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Category Archives: Recipes

Quick Pasta Dinner for Bachelors

Bachelors – tune into this easy and fast pasta dinner

The Solo Cook blog is for men too.  Hey, bachelors I know there are nights when cooking seems more like a chore than something to enjoy. But trust me, cooking for yourself is fun.

This blog is for anyone who wants to cook for himself or herself. You also don’t have to be “single” to try these recipes and swing by the “hot spot” restaurants that I recommend.

If you are dating someone, but have to fend for yourself because you aren’t shacking up – this is the recipe for you.

If your partner or roommate is traveling out-of-town and the kitchen seems as foreign as a faraway country – this is the recipe for you.

If you are single and want a dinner that will be ready within minutes – this is the recipe for you.

Boil, Chop and Sauté – It’s that easy

The first order of business when you get home from work is to fill a pot with water and put it on high heat so that it will boil soon. And before you take off that tie or dress, pour yourself a drink. It doesn’t take much for me to get in the mood to cook. A glass of wine and some funky music playing in the background always gets me into a food vibe. And if you are into a non-alcoholic drink – grab a sparkling water and squeeze or slice some fresh fruit into the glass.

Next chop up all your ingredients – garlic, mushrooms and zucchini. Yep, that’s the only three ingredients that you have to cut. You can use any vegetable you want, like broccoli or Swiss chard. I used the green leafy tops of beets from the garden to make this pasta dish.  And if you are like me and you crave protein – don’t be afraid to add shrimp or chicken if it’s in the refrigerator. The key to this dish is that it’s easy and fast.

Bachelor’s Pasta Dinner

1/4 bag of capellini also known as angel hair pasta – that’s about 4 ounces

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

4 garlic cloves minced (best if you have a garlic press – which is a total time saver)

2 cups sliced mushrooms (any variety)

1 cup thickly sliced zucchini

2 tablespoons white wine (if available)

½ cup shredded Parmesan

Salt and pepper

Heat oil and butter in sauté pan on medium high heat. Add garlic, mushrooms, white wine, salt and pepper, and cook for several minutes or until liquid evaporates. Put angel hair pasta in salted, boiling water for five minutes. Add zucchini or vegetable of choice, to the sauté pan and cook until zucchini starts to brown, then sprinkle Parmesan on top. Drain pasta, and drizzle with olive oil to prevent it from sticking.  Add the sautéed vegetables to a mound of pasta on your plate and enjoy.

Cheers

Christine

Compound butter adds a boost of flavor

Butter it up Babe

Compound butter incorporates herbs like parsley, thyme and oregano.

Who doesn’t love butter? It’s fantastic to cook with and tastes great on just about anything.  But guess what – you can jazz it up by making compound butter. This is great for single people who don’t know what to do with the extra herbs from the store and those who want to add something quick and rich to a dish.

You only need a couple of herbs to make compound butter.

A compound butter, also known as buerre composé in French, basically incorporates herbs or other ingredients to flavor it. Compound butter saves a single person the hassle of always finding herbs to cut and add to a dish. This time-saving method allows you to have flavor-packed butter ready anytime.  I hate it when I buy expensive herbs from the store for one recipe, and then they go to waste days later because I never did anything with them. Next time you have extra parsley or any other herb, make compound butter.

Hot in the Kitchen

Finely chop two tablespoons of fresh herbs like parsley, thyme and oregano.

Making a compound butter is easy. Just let a stick of butter, 8 tablespoons, soften by taking it out of the refrigerator. In the meantime, chop two tablespoons fresh herbs like parsley, thyme, chives or oregano and any combination of them. Be creative by adding other spices and herbs to your compound butter.

Mash herbs into soften butter with a fork.

Mix or mash the herbs and butter together with a spatula or fork. Use wax paper or plastic wrap to mold the butter into a cylinder, covering the butter and twisting the ends.

Wrap butter in wax paper or plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.

The butter can last for months in the freezer and weeks in the refrigerator. Anytime you want to cook with it, just pull it out of the refrigerator and slice a couple pads off.

I love a dab of compound butter on my steak or mixed in with garden vegetables. The compound butter I added to my green beans made them glisten and taste rich.

The dinner below uses only one pan and is perfect for one. I sautéed green beans with garlic and topped it with compound butter. After I removed the beans from the pan, I cooked tilapia (you could use any white fish) for about three minutes until translucent.

Next week I’ll highlight a Hot Spot restaurant for singles.

Cheers

Christine

Sautéed green beans with melted compound butter is a great side to white fish like tilapia.

Simple is sometimes better when it comes to food

Building a salad is about tantalizing the eyes with colors from fresh vegetables and fruits. Dinner doesn’t have to be complicated, just be creative with your ingredients.

There are times, after several long days of reporting and writing at the Seattle Times, that I just want a simple and easy dish to eat that doesn’t destroy my clean kitchen. In my younger years that meant grabbing a burger or tacos at a fast-food joint, just to kill the hunger pangs. Since then I’ve learned a few things about single cooking along the way and I hope you can take a few of my ideas into your kitchen.

There are days I’m jazzed about tackling complicated, multi-step recipes, realizing I have the time and patience. But often times we all are in a rush or getting home late from errands or a fun happy hour with friends and we still need to nibble.

If you don’t have the time to cook something elaborate, don’t worry about it. The reason some dinners and snacks are so great is because they are simple and fresh – and that typically means healthy too.

My garden produced golden sweet tomatoes and purple carrots

Visit your farmer’s market or local store and grab fruits and vegetables that are in season. Those fresh foods are the foundation of a flavorful, simple dish. So when I’m in a hurry, salads are my go-to meal. Chopping the vegetables, greens and toppings take only a couple minutes and you can create your salad.

I grabbed fresh greens, tomatoes and purple carrots from my garden. The purple carrots catch your eye with the color and surprise the palate with a spicy, sweet flavor.

Hot in the Kitchen

Mixed Green Salad with Plum Vinaigrette:

Ingredients:

Three cups chopped or torn fresh mixed greens, including any combination of mesclun, spinach and arugula if available

Two carrots sliced into coins

Four cherry tomatoes quartered

Two tablespoons crumbled blue cheese such as Cabrales

One tablespoon fresh herbs like thyme, cilantro, oregano and parsley if available

Any other ingredients from your pantry or kitchen that inspire you

Plum Vinaigrette (Bon Appetit, August 2012)

2 black plums, pitted, chopped and halved

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Dash of salt and pepper

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Bring plums and ¾ cup water to boil in small saucepan and then simmer on medium-high heat, stirring and mashing plums for about 15 minutes until they are broken down. Pour plum mixture through fine-mesh sieve, pressing solids through to make a puree. Let cool. Then add oil, vinegar, 2 tablespoons water and salt and pepper and whisk. Add hot pepper flakes, if you like a little kick. This can be made ahead of time and will last for at least one week in frig.

Toss salad ingredients and drizzle dressing on top.

A plum vinaigrette adds a sweet tanginess to this mixed green salad with blue cheese.

Tailor a salad for your palate

Another great thing about making salads is that you literally can open up the refrigerator and use leftovers or extras from a previous dish. Maybe you grilled salmon the night before and you can add some bites to your salad. When I grill a chicken breast for dinner, I make sure I either buy an extra large one to grill so that I have chunks to add to the next day’s lunch.

Also see what mood you are in that day. Are you craving protein? Then add tofu, salmon or shrimp. If you are craving something sweet, add fruit like strawberries, nectarines or apples. Are you yearning for some salt? Add some olives, pecans, pumpkin seeds or hazelnuts. Be creative by topping your salad with something different. My favorite additions to a simple salad are any of the following: edamame, avocado, hard-boiled egg, peas and dried cranberries. You can also add caramelized onions or crispy fried shallots. If you are like me, I also love cheese as part of my salad, so I usually sprinkle feta or goat cheese on top.

What are your favorite foods to add to your salad? Let the Solo Cook know.

Cheers

Christine

The Solo Cook creates the Shiso Cucumber Martini

Shiso, also known as perilla, is a great herb to use in cocktails. This martini combines shiso and cucumber.

Try shiso leaves with a cocktail, fish or salad

This bold and herbaceous cocktail I created will quench your thirst. And exactly how I concocted it is just as interesting as the history of the main ingredient – shiso. Plus, discover how one of Seattle’s famous chefs, Thierry Rautureau, uses shiso in his kitchen.

After a brief, but much-needed vacation, The Solo Cook is back, filing you in on the best recipes and hot spots to visit. Don’t think for a second that while I was taking time off I wasn’t thinking of you.  While I may have been entertaining my dad and friend Jane, I was still thinking of ideas for gardening, cooking and enjoying food for all the single people out there. If anything, my time away, stimulated even more ideas.

Shiso seeds can be bought at any nursery or garden store.

Given my need for things that involve risk, I was committed to planting something other than traditional herbs and plants in my garden this year. In mid-June I bought shiso seeds and planted them in a little container on my deck. Weeks later, to my surprise, little red and green plants sprouted and my shiso, also known as perilla, appeared. This annual flourished in the small pot, but it never emerged from the relatively dry ground near my dahlias. So I recommend you plant the seeds directly in a container in early June, and once the plant is a few inches tall, start to harvest the leaves.

If you lack a green thumb, don’t worry about growing shiso. The fresh leaves can be purchased at most Asian grocery stores.

Plant red and green shiso in June. It also can be purchased in Asian markets and grocery stores.

Shiso is a rich source of calcium and iron, and imparts subtle hints of clove, cinnamon and cumin. I decided to plant shiso, also known as Japanese basil, because I enjoy it with one of my favorite types of food – sushi. But don’t relegate this herb to just chopsticks.

For some expert advice on shiso, I turned to James Beard Award-winning chef Thierry Rautureau, who owns Rover’s and Luc restaurants in Seattle.

Rautureau, who competed on “Top Chef Masters” on Bravo TV, has been growing shiso for years, and has developed quite a liking for it.

“I love steaming my cod with a dash of olive oil, a sprinkle of sea salt and take a couple big leaves of purple shiso and wrap the fish in it,” Rautureau says. “Shiso is a great addition to a steamed dish as it releases its pungent perfume.”

For a salad, he recommends combining shiso with watermelon, feta and lemon-olive oil dressing.

In Asian folklore, shiso was a sacred herb that if disrespected or stepped on meant death, according to Botanical Interests, a seed company. Another factoid of interest is that in the U.S., shiso was a key ingredient in sarsaparilla and flavored dental products.

For this blog, I usually create a food recipe perfect for one, but I thought it would be daring to concoct a drink with something from my garden.

Be adventuresome and try this cocktail. At a minimum, I can guarantee it will be intoxicating.

Hot in the Kitchen

Shiso Cucumber Martini

Muddle shiso leaves and cucumber.

Ingredients:

2 shots premium vodka

6 shiso leaves (two for garnish) that can be grown or purchased at Asian market

2 teaspoons simple syrup *

¼ cucumber cut into chunks (thin slice for garnish)

Tear shiso leaves apart and put in cocktail shaker or pint glass. Use the handle of wooden spoon (like mine from Ecuador) or a muddler to mash cucumber and shiso together. Add vodka and simple syrup and continue to muddle. Add ice to glass until half full, and shake or stir.

Garnish martini with cucumber slice and two shiso leaves.

Strain ingredients into a martini glass and garnish with a red and green shiso leaf and a thin cucumber slice.

* Simple syrup is a must-have when making cocktails and other drinks. Just bring to boil equal parts sugar and water together until dissolved. After cooling, syrup can be stored in refrigerator for several months. I usually make one cup.

Cheers

Christine

Best breakfast sandwich combines basil, avocado and egg

Basil Avocado Breakfast Sandwich

Basil and avocado add a twist to an egg breakfast sandwich. This is an easy recipe, perfect for one person.

Wondering what to do with that fresh basil from the garden or the bunch you picked up from the farmer’s market? Some think of using basil for Italian dishes like pesto and caprese, which is great, but there are so many other ways to use basil. When I think of basil, I think of breakfast. I created this breakfast sandwich because it’s easy to make and perfect for one person. And if you have a morning visitor, it’s just as simple to make two of them.

I combined basil from my garden with one of my favorite foods – avocado. As a single gal, I usually have two avocados on hand. I recommend you buy one that’s soft and ripe and another that’s very firm. That way, every couple of days you’ll have an avocado to play with in the kitchen. I justify my love of the avocado with the fact that it is a heart-healthy food with monounsaturated fat and potassium. Now if only we could grow avocados in the Pacific Northwest.

I know you’ll find this breakfast sandwich rich and satisfying. For me, it was the perfect weekend breakfast on my warm, sunny porch.

Hot in the Kitchen

Basil Avocado Egg Breakfast Sandwich

Add basil to egg as it is frying in the pan.

1 tablespoon chopped basil

Half of ripe avocado mashed

1 English muffin (two slices)

1 egg

1 teaspoon coconut oil

1 teaspoon mayonnaise

Salt and pepper to taste

As you fry an egg in coconut oil, sprinkle chopped basil on top. Add salt and pepper. As egg is cooking ‘sunny side up,’ toast muffin slices. Spread mayonnaise on one slice of toasted muffin. Mash slices of avocado on the other slice of muffin. Place medium cooked egg in between slices.

Cheers

Christine

Bold nutty flavor of arugula makes a great healthy salad

Arugula is a fantastic, spicy green to grow in the garden. Arugula has a unique nutty, white pepper flavor that packs a punch.

Arugula fresh from my garden is ready for sandwiches, pasta and my new salad recipe. Grow it or pick it up at a farmer’s market.

In fact, I’ve tossed seeds in the garden and been surprised to see it growing like a weed and then turn into a bush. Just be sure to snip off the buds to prevent bolting, but if it flowers don’t be afraid to eat them too. This healthy green-leafed plant from the Mediterranean is part of the Brassicaceae family and is loaded with tons of vitamins. It’s a cool season crop, also known as rocket, that can grow for months in the Pacific Northwest.

I like arugula in sandwiches, wraps, mixed in with other greens to add zip or thrown in pasta. If you aren’t growing it in your garden, pick up a bunch from the farmer’s market or your local grocery store to make this fast, easy recipe that’s perfect for lunch or dinner. This recipe I created is an explosion of flavors in each bite with the spicy arugula, creamy avocado and crunchy cucumber.

Hot in the Kitchen

Arugula Avocado Salad 

2 packed cups of arugula

Arugula with simple ingredients makes a great spicy salad with a tangy dressing.

½ avocado diced

1/2 of tomato diced

¼ of cucumber diced

wedge of lemon

Dressing: combine the following ingredients thoroughly

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons honey

Dash of salt and pepper

Lightly toss arugula, avocado, tomato and cucumber with dressing and squeeze a wedge of lemon juice on top. To add protein to the salad just add diced firm tofu.

Arugula Avocado Salad is a great lunch or dinner for one person.

Cheers

Christine

Flat-leaf parsley is the best herb to grow and cook

What’s the No. 1 herb you should grow and have readily available as a single person? Pot and pan drum roll please… it’s flat-leaf parsley.

Parsley is the must-have herb to plant for a person with a busy lifestyle for several reasons. It’s my top pick because it’s low maintenance, can be used in multiple dishes and grows almost all year in the ground or a pot.

After chatting with friends about fresh herbs over the weekend I could tell this was a hot topic for cooks and foodies. It was like we were talking about family relatives, quickly spitting out the personality traits and quirks of each herb. Some people thought the best herb to grow and cook should be basil and another friend was adamant that rosemary was the queen of herbs. I had no idea herbs could be so…well controversial. And I love it.

While curly parsley is considered the ugly stepchild herb because of its lowly delegation as a plate garnish, its cousin – flat-leaf parsley – can complement just about any protein dish. Stay away from the meek curly parsley because of the rough mouth feel. But flat-leaf parsley, also known as Italian parsley, adds punch and dimension to a dish with strong, deep flavor.

Parsley can be sprinkling on just about anything – like roasted vegetables, broiled white fish, grilled chicken and more. Gone are the days of buying a parsley bunch at the store and later finding half of it shriveled and rotting in your frig. If you are growing it, you only pick the amount you need from the garden and none of it will go to waste. It’s really an herb that keeps on giving.

In the garden:

The parsley in my garden looks like a small bush

In the Pacific Northwest our climate zone allows parsley to grow nearly all year.  I’ve been able to harvest fresh parsley from my garden to add to cold winter soups and summer salads. It even remained hearty after one or two small snowstorms in Seattle.

Parsley is also a low-maintenance and a high-yielding herb. Just make sure you cut off the inedible flowers/buds. Just think of it as an herb haircut that keeps the energy of the plant focused in the leaves not the buds.

Also when harvesting parsley, use a scissor to cut the leaves from the base of the stem where they originate from the main stalk or the ground. Don’t just cut off leaves as this will prevent it from generating new growth.

Here is a recipe I created for one serving. You won’t regret making this mouth-watering steak.

Hot in the kitchen: Grilled Steak with Chimichurri (vegetarian option below)

4 to 6 oz. filet mignon of other steak

½ cup tightly packed flat-leaf parsley leaves from the garden

2 tablespoon fresh oregano

3 garlic cloves

¼ cup olive oil

1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar

Dash of sea salt, fresh cracked black pepper and hot pepper flakes

Before preparing the chimichurri, turn the grill on to high heat and seasoning steak with salt and pepper.

For the sauce, lightly pulse fresh parsley, oregano and garlic in food processor or let your fingers do the work and finely chop the ingredients. In a small bowl combine the herbs, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and pepper flakes. Taste and add more salt, pepper or red pepper flakes depending on your palate.

Brush the grill with oil, then place filet on super hot grill. Flip steak after 4 minutes. After another 4-5 minutes of cooking, remove the meat from the grill and loosely place aluminum foil over steak on a plate for several minutes for a medium rare steak.

Drizzle chimichurri on the steak of your choice.

Vegetarian option: Gently clean a Portobello mushroom and thickly cut, on a horizontal slant, one zucchini and one eggplant. Brush each with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Grill over medium high heat for five minutes each side or until grill marks appear. Plate vegetables and drizzle chimichurri sauce over the top.

I chose one herb for one person, but don’t limit yourself. Plant a trio of herbs this summer if you have the space. I have several herbs growing in my garden and in pots. My runner-up herb is basil and rounding out my top three is thyme.

It’s fun to snip herbs from your garden and add them to a dish to give it a flavor boost.

Cheers

Christine