Food is so hot right now.
Unless you live under a rock, you know that cooking competitions and food-related shows have taken over every network and cable channel; celebrity chefs are hotter than boy bands in the nineties. We spend an embarrassing amount of time ogling all manner of delicious things on Pinterest and foodgawker and posting snapshots of the various things we eat on Instagram. On top of that, everyone and their mom seems to have some sort of food blog (mine is the best: domesticate-me.com). In short, we effing love food. If I had a dollar for every time I heard a millennial say, “I’m kind of a foodie,” I’d be able to buy a new pair of Louboutins. Well, maybe half a pair, but you get the point.
Ironically, despite millenials’ obsession with food, very few of us are actually cooking it. Unlike our parents, who grew up on old-school home cooking, this generation of pretty young things was raised on take-out and quick-fix meals. We don’t have binders full of family recipes, and most of us can barely scramble eggs, let alone roast a chicken.
When asked why they don’t cook more, millennials often respond that it’s too difficult, stressful, or expensive. They just don’t have enough time and their kitchen is too small. Trust me, I get it. Before I went to cooking school, I was scared to make anything more complicated than a grilled cheese, and I was using my oven as storage space for my sweaters.
The truth is, cooking is actually not nearly as daunting as it seems, and you should start doing it. Like, today. I’m not asking you to whip up a three-course dinner for eight. (At least not this week.) Obviously, I don’t expect you to go from kitchen virgin to top chef right away. You’ll get there, but you have to walk before you can run or whatever. Let’s start with cooking for one.
Yeah yeah, I know that sometimes you eat dinner at work or go out with friends, but I guarantee that if you’re a twenty-something, you spend at least one night a week having dinner at home. Alone. This dinner is usually take-out or a weird combination of random crap you have lying around your apartment. Last week a friend texted me a picture of her “dinner.” It was Melba toast, Nutella, a bowl of cereal, and a Corona.
While this text made me a little sad, it’s not the first time I’ve seen this type of meal. When left to his own devices, my roommate eats string cheese and tortilla chips or throws whatever is in the fridge in a pan with a disgusting amount of hot sauce. Classy. I’m not saying that I’m making five star meals for myself every night that I’m home alone. In fact, last Monday I had a bag of candy corn and a Gatorade for dinner. I’m not proud of it, but it was a game-time decision and these things happen. My point is: We can do better.
I can hear your excuses already. Why would you cook when you can eat Chinese food in your sweatpants? Because cooking for one is fabulous, and it’s excellent practice for eventually cooking for two. (Plus, Chinese food makes you bloated and sweatpants are not acceptable dinner attire.) If you pick a simple recipe that has only a few individually sold ingredients, cooking is actually much cheaper than takeout. Also, you can make yourself something delicious in less than the amount of time that you would have wasted waiting for your food to be delivered. Fact.
Take the time this week to whip up a fresh, healthy, and delicious dinner for yourself. Try something simple like this pan-fried sole with sautéed zucchini and cherry tomatoes: It costs less than 8 dollars, it’s idiot-proof, and it will be ready in less than 20 minutes. Dim the lights, pour yourself a glass of wine, and enjoy the pleasure of your own company.
Pan-fried Sole with Sautéed Zucchini with Cherry Tomatoes: (Serves 1)
1 sole filet
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
Juice of ½ a lemon
1 small zucchini
1 small yellow onion
1 large handful cherry tomatoes (about ten)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 pinch red chili flakes
Salt and fresh ground pepper
Preparing your sole:
1. Pat the filet dry with a paper towel and season both sides with salt and fresh ground pepper.
2. Heat the olive oil in a pan. When it is very hot, add the sole. After about 2 minutes gently flip the filet over. Allow it to cook about another 2 minutes then squeeze the lemon juice over the filet. Cook 1 more minute and remove from the pan. Voila! Perfectly cooked fancy fish for one!
Don’t like fish? Fine, be that way. Ask your butcher for a single steak (or any cut of beef) or a pork chop. Pan-fry it. Boom. Non-fishy dinner for one.
Preparing your vegetables:
1. Cut the zucchini in half length-wise and slice into ½ inch pieces. Thinly slice the onion, and mince the garlic.
2. Heat olive oil in a pan over medium-low heat and add the garlic. Sauté one minute until fragrant. Add the zucchini, onions, and chili flakes and sauté until tender about 8 minutes.
3. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and add them to the zucchini and onions. Sauté another 2-3 minutes until the tomatoes soften. Then crush them gently with a fork to release the juices. Salt to taste, and serve. Simple, fresh, and delicious!