February 17, 2017  -  Vol. IX No. 4
A mackerel dish from the  Oldways culinaria trip to Normandy in 2010.
Cooking for One

The Mediterranean diet is not really a diet as in "go on a diet," even though it’s a great way to lose weight and improve your health. Rather, it’s a lifestyle, based upon the traditional foods of the countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea. A big part of the lifestyle is enjoying meals with family and friends. Eating with others, without distractions, helps us eat more mindfully and with purpose. That being said, meals made for one person can be just as special.

There is a certain pride and sense of accomplishment that comes from making a nice meal for yourself. It's an opportunity to experiment with new ingredients and flavor combinations, or to stick to your old favorites, without having to worry about impressing anyone. You get to make exactly what you feel like eating. Cooking for one is like meditating, or writing in a journal, or exercising: it's a form of self-care that is not completely necessary, but makes life more enjoyable. 

Next time you find yourself cooking for one, look to our collection of Mediterranean recipes for inspiration. Sometimes it makes sense to make a recipe that serves four or more, spending the time cooking and doing dishes upfront, and then eating leftovers for a few days. After all, few recipes make only one serving.

What if you're strapped for time or don't want to eat the same thing for days in a row? Luckily, you don't need a recipe to make a delicious Mediterranean meal for one. Just follow our simple framework, based on our Mediterranean Diet Pyramid:

1. Start at the bottom. Whole grains, vegetables, and healthy fats will be the foundation of your meal. 

Whole grains: A slice of whole grain bread is the easiest option, but bulgur, pasta, and couscous are also good quick-cooking choices. 

Vegetables: By all means use canned, frozen, or pre-chopped vegetables for convenience. Try pulses - like beans, lentils, or chickpeas - too.

Tip: during the last minute of cooking your whole grain (pasta, couscous, or farro, for example), add greens like spinach or arugula. Then drain the grain and the greens together and toss with olive oil. The flavors will meld, and you'll use fewer dishes. 

Healthy fats: Olive oil is the primary fat used in Mediterranean cooking, but avocados, nuts, and seeds also play a big role. 

2. Choose extras - cheese, fish, eggs, poultry - if desired. Canned fish and rotisserie chicken are great options in a pinch.

3. Determine your star. Which ingredient do you want to make shine above all other flavors? The fresh vegetable you just picked up at the farmers’ market? The fish? Focus on that ingredient's flavor and texture and give all the other ingredients a supporting role.

4. Season with purpose. Fresh herbs and spices can make a huge difference in your meal, as can classic flavors like garlic and lemon. Pick a few that go together and let them stand out. 

A few examples, using our framework: 

(1) Whole grain toast topped with peppers and onions sautéed in olive oil, poached eggs, and crumbled feta. Seasoned with garlic and basil. 

(2) Whole wheat pasta with wilted spinach, olive oil, white beans, chopped anchovies and Parmigiano Reggiano. Seasoned with parsley, red pepper flakes, and lemon. 

(3) Farro topped with roasted root vegetables, roasted chicken breast, and avocado. Seasoned with dill and oregano. 

Once your creation is complete, sit back and enjoy it with a glass of wine and fresh fruit for dessert. Take comfort in the words of Oldways founder K. Dun Gifford: "Be bold. Make no small plans. Fear not, the sun will come up tomorrow even if you screw up."

If you still find yourself at a loss for inspiration, we recommend Judith Jones’ The Pleasures of Cooking for One. Or, check out our favorite single-serving recipes below.

Click on a title or photo below to go to the recipes.


Date and Flax Oatmeal with Raisins and Almonds 

Take time to make yourself this hearty breakfast on chilly winter mornings. The recipe is easy enough to make everyday, and is an Oldways favorite.

An Oldways recipe and photo.

Beans and Greens Bowl

Beans and greens are a classic Mediterranean combination. This version is perfect for a quick lunch or dinner with some whole wheat pita.

An Oldways recipe and photo.

Baked Cod in Parchment

Baking in parchment is one of the best - and most forgiving - ways to cook fish. Feel free to use this recipe as an outline and substitute your favorite ingredients to flavor the fish.

An Oldways recipe. Photo: istockphoto.com.

Fresh Fridays is a bi-weekly celebration of Mediterranean eating and living. We hope our Friday recipes will remind you just how easy and delicious eating the Mediterranean way can be.