Cooking for One: A Culinary Survival Guide to the Covid-19 Crisis – Part 3

Cooking Adventures (blog)

family of three at a montreal lookout point

My roommate (Marianne) and I are good friends, we have a beautiful apartment, and Montreal isn’t under quarantine (yet) so we can still go out for walks. But we spend the majority of the day doing our own thing, and I’m struggling with feelings of loneliness and isolation. I’m so grateful for the meals and activities that Marianne and I do together, but I’m aware that a lot of people are solo (literally) in their social distancing and they have to feed themselves thrice a day.

Many years ago I read a collection of short stories on what meals people turn to when they cook for one. We’re so used to being busy busy busy that feeding oneself tends towards batch cooking, making a few things that will last all week. I wanted to take this opportunity to instead focus on a few ingredients that can be prepared in different (easy) ways, allowing solo dwellers to make a single or double portion of a dish- a creative way around eating the same thing for a week straight. If you prefer to make a large quantity of these suggestipies, just scale up. Regardless, enjoy the physicality of cooking – a comforting, grounding, all-encompassing act in a time where it’s incredibly hard to stay focused.

1. Eggplant
2. Soba noodles
3. Chickpeas

Eggplant – potentially my favorite fruitgetable, will drink up copious amounts of liquid, so you may want to brown it in oil and then add water/canned tomatoes/vegetable broth to cook it all the way through without having to add more oil.

Asian style
– sauté in a little oil until lightly browned, add a splash of water to cook through, then a little more oil along with lots of chopped garlic, ginger, and scallions. Finish with a splash of soya sauce and rice wine vinegar. If it’s lacking a little something, add a smidge of sugar or maple syrup. This is great with rice noodles, rice, or egg noodles (and crispy tofu).

Tomato sauce
– pasta with eggplant and tomato sauce is one of my comfort meals. Follow this recipe for tomato sauce (or start with a jar of store-bought sauce), adding in a chopped eggplant to the onion at the start of the cooking process. That recipe will make enough sauce for a 500g bag of pasta – around 4 meals, so half it in order to make enough for sauce for half a bag of pasta – two days/meals. I love it with rigatoni but you can also eat this (delicious) sauce with polenta, bread, or on its own.

Stuffed and roast – I tend to find that half an eggplant (depending on what you serve it with) is a meal.
– Take the eggplant and cut in half lengthways – then use a knife + spoon to remove most of the flesh. Drizzle skin with oil and sprinkle with salt before roasting skin side up (cut side down) at 375F for around 30 minutes.
– Start the stuffing by sautéing chopped onion and eggplant flesh in a little olive oil, then adding chopped garlic followed by: fresh or canned tomato, other veggies, cooked rice/barley/lentils (anything like this that’s already in your fridge, optional seasonings like pesto/sun dried tomatoes/olives/capers…
– Place the filling into the softened skin, and bake once more for 10-20 minutes. You can top this with cheese if you’d like.

Soba Noodles – this may be a bad time to tell you that the best price will be found at an Asian market ($8ish for 1.36kg). These Japanese noodles are made from a mix of white and buckwheat flour, they cook in around 3 minutes, and they are delicious. They come bundled in 80g packs, which is great if you’re not super hungry, or if you’re combining them with veggies and protein. You can also cook up three little packs for two good sized meals. I like to stir them pretty constantly while they cook in order to prevent clumping, and then rinse them after draining in order to get off the starchy cooking water (which prevents the sauce from gooping onto the noodles). These are phenomenal (with crispy tofu):

– In miso soup. Their distinct flavor is so good with miso and ginger. I have a full guide on miso soup, and you should read it. It’s an easy, delicious, and versatile meal.

– In a cold noodle salad. While the noodles are cooking, combine fresh crunchy vegetables (cucumber, red pepper, and snow peas are my fav) with a light dressing of sesame oil, soya sauce/tamari, sugar, rice wine vinegar and a scallion… add in the cooked noodles. Ideally let this sit for 10 minutes so that the flavours can marinate. Serve topped with toasted white sesame seeds and cilantro if you fancy.

– With peanut butter sauce

– Peanut butter thinned out with water, seasoned with salt, sugar, hot sauce, scallions, and rice wine vinegar

– With tahini (mint) sauce and ribboned carrots

– Tahini thinned out with water, seasoned with salt, honey, chopped fresh mint, harissa/hot sauce, grated garlic, and lemon juice.

Chickpeas – can you believe it took me until the third installment to list chickpeas? Me neither. I much prefer jarred chickpeas over canned. At my local grocery store, a can of chickpeas is $0.99, a jar is $1.39 and wow is that extra 40 cents well spent. Jarred chickpeas have a creamier texture, very similar to ones that you cook yourself.

– Sauté garlic in a generous amount of olive oil over medium-low, and once they’re lightly browned, add in your chickpeas along with some salt and pepper (don’t forget a squeeze of lemon juice later on).

– Use this as a sauce for pasta (it’s great with the addition of zucchini and fresh tomato)
– Add a little cumin and paprika and mash slightly. Eat on toasted bread – bruschetta style.
– Mix in some frozen spinach (my favorite freezer staple), add a pinch of cumin and a drizzle of tahini. Eat with couscous.
– Put into a baked sweet potato – top with toasted almonds.
– This would be a great addition to an eggplant stuffing.
– Add in sliced red pepper and cook until tender. Put this between a tortilla, smushing down the mixture to help the tortillas stick together. Pan fry on both sides until golden brown. Cut into wedges and eat with avocado and cilantro if you have/hot sauce/salsa.
– Add in some Indian spices, (I would do black mustard seed, cumin seed, chili flakes, and ground coriander) a boiled potato (you can steam this in your microwave), and raw cauliflower. Once the cauliflower is cooked this is ready (don’t forget the lemon juice). Delicious as is – or with cilantro/rice/greens).

Here’s what I’ve cooked since the last blog post:
– Crepes with chocolate and banana
– Sourdough bread
– Avocado toast (with the sourdough – amazing)
– Stuffed shells (on my Insta – via live steam!)
Banana bread
– Eggplant chickpea curry (with rice and cilantro)
– Spinach salad with oranges segments, toasted almonds, and balsamic vinaigrette
– Mushroom onion omelette

Let me know what you thought of this post in the comments down below and if there’s a specific ingredient or topic you’d like me to cover. Don’t forget to like my Facebook page, follow me on Instagram and on this site in order to receive a notification for the by-weekly content I’m posting here during the quarantine here. If you subscribe to my YouTube channel as well, I will love you forever.

Stay safe.

6 thoughts on “Cooking for One: A Culinary Survival Guide to the Covid-19 Crisis – Part 3

  1. These are amazing ideas! Especially about the soba noodles, price, mixing in water and rincing, good to know!! I am so happy to now know that jarred chickpeas and better than the canned ones too, this is really useful. Thank you Reveena!
    Ps: to this: “Enjoy the physicality of cooking – a comforting, grounding, all-encompassing act in a time where it’s incredibly hard to stay focused.”, I say “Solstice”.

    Liked by 1 person

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