Since I’ve been visiting my mom in Texas over the last few years, I’ve noticed that her fresh-from-the-garden, Southern-laced cooking style hasn’t changed much. Not that it needed to — my mother is a wonderful cook, and without her inspiration, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today — but it occurred to me that she was often still cooking in the same quantities that she had cooked when we were a family of four, and simply freezing what she didn’t eat.
The result: a freezer full of black-eyed peas, jalapeno cornbread, vegetable soup, and King Ranch chicken casserole, depending on the time of year.
I love all of those dishes, and Mom does, too, but after awhile, even the best lasagna, reheated, loses its appeal.
But what’s a single gal (or guy) to do? Most recipes are written for four or more people, and who wants to take the time to do the long division? On top of that, there’s the time factor. All that chopping for one meal? For one person?
I made a lot of soups, too, when I was single, so I understand the dilemma.
I’d already been thinking about this idea when my editor at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram emailed a few weeks ago and asked me to write a column about cooking for one. I’m no Rachel 30-minute Ray, but I do try to design and otherwise share recipes that folks can make fairly quickly and easily, because I understand that most people don’t have the time (or desire) to try their hand at puff pastry on an empty Sunday afternoon, or make three different trips to specialty Asian grocers in different parts of town to find the right ingredient for Korean tacos, both of which I’ve done recently (FYI, the puff pastry experiment continues).
I talked to some of my single friends about this, too, and all of them, whether widowed, like my mom, divorced, or simply single by choice, told me the same thing: that they liked to cook, but didn’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen, and besides that, they didn’t have recipes that would yield smaller quantities, so they often overbought fruits and veggies (and much ended up wasted, which became another frustration).
So I started thinking about which recipes I could downsize, and which ones could be used as is, and easily divided. My Fort Worth Star-Telegram story and recipes feature a complete meal for one: salmon with sauce verte over roasted zucchini for a main course, cherry tomato gratin on the side, and a raspberry-nectarine crumble for dessert.
This recipe is a “cooking for one” adaptation of one that I posted earlier this summer, that I simply divided into fourths. Sometimes, doing the math on an existing recipe makes sense. Having crostada dough pre-made, in the freezer and ready to roll, when you find the perfect plums, as I did the other day. Or a plastic bag with breadcrumbs/Parmesan/herb mixture to sprinkle on zucchini for an easy gratin.
The idea is to stock the freezer/fridge with enough basics, so cooking for one isn’t so daunting. Or time consuming.
I’ll be revisiting this idea again for those of y’all that are flying solo, like my mom. Stay tuned.
To see more cooking for one recipes and tips, please see my piece in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram by clicking here.
Nectarine-Peach Crostada for One
Crust recipe adapted from “Al Forno” by Johanne Killeen and George Germon
½ cup/1 stick unsalted butter
8 oz/1 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon sea salt
3-4 tablespoons ice water
1 nectarine or peach, or 1/2 of each, as I’ve done here
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 egg white
½ cup water
1 teaspoon granulated sugar (optional)
powdered sugar, for dusting (optional)
1. Cut the stick of butter into 1/4-inch cubes or shred with a grater into a bowl. Place butter in the freezer for at least an hour. (You may also do this a day or two in advance.)
2. Make the dough. Put the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor, and pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is the size of small peas or pebbles. Now, slowly add the ice water, and pulse just until the dough begins to come together (it’ll still be a bit crumbly, but don’t worry. It’ll come together. You don’t want to over-blend or over work the dough.) Put the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and shape it into a large rectangle about 2 inches thick and pop into the fridge for an hour.
3. Divide the dough into four even pieces and shape into squares. Wrap all but one in plastic wrap, and pop these in a plastic bag and keep in the freezer until you’re ready to use them.
4. Make your crostada. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough until it’s approximately 7 X 7, or thereabouts. Don’t worry about how it looks. The crusts doesn’t need to be too thin or perfectly shaped – in fact, part of the charm of the crostada is its odd shape. Once rolled out, place on a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet and pop back into the fridge until you’re ready to assemble.
5. Chop up your nectarine, peach, or both (though you’ll only need half if you use two, most likely), into nice 3/4-inch chunks, and squeeze a bit of lemon juice on top, and give a gentle toss. Brush crust with egg white mixed with water and if you’d like, sprinkle sugar on the crust and on top of the fruit.
Preheat oven to 350.
6. Pull the dough out of the fridge, and heap about one cup’s worth of fruit in the center, making sure to leave about 3 inches around the edges to fold over.
Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the edges start to brown.
Serve with a dusting of powdered sugar and a side of vanilla ice cream.