustenance. But Arnie wanted to take things further than simple scrambled eggs, so he laid down a challenge: What other recipes could I show them how to make by microwaving a mug?

I don't exactly want to go down in history as the nuke-it-in-a-mug guy, but the fact is, I've had experience "cooking" at work. I wrote a piece about it a few years back, which is what got Arnie's attention in the first place. And I'm certainly no stranger to the microwave. But the office mug? That was new territory, and since I love a challenge -- and am a Morning Edition listener -- I set to work. I pretty much knew I'd do something with pasta, since I already had worked out making angel-hair pasta using water hot from a teakettle. But I quickly turned to mac and cheese, since it has that undeniable comfort-food appeal, and I knew it could come together -- in stages, at least -- in the microwave. And I had seen countless recipes for a brownie-in-a-mug strategy using Swiss Miss, so the dessert idea was pretty obvious.

But I couldn't be satisfied with just any old mac and cheese, nor would I stoop to using a cocoa mix for the "brownie." So I stripped them both down, then tarted them back up. The resulting recipes may not use the contents of just any old office pantry (does anybody really store flour at work?), but the fact is, I'd eat either or both of these any day for lunch and be plenty happy. 

I don't want to issue any spoilers, though. You should listen for yourselves to hear what happened when David, Arnie, and producer Rachel Ward let me have my way with their mugs, their microwave, and my ingredients. The segment is planned for 6:50 and 8:50 a.m. today, on Morning Edition. In DC, that's on WAMU, 88.5. 

In the meantime, feel free to weigh in and answer: What else should I try nuking in an office mug? Share your recipes in the comments below.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Next Big Thing: Vegetables!

My friend Cheryl Tan roped me into something fun. It's a little like a chain letter, except without that creepy don't-break-the-chain hex pressure, and with a much different goal: to give people an excuse to talk about their next project. It's the Next Big Thing Blog Hop. Cheryl answered questions about her next book, tagged me, and now here I go. At the end of the post I'll tag some of my favorite cookbook authors who have projects in various stages, and then soon you can read what they say about them, and so on. Read, rinse, repeat. 

What's the title (or working title) of your next book?

Where did the idea for it come from? 

When promoting my previous book, "Serve Yourself," one of the most common questions I got at events was a variation on, "How much of it is vegetarian?" I counted up, and the answer was almost two-thirds, which made me realize that I was moving in that direction, particularly in my home cooking. I also realized that vegetarians might be more interested in single-serving recipes even if they don't live alone, because they might be the only vegetarian in the house.

What genre does it fall under?

It's a cookbook, silly! Seriously, within cooking, I'd say the larger genre is quick home cooking, but there has been a mini-genre of cooking-for-one books building over the years, and it certainly falls under that.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition of the book?

Monday, December 10, 2012

My Next Book: A Cover Preview!

The new cover! See after the jump for a bigger
version, if you dare...
Some of you know that I've been at work on another cookbook this year, focused on vegetables this time, but again aimed at the cooking-for-one crowd -- and anybody else who appreciates smaller-serving recipes. (Couples, I'm thinking more about you this time...)

Through social media, email, and good old-fashioned face-to-face communications, I've made some other announcements, such as the name ("Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Fresh Recipes for the Single Cook") the photographer (the inimitable Matt Armendariz, of Matt Bites fame), and the pub date (August 2013). But it's time for me to tell you a little bit more about what I'm up to this time, and how it's all going to play out. I'm working with the fabulous Jenny Wapner at Ten Speed Press, who came in for the last phase of editing on my last book, and we're working to make this next one stand out.

For one thing, it'll be hardcover, and slightly bigger in size, with a POB (paper-over-board) cover. For those who like me had no idea what that latter term meant (at least before a conference call with the team a few months back), that's the term for a jacket-less hardback cover, with full-color printing directly on the cover paper. Matt's taken some truly stunning photos -- clean but warm and very textured,  never stark or fussy -- and there are more photos this time around, some 25 plated dishes and at least a half-dozen shots of ingredients. But the expansions this time are not all stylistic. The book also has much more Writing (with a capital W) in it: essays on such topics as mock meats, the evolution of the vegetarian restaurant as I see (and have eaten in) it, the politics of cooking, gardening and farming, and recipe timing. Plus, of course, recipes: A little more than 80, including a central conceit that I hope readers love as much as I do: Instructions for making a big batch of something on, say, the weekend, with recipes for using it in different single-serving dishes throughout the week.

This is a long warmup for what I really wanted to talk about, which is the cover, which we've settled on.  See after the jump for a bigger version.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My Quibbles With Quinoa

Black Bean, Quinoa and Spinach Stew.
(Photo by Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post)
I’m a grain lover: wild about wheat berries, fanatical about farro. But keen on quinoa? Not so much.

In some ways, it hasn’t been easy to resist — not in the face of all the publicity this South American staple has gotten over the past several years for its nutritional benefits. But in other ways it has been a breeze, because from the first time I tasted it, I thought, “Meh.” Or worse.

Let’s just get all the negative stuff out of the way. It’s too small. I can’t sink my teeth into it. Instead, the first time I tried eating quinoa as a couscous-style base for a stir-fry, it seemed to slip away in my mouth, only to work itself into the spaces between my teeth. Even after I learned to rinse away some of its bitter coating (which the plant produces to ward off insects, warding off some of us humans in the process), the most generous adjective I could muster to describe it was “fine.”

My favorite grains, on the other hand, are substantive. A little chewy, a little nutty. I would never accuse barley of disappearing when I bite into it, which is just what I love about it.

The thing is, quinoa (KEEN-wah) does have a lot going for it. Besides being quick and easy to cook, its tendency to vanish in a dish, the very quality I complain most vehemently about, is also what makes it versatile. Perhaps most important, now that I’m eating a close-to-vegetarian diet, the fact that it’s a complete protein — a single source of all the amino acids a body needs — makes it worth reconsidering.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Who's Afraid of Mock Meat?

This is NOT what the Beyond Meat
"chicken" looks like. (Istockphoto)

If Tim Burton is interested in making a followup to his hit movie, “Frankenweenie,” about a family who decides to resurrect the family dog, I’ve got an idea for him. It’s about a scientist who spends years and years in a lab trying to create a substance that will seem, in as many ways as possible, like a boneless, skinless breast of white meat. The movie would be called, naturally, “Frankenchickie.” 

When our Let’s Lunch group – a virtual lunch date – decided to write on the topic of scary food this month, for the good old Halloween connection, I knew I’d weigh in on a subject that has fascinated me for so, so long. I’m talking about mock meat. Meat analogs. “Vegetarian meat,” if you don’t mind the oxymoron. Not as scary, perhaps, as the possibility that one day scientists will "grow" actual chicken breasts from cells in the lab, but sometimes it seems pretty close.

The thing is, the stuff isn’t new, just in case you were wondering. It has roots in the Buddhist traditions of ancient China, in the “mien ching” they created by rinsing and kneading wheat – what became known in Japan as seitan. (Could it be?) In grocery stores these days, you’ll see a crowded lineup of such products, much of them made from wheat and soy, and most of them, unfortunately, also full of unpronounceable ingredients and processed beyond recognition, or processed into disguise, I suppose.

I’ve never been that into mock meat, certainly not as a meat eater. But over the last few years as I’ve moved closer and closer to a vegetarian diet (I’m not 100 percent there), I’ve been more and more fascinated by them, and have even grown to like some of them. I particularly gravitate toward the mock meats that have connections to seitan, such as products made by my two favorite such companies, Field Roast and Upton’s Naturals. Honestly, there's nothing horrifying about these products in the least, as one look at their very minimal ingredient list will tell you.

But just the thought of mock meats comes with so many issues for vegetarians, doesn't it? I think it does. So when researching an essay on the topic for my upcoming book, “Eat Your Vegetables: Fresh Recipes for the Single Cook” (due out by Ten Speed Press in summer 2013), I talked to the men behind those companies. I also talked to the founder of one of the newer products, one that’s been getting a lot of press because of its backing by founders of Twitter and because high-profile writers such as Mark Bittman have said it was so close to meat that it fooled them in a blind taste test.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Glory of Grilled Cabbage

Napa cabbage from the garden, on the grill.
One of the best things about learning how to cook is realizing that there are very few bad foods -- just bad ways of preparing them. For instance, when I was a kid growing up in West Texas, one of the vegetables I hated most was cabbage. My mom would boil the bejeesus out of it, and I guess I must like the taste of bejeesus, because when it was done (actually, long before it was done) the cabbage was all slimy and, worse, all stinky, and I couldn't go near the stuff. She would make stuffed cabbage leaves from time to time, and since I loved the filling and the sauce, I would beg her to make stuffed peppers instead.

These days, cabbage -- and its brassica relatives Brussels sprouts (what I call single-person's cabbage), broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi -- are among my absolutely favorites. But that's because I don't cook them the way my mother did in, in her Midwestern, pressure-cooker-loving ways. Pressure cook broccoli? Yes, that's what I said.

Cabbage gets a workout during grilling season, usually as slaw, and I have my own ways of preparing that, too. Rather than letting it get all watery once the dressing its on, I like to salt it, let it sit, then squeeze the extra water out before tossing it with dressing and other ingredients. It's a technique I learned from Anthony Rosenfeld and his vinegar-based Montreal-style slaw, and I've used it ever since.

But it wasn't until I was developing recipes for the Post's pre-Memorial Day grilling spread that I thought about putting cabbage right over a fire. I had seen a recipe in Martha Stewart Living for roasted cabbage wedges, and it got me to thinking: What about grilling them? It was a revelation, really. I cut them into thick steaks, leaving the core intact, tossed them with olive oil and salt, and threw them onto the grate of my little Aussie Walk-About grill. They went quickly. I pulled off leaves with my tongs when they started getting too black, turned them a couple of times, and done. Grilling brings out the sweetness and the nuttiness of the vegetable, adding a little smoke in the process. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Introducing: The Grilled Kimcheese

Grilled Kimcheese Sandwich.
(Recipe at the end of this post.)
We're all purists about some things. I think so, anyway. Perhaps I should speak for myself: I am definitely a purist about some things. Some food things. Particularly -- and I don't think I'm alone here -- some food things with which I grew up.

Case in point: chili. I've been vocal about this before, but to reiterate, I'm a Texan, and in Texas, chili doesn't have beans, it doesn't even have tomatoes. It has chile peppers, beef, and seasonings. Its full name is chile con carne for a reason, people. 

I've always felt the same way about chicken-fried steak, honestly. 

Then I took part in the fantastic UNH Gourmet Dinner recently, along with guest chef Ben Hasty of When Pigs Fly Pizzeria. While he was busy teaching the students how to make their own charcuterie and the like, I was mostly tasting and advising. The theme was regional American food, and so I suggested that CFS be part of the dinner. Ben suggested that they do a twist on it, chicken-fried short rib. The short rib was cured beforehand, so it stayed super moist, something that worked really well when it came to 200-person banquet service. And I had suggested incorporating miso into the gravy.

On night two of the dinner (they repeat the event on Friday and Saturday, to give the students a chance to improve from one to the next), more than one guest at my table confessed to never having had CFS before. I had just read an essay from my cookbook on the subject, and I couldn't help but say, "I love this dish and everything, absolutely, but dare I say that, sir, you still have not really had chicken-fried steak."

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Nailing the Homemade Veggie Burger

The BGR Veggie Burger.
 (Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post)
It’s easy to take issue with veggie burgers. They have gotten better as demand for meatless options has increased, but in the freezer aisles of supermarkets and on the menus of restaurants, you still find dry, bland or mushy disks that not even a staunch vegetarian can embrace. And many seem to contain precious little evidence of what makes them what they are: vegetables.

That’s frustrating for someone like me who has been moving away from meat eating for a year or two, primarily because of health and environmental concerns (and long before I heard the term “pink slime”). I occasionally crave a good burger — not for the beef so much anymore, but because at its best, a burger can be the perfect iteration of a sandwich, which itself can be the perfect meal for a single cook. As I soldiered on in my hunt for a good veggie burger, I decided at last to bring it all home. If I want to control what’s in it — no long list of unpronounceable ingredients — I figured I’ve got to make it myself.

It turns out that good veggie burgers aren’t all that easy to master. Start with some ingredients you think might do the trick: hearty vegetables such as beans and mushrooms; spices and herbs; maybe some nuts and grains (although not too much of the latter, or it seems too carb-heavy to eat on a bun). But if you don’t also include the right stuff to bind it all, patties can fall apart as soon as they hit the pan. When you put in plenty of sticky binder — sweet potato, say, plus some flour and maybe, if you’re not vegan, an egg or two — you realize only after you’ve cooked one that the inside has about as much texture as bean dip.

Continue reading

Friday, February 17, 2012

Use It or Lose It, With a New Attitude

Chickpea pasta. (Photo by Bill Leary/The Washington Post)
I’m as guilty as anyone. I would come home from the farmers market each week loaded down with greens, root vegetables, apples, sometimes some meat. The last went in the freezer, and the rest went in what I like to call the refrigerator’s “rotter” drawer. Inevitably, some of those veggies helped the drawer live up to its nickname by wrinkling, blackening, molding and otherwise going off before I got a chance to cook them.

The use-it-or-lose-it challenge is particularly tough for us single folks. Even if you manage to buy in smaller quantities, you have to shop every day or two to keep on top of fresh produce before it goes to waste. If you’re a farmers market devotee and it’s wintertime, that’s simply not doable.

Tamar Adler has the answer: Instead of trying to keep everything fresh and raw until the clock is counting down toward mealtime and then fitting it into a predetermined recipe, cook everything as soon as you get home from the market. Not all in a jumble or stew, but separately and in ways that maximize each item’s potential.

Continue reading here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Vegetable Shopping, in the Freezer

Brussels Sprouts, Rice and Corn Soup.
For those of us accustomed to shopping at farmers markets and/or growing our own, it’s tempting to lament the onset of winter. Sure, year-round markets are selling winter greens and crunchy radishes, cold-storage apples and turnips galore. But what about those beloved snappy green beans, dripping-ripe tomatoes and sweet, sweet corn?

Savvy cooks preserve them, you say. It’s true: I’ve done more than my fair share of pickling (beans and cucumbers) and freezing (slow-roasted tomatoes). But until I emptied it out last month, the jam-packed little freezer atop the fridge in my Dupont Circle co-op was occupied mostly by meats, pizza crusts, make-ahead soup bases and leftover stews, leaving little room for the plain and simple vegetables I start to miss so desperately this time of year.

Now that I’m staying with my sister and brother-in-law in southern Maine on an extended book leave, I have a new, firsthand appreciation for veggies quickly blanched and frozen at their peak. My sister, Rebekah, is a devoted user of the FoodSaver vacuum-sealing system, and stacked in their three — three! — freezers are neat packages of green beans, in-the-pod edamame, peas and garlic scapes (not to mention all manner of stocks, fruits and meats).

Continue reading

Friday, January 6, 2012

Let's Lunch: A Texas Bowl o' Red

Dried ancho chile peppers: one of two main ingredients
in a real Texas chili. (IStockphoto)
Whenever I think of chili, I think of my older brother, Michael. 

He's my only brother. And h
e's the one who taught me the secrets to a real Texas version, and how to distinguish it from imitators -- of which there are many. Most importantly, he said, whenever anyone tells you they make a good chili, you should ask two questions: 1) What kind of beans do you use? 2) What sort of tomatoes go in? If their response is anything other than "None and none," then you are supposed to sound a loud buzzer (or make the noise of one yourself) and let out a scream, "Wrong!" Or I suppose you could politely say, "Hmm. Well, that sounds nice and all, but it's not chili. Let's just call it a stew."

In Texas, you see, the dish's full name is chili con carne, which pretty much sums up everything that's in it: chile peppers and meat. And the version Michael taught me to make uses very little of anything else -- some garlic and onions, beef stock (although water, beer and/or tequila are acceptable in place of some or all the stock), and maybe a bit of herbs such as oregano, perhaps some cumin.
Beans on the side, if at all. Right, Mike?

So several years ago, when my Washington Post colleague Bonnie Benwick and I took on chili for our annual Super Bowl recipe smackdown, I naturally played the purist, and I even persuaded Michael (quite easily, it turns out) to come up with a recipe that we could use for publication. He went at it with his natural sense of obsessiveness -- something important for any chili cook -- and
the result was delicious. The only thing I would tease him about later was his use of a shake of the wrist rather than a flick of the knife when it came to some of the aromatics. Really, bro: Onion powder?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Leftovers for a Lighter Day

Fresh Fall Rolls With Cranberry Dipping Sauce.
(Photo by Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post)

Don’t worry: I’m not here to suggest that you concoct a Thanksgiving feast sized to serve one — and that you then eat it alone, in the dark, in shame. This Thursday is nothing if not community-oriented, and single folks who are able to should be enjoying it in the company of family, friends or both.

But when you leave the party, no doubt stuffed more than sated, you may very well find yourself loaded down with something beyond an expanded waistline: as many containers of leftovers as your host can persuade you to carry. Well-meaning families tend to take pity on us solo cooks, assuming that we can’t possibly have the wherewithal to provide for ourselves and foisting off even more on us than on other guests; wouldn’t we like this turkey, and that cranberry sauce, and wouldn’t we get a lot of good mileage out of some mashed potatoes and gravy and dressing and pie?

I don’t know about you, but after carb-loading for 24 to 48 hours, the last thing I feel like eating a couple of days after Thanksgiving is a big plate of the same meal I had around the groaning table. Or, heaven forbid, some of the more indulgent, over-the-top suggestions for leftovers that start flying around this time of year (pumpkin pie smoothie, anyone?). So I’ve laid out a plan for turning that take-home bounty into lighter, tangier, crunchier meals that can awaken my palate after all the beige, cream-laden stuff I had on turkey day.

Continue reading here.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Is Cooking for One Depressing?

I've already documented the first piece of evidence that made me start to realize that some people seem to find it, well, incomprehensible that single folks might actually enjoy cooking for themselves. It's in the first few lines of my cookbook and in the excerpt that ran in The Washington Post's Food section in March:
It was a Facebook comment that finally did it.

I had just posted a link to one of my Cooking for One columns, and amid the chatter about the recipes for mulled red-wine syrup and salmon braised in pinot noir, I got this: “At the risk of getting too personal, perhaps you might find someone to share life/meals with. That would kill your column concept, but could change your life in a positive way. The pleasures of the table are so satisfying when shared.”
In all fairness to the person who posted that on FB, though, I don't think she meant it to come across as condescending. In fact, she's been in touch since the book came out, expressing dismay that I took offense and assuring me that she was merely playing yenta, since she also was trying connect me to a friend she thought I might hit it off with (an assessment with which I disagreed).

I don't mean to be thin-skinned about all this, but evidence of people's prejudices about single folks has been piling up. Several months back, a ripple of guffaws went around cyberspace after someone Tweeted a link to what they called the most depressing cookbook ever: "Microwave Cooking for One" by Marie T. Smith. And granted, there's more than a good bit of unintended kitsch at work with this 1986 book, whose cover shows Smith smiling behind a huge pile of dishes, many of them practically spilling out of a microwave. But the microwave is only part of the joke here, isn't it? The punch line is that CF1 is pathetic.

Last November, months before "Serve Yourself" was on the shelves, I did a double-take (and a quick rewind) while watching "30 Rock," when Liz Lemon tells someone on the phone, "I was going to take this class, 'Cooking for One,' but the teacher killed himself." Note to Tina Fey: Be on the lookout for a copy of my book; we're trying to get one on your desk.

And then just the other day, when Epicurious issued this Tweet to link to Esther Sung's blog post about the interview with me -- "Recipes with a serving for one @joeyonan" -- some of the re-tweets played up the loneliest-number thing:

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Cooking for One: Together, independently

My latest column for the Post tackled the challenges of single cooks who live together but don't typically cook together. I wanted to give them strategies to help them take advantage of their common living situation but still be able to cater to their own distinct tastes and impulses. So I designed four recipes for them:

Smoky Roasted Vegetables
. This is the base: It includes sweet potatoes, zucchini, parsnips, carrots, onions and poblano chiles, dusted with ground ancho chile and pimenton. It makes 12 cups, and the idea is that they could refrigerate or freeze them and then pull them into easy weeknight recipes. (3 Weight Watchers PointsPlus per 1-cup serving.)
Salmon and Roasted Vegetable Burrito. A quickly baked salmon fillet gets wrapped up with some of the vegetables, black beans, avocado, salsa verde and a couple shredded Brussels sprouts for crunch. (12 WW Points)

Thai Red Curry Salmon Stew. With more of the roasted vegetables plus salmon, baby spinach leaves curry paste, coconut milk and more, this spicy dish comes together quickly. (8 WW Points)
Cold Vegetable-Barley Salad (above). Toss the vegetables with more black beans, cooked barley, my Twelve-Hour Tomatoes (or sun-dried), feta and more. (11 WW Points)

Do you have any recipes that follow this same strategy, in which you make larger batches of ingredients that can be later used in multiple ways? Share!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cooking for One: Soups that heal me

Years ago, when I lived in Boston, the answer to one question would determine whether I would drag myself in to work on days when I felt under the weather: Would my friend Chin accompany me to eat pho ga on our lunch hour? Nothing seemed to heal like that steaming bowl of rich chicken broth packed with rice noodles and clean strips of chicken breast, especially once I dropped in the basil and bean sprouts and squeezed in fresh lime juice and Sriracha.

These days, the best pho around isn't within walking distance of my workplace (although it's getting closer), so my favorite cold-recovery soups are the ones I make myself. And I'm not talking about pho, which requires more time and effort than I want to spend when I'm fighting a cold and losing. 

When I got bitten by a nasty bug in November, I might have attempted a reasonable facsimile of pho if homemade chicken broth had been waiting in my freezer, as is sometimes the case; instead, I had to look elsewhere in my fridge and pantry and improvise. A swing by the Whole Foods on the way home from work was manageable; a Zipcar or bus ride to an H Mart in the suburbs was out of the question. 

I have several criteria for soups to make for myself (and take to work for lunch) when all I really want to do is stay in bed: They need to contain some of my favorite make-me-feel-better ingredients; they need to be pungently flavored to get past my compromised sense of taste; and I should be able to put them together mostly, if not entirely, with things I have around. Although I love to make Mediterranean-leaning soup bases out of beans or potatoes, when I've got a cold I crave lighter approaches. 

Last month, all those criteria converged pretty neatly and pointed me toward Japan, not Vietnam or Italy, for inspiration. 

Continue reading here.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Me Minus 23, Week Two: Why Start Now?

One day of the year is the single most popular one for people to start a weight-loss program, or at least think about one. The glut of holiday parties has subsided, and those dreams of dancing sugarplums have become nightmares of jiggling flab. New year, new you.

So why on earth did I think it would be a good idea to start my own regimen weeks earlier, in early December, when I'd have to face down one temptation after another? Well, mostly because I was ready. More than ready, really: I was sick of things going they way they were, and decided that I just had to make a shift. I would run the risk of diminishing the experience of so many addicts of all stripes who have it much worse than I if I called this rock bottom, so I won't. But there is a point-of-no-return feeling that characterizes my shift from indulgence to carefulness. There has to be, or that good old sticktoitiveness too easily becomes goaheadandbackslideness.

As tempting as it was to write off the holidays and start this project afterward, I didn't want to wake up on Jan. 1 and realize that I am that much farther from my goal, with less time to go before my March 29 cookbook pub date.

So that brings me to this, my second week. After a week one weigh-in that demonstrated the consequences of a heavy-drinking Friday night party, I was determined to do better. The first challenge: My friends Christina and Steve's annual soiree, at which Steve was showcasing his facility with Filipino cooking. I decided to tackle the buffet table immediately, with one reasonable go-round (taking less of the fantastic adobo chicken and more of the veggies, for instance) and then leave the room. Two glasses of wine, and I switched to soda water, then did what normal people do at a party: socialize.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Project Downscale: Baby Eggplant Parm

It's not exactly the season for eggplant Parm (or, as they would say in my former stomping grounds of Boston, "pahm"). As Marcella Hazan writes in "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking," "No dish has ever been devised that tastes more satisfyingly of summer." That's because of the eggplant, of course, but also because of the fresh basil. Neither of them are jumping off local farm trucks right about now.

But when blogger Evan Halperin of New York sent me the idea as something Project Downscale-worthy, I couldn't resist. That's because it's such a classic family dish and, in Boston, anyway, it's not exactly connected to the seasons. When you want to feed a horde something hearty (like when it's cold outside), you slice, grate and salt, you dredge, dip and fry, you layer, you bake, and everybody eats. And maybe groans a little.

Diet food, this is not. Nor is it single-serving food. At least not traditionally.
Then again, nailing down the traditions surrounding eggplant Parm -- its provenance, even the origin of the name -- has long been a little murky, as Clifford Wright explains. (Is "Parmigiana" a reference to the cheese or the region, or does it derive from a mispronunciation just as, well, pronounced as that New England pahm?)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Me Minus 23: Week One

You know that moment in "The Biggest Loser" when the contestant gets on the scale and the giant numbers start flashing around like some sort of twisted slot machine? No scale I've ever stepped on does that randomized, round-and-round-she-goes, where-she-stops-nobody-knows thing, but it certainly makes for good TV. And in a sense it does capture the suspense that can overtake you when you're on a weight-loss plan and you're not sure exactly how what happened the previous week -- the food that you put in and the activity that you put out -- is going to manifest itself in those  numbers.

For me, the uncertainty also has to do with the realization that the body doesn't seem to always operate on the same calendar as Weight Watchers or any other plan. Melvin, the leader at my Saturday morning meeting, puts it like so: "Just because it didn't show up this week doesn't mean it's not coming."

Would it show up for me? I had my doubts. I faithfully tracked what I ate between last Saturday, weigh-in day, and Thursday, and then I fell off the wagon, pretty hard. Somewhere between those bags of Pepperidge Farm cookies someone left out for public consumption right near my office on Thursday and the holiday potluck we had for the Food and Travel sections of the Post on Friday night, I slipped. At the party, I kept reasonable control over what I ate: modest portions of meat (just a few ounces of glazed ham, just one brisket slider, just one lamb patty), bigger helpings of veggies, no seconds, and just a half a cookie and a couple of petit fours for dessert.

But I stopped counting, and that really never works for me. And I went fairly off the rails when it came to booze.