Cooking for Two, the second time around

I was checking out Google’s new, expanded newspaper archives this weekend, because Toby’s been feeling under the weather and I’ve renewed my pledge to attempt to cook more. First of all, let me say that I’ve believed this site will revolutionize Clipped & Diced since the moment I heard about it on Lifehacker.

First of all, as a big visual person, I was floored to see the timeline breakdown of when articles were published. Here’s what I saw when I searched for recipes.

One of the first pieces I found was an LA Times article discussing the increase in recipes designed for two diners. Toby and I receive subscriptions to several magazines targeted for two-person households, and we have a few cookbooks along those same lines. The interesting part of the article to me was the fact that it was printed in 1986. It could have very well been written today.

Look at the increase in articles that match the term “Cooking for Two” over time.

Twenty years after the L.A. Times article was written, the Pillsbury Bake-Off caught onto the trend and added a Cooking for Two category, as I discovered from The (Doylestown, PA) Intelligencer. However, it appears as though by 2008, the category was eliminated. Never fear, I contacted the folks at Pillsbury as to the history of this category, and perhaps they will get back in touch with me.

I needed more facts and figures. So I went to the US Census Web site and trolled through a few reports.

The image is tiny (I took a screen capture from the PDF I opened at school), but you can see two-person households increased from 25.2 million in 1980 to 34.4 million in 2000. That’s a lot more potential subscribers to Cooking for 2 magazine.

The previous image may have seemed dramatic, but this graph indicates that the average household size actually only decreased from 2.75 people to 2.59 people between 1980 and 2000. According to the Cansus Bureau, “The steepest decline in average household size occurred in the 1970s, a period coinciding with the baby-bust period, relatively low levels of immigration, and increasing proportions of people living alone.” Additionally, the relatively small chance between 1990 and 2000 may be because of “higher immigration levels and the tendency for immigrants to live in larger households.”

Have I mentioned the Census Bureau is a delightful source of random interesting information?

For our attempt at a two-person meal, Toby and I settled on a 2004 recipe from our very own Seattle Times.

Red Curry Chicken Saute with Coconut and Lime

– 1 baby bok choy
– 2 green onions
– ¾ teaspoon cornstarch
– ½ cup light coconut milk
– 1/3 cup reduced-sodium and fat chicken broth
– 1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce
– 2 boneless and skinless chicken breast halves
– 3 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided
– ½ to ¾ teaspoon red curry paste
– 1 tablespoon lime juice
– Hot, cooked rice

1. Separate the bok choy leaves, then cut both stems and leaves on the diagonal into ¼-inch-thick slices. Discard all but 2 inches of the onion greens. Slice thinly on the diagonal and set aside.

2. Put the cornstarch into a measuring cup and whisk in a couple tablespoons of coconut milk. When smooth, whisk in the remaining milk. Combine broth and fish sauce. Slice each chicken breast in half crosswise, then lengthwise into thin strips.

3. In a heavy skillet, heat 1 teaspoon oil over medium heat. When hot, put the bok choy stems into the pan and stir-fry 2 minutes. Add the leaves and cook another minute. Remove from the pan.

4. Pour the remaining 2 teaspoons oil into the pan. When hot, add chicken and cook, stirring, about 3 minutes, or until just cooked through. Remove from pan. Put the curry paste into the pan, mashing briefly with the back of a spoon. Add green onions, saving a few for garnish, and stir briefly. Remove pan from heat and slowly add coconut milk, stirring until well-blended with the curry. Put back on heat and stir in broth. Simmer a couple minutes, until thickened. Pour juices that have accumulated around chicken into the pan and simmer 30 seconds. Stir in lime juice, chicken and bok choy. Simmer a few minutes to blend, then spoon over rice. Sprinkle reserved green onions on top.

Notes

  • I was able to do this! Me! So it’s really not that difficult.
  • Toby thinks you should add more curry if you attempt this. Not a lot, but some.

The funny part about this was that we actually had a hard time finding just two chicken breasts, so we increased the recipe by half to add another breast in. Cooking for two fans claim that too many leftovers just won’t do, but I’m floored by the fact that both Toby and I will have lunch ready to go tomorrow!

This begs the question, if you live in a one- or two- person household, do you cook for two? Or do you reap the benefits of leftovers? And how much is too much when it comes to leftovers?

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Published in: on October 26, 2008 at 7:22 pm  Comments (3)  
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Are you cooking this stuff?

Who cooks this stuff?

How many people actually settle down at home with their copy of the Sunday Times and say, “Ah, yes, this will be a fine supper?”

Apparently the recipe we’re attempting tonight was originally intended for college students. It was printed on Oct. 27, 2004 in the L.A. Times. After you see the steps involved, I wonder if you will emerge as skeptical of its intended chefs as I did.

Now, it’s entirely possible that as an undergraduate who stayed on campus all four years, my college cooking skills were irreversibly stunted and I am operating on that bias. However, I wish more than anything that I could see the photo of the two USC students that originally accompanied this story.

Christy Hedges describes her son and his roommates this way in her article, “Grill your way through college”:

Oh, brave young homesteader. You are not a newlywed, and no one has yet showered you with Cuisinarts, cookbooks or china. You can make a sandwich or a salad, but that’s about it.

That’s the situation my son recently found himself in. He’s a sophomore at USC, living in an apartment off-campus with two roommates. They love to eat, and have palates more worldly than mine was when I was in college.

“Get a grill pan,” I told him. “It’s like grilling outside; you even get nice grill marks.”

He and his roommates loved the idea. But they needed recipes. And they needed me to walk them through it all.

Who are these young men who have set aside an evening to infuse a cheap cut of steak “with the flavors of chile, sesame oil, garlic, ginger and citrus”? I have put in a request with the Times Company to see the pictures of these diligent young men, because the pictures aren’t included on ProQuest and we don’t have the L.A. Times microfiche on file at the Seattle Public Library. I’ll update you as I learn more.

Photo Request
My photo request, which will hopefully allow me to eventually show, “The writer’s son, Duncan Hedges, left, and his roommate Kevin Kawachi prepar[ing] marinated flank steak salad. The easy-to-make dish also includes grilled asparagus.” As well as “Hedges grill[ing] the steak after it is infused with the flavors of chile, sesame oil, garlic, ginger and citrus.”

I don’t just have trouble picturing people tackling complex recipes when I’m envisioning 20-somethings. After all, one of my big projects for my Christmas visit home is to go through all the recipes Mom cut out and filed away in big manila envelopes. She’s found a few gems throughout the years, but I would have expected a bit more from a stack that reaches close to two feet high.

In her fantastic article on the history of food reporting, Molly O’Neill refers to menus we lust after, yet never reproduce, as food porn — “prose and recipes so removed from real life that they cannot be used except as vicarious experience.”

Food writers have always walked the dangerous lines between journalism, art, and their role as handmaiden to advertising. But we have not wobbled quite so regularly in nearly a half century as we do today. Food has carried us into the vortex of cool. There, the urge to become part of the story is stronger than the duty to detach and observe and report the story.

O’Neill also wants to know, “Who’s cooking this stuff?”

At a book signing, O’Neill’s mom finally tackles the tenderly roasted and stuffed elephant in the room:

“Do you actually cook that stuff?” [she asks.]

“Of course not,” replied the customer, who looked like my mother, tall, lean, with a white cap of stylishly coiffed hair. “Every week I cut them out of the magazine and promise myself I will cook them. Don’t we all?”

Toby and I decided to join the brave few who actually tested our clippings. We printed up the “simple” recipe (the ingredients list barely fit on a typed page) and gave ourselves the one hour(!!!) prep time suggested.

Care to try? Here’s how you, too, can make a marinated flank steak salad.

Christy Hedges. Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, Calif.: Oct 27, 2004. pg. F.3

Marinated flank steak salad
Total time: 1 hour, plus 1 hour marinating time
Servings: 4

1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger (we used chopped ginger in a bottle)
1 serrano or jalapeno chile, seeded, cored and minced (we went for the serrano)
1 3/4 pounds flank steak (we had closer to 1 2/5 pounds)

1. Mix the sesame oil, soy sauce, lime juice, orange juice, lime zest, orange zest, garlic, ginger and minced chile to make a marinade. Put the flank steak in a large resealable plastic bag and pour the marinade over the top. Close the bag and refrigerate for about 1 hour.

Dressing
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
Juice of one-half Valencia orange
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce

1. Mix together the sesame oil, peanut oil, rice vinegar, lime juice, orange juice, ginger, garlic, honey and soy sauce in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate. Makes two-thirds cup.

Steak and assembly (what does this mean, anyway?)
1 bunch thin asparagus
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Marinated flank steak
2 (5-ounce) bags arugula
1 pint red cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 small red onion, peeled and sliced very thin

1. Wash and trim the asparagus. Brush with the peanut oil and season with salt and pepper. Heat a seasoned grill pan over medium- high heat. Grill the asparagus, rolling them to cook all sides until they are just tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.

2. Remove the steak from the marinade and grill for approximately 6 minutes on each side until medium rare. Let rest for about 5 minutes and slice very thinly on the bias against the grain.

3. Put the arugula, tomatoes and onions in a large bowl. Add the asparagus. Pour dressing over the salad and gently mix to coat. Arrange the steak slices on top.

Click this link for a printable PDF of the ingredients and recipe: Marinated Flank Steak Salad

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Published in: on December 2, 2007 at 5:07 pm  Comments (2)  
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