Cooking For One: Three Recipes from a Fed-Up Food Professional

By Emma Kobolakis

Cooking for one is a uniquely solitary, self-reflective process. You have no one to impress (or disappoint) but yourself. Whether you wish you were impressing or disappointing someone else is of no consequence here—it’s just you, in the kitchen, probably already too hungry to focus.

While it may not be the same for other food professionals, my answer to the constant question of “Do you cook at home?” is a half-smile and a “Well…” I am no Ina Garten. There is no Jeffrey waiting in the wings. My best meals are borne out of necessity, and a desire to go from starving to satisfied in under ninety seconds. Here are my most valiant attempts.

Summer Salad:
Attack jicama with peeler. Keep peeling. And peeling. Stuff shreds into large plastic bowl.  

Make green paste: Mortar-and-pestle half a roughly chopped jalapeno and smashed garlic clove with a glug of olive oil from a seltzer bottle that serves as an ersatz decanter. Or, chop them more finely and drag your knife blade across until it’s a spicy smear. Sweat. Marvel at the veins on your hands, pulsing from exertion.

Cut an avocado all around to the pit. Rake it out in forkfuls; season jicama and avocado with salt and vinegar. How much? You tell me how much. Use hands, by the way, to season.

Scoop green paste out of the mortar bowl with fingers. Fling into bowl. Stir with hands, making sure to coat and separate jicama shreds.

Shove fingerfuls in mouth. Marvel at fruity garlic, verdant herbiness, starchy sweetness, and creamy saltiness.

Pesto Pasta:
You’ll need a saucepan. Reach into fridge, realize you’ve got browned basil and faded mint. Put water on to boil. Realize also that you have no cheese. Or pine nuts. Or even walnuts. Throw the basil away.

Break spaghetti in half and add to the rapidly bubbling water. Break two eggs into a bowl, after almost dropping one. After whisking, realize you’re using a whisk attachment. Throw the mint away.

Salvage parmesan rind, drop it into the water. Whack a nearly empty bag of frozen peas against the stove to dislodge them. Pour them in a colander. Put the colander in the sink. The heat of the draining pasta will cook them. Sort of. 

Drain the pasta, shake colander vigorously. Return the steaming pasta and pea mixture to saucepan. Pour some scrambled egg with one hand, while agitating pasta with the other. Let the yolk coat the starch.

Eat standing, over the sink.

90-Second Chilaquiles:
Check to see that there are enough tortilla chip scraps in the bag to warrant a full handful. And can you sneak a sprinkling of grated cheddar from your roommate? Excellent.

Crack two eggs into a microwave-safe bowl. Put it in for 30 seconds, checking every ten to fifteen.

Combine chip shards and cheese on top of the eggs. Microwave again, ten seconds, just enough to melt the cheese and set the whites. Garnish with a generous squirt of the communal sriracha you share with your roommates, even if they don’t know it.


Photos: Chia Messina