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Food is Life
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jducoeur
It had to happen sooner or later -- after being snowed in for two days, I finally cooked dinner for myself.

Yes, I could have taken something out of the freezer. There's lots, thank you -- at this point, I'm not fishing for more contributions. The chicken soup brought over by goldsquare was just the thing last night. But the simple fact is, I'm a cook. Cooking is self-expression for me, and one of the more fun activities I know. So I decided to just deal.

Of course, my approach to cooking tends to be a bit intuitive, and somewhat random. Tonight's dinner went kind of like this:
"What am I going to make? I'm stuck at home, and kind of ingredient-shy. No milk, which does let out some options. Oh, look: the second half of yesterday's bread dough is trying to eat the fridge. Okay, pizza it is.

All right, I need a Protein Unit. I don't think I have any shrimp, though, and I *always* use shrimp. Ah -- here's a hamburger, frozen sometime in the dark ages. Boring, but it's a start. And hiding behind it is a hot sausage! Now we're getting somewhere.

What's in the pantry? Here's a can of diced tomato -- that goes with sausage. A can of black olives, a can of button mushrooms, sure. And a tin of anchovies! (When did I buy a tin of anchovies?) I seem to have an Italian thing going on here.

Fry up the sausage nice and crisp. Now I've got sausage grease, so I may as well fry the hamburger up in it. Just keep frying that, and frying some more, and a little more yet, until I have almost as much fond as meat. Toss it together with the tomatoes and the olives -- that's looking nice. Add some oregano, and basil, and some garlic powder: now I'm getting my Italian on. Let's mince a few anchovies into it... no, those anchovies stopped being food sometime before we moved into this house. I didn't *really* want anchovies anyway. Let's add a little pesto concentrate instead, and focus on basilizing the flavor. Do I actually want these mushrooms? These bland, boring, canned mushrooms? Nah, they're an insult to the other ingredients, and I have enough volume -- put them back.

Roll out the dough. Wait -- there's always a sauce. What am I going to do for a sauce? Pesto will overwhelm it, and these spaghetti sauces are all boring. Screw it: I'll just brush the dough with a little basil and garlic oil, and spread everything on. Annnnd -- I don't have any mozzarella. I'm congenitally incapable of making pizza without cheese! Hmm. Well, I've got some of this Rondele cracker spread -- that's kind of like goat cheese in texture, and I know that works on pizza, and the flavor profile is right, so let's just dollop a little on top here and there.

Wait for the oven to reheat. (Foot tapping.) Oh, look: I've got the dregs of a jar of sun-dried tomatoes! I *have* to toss those bits on top. Might as well drizzle a little of the oil they were packed in, to spread the flavor around. Into the oven we go!"
And bake, and eat, and the results officially Don't Suck. A little odd, but my pizzas are always a little odd, and the flavors blended nicely and the crust came out just right.

Cooking for myself is -- well, kind of alien, and certainly a little hard on my psyche. And I ate far too much: it was a smallish pizza, but I still ate the whole damned thing. But cooking for myself is better than not cooking at all. Eventually I'll figure out how to scale it down, and to invite people over. That's kind of scary: Jane's always been a forgiving audience for my crazy experiments, willing to put up with the 25% that come out kind of mediocre, and the 10% that are critical failures. But I need to cook, so I'll learn to do so in this environment...
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My train-of-cooking is often rather similar to what you've described here. :)

*giggle* I like to cook like that too!

Be forgiving of yourself when you sometimes over-portion. It will happen now and again when food is a function of memory and the absence of a chief sharer of it is felt.

Been there. Still doing it, but learning as I go along, as we all do.

I'm sharing a bit of your cooking-for-one dilemma at the moment. It is hard to make the right proportions. Unfortunately, I am an indifferent cook, and the studio has no oven. Until I figure out where the local supermarket is, I am stuck with mostly pre-packaged selections from the corner grocery (which seems to have less variety than the average American gas station does these days) or eating out.

On the up-side, there isn't high-fructose corn syrup in anything here. Even the sodas are made with Real Sugar. However, finding anything without said sugar is still a challenge.

On the subject of lack of an oven: when you're only cooking for one (or if you cook in batches, as I do at work, an entire class of second and third graders), the toaster oven can to some degree substitute. I've done shortbread cookies and whole loves of bread in it at home, and things like pumpkin muffins and banana bread at school. The trick seems to be doing things in small sizes, so if you want to bake something, cut it up first.

Not a bad idea, but I'm here for only a couple more weeks. It isn't worth buying one at the moment. I'll give it some thought for the next trip, though.

Yes, this looks just like my cooking too. Brian also is very patient with the not-so-successful experiments. The kids are less so, but then they can live on peanut butter and pasta if they want to whine about it.

That's what I think real cooking is; all I can do, in contrast, is follow directions. Also, sounds like this was yummy.

Yum! I *love* sun-dried tomatoes. Also, I don't think I've ever had shrimp on pizza. Perhaps you'll enlighten me some day.

My approach to cooking for one has been to make fewer different things, i.e. instead of making a veggie, a salad, a starch and a protein, I make a salad and a protein, or a starch and a protein, or whatever. I've also accumulated a fair amount of tupperware (though there are, of course, some things taht just don't reheat wel).

I sort of happened on the shrimp thing by accident. Thing is, I pretty much never make pizza that I could just as easily by from my local shop: it feels like a waste of time. So the pizzas I *do* make are always a little different, and the two that I am fondest of are Pesto Pizza and Thai Peanut Pizza. In both cases, the sauce is the star of the show, so I want a relatively mild-flavored Protein Unit. Hence, shrimp tends to be my default choice.

(It's an exaggeration to say I always use it. I do sausage occasionally, and my Peking Duck Pizza proved good enough that I need to do it again one of these days. But shrimp is still the thing I reach for first.)

And yeah, I am going to need to learn to just deal with leftovers. (I have vast amounts of Tupperware and equivalent.) The problem is, I had *just* managed to rebuild all of my cooking habits so that I was cooking the right amount for two, to avoid overeating, so I'm out of the habit of thinking in those terms...

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