Alone in the kitchen

Cynthia Stone
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People stop me in grocery aisles and while I’m putting gas in the car and in lineups at the coffee shop, and just about anywhere else I happen to be in the run of an ordinary day. I don’t mind a bit.

Plenty of their questions — with a few reasonable answers, I hope — have made it to this space, but this topic prompts more public chit chats than perhaps any other.

The problem? People can’t be bothered cooking for themselves.

I know it’s tough to get motivated when there isn’t anyone to say thank you and offer a word of praise for efforts, but the problem is half in the kitchen and half in people’s heads. The right dishes, combined with finding pleasure in spending time in the kitchen, is the right answer.

So, today’s recipes are just for you, only you. Try them out on a snowy day when you find yourself tired of shovelling, and ready for some alone time in your kitchen.

Sunday morning omelet

An omelet is not adapted for one person; it was invented for one person. You can pour your kitchen love into making the perfect eggy breakfast for yourself. Make the coffee, butter the toast and keep it warm in the oven, squeeze a fresh orange, and do this for you.

Fillings are as varied as your imagination allows — this just happens to be my favourite combination. Try ham and swiss, spinach and mushrooms, or bacon and cheddar, or all of the above.

2 eggs

1 tbsp. milk

1/4 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tbsp. butter

2 tbsp. crumbled goat cheese

2 tbsp. pickled jalapeno peppers, whole or chopped, as you prefer

5 or 6 leaves of fresh cilantro

Whisk eggs with milk, salt and pepper until light and fluffy. Melt butter in a non-stick pan and heat until foaming. Add the eggs all at once and push the mixture around with a rubber spatula until large curds start to form. Stop stirring and start lifting the edges, allowing the raw egg to flow underneath. As soon as you can lift it, flip it over. Working quickly, top with goat cheese, jalapenos and cilantro and fold immediately in half. Cook a few seconds to heat through the centre and slide onto a plate. You can lightly brown the outside if you like; I prefer an omelet with no colour at all.

Sloppy Joe

There is a certain joy in the single serving of this recipe because you don’t have to buy that nasty sauce.

When I don’t need a whole can of tomato paste — which is most of the time — I put small spoonfuls in the freezer just for recipes like this one.

Cut a sweet potato into wedges and toss with a little olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, put it in a 400 F oven on a foil-lined baking sheet, and by the time you finish this for yourself, you will have perfect baked fries to go with it.

1 small onion, chopped

1 tsp. vegetable oil

1 clove garlic, thinly sliced

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 lb. lean ground beef

1 tbsp. tomato paste

2 tbsp. ketchup

1/2 tsp. brown sugar

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/4 tsp. hot pepper sauce (optional)

1 tbsp. water

1 large hamburger bun

2 slices fresh tomato

Fry onion in oil until soft. Add garlic and salt and cook just until that wonderful smell fills your kitchen. Add ground beef and fry, stirring, until it is cooked through. Spoon out and discard any fat in the pan. Push meat to the side and add tomato paste. Stir it until it turns darker and sticks to the pan. Stir in ketchup, brown sugar, pepper, hot pepper sauce and water and bring all the ingredients together. If mixture is extremely dry add a little more water. Cook together until smooth. Toast the bun and butter it if you like. Top with meat mixture and fresh tomato and you have a fabulous lunch for one.

Salmon steak with couscous

When cooking for one person, salmon is truly fast food. You can have this on your plate in less time than it would take to get back from the local drive-through. Here’s where bouillon paste in a jar comes in handy if you want to go with chicken broth instead of plain water in the couscous — massive flavour, but not essential for a delicious dinner.

1/2 tsp. butter

1/2 cup boiling chicken broth or water

1/4 cup small couscous

1 tbsp. slivered almonds

1 tbsp. raisins or currants

1 salmon steak

1/4 tsp. ground cumin

1/4 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tbsp. butter or margarine

1 slice tomato, chopped

1 small green onion, chopped

Melt butter in boiling broth and pour over couscous, almonds and currants in a bowl. Stir once and cover with plastic wrap; set aside for about 10 minutes.

Dry salmon with a paper towel and sprinkle cumin, salt and pepper evenly over both sides. Melt butter in a non-stick pan and fry salmon until golden on one side; flip and cook on the other. By the time the salmon is cooked the couscous should be ready. Stir chopped tomato and green onion into couscous and lay salmon steak on top to serve.

Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John’s, NL, A1E 4N1.

Organizations: The Telegram

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