America’s Test Kitchen couldn’t have picked a better year to publish a book called "Cooking for One."
So many of us are cooking smaller meals because of the coronavirus pandemic, and that’s not an easy adjustment if you’re used to preparing meals for a crowd.
There are all kinds of reasons we end up cooking for only one person, from kids graduating or a loved one dying to moving out of your roommates’ house and into your own place. I’ll never forget those first months after I got a divorce. On the nights my kids were at their dad’s, I would often eat whatever I could easily reheat because my heart just wasn’t in it.
It’s easy to fall into a slump of eating whatever’s in the fridge rather than taking the time to prepare a meal for yourself, and the book has plenty of recipes for both ambitious and less-than-energetic cooks. Many of the recipes have just a handful of ingredients, and the authors are conscious of just how hard it is to split an egg (there are no 1/2 egg recipes in the book) or separate a chunk of frozen ground beef.
They suggest buying frozen shrimp and individually portioned fish so you can thaw only what you need and buying a digital scale so you can separate the amount of protein you need, such as ground beef or chicken, and freeze in those smaller quantities. The book includes guides on how to store everything from cheese and bread to wine in the freezer so you cut back on waste.
I love cookbooks that encourage using what pantry staples, proteins and vegetables you already have on hand, and each recipe offers substitutions so you aren’t left thinking you can’t make a recipe because you don’t have every single ingredient on hand.
This creamy chickpea soup is about as simple as it gets. With a can of chickpeas, garlic, broth, lemon juice and herbs, you can make this as a quick lunch or, with some homemade croutons, a side salad or a spoonful of leftover cooked protein on top, a light dinner.
If you’re a fan of the America’s Test Kitchen brand and its magazines and television show, check out the company’s new(ish) podcast hosted by test kitchen chef and food stylist Elle Simone Scott.
In August, she launched "The Walk In," a show that features in-depth conversations about the realities of "making it" in the food industry. Unlike ATK’s first podcast, "Proof," which dives into the history and science of ingredients, Scott’s show gets to the heart of why people are drawn to the food industry and how they find ways to thrive in it. You can find both podcasts on your podcast player of choice and on americastestkitchen.com.
Five-Ingredient Creamy Chickpea and Roasted Garlic Soup
Through the power of garlic, a can of chickpeas is transformed into a creamy, Mediterranean-inspired soup in 30 minutes flat. To develop deep, nuanced flavor from such simple ingredients, we started by quick-roasting skin-on garlic cloves in a clean, dry saucepan until they turned a beautiful golden color and became intensely fragrant. Roasting the garlic this way yielded mellow, mildly sweet garlic that mimicked the flavor of oven-roasted garlic in a fraction of the time. We peeled the garlic and returned it to the saucepan with some broth and a full can of chickpeas and their liquid (the technique so nice we used it thrice in developing these recipes), and then blended the soup until it was smooth and velvety. A splash of lemon juice and some fresh parsley are more than just finishing elements here — they wake up the flavors by adding bright freshness, and cut through the rich, silky soup. If you don’t have a blender, an immersion blender or a food processor would also work. Garnish with sun-dried tomatoes, olives, roasted red peppers, and/or toasted pine nuts. (Another option? Quick-fried slices of garlic we like to call garlic chips.) To make it heartier, add roasted butternut squash or chopped greens, or go for broke and top with cooked ground beef or lamb.
— America’s Test Kitchen
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas
1 1/4 cups chicken or vegetable broth, plus extra as needed
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley, tarragon or chives
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Toast garlic in medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and skins are just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Remove garlic from saucepan and let cool slightly. Once cool enough to handle, peel garlic then return to now-empty saucepan along with chickpeas and their liquid and broth. Bring to simmer and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until chickpeas begin to break down, 5 to 7 minutes.
Process soup in blender until smooth, about 2 minutes. Return soup to now-empty saucepan and adjust consistency with extra hot broth as needed. Off heat, stir in parsley and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve. (Soup can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.)
— From "Cooking for One: Scaled Recipes, No-Waste Solutions, and Time-Saving Tips" by America's Test Kitchen (America’s Test Kitchen, $29.99)