What Food Geniuses Eat When They're Home Alone

How many people do you usually cook for? I fly solo most nights, and am always on the hunt for new dinner ideas that won’t have me eating the same leftovers for a week. (A girl can only have so much soup!) So, to kick off our month of cooking for one, here’s what 12 industry experts, from restaurant owners to food writers, always reach for when they’re home alone…

On keeping it simple:

“One of my standbys is pasta with cooked frozen peas, butter, lemon and lots of parmesan. It’s pantry stuff that I always have around that I can make in one pot in about 10 minutes. (When I am home alone, I never want to do dishes.) Boil the pasta, add the peas in the last minute of cooking just to defrost them, drain the pasta and peas, reserving a bit of pasta water then toss with butter, lemon juice and zest, and lots and lots of parm. Grind some fresh pepper over the top and eat on the couch in your pajamas.” — Yossy Arefi, author of Sweeter Off the Vine

On childhood favorites:

“My go-to solo dish is savory oatmeal — my mum would often make this for breakfast or lunch when we were kids. I cook up old-fashioned oats with vegetable stock until thick and creamy. Then I’ll top it with some roasted vegetables, scallions and a swig of chili oil. If I’m feeing fancy, I’ll add sliced avocado! It’s ready in about 15 minutes, and it’s hearty and nourishing.” — Hetty McKinnon, author of Family

“Owning restaurants means that your home fridge is a mostly empty vessel, save for wine that lives in the veggie drawer and a few expired yogurts on the top shelf. My favorite thing to make for myself is my world-famous PB&J: crunchy peanut butter and Crofter’s Berry Harvest jam on soft white Vermont Bread. The trick is a nice even spread of the condiments perfectly to the edges of the bread without spilling over, and of course, cutting on the diagonal.” — Emily Hyland, founder of Emmy Squared

On frozen staples:

“I stock our freezer with Roberta’s frozen pizza. I love the kale, garlic and chili one with a fried egg on top!” — Jamie Erickson, founder of Poppy’s

On sprucing up leftovers (with hot dogs!):

“Since I cook all the meals for our family of four, I definitely don’t go the elaborate route on my rare nights alone. My go-to meal is fried rice. We almost always have leftover rice, and then I throw in whatever is in the crisper drawer: green onions, carrots, broccoli, shredded cabbage, chopped leftover hot dogs (really!) or leftover steak. I top it with Chile Crunch (the best!), and eat it with a beer.” — Jessica Battilana, author of Repertoire

“If I’m lucky, I’ll have a big batch of chow chow relish in my fridge leftover from the holidays. (I make REALLY large batches.) I eat that on anything that’s in the fridge — eggs, tortilla chips, salad, cheese (pimento is the cheese of choice).” — Carla Hall, author of Soul Food

On timesavers:

“I love making cast-iron stove-top pizzas. Turn your oven up to broil, then heat a cast-iron skillet over medium on the stove. Drizzle in a bit of olive oil, then add a tortilla. Let it cook for a minute until the bottom has spots of golden brown, then flip and add a thin layer of jarred pizza sauce, a sprinkle of cheese, sea salt, and whatever pizza-y dried herbs you have around, like oregano, thyme and garlic powder. Stick it in the oven and bake until the edges are just browning, then drizzle with hot honey, because really, life should be drizzled with hot honey. Voila! You have the perfect, crispy pizza, in less than five minutes.” — Liz Moody, author of Healthier Together

On indulging yourself:

“Have you ever seen the movie Because I Said So with Diane Keaton? There’s this great scene where Mandy Moore makes herself dinner at home — a gorgeous plate of creamy pasta with a glass of wine. She even sits down at a table setting to eat it. When I’m alone, I try to remind myself to sit down and savor, even if it isn’t fancy! I like the idea of making even a grilled cheese with care.” — Posie Brien, 600 Acres

“I used to show out in the kitchen only when there was someone to cook for, and then, whenever I was alone, rush through a large bowl of parfait standing up. I still eat this, but it’s the romancing myself — slowing down, setting the ambiance — that I’m into these days. It’s a really sweet thing to do.” — Jerrelle Guy, author of Black Girl Baking

On cooking what you really want:

“My wife doesn’t enjoy steak and I only crave it rarely (see what I did there?), so I make it at home when I’m flying solo. I take one small steak, pat it generously with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, sear it in a smoking hot skillet, and then let it rest while I cut up romaine and dress it with oil, vinegar and dried oregano. I slice my steak and put it, hot, right on top of the cold lettuce and pour over any juice from the cutting board right on top. I squeeze some lemon over everything and eat it all, except for a couple of bites that I let our dogs have…our secret.” — Julia Turshen, author of Now & Again and host of Keep Calm + Cook On

On eggs (because!):

“Sometimes, when I’m alone, my meal is a big bowl of popcorn and a beer. (No regrets ever with that meal.) But if I have a little more energy, I’ll make eggs. There’s a recipe I love in The Zuni Café Cookbook for eggs fried in breadcrumbs that calls for toasting bread crumbs in a skillet, then frying the eggs directly in the toasty crumbs. They’re finished with a splash of vinegar that gets quickly swirled in the hot pan, where it picks up any lingering goodness. I’m hungry just thinking about them.” — Alexandra Stafford, Alexandra Cooks

On the real MVP, cereal:

“I’ve always admired those people who make themselves wholesome, elevated meals when they’re eating alone. But I am not one of those people. Instead, I treat it as my one opportunity to have the laziest meal possible. In the past, that has almost always meant bowls and bowls of cereal. I love cereal so deeply that I made it my New Year’s resolution to stop eating it so much. Maybe I’ll stop for a box of Cracklin’ Oat Bran on my way home. Just this one time?” — Sarah Jampel, senior staff writer at Food52

What do you eat when you’re home alone?

P.S. What food geniuses eat for lunch and a bodega challenge with Smitten Kitchen.

(Oats photo by Hetty McKinnon. Pizza photo via Roberta’s. Eggs photo by Ali Stafford. Photo of Yossy Arefi by Christine Han. Grilled cheese photo via Food52.)