Food

The Perfect Meal for Eating Alone

Cooking Solo Lemony Kale Risotto

For our series on cooking for one, we spoke to the lovely Klancy Miller, author of Cooking Solo. “I cook alone three or four nights a week, and I like that I can make exactly what I’m craving,” she says. “I always sit at my table, instead of standing up. I use nice plates, put on music and light a candle.” Here, she shares a recipe for lemony kale risotto (which would make delicious leftovers!) and a tip for embracing solo dining…

Lemony Kale Risotto
From Klancy Miller’s Cooking Solo

Makes 4 servings

You’ll need:

2 tbsp plus 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
3⁄4 cup diced onion
1 cup Arborio rice
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup white wine
1⁄2 cup plus 4 tbsp freshly grated parmesan cheese
1⁄2 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups thinly sliced kale leaves (thick ribs discarded)
Grated zest of 1 lemon

In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the rice, stir to coat it with olive oil, and cook until the grains are slightly translucent, about 4 minutes.

Stir in 1 cup of the stock and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Add the wine and adjust the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook, stirring constantly, until the rice absorbs all the liquid. Add the remaining 1 cup stock and cook, still stirring, until the rice becomes tender and creamy, 25 to 30 minutes total.

Stir in 1⁄2 cup of the Parmesan, the salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Simmer for 5 more minutes.

While the risotto finishes, heat the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, tilting the pan to coat the bottom. Add the kale and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted and bright green, 2 to 3 minutes.

Sprinkle one-quarter of the remaining parmesan cheese over each portion and add a little lemon zest on top. Arrange the kale over the risotto. Serve hot.

Klancy’s advice for enjoying cooking for yourself? “Find recipes for things that you know you like, but keep it simple. Then embrace the process: Get excited to pick out ingredients at the grocery store, listen to a podcast or your favorite music while you cook, and make a night of it. We should all treat ourselves well — we’re just as worthy of our own attention and kindness as our friends and partners.”

Klancy Miller of Cooking Solo

Thank you so much, Klancy! We love your cooking philosophy.

P.S. More recipes, including 20-minute carbonara and carrot bisque.

(Excerpted from Cooking Solo, © 2016 by Klancy Miller. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. This series is edited by Franny Eremin.)

  1. rjc says...

    Ohhh, yum! My husband travels for work and, on occasion, is overseas for a three-week period. I am buying this book and putting my tastebuds first. Yay for special time in the kitchen and at the table for one xx

  2. Elizabeth says...

    I am married with no kids and I meal prep for my husband 3 meals a day/every day of the week (his job is very time demanding and I enjoy doing this for him) but he eats THE SAME THING EVERY SINGLE DAY! And I eat every meal alone except for maybe 2. It is so nice to read everyone’s comments and Klancy’s advice of self care and realize I am doing myself a disservice to not be cooking for me, especially since I find so much joy in cooking and baking. I like that this recipe should only take about 35-40 min and is something I can work in on a Sunday evening. The leftovers would be delicious for lunch at work during the week too!

  3. Jane I. says...

    I’ve been long-time afraid of rissotto… I’m not a fan of things that can go wrong in an instant! Alas Klancy makes it looks easy. Maybe I’m up for the challenge… :)

    • Clare says...

      The beauty of risotto is that it can’t go wrong in an instant! It takes a while, but if you check on it every few minutes it never gets a chance to misbehave.

  4. Jil says...

    Yumm! The dish looks delicious! However, I do not understand why this recipe is proposed for four people, when it is about cooking for one person.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      it’s so you can have leftovers, but you could also halve the recipe if you’d prefer!

  5. Jill D says...

    Great recipe and lovely advice for cooking and dining solo but my burning question is where did Klancy get the great top?? I support her for a Beauty / Fashion post on CoJ!!

    • Samantha says...

      Second this!! Klancy is adorable!

  6. Big Ass Salads are some of my favorite dinners. Last night’s version had a baked potato, roasted peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, a bunch of herbs, simple dressing and chickpeas. So good!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Yum!!!!!

    • Ttrockwood says...

      I live alone, so dinner for one every night here, and i make salad meals several times a week! Everything goes ontop of greens- leftover roasted veggies, some nuts, olives, all the raw veggies, and my favorite is to top it with a hot veggie burger patty (Sunshine brand veg burgers and the hugh protein veg burger from Trader Joe’s are my most favorite)

  7. rachel says...

    risottos are the fanciest side dish! always comforting and swanky

  8. Julie says...

    Klancy seems fantastic, and full of spirit! I’d love a week of outfits and/or beauty infirm from her.

  9. Susannah says...

    I love these posts!

  10. Pend R. says...

    I do not like kale. I love spinach or Swiss chard! Can I substitute either of these instead of kale?

    • Emily R says...

      Why does a cooking solo recipe serve four?

      Don’t get me wrong, this looks like an amazing recipe, but there are a million recipes that serve four, and three servings of leftovers gets old. I was really hoping for a decadent recipe for one!

      Yes, I know it can be divided, but really only in half.

    • Kayleigh says...

      I think it would work fine with another green. I’m making this with spinach tonight. The greens are just added on top at the end of cooking, so switching out kale for something else shouldn’t really effect the dish.

    • Alex says...

      To Pend R.–yes, you could definitely substitute another green for the kale.

      To Emily R–I say, why go through the effort for just one serving? I like having leftovers! And like you said, you can halve the recipe and be left with only one serving of leftovers… but also depending on your appetite, this recipe might be more like two servings as is if it’s your whole meal.

  11. Pooja says...

    Yum!! My go-to solo meal has recently been an egg-wrap. One/two eggs on a pan, the way that you make an omelette. When it’s almost done, but still a bit wet, I place a habanero lime tortilla from Trader Joe’s on top, and then cook both sides fully. I add tomatoes, bell peppers, a sprinkling of cheddar, and a drizzle of Sriracha, roll it up, and favor every bite! There’s something so satisfying about making something just for me (that the kids won’t steal!).

  12. maggie says...

    Ok, this looks wonderful.

    My go to solo meal these days is the Pan-Fried Butter Beans and Greens one that you posted about a while ago – its just THE BEST! Always just the right amount of healthy and comfort food.

  13. Jania Sommers says...

    I recently read her book and it was terrific. Full of recipes I will actually eat.
    Thank you for highlighting her work.

    • Laura J says...

      Between the great hair and the stylin’ shirt and lip stick, I think we need a beauty uniform post from Klancy! Oh and the recipe looks delicious too. ; )

  14. Rue says...

    I’m 32 and I *just* started embracing this idea of getting excited to do something kind for yourself by cooking, to be truly nurturing towards yourself. It is freaking HARD. It’s part of a bigger plan I developed with my therapist to re-imagine the way I “parent myself,” using a kinder voice than the ones I grew up hearing and internalizing.

    For anyone who’s interested, my therapist straight up recommended I read a book about parenting (even though I’m childless) to learn to nurture myself. It has helped so much. I can’t say enough good things. The book is “Parenting with Love and Logic,” and it has a slight religious bent to it, which doesn’t apply to me, but I think it’s worth it to be learning for the first time what a kind, loving, nurturing set of interactions looks like, since I genuinely grew up without this.

    If you suffer from being mean to yourself all the time in your head, and it manifests itself by, say, never cooking for yourself even though you’ve got solid kitchen abilities, I’d recommend reading a parenting book.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      “For anyone who’s interested, my therapist straight up recommended I read a book about parenting (even though I’m childless) to learn to nurture myself. It has helped so much.” = i love this advice.

    • Elizabeth says...

      On a similar note, I once read “Home Comforts” by Cheryl Mendelsen, about housework. (She also includes a good chapter on cooking without a recipe). I think her words are appropriate for your use of meal preparation to care for yourself, Rue, in that she states that “when your house is messy you feel uncared for.” So true!

      Best of luck to you!

    • Sarah D. says...

      Cheryl Mendelson’s book lives on my shelf and is something I go to at least once a week. Love that resource!

  15. Kristen says...

    My boyfriend and I always make risotto together, we get excited to eat this dish every time! He goes on tour for a month every September and this past time solo, I surprised myself by making risotto just for me! Thanks for these solo dish ideas. I eat solo 2-3 times a week and often rely on soup or meat cooked on a Sunday to have throughout the week. Otherwise, it’s rice pasta and pesto with sun dried tomatoes and spinach with parma. Yummy every time.

  16. Agnes says...

    Alexandra, I’m so sorry. My mom went through the same thing last year. In 46 years she went from cooking for 6 and then for 2 to cooking for 1! She is loving getting into more healthy, plant-based food and has become really good at cooking a slightly larger amount and then eating the leftovers for lunch (I do this all the time too). She makes batches of fresh and hearty soups and freezes portions for lunches so she isn’t cooking as often. She’s enjoying experimenting with food my dad wouldn’t have wanted to eat. Wishing you and your family comfort and peace during this tender time.

  17. Nina says...

    Yes! I make basically this meal 3-4 nights a week, but with steamed spinach or green beans rather than kale. I have fructose intolerance, and this works really well for me. I cook one big pot of brown rice for the week, which lasts in the fridge for 7 days. I use less ingredients: rice, steamed vegetable, low-fat soy cream, grated parmesan, salt. Sometimes with a splash of white wine or freshly grated nutmeg. If the rice is pre-cooked, it comes together in about 7-8 minutes and I love it. Add a hard-boiled egg on the side for more protein.

  18. gfy says...

    I just tried to find out more info on Klancy and there’s not much, yet she seems quite accomplished – and beautiful as well! Any chance she’d do a beauty uniform? I’d love to know her story, thanks!

  19. Reenie says...

    Additional recipe step suggestion: Since the bottle is already open, pour a glass (or two!) of wine to enjoy with the risotto.

    Sounds like a dream evening!

  20. Megan says...

    I’m loving this series! So helpful on solo nights.

    An idea for the future, though: relatively easy meals for groups. I never know what to make when my family (8+ people) come for dinner.

    P.S. thank you for this blog! it is a bright spot in my work day :)

    • Nicole says...

      Great idea! I struggle with this, too.

    • ELIZABETH GEISEN says...

      Seconded! I always struggle to find an inspired recipe that fits this criteria: minimal ‘hands on’ time, allows you to socialize instead of prepping in the kitchen, can feed a crowd.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      such a great question, thank you!

    • Carissa says...

      A similar but not quite the same version of this can be found on Kitchn’s website. It is great for groups and it is the perfect – just easy enough and not too difficult – recipe that won’t make you lose your mind when you have guests coming over! Made it last night and cannot wait to dig into the leftovers :)

      My recipe edits (in case you were curious) – double the spinach (or more!) and stir in extra chicken stock and cheese as you add the doubled spinach to keep the creamy and slightly liquid-y texture. A splash of white wine while the pasta cooks and a touch of freshly squeezed lemon to finish are also nice adds if you want to step it up just another notch!

      https://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-one-pot-creamy-spinach-parmesan-orzo-pasta-easy-254107

    • Jo says...

      This isn’t a perfect answer (still a good amount of prep work), but I love Joy the Baker’s baked lemon risotto: https://joythebaker.com/2012/03/baked-lemon-risotto/

      It’s got a similar feel to the recipe in this post, but it goes in the oven for 40 minutes instead of needing constant stirring. We make it all the time, and we often mix in ribboned greens and extra cheese (duh). Enjoy!

    • Hilary says...

      For big groups, I tend to go to go either soup (even better if it’s in the crockpot) or tex mex. For soups, I’ll add on cornbread, beer bread, or a salad.

      Soup ideas that tend to be crowd pleasers-
      – beef stew (especially in the winter!)
      – chili (chicken or beef)
      – chicken noodle

      Tex mex-
      I love making crockpot salsa chicken (a pack of chicken with a jar of salsa; cook for a few hours then shred). Then I’ll do a taco bar with a bunch of fixings. Ask people to bring chips and guac.

      Cup of Jo’s no fail dessert idea: Trader Joe’s (or whatever!) chocolate bars or snacks. I love to bake, but my most popular dinner party dessert was a pack of TJ’s Scandanavian swimmers and a few dark chocolate bars.

      Also, outsource as needed! I find people want to contribute something so asking them to bring drinks, chips and salsa, a side dish, etc. goes a long way!

    • Jill says...

      Ina garten has a cookbook dedicated to make ahead meals for crowds! It’s been very useful to me.
      Love her. Love her recipe ideas.

    • Megan says...

      Thank you for the suggestions!!

  21. carolyn says...

    thank you for this series on cooking for one! i’m married, but my husband is going through some health issues that make his diet extremely limited. feeding myself has become an afterthought — hello, nachos — but this is inspiring me to treat myself to better meals.

  22. Sasha L says...

    Is there something one could substitute for the wine? We never have any in the house. Sounds like a lovely dish!

    • Sasha L says...

      Thank you Joanna!!

    • shannon says...

      We don’t drink wine, but have started keeping mini bottles of white wine in the fridge for cooking. This way you don’t waste a big bottle when you only need a little bit for a recipe. Sutter Home makes mini bottles that are easy to find at the grocery.

    • nadia says...

      hi Sasha,
      i’m italian and risotto is one of my favorite recipes to cook (and eat!). Sometimes instead of wine I add milk, it gives a more creamier result, it is a bit different but not necessarily in a bad way. Hope it helps!

  23. Sarah says...

    She seems lovely and warm! I love her striped shirt at the end… do we have any idea where it is from?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i’ll ask her! :)

  24. Jessica says...

    OK, that looks delicious. But… there is no way that 2 cups is enough stock for a whole cup of arborio rice.

    I made risotto last night with about 3/4 cups of rice and went through 3 cups of stock, easy. I did use the more traditional method of adding wine first, cooking it almost entirely away and then slowly adding stock as you go – so maybe that makes a difference because there’s more evaporation? Still, fair warning, I think this recipe might leave you a little high and dry (and just a touch crunchy on the rice).

    • Bonnie says...

      I was wondering about that as well! Ina’s easy parm risotto I use is 1.5 cups of arborio rice to 5 cups chicken stock and 1/2 c wine.

  25. Alexandra says...

    My father just died and my mother eats alone now most nights. She is a beautiful cook but cooking now for one is a game changer… I share these posts with her. I love klancy’s Attitude and philosophy.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i’m so sorry for your loss, alexandra. i’d love to hear what your mother has been making. xoxo

    • Sasha L says...

      I’m so sorry Alexandra, I hope you and your mom are doing ok. Sending love to you today.

    • Raquel says...

      Alexandra,

      I am thinking of you and your mum today and sending you both a big big hug!

    • So sorry for your and your mother’s loss. These times are so painful. Both of my parents were good cooks and when my mother died my father slowly adjusted and cooked for himself a small 3 course meal every evening until 92. Soup, main and dessert. What impressed me the most was he always had the right amount, never leftovers (something I have never mastered). Give your mom time, and encourage her gently.