Cooking For One

Saturday, May 18, 2013

   When I first started cooking in my early teens, it was for my big, hard working, hungry family of seven. We had over 450 acres of land, 200 plus cows, pigs, chickens, horses, goats, family pets- all things that needed attention, often in the form of manual labor.

   In the summer we collected thousands of square bales of hay, preparing for the long and frigid winter. Our cows were all pasture grass fed and there was no cheating in the winter months- high quality hay or bust. Each bale weighed at least 60 pounds and had to be collected from the field in large wagons, moved from the wagons to the barn and stacked in towering, sweet smelling lofts.

   During all of this the cows were rotated amongst our many fenced off pastures every few days to ensure they were getting as much fresh green grass and fallen crab apples as they pleased.

   For the most part, my siblings and I loved growing up this way. Being homeschooled meant we could spend a concentrated few hours on schoolwork in the morning and by the time the sun was high in the sky, we were free to work on projects or take care of the daily demands of the farm. It was a childhood filled with fresh air, responsibility, hard work, and an incredible amount of fun.

   As much as I loved being outside, I quickly learned that my favorite place to be was our huge, airy farm kitchen. My father built the farm house over a period of two years before we moved from our teeny first home in Massachusetts to the sprawling hills and fields of upstate New York, and he built it with the intention of harnessing as much energy from the sun as possible. Every room, and especially the main floor, was outfitted with gigantic, floor to ceiling windows that effortlessly heated our home on sunny winter days. This meant that every part of the house had a beautiful view, but my favorite was the one I had from the kitchen counter.

   There was no room to hold back when we prepared meals in that kitchen. Everything had to be done in huge bowls, cavernous pots and pans and platters with more servings than you have fingers. After meal time it was a rare bonus to have enough leftovers for lunch the next day.

   When I moved away from home, my first attempts to cook for my sister and I in college, and later just for myself in medical school, almost always resulted in meals so huge we couldn't hope to finish them in a reasonable amount of time. Who would have thought cooking for one was so hard? I quickly learned to bring lunches or go home for a mid day meal and to freeze individual portions for future use.

   These things are useful, especially when you work hard and are committed to cooking all your own meals, but every once in a while I really just want a meal fit for one.

   This recipe is exactly that- an entire meal in one dish, perfectly portioned for one. Often times when I'm cooking just for myself, it's on lazy weekends while Steve is at work and I want something simple, easy to prepare, and flavorful.

   It's early summer here in the south. There are no hay bales to collect and no toasty warm cows to run my hands over, but this life after the farm has its charms too.

   In the mid evening moonlight, nothing has every been as beautiful as our oleander blossoms.

Frittata For One

   This dish works with pretty much any vegetable you have laying around; I've made it with summer squash, cherry tomatoes, green beans and a few times with cauliflower. You are limited only by your fridge and your imagination.

1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 small onion, minced
6 asparagus spears, cut into one inch pieces
2 eggs
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
1 tablespoon non dairy (or dairy if you prefer) milk
1/2 ounce cheddar cheese, grated (optional)
1/3 avocado, diced (optional)

   Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in an 8 inch skillet. Add the onions, a pinch or two of salt, and cook until translucent but not browned. Add in the asparagus and cook, stirring occasionally, until just barely tender, about 4 minutes.
   While the onions and asparagus cook, beat the eggs, a few grinds of pepper, the parsley and the milk in a bowl with a fork until well incorporated.
   When asparagus is bright green and tender, remove the skillet from the heat. Use a spatula to evenly distribute the asparagus and onion over the bottom of the skillet. Pour the egg mixture on top. Sprinkle with the cheese, if using.
   Bake in the preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the eggs are set when you jiggle the pan.
   Top with the avocado and additional fresh parsley, if desired.
   Serves one.



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