Essays

Cooking For One (Zucchini and Chickpeas)

Zucchini and Chickpeas

This is what dinner looks like when I eat on my own.

I am endlessly curious to know what cooks cook when they cook for one: some can’t see the point if there is no audience, others fall back on no-cook comfort foods, some take it as their opportunity to indulge in the foods they love but their family despises, and others yet take pleasure in treating themselves to the precise meal their appetite calls for.

I’m in the latter camp. Breakfast cereal for dinner was never my thing, and my evenings alone revolve around two all-important decisions: what dish I feel like eating, and what movie I feel like watching.

I relish the closed circuit thought process that solo meal planning involves, my brain taking its cue directly from my stomach, with zero consideration for anything or anyone else.

Granted, the cooking I do then is quite simple, taking no more than thirty minutes of my time, cleanup included, but still, it’s thirty minutes that I invest in my evening with joy. And what those meals have in common, 99.9% of the time, is that 1- they are vegetable-focused, and 2- they can be eaten from a bowl, with just a fork or a spoon. An essential feature if I am to couch-curl while I eat.

Continue reading »

Dates, Hazelnuts, and Thoughts on Food Gifts

At a C&Z anniversary party three years ago I met David, a reader from L.A. who was spending a few months in France. We’ve been in touch on and off since then, and when David came back to Paris for a vacation in late spring, he very generously brought me a gift.

What he brought was a bag of honey dates grown in Indio, California by Dates by Davall, and a pound of dry roasted hazelnuts from the Freddy Guys orchard in the Willamette* valley in Oregon. He included a note to explain that he gets the former at his farmers market in Santa Monica, and discovered the latter while in Portland.

This struck me as a textbook example of the perfect gift.

I’ve been savoring those dates and hazelnuts sloooowly, trying to make the supply last as long as possible.

Not only are the dates and hazelnuts spectacularly good — the dates soft and caramelly as toffee, the hazelnuts crisp and light as popcorn, and vividly flavorful — but the combo of the two is the ultimate treat. Throw in a square or two of dark chocolate and angels come out from behind the clouds, playing their tiny trumpets.

Beyond the sheer good taste — literally and figuratively — of the present, I love the elegant simplicity of offering ingredients that reflect the work of fine growers I might never have come across otherwise. I love that they come with a personal story, too, and that I get to imagine David visiting those market stalls, sampling the fruits, going cuckoo for them, and buying extra to give out to friends so they could share in his enthusiasm.

Continue reading »

The Omnivore’s Hundred

The Omnivore’s Hundred is an eclectic and entirely subjective list of 100 items that Andrew Wheeler, co-author of the British food blog Very Good Taste, thinks every omnivore should try at least once in his life.

He offered this list as the starting point for a game, along the following rules:
1. Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2. Bold all the items you’ve eaten (I’ve used icons instead, and added an asterisk for the items I’m particularly fond of).
3. Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4. Optional extra: post a comment on Very Good Taste, linking to your results.

[Update: In response to the numerous questions his list raised, Andrew published an FAQ explaining the how, the why, and the wherefore.]

My list is below; I am missing 37 items, most of which I’d be happy to try if given the opportunity. There are a few that I wouldn’t rush to eat, but none that I couldn’t swallow if someone’s life, honor, and/or feelings were at stake.

And of course, if you don’t have a blog, you can still play along, with a good old pencil and some paper — care to share your results? And/or items you think should be added to, or removed from that list?

Continue reading »

On Hotel Breakfasts, and How Not to Have Them

Mango breakfast parfait

Much has been written about plane food and its associated plights; I don’t think enough ink has been devoted to the matter of hotel breakfasts. And as I get ready to embark on my book tour, the subject is very much on my mind.

Breakfast is, to me, the most intimate meal of the day, the one that you eat barefoot and in your pajamas, the one that eases the transition from your helpless, sleeping self to the person you are in the daytime and to the outside world. What you eat then says a lot about you — I have it on authority that Brillat-Savarin meant to write “You are what you eat for breakfast”* but the maxim had to be edited for space.

If you feel the same way, I’m sure you’ll agree that breakfast poses a serious challenge when you travel for work. Hotel breakfasts, even in nice hotels, make me want to cry — remember, we’re all children at breakfast — as I stand by the buffet, trying to identify the least unappealing items and more importantly, the most nutritious, so I won’t feel faint an hour later.

Continue reading »

Seven Breakfasts

Click here to read today’s entry.

Get the newsletter

Receive a free monthly email with a digest of recent entries, plus exclusive inspiration and special announcements. You can also choose to be notified of every new post.