When I’m in a meat-eating frame of mind and cooking solo, I turn to lamb chops because they’re delicious, easy to prepare, and, because of their size, ideal for a dinner for one. If you’re feeling only a little peckish you can cook just a couple, or if you’re famished, you can have four or five chops (I always ask the butcher to chop them individually so they’re about an inch thick). All you have to do is sprinkle them with salt and pepper and pop them into a hot skillet to cook and you’re on your way to a filling meal.Cooking for yourself is an act of self-care, so buy the highest quality ingredients you can afford. For me, that means patronizing a grocery store that carries grass-fed meat, where a butcher can verify that the animal was not raised on an all-grain diet and stuffed with antibiotics.To round out this springtime dish, I add some more spring produce—seared endives and asparagus—which I garnish with fresh mint (a nod to my parents, who would always add mint jelly when lamb was served). I drizzle the vegetables with a tangy tahini dressing, loaded with lemon juice, which adds a bright, acidic finish.The entire meal is quick to prepare, because you’re only briefly searing the vegetables, browning the endives but not cooking them all the way through, which leaves a nice texture, as well as bitterness and crunch, that’s delightful alongside the lamb. The whole thing comes together in about 20 minutes—making it an easy way to do something nice for yourself, even on a weeknight.
I like to keep things simple for dinner prep because I don’t always feel like making a large, intricate meal—especially during the week. Depending on the day, I may be developing recipes, interviewing someone for a profile, going to the market to buy ingredients to test recipes, or writing a few thousand words for a cookbook chapter. By dinner time, simplicity is my mission. If I’ve been running around all day, I come home and change clothes, pour myself a glass of wine, put on music I want to cook to, and begin to prepare my supper.This recipe combines three simple things that I enjoy and turn to again and again when I’m cooking solo: seafood, an assortment of vegetables, and a mini sheet pan. Fish is a great main ingredient for a solo dinner—it’s inexpensive to buy in single portions, and it cooks quickly. I’ve trained myself to love vegetables and now I genuinely enjoy them—on an aesthetic level I like the color they add to a meal and the different textures they provide.In this recipe I pair salmon with three vegetables: brussels sprouts (because it’s wintertime and they’re everywhere), red bell pepper (for color), and red onions (for flavor and a little crunch). Using hoisin as a base, I made a quick and simple spicy sauce by adding minced ginger, garlic, cayenne pepper, lime juice, and olive oil. I get excited making this dinner because it’s easy, full of flavor, and a good balance of sweet, sour, and spicy—depending on how much cayenne pepper you add. Start with a small pinch to start, then add more if you prefer a spicy kick. That’s the great part about cooking for yourself—you can crank up the heat as much as you want!But the true beauty of the recipe is that it all cooks on one sheet pan and just takes about 20 minutes. So when dinner’s done, there’s just one pan to wash. Then you can get back to unwinding with your favorite tunes and that well-deserved glass of wine.
My love of cooking for one runs so deep that I wrote a book about it, Cooking Solo: The Fun of Cooking for Yourself. Fundamentally, I believe that making a delicious meal is a powerful way to nourish and nurture yourself. It’s an exercise in creativity and self-care. You can also think of it as a rehearsal of sorts, testing a recipe out before you make it for other people. Another overlooked advantage to cooking for oneself is that you have the freedom to make whatever you please. You don’t have to compromise or worry about whether or not someone else approves of your menu. In short, you can allow yourself the pleasure of giving into your cravings.Which leads me to one of my favorite wintertime indulgences: making a solo dinner that can double as a hearty, comforting breakfast. Here, the potatoes and sausage remind me of the first meal of the day, but I often swap out pancakes and eggs for kale and onions to make it feel more like dinner (and more grown-up, since there are vegetables).The brilliant thing about this recipe is that you can cook it all in one skillet. The key is adding each ingredient at the right time so that everything cooks without burning. You start by cooking the potatoes and sausage (I recommend small red potatoes and spicy Italian sausage, but you can use your favorite) and then once those start to brown, you add the sliced onions and then the kale. The bonus to using fresh sausage is that you get some of the delicious rendered fat as it cooks, which flavors the potatoes, onions and kale. To brighten the dish, once everything is cooked, I squeeze lemon juice over the top, and sprinkle the whole shebang with chopped parsley. This is a single-serving recipe, but it can easily be doubled—just use a bigger skillet so you have plenty of room.