Dinner for One

Back in October I read a post on Chocolate and Zucchini about solo eating and cooking.  The author was interested in what her readers cooked and ate when they were eating alone.  This week, with our husbands out of town, my sister and I had several conversations about this topic.  Carol was cooking pasta with mushrooms, Parmesan cheese, and “lots of garlic”.  I was testing some recipes and ended up one night with cheese fritters and cherry relish.  We both decided, as did many of Chocolate and Zucchini’s readers, that solo dining is a combination of indulgence, comfort, and convenience.  It’s about preparing something nourishing and satisfying.  It could be anything from a simple egg salad sandwich (one of Carol’s favorites), to a salad, or a bowl of noodles.  Maybe you are craving something from a favorite local take-out spot.  It seems that dining alone, for many cooks, is an opportunity for a change from the usual routine.  When Carol and I were children our Father’s job as a policeman required shift work.  It was when Dad was working the 3:00 to 11:00 PM shift, that Mum sometimes took a break from the meat and potatoes meals that were the norm in our house.  It was on one of those evenings that she took us for pizza when the Gondola restaurant opened in our neighborhood.  I remember how I loved the olives in the salad.   One of my favorite meals that Mother reserved for Carol and I was something she called “tuna and peas”.  Essentially a thick bechamel into which she added canned tuna and peas, it was the way she served it that I loved.  Mum would trim the crust from slices of white bread, butter them, and fit them into muffin cups.  Into the oven they would go to toast to a crunchy golden brown.  The tuna and peas would be spooned into a little toast cup and we each had our own dinner for one.  This weekend I have taken the flavors of “tuna and peas”, added pasta and a brightly seasoned bread crumb topping, and made my version of a modern dinner for one.  Here is what I did:

Pasta with Tuna, Peas, and Gremolata Bread Crumbs
makes 1 generous serving
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs (or regular dry bread crumbs)
1 small clove of garlic, finely minced,
1 heaping tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
grated zest of 1/2 a small lemon
olive oil
3 ounces best quality canned tuna, drained
1/4 cup frozen peas
a heaping tablespoon finely chopped shallot
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup heavy cream
a pinch of red pepper flakes
2 to 3 ounces of linguine (depending on how hungry you are and how “saucy” you like your pasta)

Make the gremolata breadcrumbs:  In a small bowl mix the chopped parsley, grated lemon zest, and minced garlic.  In a small skillet, over medium-high heat, toast the panko crumbs in a teaspoon or so of olive oil until golden brown and crispy.  Allow to cool then toss with the parsley, lemon, and garlic.  Set aside.   In a saucepan large enough to hold the cooked pasta, heat a teaspoon of olive oil.  Saute the chopped shallot to soften, but do not brown.  Add the white wine and let it bubble away to reduce by about half.  Add the cream and the peas, season with a pinch of red pepper, and simmer gently to heat the peas.  Flake the tuna into the sauce and set aside while you cook the pasta.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook until al dente or just tender to bite.   Drain the pasta, add it to the pot with the sauce and gently heat and toss everything together.  Plate the pasta in your favorite pasta bowl and garnish generously with the gremolata crumbs (there will be leftover crumbs; they are great sprinkled over salad or roasted vegetables).  Enjoy with a glass of wine, a favorite book or movie, and the pleasure of your own company.

                

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