Kitchen Accomplice

Flying Solo

By John Kirkendall

Forget microwave popcorn and cereal — dinner for one is full of possibilities! Whip up a wholesome meal full of the foods you like with these easy solo-dining recipes. Shrimp with Linguine, Pineapple Pork Chops and Spice rubbed Chicken (complete with plenty of fresh vegetables) are three enticing plates to put on your table when you are dining alone.  I also suggest igniting a candle and turning down the lights.  Why not?  Enjoy the well-deserved solitude and turn up the Beethoven!

Linguine with Shrimp and White Wine

Everyone needs a delicious, 20-minute pasta recipe in their repertoire, and this shrimp version is sure to become a favorite.

Ingredients

Coarse salt and ground pepper

2 ounce(s) (about a 1/2-inch-wide handful) linguine

1 tablespoon cold butter, cut into pieces

1 clove garlic, minced

Crushed red-pepper flakes

1/3 cup dry white wine

1/4 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Fresh parsley leaves, for garnish

Directions

In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook pasta until al dente, following package directions.
Meanwhile, in a small nonstick skillet, melt half the butter over medium. Add garlic and pinch of red-pepper flakes; cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Raise heat to medium-high; add wine. Cook until reduced by 1/3, about 1 minute. Add shrimp and season with salt (I am a fan of Maldon salt flakes) and pepper; cook until opaque throughout, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove skillet from heat; swirl in lemon juice and remaining butter. Add pasta and toss to combine. Serve topped with parsley.  (either curly or Italian works well – the curly has been getting a bad rap lately, I think.)

Pork Chop with Pineapple Salsa

Because this recipe calls for only one cup of pineapple, pick up a container of precut chunks from the produce aisle, or grab an 8-ounce can and drain before using.

Ingredients

1 cup pineapple chunks

1/2 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced

1/2 (to 1) jalapeño chile, ribs and seeds removed, for less heat, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon honey

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Coarse salt

Ground pepper

1 tablespoon vegetable oil, such as safflower

1 (8- to 10-ounce) bone-in pork loin chop

1 teaspoon all-purpose flour

Directions
In a medium bowl, combine pineapple, onion, jalapeño, honey, and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper; set salsa aside.

In a skillet, heat oil over medium. Season pork with salt and pepper; dust with flour. Cook until browned on both sides and opaque throughout, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Serve pork topped with pineapple salsa.
Spice Rubbed Chicken

Ingredients

2 1/2 teaspoon(s) olive oil

1/4 cup pearl couscous

1 clove garlic, minced

Maldon salt and ground pepper

2 cups, about 2 ounces baby spinach

1 tablespoon sliced almonds

1 (6- to 8-ounce) boneless chicken breast half

1 1/2 teaspoon(s) garam masala (at your supermarket or follow the recipe given here)

Directions

In a small saucepan, heat 1/2 teaspoon oil over medium. Add couscous; cook, stirring, until lightly toasted, 1 to 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup water and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil; cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook until liquid is almost absorbed, about 6 minutes. Add spinach, and cook until couscous is tender, 1 minute. Stir in almonds, and set aside.
Sprinkle chicken with garam masala; season with salt and pepper. In a small skillet over medium-low, heat remaining 2 teaspoons oil. Add chicken; cook until opaque throughout, 6 to 8 minutes per side. Slice chicken; serve with couscous.

Garam Masala

This is the most aromatic and fragrant of all Indian spice blends. Used throughout North India in all types of dishes — from appetizers and soups to yogurt salad and main courses — this blend is indispensable to Moghul and North Indian cooking.  While it is widely available, this homemade version is more fragrant and, of course, fresher.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons cumin seeds

2 tablespoons coriander seeds

2 tablespoons cardamom seeds

2 tablespoons black peppercorns

1 (3-inch) stick cinnamon, broken up

1 teaspoon whole cloves

1 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon saffron

Instructions

Put the cumin, coriander, cardamom, peppercorns, cinnamon, and cloves in a dry heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Toast the spices, stirring occasionally, until they turn several shades darker and give off a sweet smoky aroma, about 10 minutes. Do not raise the heat to quicken the process, or the spices will brown prematurely, leaving the insides undercooked. Cool completely.

Working in batches if necessary, transfer the mixture to a spice mill or coffee grinder and grind to a powder. Stir in the nutmeg and saffron. Use immediately or store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Garam Masala keeps for 3 months.

Judge Kirkendall is a retired Probate Judge. He presently serves on the Elder Law Advisory Board of the Stetson University College of Law. He has taught cooking classes for more than 25 years at various cooking schools in the Ann Arbor area and has himself attended classes at Cordon Bleu and La Varenne in Paris, as well as schools in New York, New Orleans and San Francisco. I am (thankfully) past president of the National College of Probate Judges. He can be reached at Judgejnk@yahoo.com

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