Joe Yonan is the food and travel editor of The Washington Post, and his regular column, "Cooking for One," inspired this cookbook. While Joe entertains regularly, it is his solo home cooking that deeply nurtures his love of food. "Cooking is the ultimate act of self appreciation," he writes. What savory advice for all of us, single or not. How many times have we saved our most ambitious recipes for guests—and made do with a can of tuna when we're alone?
The recipes in this book are pared down in size but not in flavor or technique. There's an entire chapter on tacos (Joe is from Texas), beautiful soups and stews, and small-scale desserts, like Coconut French Toast with Bananas Foster. This pizza is one we'd make in a heartbeat; it has spicy homemade hummus and pan-fried chickpeas on top. And, of course, a dough in the now-classic method.
So many cookbooks aimed at singles rely too heavily on lunch-like food (salads! sandwiches!) or else large-scale meals that can be portioned out and eaten for days on end. Joe makes a good point:
Some meals are worth eating more than once, but we solo artists deserve just as varied a diet as anyone. While I love having some leftovers around that can morph into new dishes, I also appreciate the beauty of starting and finishing a single cooking project on a given night. If I want more, it's much easier to double a recipe that's written for one than it is to shrink one for six.
For those of us who cook for two, here are a few recipes we'd happily double: Curried Shrimp on a Sweet Potato, Roasted Chile Relleno with Avocado-Chipotle Sauce, and Wine-Braised Chicken Thighs with Olives, Prunes, and Almonds. Sounds good, right?
• Find the book: Serve Yourself: Nightly Adventures in Cooking for One, by Joe Yonan; $11.93 at Amazon.
Eggplant and Spicy Hummus Flatbread
1/4 cup cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing dough
1 teaspoon fleur de sel or other flaky sea salt
1/4 teaspoon pimenton (smoked Spanish paprika)
1 small (5- to 6-ounce) Italian eggplant, cut into 1/4-inch rounds
1 teaspoon za’atar spice (or substitute mixed Italian herbs)
1 (3-ounce) ball No-Knead Pizza Dough with Spelt (recipe below) or one round of your favorite store-bought pita or other flatbread
1/2 cup Spicy Hummus (below)
1/4 cup Citrus-Pickled Onions (optional; recipe is in the book, but you could use any store-bough pickled onions)
Preheat the broiler with the rack set 4 to 5 inches from the flame or element. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Spread the chickpeas on a paper towel on your countertop and lay another paper towel on top. Pat the chickpeas until very dry. Line a plate with paper towels.
Pour 1/2 cup of the oil into a small skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil starts to shimmer, scatter in the chickpeas, being careful to avoid splatters. Fry the chickpeas until they darken and become crispy, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer them with a slotted spoon to the prepared plate. Immediately sprinkle them with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and all of the pimenton. Strain the oil and save it for another use.
Lay the eggplant slices on the prepared baking sheet, drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil, and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and all of the za’atar spice. Broil until browned and tender, 3 to 4 minutes, rotating the baking sheet if necessary to evenly cook the eggplant. Transfer to a plate to cool.
If you’re making flatbread from the pizza dough, set the ball of dough in the middle of a piece of parchment at least 7 inches square or round. Press or stretch the dough into a 5- to 6-inch round, using a rolling pin if necessary. You want an evenly flat disk, so don’t worry about trying to keep the edge thicker as with pizza.
Set a large cast-iron skillet fitted with a lid over high heat.
Brush oil generously on top of the dough. Lift the parchment paper and dough carefully and flip the dough into the skillet so the oiled side is down. Quickly peel off the parchment from the top of the dough, and then brush the dough with oil, cover, and turn the heat down to medium.
After about 1 minute, remove the lid and use tongs or a large spatula to flip the disk over. It will have puffed up in places, darkened in others. Continue cooking, uncovered, for another minute or two, until the dough is spotted brown, puffy, and cooked through. Transfer to a plate. (If you’re using pita or other store-bought flatbread, brush it with olive oil on both sides and heat it in the skillet, uncovered, for a minute or two on each side. Then transfer to a plate.)
Spread the hummus on one side of the flatbread, then lay the eggplant slices on top. Scatter the fried chickpeas and pickled onions over the eggplant, and fold the flatbread in half around the filling. Cut it into two pieces, and eat.
No-Knead Pizza Dough with Spelt
makes 5 (8-inch) pizza crusts or 10 (5-inch) flatbreads
11/2 cups whole spelt flour
21/2 cups white bread flour, plus more as needed
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon instant dry yeast (also known as rapid-rise or bread machine yeast)
11/2 cups water
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
Combine the flours, salt, and yeast in a large bowl.
Pour the water and oil into another bowl or measuring cup, pour the liquid into the flour mixture, and stir until blended.
Lightly coat a large clean bowl with olive oil and transfer the dough to the oiled bowl. Turn the dough to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for 8 to 12 hours at room temperature (about 70°F).
After 8 hours, the dough should have risen and be bubbly on the surface. The timing is very forgiving here; you can let it continue bubbling and very slowly expanding for several more hours if you like. Transfer the dough to the refrigerator for about an hour before dividing, so it’s easier to work with. Lightly rub your hands and work counter with olive oil. Turn out the dough onto the counter in one piece. Lightly dust it with flour and fold it onto itself a few times, adding more flour if necessary, until the dough comes together and holds its shape when you form it into a ball. Cut into 5 equal pieces (for pizza), about 6 ounces apiece, or 10 equal pieces (for flatbread), about 3 ounces apiece.
Refrigerate or freeze what you’re not going to use right away. Transfer the balls to individual freezer-safe plastic food storage bags, drizzle with olive oil, and turn the dough to coat it in the oil. Refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
Sprinkle the piece(s) you are going to use immediately with flour and transfer to a lightly floured baking sheet. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let rise for about 1 hour.
Proceed with one of the pizza recipes on pages 106 to 118 or the flatbread recipe on page 115.
Note: If you have refrigerated the dough, remove it from the refrigerator and let it rise for about 1 hour. If you have frozen the dough, defrost in the refrigerator for 8 to 12 hours, then transfer it to the counter to rise for an hour. The dough should be pliable and able to be easily stretched into shape.
makes about 2 cups
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon pimenton (smoked Spanish paprika)
2 cups cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained (there is a recipe for homemade ones in the book)
1/2 cup chickpea cooking liquid or water, plus more as needed
2 tablespoons tahini, plus more as needed
Juice of 1 lemon
1 plump clove garlic, peeled
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Pour the oil into a small skillet over medium heat. When the oil starts to shimmer, sprinkle in the red pepper flakes and pimenton. Cook, stirring or shaking the pan frequently, until the spices are very fragrant, about 30 seconds. (Be careful not to let the spices burn.) Turn off the heat and let cool.
In a food processor, combine the chickpeas, cooking liquid, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and salt. Pour in the oil and red pepper flakes from the skillet. Process until smooth. Taste, adjust the salt if necessary, and add more cooking liquid or water if you want the hummus thinner or more tahini if you want it thicker.
Eat immediately, or cover tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
(Reprinted with permission from Serve Yourself: Nightly Adventures in Cooking for One by Joe Yonan ©2011. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.; Food images by Ed Anderson)