Romance is in the eye of the beholder. To some, it is an unprompted text with a thoughtful date-night itinerary, the day, time and place selected and the reservation made — your only task is to show up. To others, it is an elaborate meal awaiting you at home, labored over by the one you love, to enjoy with a glass of chilled red wine in the seductive glow of scentless taper candles.
Each appeals, to be sure. But for us single folks with an open calendar on Valentine’s Day — or for those who bask in a rare moment alone to spend as they please — I can think of no greater act of romance than cooking whatever you like for yourself, using a recipe designed to serve only one, with no looming threat of food waste or leftovers.
Cooking for one has its challenges the other 364 days of the (non-leap) year, as so many recipes are developed to serve four to six. Not Anita Lo’s chutney-drizzled cauliflower chaat, though (above). Her cookbook, “Solo,” celebrates the single serving, acknowledging that feeding yourself needn’t be a lonely affair. It should, in fact, be fun!
That, too, was the ethos of Eric Kim’s old column at Food52, Table for One, an ode to solitude’s many charms. He’s maintained that reverence for the solo cook in his work here at The New York Times: See his guidance for single-serving adjustments to his reader-favorite recipe for gochujang buttered noodles, a dish I’d gladly eat on a Hallmark-endorsed holiday or otherwise. He writes:
To make a single serving, follow the recipe using 4 to 5 ounces fresh or instant ramen noodles; 1½ tablespoons unsalted butter (1 tablespoon to fry the garlic and ½ tablespoon for the sauce at the end); 3 garlic cloves; 1 heaping tablespoon gochujang; 1 tablespoon honey; 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or rice vinegar. Decrease the cook times throughout by 1 to 2 minutes.
Couples, I haven’t forgotten you. Alexa Weibel’s quick white bean and celery ragout or Eric’s Parmesan braised beans with olives would look especially nice next to the cloth napkins you break out only for special occasions, alongside two flutes of French 75s.