One is the Loneliest Number

I find the hardest part of cooking for one (besides the utter loneliness) is amounting for food. Somehow I always purchase too much. Because I hate waste and have no dollars, I make sure to store all my food in a way that minimizes waste and maximizes convenience. Recently I bought a ton of vegetables right before going to Los Angeles for a long weekend; opting not to come home to rotten food I julienned everything, froze it, and am still enjoying carrots, asparagus, and zucchini. Similarly, if I have herbs that are on their way out I blend them with butter. Rotten bananas are reborn as bread and so forth. I don’t throw stuff out.

For me, it is essential to have food prepped ahead of time. If I don’t feel like cooking, there is no one else to do it for me. Take-out is amazing on occasion but it’s certainly not something that would satisfy my mind, body, spirit, and wallet on the regular. Cleaning and breaking down produce when I buy it feels annoying but saves my ass later on. Bagged lettuce is a rip-off and spoils faster; I buy romaine, cut it, wash it, and bag it.

Eating lunch on the go is also something I hate to do. Fortunately I worked in sandwich shops for a couple of years and am skilled at brown bagging it. For vegetarian lunch: clean and cut seasonal vegetables, broil or sauté with salt & pepper; use in pasta, omelets, and veggie wraps. For chicken: boil in salted water until cooked, drain, and shred; use in tacos, chicken salad, and quesadillas. Condiments will save you from boredom: pesto keeps forever when covered with a layer of olive oil, mash some chickpeas with oil and flavorings for humus (it’s not difficult), blend canned chipotles in adobo with mayo. Always pack yourself a cookie- you deserve it!

Something that I grapple with as a sommelier-in-training and single person is wine waste. I open bottles for myself and can’t drink them fast enough. I keep some around for cooking and pour the rest down the drain. I am trying to feel less guilty about the latter.

I think what’s so painful for me about cooking, eating and drinking alone lately is that I miss my family. Those are things that I have always shared with them and they continue to share with each other on the east coast. Even though we talk about it on the phone and video chat, it’s not the same. We don’t have the same wine available on each coast and my mom can’t ship me her new favorite homemade ice cream. When I sit down to a single table setting and glass of wine from a bottle I can’t finish my heart aches for New York. Then I remember that I am in beautiful San Francisco, doing my own thing, and missing them doesn’t ruin my love of food and drink, and cooking soothes my soul.

Below are some things I ate and drank alone this week…

RECIPES FOR GROUND TURKEY

Meatballs and a “Juicy Lucy”:

Combine ground turkey, chopped fresh fennel & parsley, red chili flakes, and garlic in a bowl. Pull out enough for a burger patty. To make a “Juicy Lucy” form a burger patty, make an indentation in the center and fill with white cheddar, form patty so cheese is enclosed in meat, pan sear until cooked through. With remaining meat mixture: add an egg and some breadcrumbs. Form meatballs and cook all of them. Store half in the fridge and the rest in the freezer.

Fennel fronds grow naturally in San Francisco (as does rosemary). I found this on the sidewalk. Take that NY.

2010, Torrontes, Argentina, Crios. Clear with a pale gold core and translucent rim. Clean with med+ intensity and youthful aromas of honeydew melon, lemon/lime zest, and tropical fruit salad. Dry, med+ acidity, moderate alcohol, flavors of honeydew, lemon rinse, and white peach. Good quality, drink now.

This wine paired well with the turkey burger. The freshness of the herbs complimented the crisp fruit aromas and flavors of the wine.

BREAKFAST IN BED

Banana Oat Pancakes:

Mix 2/3 cup flour, 1/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats, 1 tbsp sugar, 2 tsp baking powder, pinch salt, cinnamon. In a separate bowl combine 6 oz milk, 1 egg, and 2 tbsp oil. Combine wet and dry ingredients with 1 sliced banana, leaving the mixture lumpy. Heat non-stick skillet over medium flame. Test skillet by flicking water on it. The water droplets should dance and disappear in a matter of seconds. Spoon batter onto skillet and flip when edges brown and pancake bubbles. Make yourself a short stack and store the rest of the batter in the fridge. Eat in bed with a cappuccino the size of your face and watch Netflix.

The Business of Baking

I trade food for goods and services that otherwise would not be available to me. This kind of resourcefulness is widely practiced in my family. My father is from Sicily where bartering and haggling are taught in kindergarten. My mother told me never to go anywhere empty-handed. This rule applies whether you’re visiting a friends house or picking up your car from the mechanic. Not only are people impressed and appreciative when you bring them food but they are more willing to go out of their way for you. In this case food is neither entirely selfish or generous, but a tool of exchange.

Recently my bartering led to a business opporunity. Word got out that I make killer biscotti and an inquiry was made as to whether or not they were for sale. Yes, they are now; and no, you can’t have the recipe.

In order of appearance: anise, cinnamon-sugar, and chocolate-orange.

Note: biscotti means “twice baked.” You bake the cookies in a log, slice, and bake a second time.

BBQ

When my father was visiting he discovered a grill in a pile of trash in my backyard. Except for the fact that the grill was poorly assembled, and therefore wobbles, it works great. After being cleaned with a grill brush and a roaring fire it was ready for its BBQ debut.

One of the best parts of working in a restaurant is that almost everyone working there loves food. We talk about food constantly and share it occasionally. Because we spend all of our time in the kitchen serving the people, throwing parties is natural. My manager, Nicole, is a young and talented culinary school grad and my favorite cooking partner. With similar tastes, style, and speed, cooking with her is like dancing. Kylie, a co-worker and friend, is also becoming a sommelier and is my favorite drinking buddy. Possessing an impressive tolerance for tequila, Kylie could probably drink me under the table. Her bubbly personality, approachability, and sensitive palate will make her a fine sommelier. This is my dream team.

Attending the BBQ were more work-friends and fellow service professionals from the market across the street from our cafe. It was great fun.

Honey Chipotle Whiskey BBQ Sauce

2 cups ketchup

1/2 cup honey

few shots whiskey

four chipotle peppers in adobo, diced

1 tbs adobo sauce

1 garlic clove

1/2 red onion

few tbs white vinegar

chili powder

canola oil

salt & pepper

Preparation: saute onion and garlic with oil in a medium-sized pot and cook until tender. Add chipotles and adobo. Add everything else and cook over medium-low heat for about 2o minutes. You just want all the flavors to come together and for it to be a thick and sticky consistency. Puree with blender, food processor, or immersion blender. If you don’t have a way to blend the sauce then I guess you could use onion and garlic powder.

Coconut Milk Ice Cream

1 cup coconut milk

1 cup cream

1 cup milk

1/4 cup sugar

pinch salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

6 egg yolks

Preparation: heat the milk, cream, coconut milk, and salt in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat and add sugar. Whisk egg yolks. Slowly add the heated milk mixture to the egg yolks, beating constantly. Put mixture back into the pot over medium-low heat and add sugar. Cook until it coats the back of a spoon. Add extract. Chill in ice bath and run it through the magical ice cream machine.

Note: this is not a sweet ice cream so feel free to increase the sugar.

Grilled Pineapple

pineapple, cut into chunks

brown sugar

Preparation: coat pineapple in brown sugar. Skewer and grill. Serve with ice cream.

Kylie was instrumental in preparing the fire.

My beautiful sous chef of the evening, Nicole.

Formal buffet table and bar.

New and exciting product- solo cups that you can scratch your name onto!

Love you

I love Valentine’s Day because I love flowers, candy, and the colors pink and red. I don’t care that it’s a Hallmark-holiday. It’s fun with or without a partner. Obviously we should all show our love and appreciation daily, but sometimes we forget. If you are in a relationship: don’t fuck Valentine’s Day up. Make a card and get some flowers and be a hero; it’s that simple. If you’re not romantically involved then don’t let Hallmark get  you down! Love yourself. I buy myself flowers weekly. I realized how satisfying it is to treat myself instead of waiting for someone else to. I like to celebrate Galentine’s Day with my lady friends who I love more than anything. If your friends are all going on dates then eat take-out naked. This fake holiday can be enjoyed in a multitude of ways.

I sandwiched butter cookies with ganache and pomegranate jelly. I’m currently having a relationship with ganache. I can’t give you the recipe because it’s going to make me rich one day.

 

It’s also my day off from work so I made quiche with chard, turkey bacon, manchego, and parmesan. The last time I tried to make quiche it was a disaster so I am happy.

 

Quiche (adapted from Real Simple)

Ingredients:

1 pie crust

4 large eggs

1/2 cup cream

7 oz cheese, grated

1 oz sour cream (heaping tbsp)

4 slices turkey bacon, cut into pieces

1 cup swiss chard, cut into pieces

nutmeg

salt & pepper

Preparation: For the crust I adapted a King Arthur recipe by using butter only. Roll out the crust, place in pie dish. Place a layer of foil on the crust and weigh it down with rice or beans then bake for 10-15 minutes in 375 degree oven. In skillet cook the turkey bacon over medium-high heat. Remove bacon from the pan and cook the chard in remaining grease, add salt & pepper. In a large bowl mix eggs, cheese, sour cream, cream, nutmeg, chard, turkey bacon, salt & pepper. Pour into pre-baked crust and bake for 45 minutes (until knife comes out clean). Serve at room temperature.

Birthday Cake

My friend, Carmella, asked me to bake a couple of cakes for her father’s birthday party. I said yes because: I love both Carmella and celebrations. Cake is festive and ritualistic. Both an activity and a dish, cake marks such special events as birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, and graduations. Great effort goes into the production of something so temporary. The cake is consumed in far less time than it took to produce; this is what makes it lavish. What an honor to create the centerpiece of special occasion.

My mom’s friend, Alyson, gave me her recipe for carrot cake with cream cheese frosting…

Here is a chocolate cake with a layer of jam in the center and covered with ganache…

Comfort Food

Homemade mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food. I use Mark Bittman’s recipe except for one key alteration: twice as much cheese. For this recpe I used manchego, parmesan, and roasted red peppers. You can use any other cooked vegetable and/or cheese that melts well.

I have also been loving cabbage and apples. It’s cheap and healthy. Cabbage does really well with some acidity and sweetness; you could also use pears or a drop of jam.

 

Ingredients:

3 cups manchego, shredded

1 cup parmesan, shredded

2 cups 2% milk

Lb pasta

3 tbspn butter

3 tbspn flour

2 red peppers, roasted

salt & pepper

bay leaves

Preparation: to roast red peppers brush with oil and cook in 400 degree oven until outsides have blistered. Let cool and peel skin. Cut them into small pieces and set aside. Scald milk with bay leaves and let rest. Cook pasta (al dente), drain, rinse in cold water. Make a roux by heating butter over medium low heat until foamy and then adding flour. Whisk constantly until the roux is brown (this takes a few minutes). Slowly add milk to roux, whisking all the while. Once all the milk is incorporated mix in the cheese, peppers, salt & pepper. Pour into buttered baking dish and top with breadcrumbs. Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes. You can make this dish ahead of time and leave it in the fridge.

Tip:  I use one pot by pouring the scalded milk back into my pyrex measuring cup and then make roux. I hate doing dishes.

 

Cabbage with apples:

1 head cabbage

3 apples

fennel seeds

olive oil

garlic, smashed

salt & pepper

Preparation: slice apples and cabbage to a similar size. In a pan heat olive oil over medium high heat. Saute the garlic. Add apples, fennel seeds (crushed between your finger tips), salt & pepper. Then add cabbage. Cover the pan if you’re in a hurry. Cook until tender.

 

Something Like Gumbo

In my fridge I had some shrimp, trout, a couple of pork cutlets, and leftover rice. All signs pointed to gumbo. My mom’s friend, Jen, is from Louisiana and makes fantastic chicken gumbo. Mine does not hold a candle to hers. My friend, Kylie, learned to make proper gumbo at a cooking class in New Orleans. I did not call either of these ladies for advice and instead winged it.

I made fish stock from the trout bones and head, shrimp peels, bay leaves, a dried sweet pepper, a garlic clove, salt and pepper. For stock: cover whatever is in the pot with water, add spices, bring to a boil, reduce on medium heat, scoop off foam, and strain.

My proteins (leftover from a pan-fried meal the night before) were dredged in flour. This plus the okra’s natural stickiness served as thickener.

Inauthentic but tasty. Wash it down with an equally full and spicy red or an Abita.

Ingredients:

pork, cut into cubes

shrimp, cut into pieces

trout, cut into pieces

fish stock

cooked rice

onion

okra

chili powder

butter

salt & pepper

Preparation: In a large pot heat butter on medium-high heat. Add onions and saute. Then brown the pork. Add okra and cook until tender and sticky. Cover with stock. Add fish towards the end (it cooks quickly). Serve over rice or add it to the pot. Spice as you go. Serve with favorite hot sauce (mine is chipotle Tabasco).