I find it difficult to solve the problem of how to dine alone.
When I go out I feel awkward, even though I've eaten alone in hotel dining rooms around the world for thirty years. But I almost never ate out in my home town alone. Last night I took myself out to a new restaurant -- just something in the neighborhood that I had always wanted to check out -- and had oysters and a lobster. I was too busy enjoying the food and smiling at the waitress and the other diners to feel awkward. Maybe really enjoying the food counts.
Dining at home is even worse. I was bad enough at trying to cook for two -- there were almost always leftovers, not necessariy planned. I was good at using them up.
I find that cooking for one is less inspirational. There's no one to admire the work in progress and no one to applaud the results. Figuring out how much to buy and cook is even harder than when I was cooking for two.
But I'm learning. So here are some tricks I've picked up which might be useful for other solo cook-diners.
- Don't make anything you don't really want to eat. If you make something because it was on sale, because it's good for you, or because your spouse liked it, you're not likely to eat it.
- If you can't think of anything you want to cook, don't! There are plenty of things you can eat without cooking. Some of my favorites are:
1. Cheese (good cheese, preferably from a real cheese shop) with fruit and crackers.
2. A middle eastern appetizer platter assembled from ready-mades from the store. I always keep little containers of hummus, baba ganouj (eggplant dip), and olives in my refrigerator. Add some pita (toasted if you can bear the effort) and it's dinner.
3. Save a few cooked objects to add to a salad and make something exciting for minimum effort. I have two favorites currently:
Salad Nicoise: You'll need to save up some French potato salad (olive oil instead of mayonnaise), some cooked green beans, and a hard boiled egg. They get arranged on a few leaves of shredded romaine together with a quartered tomato, some chickpeas or white beans (canned and rinsed), a few olives, and a small can of tuna in olive oil. Add a few anchovies if you like them. Drizzle vinaigrette over all.
Warm Scallop Salad: No leftovers required -- just some minimal cooking. Cut up two slices of thick-cut bacon into 1/4" strips and cook them in a dry pan to golden brown. Reserve the bacon on a paper towel and put the bacon fat into a salad bowl. Now drizzle some olive oil into the pan, heat it to very hot, and sear 4 ounces of Dry Diver Scallops (the very big ones) -- that will be about three. While they cook, make the bacon into a salad dressing by adding balsamic vinegar and a teaspon of honey plus a few grinds of pepper. Add the sections of a navel orange (no pith, no membranes) and a few handfuls of dark greens (spinach or arugula). Toss. Put the scallops on top and, if you're feeling very elegant sprinkle a few pine nuts and/or dried cranberries on top. I confess to eating every bit of this!
Now if I can just figure out how to make a rib roast for one!