I’ve mostly gone through a shift in thinking about how I feed myself when I’m home alone. I used to rarely put much effort into it; lots of microwaved veggies, uninspired bags of salad, yogurt, etc. And, alas, too much junk food, because hey, eating mostly steamed cabbage, near-naked salads, and low fat Greek yogurt leaves you lots of extra calories in the budget, so why not fill it up with M&Ms?
Phil found the journal entry about my part-time singleton eating kind of bleak and depressing, although I didn’t actually intend it to be a downer. I thought it was kind of amusing, but then I started thinking about it, and concluded, at the risk of sounding like kind of an asshole, that I deserve my best efforts, too. I don’t always do it, of course, but sometimes I do, and then I make stuff like this:
It’s a grainy, iPad photo of my dinner salad, and it was epic. I roasted a bunch of stuff this morning, and found half an avocado in the fridge, along with a bag of mâche, and some other saladings, and this salad was born.
1/2 small butternut squash
1 yellow bell pepper
1/2 small avocado
25g mâche, also known as Lamb’s Lettuce
1/2 small red onion
red wine vinegar
1 small cucumber (I much prefer the small Lebanese cucumbers I get from the various middle-eastern greengrocers where I like to do my veg and fruit shopping, but a peeled English cucumber would be fine, if not ideal.)
a few radishes, sliced into matchsticks
vinaigrette (or whichever sort of salad dressing you like, this would be fine with good olive oil and a squeeze of lemon, which is about 1/3 of the way to my basic vinaigrette)
Heat oven to 200º C or 400º F.
Peel and cube squash, and toss with a small amount of olive oil. Seed and quarter the bell pepper, and put both of them together on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Roast until everything is nicely browned (took about 15-20 minutes for me.) Remove from oven, and let cool. You can try to peel the bell pepper if you wish, but I just scrubbed off the obviously scorched bits, as the skins on yellow peppers are nowhere near as bitter and tough as those on red peppers, and furthermore, don’t come off particularly easily.
If you’re me, you may now go about your day. The fruits can sit happily enough at room temperature for a few hours and no harm done.
About fifteen minutes before you want to eat, thinly slice up the red onion, place it in a small bowl, and pour over enough red wine vinegar to cover it. (This will take some of the harsh bite out of the raw onions, but not let them go mushy and gross.) Leave it to pickle a bit, while you get on with the rest of the salad.
Now would be a good time to make up your vinaigrette, if you don’t happen to have any on hand. I almost always have a small jar on the go in the refrigerator. I hesitate to give my vinaigrette recipe, since I don’t really measure much, I just slam it all in a jar, and I have quite a heavy hand with the vinegar, as I like my vinaigrette sharp enough to draw blood. Basically, I use extra virgin olive oil, whatever decent mustard I have on hand, either dijon or wholegrain, a small shot of honey, the juice of one lemon, some crushed garlic, and a big slosh of vinegar, usually white or red wine, although I’ve used balsamic, sherry and cider and had them all taste just fine. Barring that, just dress it with some oil and lemon juice, that’s great, too!
Once you’ve got your vinaigrette, slice up the radishes, the cucumber, and dice the avocado, and put them all in a deep bowl with the mâche and the roasted stuff. Drain the onions and chuck them in, too. Splash on some dressing, and then mix it all up. I have personally never found anything that beat my (very well-washed, and possibly already wearing disposable latex gloves!) hands at really doing the job of getting a proper light coating of dressing on everything, and mixing all the different components together, but hey, maybe you’re better at using official salad implements than I am.
Move it all over to a plate, sprinkle with za’atar, and grab a fork. This could easily feed a few people as a starter, but it made a really solid meal for one, namely me. It was insanely delicious, and will be going into rotation, for me at least, since I’m pretty sure Phil would side-eye the squash pretty hard. I suspect this would not be harmed at all by the addition of black olives, shavings of some kind of hard cheese (something made with ewe’s milk would be my choice), maybe some toasted seeds if za’atar isn’t your thing, and I probably should’ve thought about using a couple of slices of leftover jamón iberico before I finished it. Next time, maybe.