Tuesday, June 22, 2010

What Do You Eat When You Are Alone?

What do you eat when you are alone?

If someone were to ask me that question, I would say, "grilled cheese." I love to eat grilled cheese when I am dining alone, but today I ate a can of beets for lunch.

Yes, a can of beets. Not roasted. No goat cheese. No arugula. A can of beets, drained and tossed with olive oil, salt and oregano. A salad straight from my childhood. And delicious. Beet salad was definitely in my mother's rotation.  It never  supplanted the tossed green salad served after the meal, but  it was a side dish with--what? I don't remember. Maybe hamburgers, maybe cubed steak. Sometimes with a thinly sliced red onion, but always delicious.

Do you ever  wonder what people eat when there is no one around? I think what we eat when we are alone can be divided into two categories. There are those of us who live alone and therefore cook for ourselves on a regular basis.  In his article, Table for One, writer Nigel Slater believes that cooking for one is the perfect time to indulge his food desires and pour himself a glass of good wine.  Mr. Slater takes great pleasure in spending at least a few nights a week satisfying his culinary whims.

In her book, The Pleasures of Cooking For One, the legendary book editor turned author, Judith Jones turns the act of cooking for one into an homage of sorts.  She sets the table and pours the wine. And then dines solo. She has even made a cheese souffle scaled down for one.

But don't get me wrong, there are times, Mr. Slater says, when dinner for him could be a a tub of hummus, a bag of pita bread and a bottle of wine.  Or a bacon sandwich at midnight. That brings me to the next category. What do you eat when no one is looking?

Ah! See there is a difference. When no one is looking many of us resort to childhood favorites or bizarre combinations we would never think to eat in front of another living soul.  Years ago when John would work every third night, my favorite after-work dinner for one was a bowl of salty popcorn and a glass of white wine chased by a couple of pieces of dark chocolate. How healthy is that?

In my very unscientific poll, I saw a big trend in solo eating of carbohydrates--a bowl of cereal, cake, a pan of brownies; an entire candy bar or a half a pan of cornbread as well as  the all-time favorite, cold pizza.  I've also known someone, who shall remain nameless, who thought the perfect dining companion was a can of cold spam. When no one is around to disapprove of what we're eating, all bets are off.

So I ask you, what do you eat when you are alone?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Pizza Again

Last night John and I had our first grilled pizza of the summer. If you have never grilled a pizza, you must give it a try.  It is easy, fun and never fails to impress.  Did I mention delicious?

Simply pat out your dough, brush liberally with olive oil and place directly on a medium-hot grill.
Grill until crisp and brown on one side. Brush top of dough with olive oil and using a tongs or your fingers turn over.  When the second side is almost done, add toppings, close grill and continue to cook until toppings are ready.  Garnish and serve.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Just Peachy

It was with some trepidation L and I picked up our first farm box from our CSA.  E-mails last week from the woman who runs this CSA gave us the feeling that it is very loosely run--definitely not our style--but OK.

The first e-mail informed us that she is not sure if we will be continuing through the summer. What? We just started our session, because in New Jersey we wait all year long for summer produce.  The next e-mail said that because of such a large response, she had to go in search of other providers. OK.

So we go to pick up our boxes, a half share each, in the pouring rain.  We make our way back to the garage where a short hunt finds us our labeled boxes. A stop at the cooler to collect our dozen eggs, and off we go. We will return in two weeks for our next box.

When I returned home I was excited to see what was awaiting me.

There was no need for me to have been apprehensive about the quantity of produce being too much for two people as it seemed quite manageable. In fact some of the quantities seemed quite ridiculous. Four baby beets and pea pods that yielded less than one cup shucked peas.  Good thing, for me, that John doesn't care for either, because neither would have made a decent side dish for two.

The baby beets looked so much prettier raw than cooked; but I roasted them with olive oil and made them into a tiny first course salad with goat cheese and arugula.

The sweet peas were just steamed and buttered and added to the dinner plate.

Dinner the next night was fresh eggs fried in a ring of red pepper and dusted with Parmesan cheese atop wholegrain toast.

This was accompanied by the broad beans, the only vegetables adequate enough for two servings. They were boiled, drained, tossed with olive oil and salted.

And some beautifully ripe and sweet Campari tomatoes roasted with olive oil, thyme and garlic.

Saturday's dinner was accompanied by the five scallions, grilled.

I am trying to reserve judgement, but I thought the whole concept of community supported agriculture was just that. Eat seasonally, eat locally, and support local farmers. I have been eating seasonally and locally as much as possible my whole life, so it is not a new or foreign concept to me.  So you can understand my confusion to find included in my box pears from Argentina, scallions from California and peaches and oranges from who knows where.  The Campari tomatoes, by the way, were purchased from the supermarket and hydroponically grown in New Jersey!

Perhaps a half share should contain less variety than a full share, but enough of each vegetable to serve at least two people.  Perhaps I'm being too picky.

Today is Sunday and I have left 3 hard pears, two oranges, and one peach. The cherries went quickly.The two yellow squash will be grilled for dinner today or tomorrow, and the large head of red leaf lettuce will be gone as well.

We'll see.