Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Waste Not Want Not: Cooking for Two and the Art of Assembly

My husband and I are a happy family of two (plus one very large black lab rescue dog) so quite often I am presented with creating meals that are not only tasty and fun to make, but don't leave us with a whole mess of leftovers destined for the trash.

I absolutely cannot stomach throwing away food. Perhaps, it's my mother's voice still ringing in my ears with her exclamations of starving children Africa or maybe it's just the sad sight of perfectly good food sitting atop a mush pile of dirty napkins and emptied milk cartons in my trashcan that really gets my goat. Either way, I get so worked up over tossing out the goods, I need shot of bourbon and a ten minutes of cross-legged meditation just to get through the rest of the night.

So, what does an anal home cook like myself make on a regular basis when cooking for deux?

Goodies like these:

Dim Sum Heaven: Pork Shu Mai, Fresh Shrimp Spring Rolls & Fried Pork Spring Rolls
(Note: I totally cheated and bought all of this at the Asian Grocery

Korean Bulgogi w/ Lettuce Leaves
and Marinated Asparagus Salad

Peruvian Chicken Thighs with Cuban Tostones and Black Bean Confetti Salad

Tuna Salad with Olive Oil Soaked Spanish Bonito and Marinated Red Peppers, Olives and Anchovies

As you can see, most of these meals merely required an assembly of ingredients. I've found this really helps to control portions, so instead of working (or having to scale) a recipe that is preset for six or more people, I buy exactly what I need and go from there. For example, for an evening of Mediterranean mezze (see top photo) I hit my fav Greek Grocer Nick's International Foods, got some cheese, a handful of dolmas, a few olives and a vat of their rockin' hummus. While it was more than we could eat that night, the next day, I had all the fixin's for a Greek salad for lunch (pita and all).

Our Korean Bulgogi dinner was even better the next day, especially when I removed the meat off the skewers and sandwiched it in between a couple of slices of baguette. Impromptu Korean-styled Banh Mi anyone?

Leftover Spanish bonito tuna and pimenton is equally good on a slice of rustic style bread, and it was more than easy to shred my leftover Peruvian chicken and wrap it along with some black beans into a flour tortilla for a satisfying burrito lunch.

Waste not, want not, is my motto. Whether you choose to make a meal for a family of four or for a family of one or two, assembling only what you need is key to avoiding waste. And, if you happen to have some tasty treats leftover, be sure to plan out lunch ahead of time, because with careful thought and a little creativity, you'll never have to toss away food again. Pin It Now!


  1. Your Korean Bulgogi looks delish! Where did you get it from?
    My husband and I were in Tan A last weekend. I saw the spring rolls sitting on a table unrefrigerated and I was too spooked to buy them. It's just something about room temperature shrimp that makes me want to barf!

  2. Love your blog name!

    I'll admit that I'm sometimes guilty of being wasteful. I cook for two also and most of the time, our huge appetites take care of the leftovers but there are days when some food goes to the garbage. I'm working on it, though. Thanks for the tips!

  3. Good lord all of that looks stupendous, how awesome and interesting. I always found it much more chalenging to cook for two than for 4 (particularly when 2/4 are more picky). How long of a prep for the dim sum?

  4. Thanks everyone!

    Burnette,I actually made the bulgogi. The recipe is really quite simple. Essentially soy, sugar and sesame oil (with numerous variations). The key is to marinate it for a long time (24 hours is best).

    And, the spring rolls at Tan-A. Eat them all the time and never gotten sick. They actually make them all day so they haven't been out too long. You should try!

  5. mmm I love dim sum! I don't like to waste either, but my fiance and I don't mind leftovers so if I make a larger meal, we can eat off of it for a few days :) Looks great!

  6. Just found you through Food Writers group on Linkedin and as a fellow food blogger was anxious to see yours. Am glad I did! And I love preparing meals for two like this and you've given me some great ideas! It all looks delicious. Will be spending more time discovering your blog (and would love you to visit mine!).


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