Not sure you know your way around the kitchen? Follow these tips from chef and author Marc Matsumoto, contributor to PBS’ Fresh Tastes recipe blog, and you’ll be eating like a pro.
“I think there’s two ways to think about cooking for one,” Marc says. “One is making a large portion of something, and preserving it or repurposing it. Or you make something that you can portion for a single person.”
If making a large portion of something sounds better to you, dishes like roast chicken are the way to get five or six meals out of one effort.
Pasta is another great meal for one because it’s fast, easy and offers many options for building unique flavors using things in your pantry.
Marc’s formula for foolproof pasta is simple: “You have the pasta, whatever kind you want. And some kind of oil, whether its olive oil or butter or schmaltz—like chicken fat. Then some kind of aromatic, like garlic or scallions. Add a protein; you could use something like canned tuna on the simple side, or shrimp or chicken on the fancier end.” Finish the dish with cheese of some kind. As an example, he cites cacio e pepe, or “cheese and pepper” pasta.
Cacio e pepe
½ lb. pasta
1 T. crushed black pepper
Kosher salt: 1 T. for the water, 1 tsp. for the sauce
1 C. Parmesan cheese
2 T. cream
1 T. unsalted butter
Bring a pot of salted water to boil over high heat. Cook until done to your liking. Save one cup of the cooking water, but drain the rest when the pasta is done. Return the noodles to the pot and add ½ C. cheese, cream, pepper and 1 tsp. salt to the pot. If it seems too thick, add a little water to make it creamier. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on the plated meal, or incorporate into the pasta before serving.
This will make four smaller portions of the dish. Pair with a protein, like chicken, and some vegetables for a filling, balanced meal.
No matter how many people you cook for, nutrition is key. Make sure to incorporate servings of grains, proteins, fruits and vegetables into each meal.
“As a general rule, you should eat the rainbow,” says Marc. “Different colors have different nutrients, and if you eat all the colors in the rainbow, you’ll cover your bases. Greens have vitamin A, yellow and orange foods have beta-carotene; red things, like tomatoes, contain lycopene. There’s not too many blue foods, but things like blueberries or blackberries have benefits.”
Marc cautions that people on special diets should adhere to their health needs; but otherwise, eating a variety of colors will boost food’s nutrition and appeal.
If you’re hesitant to buy vegetables because you can’t eat them all before they spoil, become friends with your freezer.
Tips for freezing
Whether you’re cooking one big meal and stretching it to make several others, or cooking a batch of veggies, Marc recommends going from the “least sauced to the most sauced,” or the most natural form of something to a dish with more sauces, ingredients or sides.
If you are freezing leftovers, this method of preparation can help the food freeze faster and thaw better; and it will allow you to get creative as you repurpose the dish, which is what time in the kitchen is all about.
“As we age, we sort of find ourselves falling into routines, so whatever you can do to introduce something new breathes new life into your day. It makes it new, it makes it fresh,” says Marc. “I think the kitchen is a great outlet for creativity.”
By Marcella Prokop
Good Samaritan Society