While reading Serve Yourself: Nightly Adventures in Cooking for One, the line "Feed your head!" (from the Jefferson Airplane song "Go Ask Alice") kept running through my mind. Maybe it's because in his new cookbook, Washington Post Food and Travel Editor Joe Yonan brings home the point that preparing delicious food is a gift, whether it's for one or for 20. Feeding yourself well, and spending time experimenting with food, is not only good for your taste buds and your health, it pumps up your well-being.
That Joe Yonan has a way with solo adventures in the kitchen has long been evident in his "Cooking for One" column in the Post. And with the more than 100 recipes gathered in Serve Yourself, his talent for creating recipes that range from the rib-sticking (Yucatan-style Slow-Roasted Pork) to the delicate (Turbot with Tomatoes, Walnuts, and Capers Over Couscous) is clear.
There are singles classics -- you know, those dishes you can throw together on the fly but that are still fantastic -- such as tacos and sandwiches. But what tacos, what sandwiches: Korean short-rib tacos, a smoked-trout, green apple, and gouda sandwich. And there's a whole section on pizzas, starting with a no-knead pizza dough and featuring great combinations such as kimchi, ham, and fried egg ("the runny yolk richness," Yonan says, "pulls everything together").
More complex dishes, such as seasonal paellas and vegetable-rich risottos are also built for one here. Not only can you cook an exquisite dish for yourself, but you don't have to get the calculator out to divide the recipe for 6 or face a raft of leftovers. As someone who likes to cook a new dish for myself before making it for guests, I've found Serve Yourself to be a great tool for experimentation, and Yonan's essays and headnotes a bit like having a pal in the kitchen who has my back.
With more than 31 million single people in the U.S., says Yonan, it's surprising that there aren't more cookbooks made just for them. At the end of the day, some of us have to do it for ourselves, and damn it, we've earned a great meal. "Not to break into 'The Greatest Love of All' about it...," Yonan says, "but, to me, cooking is the ultimate act of self-appreciation."