For the Love of Lunching Alone

Inspired by leftovers: pinto bean, queso & cornmeal cakes with spicy yogurt. #glutenfree #vegetarian

Most of the time, when it comes to lunch, I’m cooking for myself. Preparing meals for a party of one has some challenges, of course, but it also comes with certain pleasures. It doesn’t need to be a perfectly balanced meal. I don’t have to avoid ingredients the others dislike. There are no worries over failed experiments. If something doesn’t turn out the way I’d imagined I can always just eat popcorn instead. (Popcorn, popped on the stovetop and then tossed with olive oil, nutritional yeast, salt, and ground chiles is one of my favorite solo lunches. I eat it at least once a week.)

Lunch is also a time when I make an effort to use leftover odds and ends before they end up in the garbage. Often, I have that wonderful feeling of having “saved” ingredients from a bad fate. That’s definitely what happened in the bean cakes pictured above. I had a two-cup container of leftover cooked pintos that was staring me down each time I opened the fridge.

These cakes were incredibly simple: I mashed the beans with a fork and stirred in an egg, some grated onion, salt, and enough cornmeal to hold them together. I heated up about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a cast iron pan and let them sizzle a few minutes of each side. While the cooked, I whisked together some Greek yogurt with a minced chipotle and garlic clove. The whole thing took under 10 minutes and was very satisfying, even if in retrospect I wonder if some baking powder might have been a wise addition to the bean mixture. A hand full of fresh cilantro would have been nice, too. But in the kitchen as in life, I strive to never make the perfect the enemy of the good.

Another recent midday winner was a simple kale taco. I quickly sautéed onions and some of bagged frozen kale (one of my new favorite freezer staples). Meanwhile I made a paste with raw cashews, onion, salt, jalapeños, garlic and water.  It was just the right ingredient to hold the kale and onions together while providing a taco-friendly richness that I think even kale hates would like. I promise to make them again, take good notes, and share the recipe with you here.

Tell me in the comments: What do you make for your meals when you are cooking just for you?

One Response to For the Love of Lunching Alone

  1. alice October 11, 2013 at 9:31 pm #

    Lately, because we are getting to the end of tomato season and I don’t want to let go yet, I’ve been eating tomatoes for lunch. I have a couple left from the yard and am still getting a few with my CSA share on Wednesdays. I take one big, or a couple of smaller tomatoes, slice them, and then sprinkle them with some finely crumbled feta and a bit of freshly ground pepper, and a then drizzle with a little high-quality balsamic vinaigrette — and that’s it! Yum! Put a bit of bread or a simple green salad on the side and that’s lunch!

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