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Cooking for one? Michelin-star chef shares tips, recipe for ‘Solo’ meals

Anita Lo is a Michelin-star chef and author of "Solo: A Modern Cookbook for a Party of One." (Courtesy Julie Smith)

WASHINGTON — Anita Lo published her second cookbook last fall, and since, she has been stopped in the street and thanked by strangers.

It’s not because she divulges top-notch secrets that deliver dinner in minutes or introduces magical ingredients that morph into a Michelin-star meal.

In “Solo,” Lo teaches readers how to cook for one.

“There is a cultural taboo [associated with] eating by yourself,” said Lo, a Michelin-star chef and former contestant on “Iron Chef America” and “Top Chef Masters.”

“And then there are so many people who say, ‘Why would I go through all of that trouble just for myself?’”

But with perfectly portioned recipes for everything from beef and kimchi noodle soup, to pan-roasted chicken breast with roasted broccoli panzanella, to pork and garlic-chive dumplings, Lo makes the case for breaking out the pots and pans — no leftover-eating required.

Throughout “Solo,” Lo shares tips on how to shop for one — “In most grocery stores, everything is portioned for a family of four,” she said — and how to avoid food waste — “If I’m making you buy a whole chicken, there will be a recipe for each side of the breast and each of the legs, plus something to do with the carcass,” she added.

Here are a few of her top tips when it comes to cooking for one, plus one of her favorite recipes from “Solo”:

Pack the pantry

It doesn’t matter how many people are at the table, having a well-stocked pantry is key when it comes to cooking. Lo said there are a number of dry goods you can keep on hand “that can make your cooking so much more multicultural.”

Some of the staples she favors include rice wine vinegar, fish sauce, anchovies, ground coriander seed and chicken stock. Plus, she recommends buying two olive oils: one to use for cooking and a higher-quality “finishing” oil.

If your grocery store’s inventory is limited, Lo suggests ordering pantry products online.

“It makes things a lot easier to eat more diversely,” she said.

Fresh items to keep on-hand

In addition to pantry items, Lo recommends having a number of fresh ingredients handy, including:

  • Lemons
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Butter
  • Eggs

Appliances

Plenty of gadgets come with timesaving promises for busy cooks, but Lo said most are “one-trick ponies” that take up a lot of space. However, there are a few convenient appliances for solo cooking. First, is the hand blender (often called an immersion blender).

“A big blender isn’t going to do the trick because you have to put too much liquid into it [to work the blades], and then the portion size is too big. With a hand blender, you can actually get the blades going for a portion for one,” Lo said.

She also recommends a weight scale to help portion items that come in bulk, as well as a toaster oven which, compared to a conventional oven, “takes up a lot less space and a lot less energy for one.”

Recipe

Steamed Sea Bass with Shiitake
Courtesy Anita Lo, “Solo: A Modern Cookbook for a Party of One”

Ingredients:

  • 1 5- ounce filet sea bass, skin on, skin lightly scored with a knife to prevent curling
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 dried shiitake mushroom, soaked in warm water, stem removed, cap sliced
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable other non- flavored oil such as canola
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 whole scallion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon julienne ginger
  • Plain steamed rice, for serving

Directions:

Season the sea bass lightly on both sides with salt and pepper. Place in a small, shallow baking dish and add remaining ingredients.

Redistribute solid ingredients so they evenly cover the top and bottom of the fish. Add 1 inch of water to a pot large enough to fit the baking dish inside. Add an elevated grate or a ring of tin foil to raise the baking dish above the water. Bring the water to a boil, then add the baking dish, and cover.

Steam for five minutes or until a paring knife is easily inserted into the thickest part of the filet.

Serve with plain steamed rice.

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