(A disclaimer: my camera is in the shop, after an unfortunate collision with a Berlin sidewalk. So I'm taking pictures with my iPhone. Patience.)
Cooking for one can be, as we all know, a chore. But cooking for one can also be, under different circumstances, a bit of a thrill. No one there to press their culinary preferences on you, no dietary restrictions to observe, no hatred of bacon to dance around. You can let your inner freak flag fly: after all, if no one's there to see that you secretly like pan-fried banana peanut butter sandwiches for dinner or poached eggs with hot sauce over pasta, you can indulge in your strangest cravings with absolute alacrity and that, truly, might be the best part of dining alone.
The LA Times reviewed Deborah Madison's new book this week, about what people eat when they eat alone. It's a subject of much fascination, of course, because we've all been there, standing in the kitchen after work, backs pressed against the counter, drinking a beer and eating slivers of Cheddar and cold cornichons by the handful, or fried rice with bits and bobs from the fridge, or any number of other strange combinations borne out of convenience, speed, and a particular combination of flavors.
(I, for example, like baked beans and broccoli. Triscuits and pickled herring. Sauteed cherry tomatoes and a can of tuna over spaghetti. A big green salad dressed with too much vinegar, enough to make my nose wrinkle.)
I love hearing about what other people eat when they're eating alone. Not just for the voyeuristic angle (though it's sort of like looking like other people's shopping carts when standing in line at the grocery store: fascinating), but because I'm always looking for inspiration, too. And luckily for me, and for you, too, the review included one recipe that I'm filing into my permanent repertoire straight away, so good it was, so perfect in terms of its oddness and timing and - in the end, straightforward deliciousness.
It comes from Aglaia Kremezi, the Greek food writer, and is such a simple thing: potatoes sliced thinly and fried up in a matter of minutes in hot oil, then forked through a tangy, spicy sauce of yogurt, feta, mustard and Aleppo pepper. After dragging my finger through the sauce to taste, I added a splash of vinegar because no meal alone - for me, apparently - seems to be complete without that extra zing.
The hot, crispy potatoes and the cool, sour sauce are a match made in heaven. Crunchy, yielding, creamy, chewy - it's a textural marvel at the same time as it is just plain tasty. (Do you secretly or not so secretly like dipping your French fries in mayonnaise? This is the better version of that - the far better version, actually - in more ways than one.) In fact, you might find yourself regretting the fact that you used only three potatoes - they'll be gone in a flash. Luckily, it only takes a few minutes to fry up some more. What I'm trying to figure out now is what to do with that leftover sauce - it's rather addictively swipeable.
So, tell me, lovelies: what do you eat when you're eating alone? Not eating alone due to heartbreak - because that's medicinal eating, really, another thing entirely - but because you have a glorious evening by yourself stretching out in front of you, with no one to please but yourself. Give me your strangest, your plainest, your most beloved dishes! I can't wait to read them.
Fried Potatoes with Yogurt Sauce
3 Yukon Gold potatoes, or as many as you want to eat in a sitting
3 or 4 tablespoons olive oil or sunflower seed oil
1/2 cup plain yogurt (I used 2% Liberté, though the author says full-fat is better, just don't use use the thick, strained kind)
2 tablespoons crumbled Greek feta cheese
2 to 3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Plenty of Aleppo pepper (I used close to a tablespoon)
1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar
1. Halve the potatoes lengthwise, then slice them slightly thinner than 1/8-inch. Fry them in the hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until golden brown in places. Drain them on three layers of paper towels.
2. Combine the yogurt, feta, mustard and pepper. Add the vinegar and stir well, until creamy. Put the potates on a plate with some of the sauce on the side and dip the forked potatoes into the sauce as you go. You might have sauce left over - a good excuse to fry up a few more potatoes tomorrow.