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It is kind of like the Cosby Show spun off It’s a Different World…or Beverly Hills 90210 begat Melrose Place…or Dallas creating Knot’s Landing. Yes I admit I am a child of the 80’s. The powers that be have made it apparent that now is the time for me to spin off The Single Chef. Perhaps I should not spin off per say but create a brand…Single Chef: Cooking Intent, Single Chef: Miami…no, a spin off seems more appropo for now. (Franchise empire later)!

Over the past few, people have asked me if I have a blog and I always direct them here. Problem is, this truly isn’t a blog. I use The Single Chef as the place for me to post finished and published articles along with a little extra info and recipes. I never wanted to write a blog because I didn’t think people actually wanted to hear what I was cooking on a daily basis nor did I think that it was important. Well, times have changed and I now realize that I need a place to get more writing practice. I need a place to post ideas and topics that may turn into future articles. There are a few people out there who actually want ideas from me for what to cook…crazy people, but people none the less:) I also realize that if I ever want to get a following on this here internet thing (though I am not quite sure if I do), I need to write more frequently.

And so, I present a new blog pazzaragazza.wordpress.com: ramblings of a novice food writer. I started it a few weeks ago and I am trying to get on there every few days, if not daily. I am posting my ghetto food photography taken with my iphone. I am posting links to the meals that I cook. I am sharing all of my kitchen triumphs along with the kitchen disasters. (My brand new oven seems to be calibrated a bit off…300 degrees = 500 degrees = a very burnt pound cake). I hope that it is something that appeals to a wide audience. As always I look forward to your feedback and questions. Let me know what you think.

For those of you wondering what they heck a pazza ragazza is, it means crazy girlfriend in Italian. It is also my pet name for Fiona Bella, my psycho 3 year old niece AND it is just fun to say. And so, how will this spin off rate? I liked Cosby, not Different World. Loved both 90201 and Melrose (especially after it got sleezy). My mom and I watched Knot’s Landing but never Dallas. So, how do you feel about the idea of a Single Chef spin off? In time will you come to love one more than the other, or will they share your love equally? Only time and Nielson Ratings will tell…

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It is my understanding the the spring issue of Teton Family Magazine is being distributed in Jackson and Teton Valley today. This issue is the local foods issue. I was lucky enough to get an article published in this issue…although I was only allowed 300 words plus the recipe. (I am the article on the very last page called Parting Shots). The article was my attempt to go as local and from scratch as possible. I promised to post more pictures and the recipes for the pasta and guanciale here. So with no further ado…

Spaghetti Alla Carbonara Teton Valley Style

Making things from scratch gives me a tremendous amount of satisfaction. I rarely buy bottled dressings or sauces. Growing up, my family called me Martha (as in Stewart) because I decided my hot chocolate needed fresh marshmallows. Last year I even attempted homemade organic Twinkies. I failed.

Recently, the ultimate “from scratch” recipe dropped into my lap, home cured guanciale. I had never before heard of guanciale (cured pig cheeks), but soon discovered that everyone I knew who had eaten it, was smitten. I was told that guanciale melted in your mouth and made pasta carbonara that was to die for.

Pasta carbonara is a staple in our home. Its beauty is in its simplicity; pasta, egg, cheese, and bacon. I became obsessed with the idea of making guanciale for my carbonara. This proved a bit more difficult than I expected. Instead of jowls, I was given two intact pig’s heads. I set about clumsily cutting into their flesh and ended up with three slabs of cheek meat. I rubbed them with salt, sugar and spices, refrigerated them for a week and then hung the cheeks to cure in my root cellar.

I dreamed of the finished dish, made with eggs from our chickens and homemade pasta. Then the idea was given to grind local wheat berries into flour for the pasta. Now things were getting out of hand, but I couldn’t turn back.

A month later, the big day arrived. Twirling my fork around the strands of spaghetti, my mouth began to water. The pasta was nutty and tender, the egg and cheese rich, and the guanciale melted like butter…VERY salty butter. Oh well. The Martha in me is not deterred. I will try again, and next time, I’m making raw milk parmesan cheese too.

Simple Spaghetti Alla Carbonara

There are many variations to this dish, including adding vegetables, wine or cream. Growing up my dad loved to add sauteed asparagus and mushrooms. The vegetables are usually added after the pasta has been tossed with the eggs and bacon. For variations with wine or cream (though I have not tried and thus cannot vouch for either) look here or here.

Yield 4 main course portions

1 lb dried spaghetti

1/3 lb cured pork (guanciale, pancetta, prosciutto or bacon)

1 Tbs olive oil (if using pancetta or prosciutto)

3 eggs

½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish

Fresh ground pepper, to taste

  • Cut cured pork into small cubes or slice into thin strips.
  • In a small bowl, whisk eggs, cheese and pepper together. Set aside.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add spaghetti and cook until tender, yet firm. About 8-10 minutes.
  • While pasta cooks, sauté cured pork in a 12” deep skillet over medium heat. If cooking prosciutto or pancetta, add olive oil to pan first and then put in pork. If using guanciale or bacon, add it directly to pan. Sauté until crispy, about 3 minutes. Drain all but 2-3 Tbs of oil/fat, leaving the cured pork in the pan.
  • Once pasta is cooked, strain it, reserving ½ cup pasta water. Add pasta to pan with  cooked pork. Toss to coat with the rendered fat and remove the pan from heat.
  • Add egg mixture to the pan of pasta and pork. Toss while egg and pasta mixture thickens. The hot pasta will heat the egg, but will not cook it completely. If this is a concern, set the pan back on low heat for a moment. You may add pasta water if the dish is too thick or appears dry.
  • Serve immediately with extra parmesan on top.

My Kitchen Wisdom

Q: I wonder if you can provide some insight on substitutions. Y’know Sunday at 8 pm when Broulims and Barrels are closed and there’s no chance of getting out of the soft pants for a trip to VVM for that one missing ingredient. What if I don’t have lemon juice? Out of canned tomatoes? No potatoes left? Milk just went bad? What the heck is fromage frais anyway? What do you do when you want to avoid a dinner disaster?
Thanks, Erica

A: Ah the one missing ingredient! I hear you on this one. Back in the day, when I lived in the Driggs train depot and worked at the Royal Wolf, I was known to sneak over there on Sunday nights in my pj’s begging the cook to sell me a spare lemon. Now that I live in Tetonia, as soon as I am home it might as well be 8pm on Sunday. There is no way that I am heading back into Driggs to pick up any ingredients.

The questions here really have one of two answers. On the one hand, you may be able to substitute another ingredient to save the dish. On the other, you may need to go back to the drawing board and make something completely different. If that is the case you better have spare ingredients on hand. Here I will talk about the art of substitution in basic cooking. Because of the complexity of the topic (and the limited space), I will not cover substitution in baking. Next article I will cover how best to stock your pantry so that you have the emergency substitution ingredients as well as extra food to come up with a dish “on the fly.”

Substitutions were one of the things that most frightened me as a novice cook. I was the kind of person who looked at a recipe, bought the exact ingredients listed and followed directions to a T. If Broulims didn’t carry something (such as fromage frais, a soft white cheese similar to cream cheese with less fat and lower cholesterol), I moved onto another dish. After 6 years of practice and a handy internet connection in my kitchen, I am a bit more confident about making changes to a written recipe. Does it always turn out delicious? Of course not. There will always be “dinner disasters” but for every botched dish, there are several more that range from edible to downright gourmet.

When you discover that you have all the ingredients except for one or two in a dish, you have to think about what are the “qualities” of the ingredient. Is the ingredient meant to be used as a main protein or a side starch? Think outside the box and experiment. Chicken, beef and pork are often interchangeable. Try serving a dish with risotto instead of mashed potatoes. Use what ingredients you do have on hand or omit the missing ones all together. Short on veggies? Think about what family the vegetable is in and try the recipe with another veg from that group. Parsnips are easily swapped with carrots. Leeks or shallots can often be substituted with onions, just make sure you use less.  Brussel sprouts are kind of like mini cabbages. Spinach, chard and kale are all green and leafy…you get the point. Use something similar.

Subbing out herbs and spices often seems a bit more daunting. With a little research and a sense of adventure it truly is not. Different cuisines have different flavors. Italian seasonings often consist of basil, oregano, marjoram, rosemary and thyme. Thai cuisine includes chili pepper, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg and cumin. Indian spice blends usually have curry, cumin, tumeric, coriander, ginger, cardamom, and cinnamon. If you are out of one spice families, make the dish go in a completely different direction and switch cuisines.

In addition to herbs and spices, there are also those ingredients that impart complexity and amplify the flavors of a dish. These are the seasonings. Salt and various acids fit into this category. If you are out of them, you can still make your dish. Problem is it may come out flat. Salt is difficult to swap out but not impossible. Most of the substitutes out there will impart other flavors as well. If you are cooking Asian food you are in luck. Soy sauce, tamari, miso paste or sea weed are all viable options. You can also try anchovy paste or fish sauce. If it is some sort of acid that you are out of, it is likely that you will have another option on hand. Lemon juice, lime juice and various vinegars can often be exchanged. Have you ever tried guacamole with lemon juice? It is delightful.

Liquids in a dish are also quite easy to mess with. Most stocks are interchangeable. Sure, French Onion soup is not the same without beef stock, but there are plenty of recipes out there that call for chicken stock. Not being a household of milk drinkers, spoiled milk is something of which I am quite aware. (If your milk does sour, don’t toss it. Check the internet for paneer cheese recipes or use it for pancakes or biscuits). If you have half and half or heavy whipping cream around for coffee, thin them out with water in place of milk.

In the end, all it comes down to is a little creativity and a bit of chutzpah. Of course it doesn’t hurt if you have a box of mac and cheese on hand if a dinner disaster does occur.

No-Lime Guacamole

3 large ripe avocados

½ lemon, juiced

1 jalapeno, seeded and diced or ¼-½ tsp cayenne powder

½ tsp sea or kosher salt

½ tsp ground cumin

½ cup diced red onion

1 clove garlic, minced

1 Tbs chopped cilantro plus extra for garnish

1 small tomato, seeded and diced

Cut avocados in half, remove pit and scoop into a bowl. Add lemon juice, jalapeno or cayenne, salt and cumin. Mash ingredients with potato masher or two forks until you reach the desired consistency. Fold in onion, garlic, cilantro and tomato. Taste and add extra salt or lemon juice if needed. Garnish with cilantro leaves.

Substitution Resources

The Food Substitutions Bible by Davd Joachim

I got this book for Christmas and have found it particularly helpful when i find I am out of chili powder or don’t want to buy creme frais

Ingredient Substitutions

I stumbled onto this simple website when researching this article. Great stuff here

Spoiled Milk Recipes

After doing a little more research, it seems that milk that has started to go bad is ok for boiling or baking. Point is you want to heat it up enough to get rid of the bad stuff. If your milk is pasteurized then the longer it sits around, it begins to “rot.” If you have raw milk, it is actually “spoiling” and you can use it longer. Long story short…store bought milk can be used when it starts to go bad, but not long after that…raw milk can spoil even longer and still be ok for baking and boiling.

Paneer Cheese

Many recipes from cooks.com for spoiled milk. Mostly baking recipes

 

Q: I wonder if you can provide some insight on substitutions. Y’know Sunday at 8 pm when Broulims and Barrels are closed and there’s no chance of getting out of the soft pants for a trip to VVM for that one missing ingredient. What if I don’t have lemon juice? Out of canned tomatoes? No potatoes left? Milk just went bad? What the heck is fromage frais anyway? What do you do when you want to avoid a dinner disaster?
Thanks, Erica

 

A: Ah the one missing ingredient! I hear you on this one. Back in the day, when I lived in the Driggs train depot and worked at the Royal Wolf, I was known to sneak over there on Sunday nights in my pj’s begging the cook to sell me a spare lemon. Now that I live in Tetonia, as soon as I am home it might as well be 8pm on Sunday. There is no way that I am heading back into Driggs to pick up any ingredients.

 

The questions here really have one of two answers. On the one hand, you may be able to substitute another ingredient to save the dish. On the other, you may need to go back to the drawing board and make something completely different. If that is the case you better have spare ingredients on hand. Here I will talk about the art of substitution in basic cooking. Because of the complexity of the topic (and the limited space), I will not cover substitution in baking. Next article I will cover how best to stock your pantry so that you have the emergency substitution ingredients as well as extra food to come up with a dish “on the fly.”

 

Substitutions were one of the things that most frightened me as a novice cook. I was the kind of person who looked at a recipe, bought the exact ingredients listed and followed directions to a T. If Broulims didn’t carry something (such as fromage frais, a soft white cheese similar to cream cheese with less fat and lower cholesterol), I moved onto another dish. After 6 years of practice and a handy internet connection in my kitchen, I am a bit more confident about making changes to a written recipe. Does it always turn out delicious? Of course not. There will always be “dinner disasters” but for every botched dish, there are several more that range from edible to downright gourmet.

 

When you discover that you have all the ingredients except for one or two in a dish, you have to think about what are the “qualities” of the ingredient. Is the ingredient meant to be used as a main protein or a side starch? Think outside the box and experiment. Chicken, beef and pork are often interchangeable. Try serving a dish with risotto instead of mashed potatoes. Use what ingredients you do have on hand or omit the missing ones all together. Short on veggies? Think about what family the vegetable is in and try the recipe with another veg from that group. Parsnips are easily swapped with carrots. Leeks or shallots can often be substituted with onions, just make sure you use less.  Brussel sprouts are kind of like mini cabbages. Spinach, chard and kale are all green and leafy…you get the point. Use something similar.

 

Subbing out herbs and spices often seems a bit more daunting. With a little research and a sense of adventure it truly is not. Different cuisines have different flavors. Italian seasonings often consist of basil, oregano, marjoram, rosemary and thyme. Thai cuisine includes chili pepper, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg and cumin. Indian spice blends usually have curry, cumin, tumeric, coriander, ginger, cardamom, and cinnamon. If you are out of one spice families, make the dish go in a completely different direction and switch cuisines.

 

In addition to herbs and spices, there are also those ingredients that impart complexity and amplify the flavors of a dish. These are the seasonings. Salt and various acids fit into this category. If you are out of them, you can still make your dish. Problem is it may come out flat. Salt is difficult to swap out but not impossible. Most of the substitutes out there will impart other flavors as well. If you are cooking Asian food you are in luck. Soy sauce, tamari, miso paste or sea weed are all viable options. You can also try anchovy paste or fish sauce. If it is some sort of acid that you are out of, it is likely that you will have another option on hand. Lemon juice, lime juice and various vinegars can often be exchanged. Have you ever tried guacamole with lemon juice? It is delightful.

 

Liquids in a dish are also quite easy to mess with. Most stocks are interchangeable. Sure, French Onion soup is not the same without beef stock, but there are plenty of recipes out there that call for chicken stock. Not being a household of milk drinkers, spoiled milk is something of which I am quite aware. (If your milk does sour, don’t toss it. Check the internet for paneer cheese recipes or use it for pancakes or biscuits). If you have half and half or heavy whipping cream around for coffee, thin them out with water in place of milk.

 

In the end, all it comes down to is a little creativity and a bit of chutzpah. Of course it doesn’t hurt if you have a box of mac and cheese on hand if a dinner disaster does occur.

 

No-Lime Guacamole

3 large ripe avocados

½ lemon, juiced

1 jalapeno, seeded and diced or ¼-½ tsp cayenne powder

½ tsp sea or kosher salt

½ tsp ground cumin

½ cup diced red onion

1 clove garlic, minced

1 Tbs chopped cilantro plus extra for garnish

1 small tomato, seeded and diced

 

Cut avocados in half, remove pit and scoop into a bowl. Add lemon juice, jalapeno or cayenne, salt and cumin. Mash ingredients with potato masher or two forks until you reach the desired consistency. Fold in onion, garlic, cilantro and tomato. Taste and add extra salt or lemon juice if needed. Garnish with cilantro leaves.

 

Check out my website thesinglechef.wordpress.com for a list of great food substitution books and websites as well as recipes for spoiled milk. Please continue to send your questions to mykitchenwisdom@yahoo.com

 

Hey folks, I am not sure how many of you are still out there keeping up with the blog, but I am alive and well. Problem is with the wedding, remodel and job craziness, I just do not have the space or time to test recipes. I did however decide to get back to writing for the Valley Citizen, one of my local papers. The new column is called “My Kitchen Wisdom” and is intended to be a place where people can ask food related questions. For the time being I will be posting these articles here along with links to recipes that are related to my article topics. At some point in the future, once the kitchen is done and I am no longer working seven jobs, I hope to create a new blog under a new name. This new blog will not be single minded (no pun intended), but will cover a variety of food related topics. These will include but not be limited to:

  • The Single Chef
  • My Kitchen Wisdom questions and answers
  • Table for Two  (now that I am married I should probably utilize my two person recipes in a public forum)
  • Random Food Experiments (this winter I am experimenting with peppers…don’t know crap about them, so this is the winter to find out)
  • Food Essays
  • Consumer Science Blind Taste Tests (I have been dying to see if people can tell the difference between store bought generic eggs, “free range” store eggs, “organic” store eggs and the eggs that my back yard chickens are laying.

So, stay tuned and you should see a few more postings in the not so distant future. If you have questions or ideas, please send them my way. Post here or send to my email mykitchenwisdom@yahoo.com

Whether single or married, we can all use a little Kitchen Wisdom.

I have been touched each time I have been asked on the street, “Is the Single Chef coming back?” It is nice to know that people were reading my column. The truth of the matter is that eight months of remodeling sandwiched around getting married have kept me out of the kitchen. Thankfully, kitchen completion is getting closer and closer each day. I was able to reheat some boxed soup on my new range. It almost brought a tear to my eye. I long to get back to my pots, pans and kitchen gadgets, not to mention having access to my fully stocked spice drawer. But alas, it will be at least another month until we have cabinet boxes, then there are counter tops and, oh yeah, doors and drawer fronts. The joys and frustrations of being married to a woodworker…we get custom cabinets, they just take a while.

In the meantime, I have been longing to get back to food writing. The question was, without a fully working kitchen, how do I test recipes? Then an idea was suggested to me by my friend Katie. She had purchased a jar of spaghetti sauce and said that it tasted like ketchup. “Mel, help me. How can I fix this?” My mother was a proponent of purchasing Prego spaghetti sauce, spicing it up, simmering it for a couple of hours and it tasted homemade. “Add some red wine, a little oregano and basil then cook it down,” I responded. “But I don’t have any wine in the house right now,” Katie replied. Now I had to think a little more technically. The sauce probably tasted like ketchup because it had too much sugar. When you have too much sugar in a dish, you can balance it out with an acid. My next suggestion was to add a little vinegar of some sort, red wine or balsamic. When I spoke to her a few days later she said that the suggestion saved the spaghetti dinner and thanked me for being available to answer her question. I shared with her that prior to losing both my parents, they were the ones that everyone called to ask culinary questions. With both of them gone, I had to step up my food knowledge. In fact, over the past year I have been getting phone calls from my brother and various other relatives seeking culinary counsel. This is when Katie suggested I write a food advice column for the paper.

And so, I present you with my new column, “My Kitchen Wisdom.” As long as folks send me questions, I am happy to respond in this forum. Inquiries can be about a specific cooking dilemma, a suggestion for an ingredient substitute, tricks for storing food or you can just ask one of those questions that has been nagging you for years. “Do I really need to spend $30 on a tiny bottle of extra virgin olive oil,” just because the recipe calls for “good quality oil?”  You want to know something food related…ask me. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll try contacting my parents on the Ouija Board….or perhaps I’ll call Eleanor, my recipe editor. Either way, I’ll do my best to figure out your quandary and pass along my kitchen wisdom.
To answer the olive oil question, unless you are trying to win over the discerning palettes of the judges on TV’s Top Chef, forget the expensive olive oil.  Most restaurants buy gallon sized cans of extra virgin olive oil from their food service provider for less than $30. My advice on this is to not buy the cheapest stuff out there, but just pick something with a decent color that you can afford.

Until next time, happy cooking. I look forward to your questions. Email me at mykitchenwisdom@yahoo.com

It's so cute, it reminds me of Stoffer's French Bread Pizza, only better.

Jeff and I are currently staying in a house without an oven. Well, there is a wood burning stove that has an attached oven, but the only thing I have tried to cook in it was chocolate chip cookies and they were terribly burnt. The house does have a toaster oven that is big enough to cook a frozen pizza though. So Jeff and I, well mainly Jeff on the nights I have been working, enjoy making frozen pizzas for dinner. Tonight Jeff was off to ping pong at the Wildwood Room, also known as T.I.T.T.S (Teton International Table Tennis Society). I needed something to eat, but knew that I could not eat an entire frozen pizza…so I pulled the frozen cheese Freschetta Brick Oven pie out of the freezer and cut off 1/3rd. I topped it with artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes and when it was finished I topped it with fresh basil. Why had I not thought of this before?

Is it wrong to lust after an appliance? I think not…or at least I hope not because I am both in lust and in love with my new range. After years of dreaming and months of waiting, the Bertazzoni was delivered and hooked up this afternoon. The house remodel still seems in its adolescent stage but in order to feel like we were close to moving in, I had them finally bring the blue beast over the mountain pass. The two guys from JH Appliance spent a few hours messing with it and finally got him set up. We played with the burners and as I said, I am in love. Unfortunately, Jeff was a bit jealous and wrapped him up in plastic wrap like Laura Palmer in the opening episode of Twin Peaks. OK it wasn’t jealousy, but fear that saw dust from the saws and sanders that are going non-stop in an effort to get all the trim up and in would cause the stove to get jammed up. Alas, until the trim is finished Bert will have to live like the deceased Laura, in a shroud of plastic…

So I realize that the kitchen pics did not post, but I don’t have the time to go through and find the backlog of photos….but I will post some, now that the drywall is almost finished in the next few weeks. In the meantime I have had the opportunity to cook TWO count them two whole meals in the last few weeks. It is a bit easier to cook when you get back into a house with pots and pans. No we are still not in our house, but we are back into a rental with kitchen equipment. The first meal cookied was scallops marinated in a bit of grapefruit juice, tamari, sugar and olive oil and then seared, served on top of sauteed bok choy and mashed potatos. It was beautifully plated, but I was so rusty that it missed the boat a bit.  The second meal, tonight, was hit the mark…ravioli revisited.

My brother is visiting and our garden is going off, so i decided to stop giving it all to the chickens and throw some into a meal. After bringing crab legs that were not so fresh back to the grocery store, I decided that I needed to introduce my bro to the beauty of won ton ravioli. If you missed that post you can find it here.  He has a 2 1/2 year old daughter, la mia pazza raggaza (my crazy girlfriend), who would have so much fun making these ravioli with him. So I went to the garden, cut up some arugula and swiss chard and dug up some shallots, hit the local wine shop, Alpine Wines which has a fabulous selection of cheese and got inspired.

My brother and I made three different ravioli. I caramelized the shallots and added them to won ton wrappers with

  • mushroom, prosciutto and parmigiana reggiano
  • chevre and arugula
  • swiss chard and manchego

Chris filled the ravioli, I quickly boiled them and when Jeff got back from working in his shop I sauteed them in a bit of butter…no sauce. They didn’t even need it.

The Swiss Chard and Manchego took the cake. So I say, go out there and get back to playing with your food.  Thanks Mike for being a great inspiration and thanks Chris for getting me off my booty to cook. I don’t realized how much I miss it until I get back to doing it.

Again a long absence…yes I realize that I have lost any loyal followers I had but there are valid reasons. First of all, I have been just a bit lacking in the kitchen department. My kitchen which once looked like this

now looks like this

Well actually, it looks more like this right now…and yes all three of these pictures are taken looking at the same place. The final one though was taken from inside the “bathroom.”

So Jeff and I have been house hopping which does not make for easy cooking. The other reason for my lack of writing has to do with the writing on the last picture…”Put the seat down Jeff” was one of the many lovely entries written inside our remodel from our wedding. (We used the house as our guestbook). Yes The Single Chef is officially married and therefore not really single, but then again I have been writing this blog for a year and a half and have been with Jeff the whole time, so was I really single then?

Fear not though. The Single Chef will return…it just may take another couple of months. We ordered my brand new Bertazzoni 6 burner gas range, which due to the country of Italy shutting down for the month of August, will be arriving at the end of September…and you can bet that as soon as I get my hands on that stove and unpack my kitchen I will be raring to go. In the meantime, try out some new ravioli fillings, heat up the grill and make yourself a decadent steak or treat yourself to a nice night out on the town. It’s summer…take some time off.

pleasures of cooking for one

Sometimes working in a public place is a blessing. I get to run into folks who I haven’t seen in a long time. When I need a hook-up on a location to get married, five people with amazing properties walk through the door in one day. The belt buckle my mother gave me that has been broken for years gets fixed by a metal-working customer. I love the people I encounter at Pendl’s.

Sometimes though, working in a public place can be a curse…especially when the editors of the newspaper work next door. In the past week, both Hope and Jeannette waltzed into the bakery to get a java fix and hounded me, “When’s the next Single Chef?” To be honest, I had lost track of weeks. I was in fact due for a new article. The problem, I am doing my annual spring cleanse. Jeannette suggested I write about cleansing. I assured her that no one wanted to hear about my diet of rice, vegetables and fruit. Instead I had the genius idea to write a book review.

When I first started writing articles for the Valley Citizen newspaper, it was because I wanted to write a cookbook on how to cook for one. The books I had seen out there seemed outdated. None of them were “sexy.” And let me tell you, I love a good looking cookbook. Color photos… interesting sidebars…a good cookbook to me is like good literature. Then, one day as I checked my yahoo email account, an advertisement on the side of the screen caused me to curse. “Coming September 22, 2009, The Pleasures of Cooking for One, by Judith Jones.” (Knopf, $27.95) I had been beaten to the punch by one of the most powerful editors in the cookbook industry.

For those of you who saw the movie, Julie and Julia or were lucky enough to read Julia Child’s memoir My Life in France, the name Judith Jones will ring a bell. She was the woman who forced her editor at Knopf publishing house to pay attention to Mastering the Art of French Cooking, volume 1. In turn, we can say that she was the one who first brought Julia Child to American households. If you want to go even further, she helped bring gourmet food into average American kitchens.

When Judith Jones’ husband passed away, she thought that cooking was something that might be lost to her. She discovered that she was wrong and learned that cooking each day was a way of honoring herself. Jones and I share many of the same beliefs about solo cooking. You can be as creative as you like, and only have yourself to please. Splurging every now and again on a nice piece of meat of fish is possible because it sure is cheaper than going out to dinner. There is a pleasure in creating a fabulous dish and getting to enjoy it.

The Pleasures of Cooking for One is a gorgeous cookbook with 33 color and black and white photos and chapters on soup; eggs and cheese; vegetables and sauces; rice, pasta, grains and legumes; and breads, sweets and preserves. Jones’ recipes are simple to understand and many of them have small ingredient lists. She believes that a cook must be flexible in the kitchen and her recipes reflect this. With variations for seasonal cooking or personal preference, Jones demonstrates her philosophy that one must only please themselves in the kitchen.

One way in which Jones and I differ is her belief in the use of second and third helpings (i.e. leftovers). While I find that I have a tendency to go with my tastes each day, and thus end up at the grocery store daily, Jones enjoys planning out her week’s meals in advance. She will buy a pork tenderloin which becomes pork scaloppini first, then gets added to a stir fry and later into a hash. I, on the other hand, would go to the butcher and buy a boneless pork tenderloin chop so that I have enough for only one meal. These philosophies for planning and shopping are a personal preference. Neither is better than the other. Ok, Jones probably doesn’t have the nightly debate in her head of what in the world am I going to cook tonight, but what can I say? I have never been one for weekly planners. (God help me when I have a couple of kids).

Aside from our philosophical differences in shopping, Jones and I diverge in one more area…our audience. While I tend to lean towards recipes with a broad range of appeal and the possibility that a person is just learning to cook, Jones aims her recipes at folks who already enjoy preparing gourmet meals. The recipes also tend towards those with a certain palette. This book would have been perfect for my father and mother. They taught themselves to cook through Julia Child’s recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking and The Way To Cook. My mom made Beef Bourguignon at least once a winter and my father relished whipping up Béarnaise Sauce to drizzle over steamed asparagus. Jones includes the aforementioned recipes as well as those for kidney pie, calf’s liver and cassoulet, but I must point out she also includes recipes for skirt steak, grits and popovers.

For those of you out there who have been cooking for years and either have been forced to cook for one because of death, divorce or an empty nest, this book may be perfect for you. For the rest of us, hope is not lost. There are several fabulous simple recipes as well as a great section on stocking a pantry and essential equipment. And hey, if my parents learned to cook through Mastering the Art of French Cooking who’s to say you can’t learn to cook gourmet meals through The Pleasures of Cooking for One? So go ahead and flip through a copy of this book. If nothing else it will give you ideas of the many possibilities that are out there when cooking for one.

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