Sunday, November 9, 2008

Super solo supper

There are those who find the title of a book I'm currently reading--Alone in the Kitchen with An Eggplant--a tad odd. I can understand that. When I'm alone in the kitchen, an eggplant would be one of the last things I'd reach for. Nothing against the beautiful aubergine, it's just not one of my "craveables."

The book is a collection of essays specifically about those meals you eat when you are by yourself, especially if that is not how you cook and eat on a daily basis. The writers confess to their own indulgences, from one-pot spaghetti to a kippers mash (no thanks!) to salmon and lentils quite elegantly prepared. There are also a few tales of solo restaurant adventures, that somehow "all eyes are on you" endeavor that unnerves many. Together they make up a quite readable and occasionally inspirational book that fits handily into one of my favorite genres of essay + recipes, a la Cooking for Mr. Latte and The Soul of a Chef.

When I have one of those rare evenings to myself, it's a fab opportunity to have exactly what I want to eat. Not that my men's tastes and mine differ so dramatically, but there are a few things I favor that neither of them find extremely palatable. My solo suppers over the years have varied according to mood and season and what's in the pantry/fridge, of course. I went through a major phase of pasta carbonara a few years back when I ate alone more frequently. In those days I threw cream on just about everything; that's a whole other, more wild-thyroid-related post. I do still treasure the basil-tomato-pasta combo, but tonight, with fall so well and truly entrenched, soup once again hit the menu.

Along the way I was able to not only indulge my whims, but also to illustrate four of the 13 favorite foods at the same time... how handy!

I made a curried butternut squash soup late last week, with a coconut milk base. Between that and the fruity salad of grapefruit, pomegranate, arugula, blue cheese and hazelnuts, the boys would have hit the speed-dial for pizza delivery! What is it about the male tastebuds and fruit in salads? (How's that for a wild generalization?!) I'm sure there are men who do appreciate berries and apples and pears in a salad, I just haven't ever met one.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup
1 butternut squash, roasted
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 tsp. curry powder
2 cups of vegetable stock
1 can lite coconut milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Halve the squash, scoop out the seeds, cut into quarters and place on a baking sheet. Roast in a 350-degree oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the flesh pierces easily. Remove from oven and cool.

Saute diced onion in 1 Tbsp. olive oil in 2 quart saucepan. When translucent, add the curry powder and stir, toasting the curry, until it is fragrant. Scoop out the butternut squash in spoonfuls and add to the onions, pour the vegetable stock over and bring to a simmer until squash is so soft it falls apart, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

Put the squash mixture and coconut milk in a blender and puree in batches, blend until smooth. Add more broth or coconut milk to taste, to achieve the desired consistency. Pour back into saucepan and warm through on the stove. Add salt and pepper to taste. If a stronger curry flavor is desired, add a half to 1 additional teaspoon curry powder.

Serves 4.

Sher's Favorite Fruity Salad (one of many!)
Grapefruit sections (click for help on sectioning)
Pomegranate seeds (click for tips on cracking a pomegranate)
Chopped roasted hazelnuts
Blue cheese
Brianna's blush wine vinaigrette
This is pretty willy-nilly, and completely according to mood. Arrange the arugula in a salad bowl, layer the grapefruit sections, pomegranate seeds, hazelnuts and blue cheese on top; drizzle with dressing and you're good to go! You can portion this individually or to feed as many as you'd like. If you have leftovers, call me. I will happily polish it off!

As you can see from the picture, entertaining oneself while dining alone is critical. I'm afraid I'm not one for sitting at the dining room table, fully set with candles lit. I've seen that in movies and thought, who on earth really does that? Maybe it's a sign of civility... which I am obviously lacking. While I'm not a big one for eating standing up in the kitchen, I am all over the book/magazine/dvd/tv as meal companion. Tonight, Mad Men (Season 1, now available on dvd) kept me company as I also put together a couple of soups (more soup, it's almost like the Soup Nazi moved in) for a board meeting tomorrow night.

To come: Cream of Cauliflower Soup and Vegetarian Tortilla Soup.


  1. Rob won't eat "hot fruit", as he refers to any fruit added to a curry (such as green grapes), or any other warmed dish. For that matter, he doesn't appreciate the craisin, either. Too bad for him, I say!

  2. Yeah, I'm not so into hot fruit either, to be honest. And I don't do baked/cooked raisins... So I don't suppose I can really throw stones from the "no fruit in salads" house... But craisins? Anytime!


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