Cooking for Couples
COOKING FOR TWO AT HOME. CAN IT BE FAST, FRUGAL AND FUN? YOU BET!
My how quickly things change. Just a few short years ago, restaurants were booming and cooking at home was something one watched on TV, but rarely attempted in real life. Then something shifted. In a big way. Perhaps it was the economy. Or a desire to eat healthier. For whatever reason, people wanted to rediscover the joy of cooking. Most of my friends (and their friends!) are spending more time cooking and dining at home. I know I am. And perhaps you are, too.
Now people are flocking to their local bookstores to stock up on cookbooks. In fact, a leading on-line bookseller lists over 26,000 cookbooks for sale. 26,000!
Unfortunately, most of those cookbooks feature recipes for 4, 6 or 8, so if we are newlyweds or empty nesters, we may find ourselves frustrated because one can’t really take a recipe for 8 and divide the ingredients by 4 and expect it to come out right.
In my role as a nonprofit development director and later as a freelance writer, I traveled around the country meeting and speaking with couples, married and unmarried, young and old. Since we often met over a well-prepared meal, the conversation would invariably turn to cooking. We often talked about our most memorable meals, favorite restaurants, or coveted recipes, and time after time I heard this lament: “I’d love to cook more, but I don’t know how to cook for only two people.”
I heard this from single men and women who knew that eating out on a regular basis was expensive and unhealthy. They wanted to learn to prepare meals that used readily available ingredients and were simple to prepare, but didn’t know where to turn.
I heard this from newlyweds who wanted to cook, but couldn’t because their parents didn’t teach them.
I heard this from empty nesters that were used to cooking for an entire family, but now needed to learn to cook for two.
As someone who can identify with all of these people, once as a single man, then a family man, and now a soon-to-be empty nester, I’m able to share in their frustration.
I began cooking more than 30 years ago when I was doing inner-city youth work. As I came home each day I retired to the kitchen to spend the next hour or so cooking for my family. It was a relaxing time for me. I’d pour a glass of wine, chop some onions, mince some garlic, and somehow, I was transported to another land. Could I have saved time by defrosting a pre-packaged dinner or nuking an all-in-one meal from some food conglomerate in the mid-west?
Did I want to?
It may have taken me an hour or more to prepare a meal from scratch, but this was a labor of love. My children grew up strong and healthy. They developed an appreciation for a variety of cultures; we often discussed the origins of the meals as we prepared them together. Everyday around suppertime our home was filled with inviting and delicious aromas such as sautéed onions and garlic, blackened fish, jasmine rice, or steamed green beans. Would I trade all of that for a few minutes of convenience?
Not on your life.
I think we all yearn for at least one time of the day when we can pour ourselves into a work of love that not only nourishes those that are close to us, but also provides a wonderful opportunity for conversation and interaction. The principles learned from those early days have been with me ever since. Whether cooking for my family, grilling for friends, or catering for a hundred, the love and attention that I put into the meal preparation reminds me that good food and good relationships are gifts that I must cherish.
So here’s to good cooking. And good eating. In the columns that follow, I’ll share some thoughts, tips and recipes that will help us all on our journey to healthy and delicious eating. Even if we’re just cooking for two.
And we’ll start right here with this simple but elegant salmon entrée.
• MAPLE GLAZED SALMON FILLETS •
This is one time when buying real Vermont maple syrup makes all the difference in the world. It’s expensive compared to maple-flavored syrup, but you can use the imitation maple varieties on your pancakes and save the real thing for dishes like this.
PREP: 10 minutes
MARINATE: 30 minutes
COOK: 20 minutes
2 tablespoons real maple syrup
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 (4 – 6 ounce) salmon fillets
1. Preheat oven to 400°.
2. Combine the maple syrup, soy sauce, garlic, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.
3. Place salmon in a small shallow glass baking dish and coat with the maple syrup mixture. Cover and marinate salmon in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, turning once.
4. Place the baking dish in the preheated oven, and bake uncovered 20 minutes, or until fish easily flakes with a fork.
Serve with Sautéed New Potatoes with Rosemary and Brussels Sprouts in Garlic Butter.
Chef Warren Caterson is the award-winning author of “Table for Two – The Cookbook for Couples” an “Table for Two – Back for Seconds.” In addition to writing, Chef Warren travels extensively presenting his informative and entertaining cooking demonstrations at Food & Wine Festivals, Home and Garden Shows, Conventions and other events. Visit him online at www.TableForTwoCookbooks.com.