prosciutto-asparagus tortilla

What do you think when I say, “He eats alone”?

Did you feel pity for that person? A little sad? Does it remind you of yourself? Did it scare you?
We have such specific images of someone who eats alone. Think Bridget Jones, crying into her ice cream about being a singleton. Or the woman at a table for two, by herself, hiding behind her book hoping no one will notice. There’s some sense that a cook for one is not much of a cook. We feed lovers seductively. We feed our families healthfully. We make feasts for holidays and gatherings.

At home, alone, we stand over the sink eating pasta right out of the colander.
If you read Joe Yonan’s superb new cookbook, Serve Yourself: Nightly Adventures in Cooking for One, you’ll see that his resounding answer to the image of the sad lonely cook at home alone is Hell with that!

In a few days it will be six years since I stopped eating gluten. Six years?! How the heck did that happen? I remember my trepidation mixed with excitement mixed with fearful joy. I was a bit of a mess at first, as we all are.

Five years ago today, I met Danny, my best friend and favorite confidant. Five years ago that morning, you could not have told me that I would be waking up next to this man on Vashon Island, with our daughter sleeping in the room next door. When she ran into our room this morning, she dove onto our bed for hugs. Next, she stood between us, looked out the window, and pointed excitedly, “Look, Mama! Cherry blossoms. Cherry blossoms, Mama!” Danny and I looked at each other in amazement again. We feel so lucky for all of this.
However, you’ll notice that there was a solid year between my diagnosis and meeting Danny. (Actually, I met him four days to the year.) That first year, I cooked alone. And did I feel like a singleton, someone who should just munch on cottage cheese with sunflower seeds right out of the tub? Hell with that!
I have such fond memories of that first year of being gluten-free. And luckily, most of it is documented on this website, with the photos I took on a tiny point and shoot camera, dazzled by the lightness I felt in finally being well. I cooked and ate with great joy. I realized quickly — and I still feel this way today — that every time I cooked with real food, with attention and laughter, I was healing myself. I threw myself into it with abandon.
Within a year I lost my fear of gluten-free flours, cooking meat, making mistakes, and eating alone. I invited friends over nearly every night, because nothing brings people together like food. However, most of the nights I came home from teaching school, threw the papers on the couch to be graded later, and began cooking. Cooking was my solace, my space of creativity after a long faculty meeting, my singular passion. The more I cooked, the more confident I felt in the kitchen. The more confident I felt in the kitchen, the more I wanted to cook.
When Danny walked into my life, he walked right into the kitchen. We started cooking together.
Sometimes, now, I miss that space in front of the stove by myself. Oh, I have it now, between the time Lu goes to sleep until Danny walks through the door, done with the restaurant for the day. I love cooking even more deeply now than I did that first year of being gluten-free, but it’s not the same. Now, cooking is about developing recipes, building flavor, feeding our family, and trying to make every meal healthy and delicious both. I love it, but this kind of cooking doesn’t have the same abandon.
There’s a freedom to cooking when you feel you have no one to please but yourself.

That’s one of the reasons I love Joe Yonan’s book so much. He cooks with great passion and gleeful creativity.

His refrigerator is apparently stocked with condiments and good ingredients. Here’s why: “I’m a zealot about the fact that if you’re fully stocked, making something quick at the end of a long workday is that much easier. I think it might even be more important for single folks than for others, because it allows us to make bigger batches of things when we have the time, but then just use a little of it to help punch up a single-serving meal that doesn’t result in a mountain of leftovers.” (Pssst. Danny and I believe this is vital if you are married or in a family too. We’ll be talking about that a lot in our next cookbook.)
This philosophy leads to a chapter on condiments and sauces that has me itching to get into the kitchen right now: herbed lemon confit, cashew tamari dressing, blueberry lemon jam, salsa verde, cabbage and pear kimchi, citrus-pickled onions. These recipes are so good that the book is worth its price for this collection alone.
However, Joe Yonan also produced great recipes for main dishes like smoked trout, potato, and fennel pizza. Thai fried rice with a runny egg. Personal paella with squid and scallions. Farfalle with cantaloupe and prosciutto. Catfish tacos with chipotle slaw.
Yikes but I’m hungry now.
You may notice from looking at that list that none of these is a traditional dish. Some of you may think it sounds a little too exotic. Remember that Joe Yonan is the food editor for the Washington Post, so he created this book for people who love the world of food. That could be you too. For me, that’s half the joy of cooking: finding new ingredients and flavors that seem a little strange but end up feeling like a familiar friend after the first bite. Before I was gluten-free, I ate about the same 10 meals over and over again: lasagna, pizza, pasta, enchiladas, some casserole. Now, I rarely eat the same meal twice, unless we are testing a recipe for a cookbook. The chance to learn ingredients from around the world is a gift.
Buy Joe’s Yonan’s book and you’ll certainly not be bored. If you cook for a family, you might find yourself multiplying the ingredients in a recipe by 3 or 4 to make some of this food for everyone.
Or, you could be like me after this book arrived and throw away the deadlines, the revisions, and the expectations of family meal arriving to the table on time. You might just step into the kitchen by yourself and have one hell of a great time.

p.s. Sorry for the weird alignement issues on this post. For some reason I cannot figure out how to double space it at all.

PROSCIUTTO AND ASPARAGUS TORTILLA, adapted from Serve Yourself

If tortilla makes you think of Mexican food, think again. This humble dish is Spanish in origin. That’s why it was Spanish chefs who inspired Joe Yonan to throw potato chips, instead of sliced potatoes, into his tortilla. “…chef-genius Ferran Adria makes a tortilla de patatas with potato chips….That same year…my friend chef José Andres, a protégé of Adria’s, also included a potato-chip tortilla recipe in his energetic book.” Thank goodness for all three, because we are now hooked on this quick method for making a tortilla.

Yonan made his with shrimp. We were thinking about the flavors of spring and decided on a prosciutto and asparagus tortilla. You should play too.

2 large eggs
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
1 ounce potato chips (depending on the size of the chips, this is about 6 or 7 chips)
4 thin slices prosciutto, thinly sliced
5 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 stalks asparagus, woody stems removed and cut into small pieces
1 medium shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
4 to 5 sprigs cilantro, leaves removed and chopped fine

Preparing to cook
. Preheat the oven to 450°.

Preparing the eggs. Whisk together the eggs, salt and pepper, and the smoked paprika.

Crush the potato chips into the eggs. Stir them lightly to coat the chips. Set aside until the chips have softened, about 5 to 10 minutes.

Preparing the prosciutto, asparagus, and shallots
. Meanwhile, set a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the prosciutto slices and 1 teaspoon of the olive oil and cook until they have crisped up and released their fat, about 2 minutes. Remove the prosciutto and set aside. Cook the asparagus pieces in the prosciutto fat until they are vivid green and tender, about 2 minutes. Remove the asparagus and set aside.

Turn the heat down to medium. Pour in 2 teaspoons of the olive oil and add the shallot. Cook, stirring, until the shallot has started to brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the shallot and set aside to cool.

Stir the prosciutto slices, asparagus, and shallots into the egg mixture.

Cooking the tortilla. Pour the remaining olive oil into the skillet. When the oil moves around the pan easily, pour in the egg and potato chip mixture. Let it cook without touching it for 2 minutes, then shake the pan back and forth while running a spatula under the bottom of the tortilla.. If there is any runny egg, lift up the tortilla, tilt the pan, and let the runny part run to the bottom of the pan.

Slide the skillet into the oven. Cook until the top is firm, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Take the tortilla out of the oven. Allow it to cool. Eat.

Feeds 1 or 2.

(This might be a recipe for 1 person, but Danny and I split it happily without needing more food for lunch.)

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25 comments on “prosciutto-asparagus tortilla

  1. Jenny @ Fitness Health and Food

    Wow that looks so amazingly golden, crispy, and delicious!

    love that that cookbook is has recipes for one. it’s perfect for single folk like my mom, who’s a widow. no fun when all you see is recipes for two, four, or six!

    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  2. Michelle

    I totally enjoy cooking for myself. It is so satisfying. I would much rather heat up a skillet for one than eat out as one. I love the idea of a cookbook with smaller portion size, most cookbooks have dishes for families in mind, we like leftovers as much as the next but to intentionally cook for one or two is satisfying.

  3. Lisa

    Happy Anniversary (in so many ways!). I like those single portion things because we eat so late neither of us can eat all that much so this is perfect. No worries – we make up for eating lighter at night by eating too much the rest of the day…

    I found that WP does weird things to spacing and the only way to fix it is to try using the space bar at the end of the sentence where you want a new paragraph to begin (not at the beginning of the new paragraph) and/or copy/paste in word and fixing it and then pasting back into a new WP. I don’t know why it does that, but WP sure can mess up formatting when it is in the mood.

    I love anniversaries – hope you guys are doing something special. That tortilla looks good enough to eat right now!

  4. Ann from Montana

    I’m a single cook and although I travelled for business a lot some time ago and am quite comfortable eating out on my own, I prefer my own cooking and eating at home. I do stay stocked up on things so that I have the option of spur of the moment whatever I feel like. I work from a home office so also easy for me to prep as I’m working or get things going, but I do tend to make a few things on the weekend that I have or add to through the week.

    I love a few favorite food blogs, like yours!! – for inspiration and variety. It is rare nowadays that I feel uninspired and resort to cheese and crackers for a meal….not unheard of, but rare :)!

    That tortilla looks wonderful and I will be trying it or something close to it. Thank you for sharing the recipe and the book.

  5. Lisa

    This looks delicious! One thing I am trying to do as a single is take the time to cook for myself. I will spend hours in the kitchen for family and friends but often resort to quick, get rid of the hunger pangs, meals for myself. It is exciting to see an interesting cookbook for one/two person meals! (I don’t ‘do’ leftovers – not even as a child!).
    Question – one thing I do not own is a skillet. I look at them and get overwhelmed by the vast range in prices. Any tips on buying a good skillet without breaking the bank?
    Thanks!
    L

    1. anna

      Hey Lisa,
      you can use a regular pan to make tortilla, just look for a flat lid, or anything flat with a handle (or just a big dish, though that’s trickier); cook the tortilla until the bottom is done and the egg is almost set, then put the lid on top of the pan and flip it so that the tortilla is on the lid, then slide it into the pan again, that way you can cook the other side. you can reserve some of the egg and add it after you flip it, lift it a little so the egg goes under the tortilla. keep the heat low so the whole thing can cook without burning the outside.
      That’s how we do it in Spain, or at least how I’ve always seen it done. I guess using an oven is easier but this way you skip preheating the over and so on, you save on power, and, really, fliping a tortilla is not that hard.
      hope it helps 😀

      1. shauna

        I agree, Anna. That is the proper way to do it and we have done that. However, when we cooked this, our oven was on for another recipe and Danny stuck it in to save some time. We found the result was pretty much the same. So we figured that those folks who are new to this might like the easier way.

  6. Sasha

    There’s a wonderful book of essays called Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant, edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler that chronicles experiences of the joys and sorrows of eating alone, along with recipes. Might be a nice compliment to this recipe book which I, happily living alone, can’t wait to read.

    1. Rebecca Tien

      Last night my husband went out to dinner with an old friend who was in town and once I put the baby down I was so excited to make myself some dinner. I opened up a can of fire-roasted tomatoes, tossed in some rainbow and lacinato kale, some fresh garlic and a sploosh of really good olive oil and tossed it all up with rice pasta and cheese. Took only the length of time needed for the pasta to boil and oh so yummy. I hunkered down with a nice glass of wine, my bowl of pasta, and a little Masterpiece theater and was absolutely thrilled to be eating dinner alone.
      Sasha – I just discovered that book in the library a few weeks ago and thought it was great.

  7. Susi

    I live with my husband and our 7-year old daughter. When the 2 of them are out for the evening, I cherish the opportunity to cook for just myself!! It’s such a treat to worry only about my own tastes for an evening :o) Thanks for this post; eating and cooking alone certainly doesn’t have to be lonely!!

  8. Gretchen

    Wow, I keep bookmarking Spanish tortilla recipes to try but they’re fairly labor intensive so I haven’t yet… the use of potato chips here is something that never would have occurred to me. This tortilla is so beautiful, golden and crispy looking, and it’s so much easier to cook, that I am just going to have to try it… now I need to get some potato chips!

  9. Green Key

    I love living alone and thoroughly enjoy cooking for myself, and for family and friends when they visit. I don’t buy the concept of the sad single person eating cereal for supper any more than I buy that all married people are blissfully happy to sit at the table together every evening. I think is born from projected fear of being alone. I do cook differently now than I did when I lived with others. I’ve always been a fan of leftovers, and of cooking up parts of a meal that can be combined it different ways. As Susi said above, alone doesn’t have to be lonely!

  10. Sondra

    I have been using crushed potato chips in place of cracker crumbs when I make Salmon patties.
    It works fine. I don’t add any salt when I do this.
    Thanks for all your research. Your Blog makes me happy and your cooking makes me happier.
    Our Easter dinner was gluten free and my family doesn’t complain.

  11. Nina

    Nigel Slater’s ‘Real Fast Food’ includes some nice thoughts on eating alone (as well as delicious recipes). Also, in France, so I’m told, dining out solo isn’t strange or embarrassing – they don’t hide you in a corner of the restaurant and treat you pityingly!

  12. Damaris @Kitchen Corners

    I loved your words about Danny walking into your life and walking right into the kitchen. The same happened with my husband. The first time I really got his attention was by making him a huge Brazilian feast.

    I don’t really miss cooking for myself but I do miss cooking for the two of us. Now I cook for my two young kids and my teenage cousin who lives with us and my husband. Sometimes I miss just cooking for the two of us.

    This book looks wonderful. I’m tempted to try out that recipe. I love me some asparagus.

  13. anna

    I love asparagus in tortilla, Shauna!
    try courgette/zuchini (or wahtever you call it..), and mushrooms! and spring onions! even sausage…. yummy
    and eat it with bread and tomato, it makes it so much better (slice of bread, cut a tomato in half, and rub it to the bread, sprinkle with salt and olive oil)…

    love the post, I cook for all the time, at least during the week, and I am now taking the time to cook properly, try new things, thanks to all you people writing blogs. Yours was the first food blog I followed, when I didn’t feel well and didn’t feel like cooking, you got me craving good food and wanting to try new things 🙂

    Since Ferran Adrià does it, I will admit I use potato chips for tortilla every now and then. Let’s be honest, it is not (not even close) to proper potato tortilla, but it’s still pretty good, and quick, and way less messy, and you can make it as a one or two egg omelette instead of a whole pan tortilla.

    The story with this tortilla, as I heard it told, is that Ferran Adria was taking part in a radio show as a guest speaker and people would call and share recipes. This guy called and explained he made potato tortilla using potato chips. Apparently Ferran Adria was absolutely amazed with the idea -we’re talking about the best cook of the world here- and the story went around and now I keep hearing about people using potato chips all the time.

    One tiny -useful- detail that guy mentioned:get a small size bag of chips, break the eggs into the bag, close it, and shake it :D, no beatting eggs and one less dish to wash…

    great post 🙂

  14. Recipes club

    I had no idea asparagus could be used like this! Guess that’s why I’m looking for recipes instead of creating them… I was searching for dinner ideas to use my asparagus for earlier today and just found this one. Wish I has seen it earlier! I still have a bunch left, so maybe this will be lunch tomorrow or Saturday. Any other asparagus recipes that I should be aware of?

    ~Nancy Lewis~

  15. Carol Cripps

    I love cooking for myself. I get to try new methods of doing things, without someone looking over my shoulder and asking me just what I think I’m doing. Better still, I get to try new foods without the same problem. I’m not contrained by someone else’s tastes. I can buy just a little of a new fruit or vegetable, without having half a dozen people looking at it and saying, “Yuck! I’m not eating *that*!” And I agree, having a fridge and pantry that’s well stocked means I can quickly whip up just about anything I feel like eating. Eating out means I’m limited to the menu. Thanks for the recipe, too – now I have to go out and buy asparagus!

  16. Stefan

    Just whipped up this tortilla, so much fun!

    But one little ERRATUM… when do I add the cilantro?!

    Culinarily yours,
    Stefan

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