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Stir-fried shrimps and asparagus.

Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail

Not all of us have families to cook for during this time. Many people are on their own, some are part of a couple or have a roommate. Recipes often call for larger numbers and although there will be leftovers to play with, not everyone is excited by a fridge full of covered dishes.

The following recipes are easy to accomplish, not too many ingredients and intended to serve one or two people. They are easily doubled or even tripled if there are more people at your table.


Skip to a recipe:

Little Gem strawberry salad | Middle Eastern salad | Herb roasted chicken thighs with zucchini and red onions | Grain pilaf | Lamb chops with spiced mint pesto | Yogurt-scented green beans | Stir-fried shrimps and greens | Spicy soba noodles with greens | Iced blueberries with white hot chocolate sauce | Instant mocha mousse

Little Gem strawberry salad

Serves 1 or 2

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Local strawberries are luscious right now, and perfect for this simple salad. If Little Gems are unavailable, use the inner leaves of a romaine lettuce.

  • 2 heads Little Gem lettuce, torn into pieces
  • 1/2 cup strawberries, sliced in half if small, cut in chunks if large
  • ¼ cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon slivered basil
  • Freshly ground pepper

Vinaigrette

  • 1 teaspoon chopped shallots
  • 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar or lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons fruity olive oil
  • Salt

Toss the gem lettuce on a plate. Sprinkle with the strawberries. Scatter over ricotta and basil. Grind some black pepper over.

Whisk together shallots, balsamic and olive oil. Drizzle over salad

Middle Eastern salad

Serves 1

For this dish, make sure all the vegetables are cut in a similar size. It is colourful, crunchy and delicious. I find about ½ cup of each ingredient is enough for one person. Double or triple it for more people. If you have one ingredient and not another, just leave out. Add feta if you like it.

  • 1/2 cup chopped English cucumber, diced
  • 1 small ripe tomato, diced
  • 2 radishes, diced
  • ¼ cup chopped yellow pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped mint
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley or cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Combine vegetables in a flat bowl. Scatter with herbs. Sprinkle with lemon juice and oil. Season with salt and pepper

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Herb roasted chicken thighs with zucchini and red onions

Serves 2

This recipe can be made to suit what you have available. All the vegetables can be replaced by others. If you don’t have a small oven-proof frying pan, then use a baking dish. Serve with rice or a grain pilaf.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 or 4 chicken thighs on the bone, skin on
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 small green or yellow zucchini, cut in 1-inch slices
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and quartered
  • ¼ cauliflower head, cut into medium size florets
  • 4 sage leaves, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoon chopped herbs such as tarragon, basil rosemary chopped together

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Heat oil in a small cast iron or heavy pan over medium high heat. Season thighs with salt and pepper. Brown thighs skin side down for 2 to 3 minutes or until skin is golden. Flip over and brown second side.

Remove chicken and add vegetables. Toss together in pan until just beginning to sizzle. Add sage. Place chicken on top. Scatter everything with the chopped herbs reserving a little for garnish. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until thighs and vegetables are cooked. Serve chicken and vegetables with any pan juices.

Grain pilaf

Serves 2

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Lentils from Le Puy are nutty tasting and firmer than regular brown lentils. They are available at gourmet food shops. Although excellent in this dish, they are harder to come by. If not available then use regular brown lentils, which will cook for 10 minutes instead of 20.

  • 1/4 cup lentils du Puy or black lentils
  • 1/4 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup bulgur
  • 3 cups water
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Combine lentils and water to cover. Bring to boil on high heat, reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Add bulgur and quinoa, cover, and simmer 15 minutes longer or until grains are cooked, adding extra water if needed. When cooked, drain any extra water. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley

To reheat when needed: Sauté in 1 tablespoon olive oil until hot then add, if you like, about 3 cups baby spinach stirring until wilted.

A note about grains:

  • Quinoa: Although treated like a grain, technically quinoa is a member of the spinach family. It is high in protein and iron and is an essential part of a good vegetarian diet. It has a slightly sweet, earthy taste and is excellent mixed with other grains. Always rinse before using.
  • Bulgur: The Turkish name for cracked wheat berries, bulgur’s nutty flavour and ease of use – it can just be soaked in hot water before using – make it a handy staple to have on hand. It is excellent in salads such as tabbouleh or mixed with other grains.
  • Lentils: These come in different colours. Red lentils are split and have no outer husk. They cook to a porridge-like consistency. Green or brown lentils retain their outer husk and hold their shape in cooking. They are good in salads. Lentils from Le Puy in France are small dark green lentils that have more flavour and texture than the other types. They also take a little longer to cook. We grow them here in Canada and often supply France. Canadian brands are marketed as caviar or black lentils.

Lamb chops with spiced mint pesto

Serves 2

An unusual method to cook lamb chops, this leaves them tender, juicy and not dried out as some methods do. Serve with yogurt-scented green beans (recipe below).

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  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, chopped
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 2 green onions
  • ¾ cup mint leaves
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 4 loin lamb chops, 1-inch thick

Combine pine nuts, garlic, red pepper flakes, green onions, mint leaves, and olive oil in a bowl. With a hand blender or in a food processor, process until still a little chunky. Add lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Brush some pesto on each lamb chop and place in oven-proof baking dish. Marinate for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 500 F. Place lamb chops in oven and bake for 3 minutes. Turn off oven and leave chops to cook for 20 more minutes.

Place lamb chops on serving plate and serve with remaining mint pesto.

Yogurt-scented green beans

Serves 2

This cold yogurt topping is a lovely, creamy contrast to hot beans. Make sure the beans still have some snap after the initial blanching otherwise they become too soft at the second cooking. The same method can be used with eggplant or greens.

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  • 4 ounces green beans
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ½ cup thinly sliced onion
  • Pinch cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons low-fat yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley or cilantro

Bring large pot of water to boil. Add beans and boil for 2 minutes. They should be very crisp. Refresh under cold water until cold.

Heat butter in skillet on medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until just tinged with gold, about 5 minutes. Stir in cinnamon and cumin. Add green beans plus 1 tablespoon water. Season well, reduce heat to low and cook for 5 to 10 minutes or until green beans are tender. Sprinkle with cilantro and cook 1 minute. Remove to serving dish.

Combine garlic and yogurt. Top green beans, with yogurt mixture and sprinkle with parsley before serving.

Stir-fried shrimps and greens

Serves 2

I used broccolini, but you can substitute with spinach, asparagus, green beans or sugar snaps. The method is the same. Salting the shrimp ahead of time makes them plumper.

  • 8 ounces shrimp, shelled
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, grated
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon sambal oelek or other hot sauce
  • 1 bunch broccolini, cut in 2-inch lengths
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • ¼ cup chicken stock
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil

Place shrimp in a bowl and toss with salt. Leave to sit for 15 minutes then wipe dry.

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Heat oil in wok or skillet on high heat. Add ginger, garlic, and sambal oelek. Stir-fry 30 seconds add broccolini and stir fry 1 minute.

Add shrimp and cook until pink, about 2 to 3 minutes. Combine soy sauce, oyster sauce, stock and sesame oil and add to pan. Bring to boil, and serve immediately.

Spicy soba noodles with greens

Serves 2 as a main course, 4 as an appetizer

A palate-pleasing, easy to prepare vegan noodle dish. If bok choy is unavailable use baby spinach. If you buy wasabi powder, mix it in equal quantities with water to make the paste. Although the taste of soba (buckwheat) noodles stands up well to the forceful dressing, replace with rice noodles, if desired. If you have no sake use white grape juice, or sherry

Spicy wasabi dressing

  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons wasabi paste
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons sake
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

Noodles

  • 8 ounces soba noodles
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons ginger root, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups baby or other bok choy, finely sliced
  • ½ red pepper, diced
  • 2 ounces snow peas, strings removed
  • ½ bunch watercress, stalks removed
  • 4 green onions, slivered
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Garnish

  • 2 tablespoons black or white sesame seeds, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons pickled ginger, slivered

Whisk together dressing ingredients until smooth. Reserve.

Cook noodles in large pot of boiling water until al dente about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain. Toss with 2 tablespoons spicy wasabi dressing. Reserve.

Heat vegetable oil in skillet on high heat. Add garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes. Stir-fry for 1 minute. Stir in red pepper and snow peas and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add bok choy and sauté for 1 minute or until just wilted. Add green onions. Stir in remaining dressing. Bring to boil and add reserved noodles.

Toss everything together and cook stirring occasionally until noodles are hot. Adjust seasoning adding more soy or salt and pepper if needed. Garnish with sesame seeds and pickled ginger. Serve warm or room temperature.

Iced blueberries with white hot chocolate sauce

Serves 2

The easiest dessert with outstanding flavour. The burst of the frozen berries contrasting with the hot chocolate sauce is a wonderful taste and texture treat.

  • 1 cup fresh blueberry
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 2 ounces white chocolate, chopped

Toss berries with lemon zest. Place in metal cake pan. Freeze berries for 1 to 2 hours or until icy. Remove from freezer and place in two wine glasses.

Bring cream to boil, remove from heat, and stir in chocolate until melted. Immediately pour over berries. Garnish with lemon balm or mint.

Instant mocha mousse

Serves 2

An instant mousse that keeps for up to three days in the refrigerator. For a stronger coffee taste, use espresso.

  • 3 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/4 cup strong coffee
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons icing sugar

Melt chocolate with coffee in heavy pot over low heat. Stir until smooth. Remove from heat and pour into a cold metal bowl for faster cooling.

Whip cream and icing sugar together until cream is thick and light. Fold into chocolate mixture. Pile in glass serving dishes and refrigerate until thickened.

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