When Chris and I were in Costa Rica, group activity was the name of the game. I’m not sure I’ve discussed it here, but we went not for the romantic getaway most couples seek from a tropical paradise but to spend time with friends at the summer residence of my college roommate’s family. Mornings weren’t early but were bustling with the sounds of three showers running, eggs popping on the stove and the clapping of shoes crusted with mud from the previous day’s adventures. Between me and Chris, Miriam and her boyfriend Brian, our good friend Alex, his generous parents — and at times a cousin or two — cars were always filled to capacity, and then some. Lunches were lovingly arranged affairs. And dinners were a true group production lasting well into the night. Well maybe not that late. It just gets dark extra early, thereby leading you to believe you are a Real Party Animal when really it’s 8:30pm. Sigh.
Costa Rica = all my best peeps, everywhere, all the time
Regardless, for eight days, I enjoyed the constant company of at least six other people. We rafted together, ziplined together, rappelled down waterfalls and bunked together. You get my drift. And I ate it right up. Friends since seventh grade, Miriam and I are gangbusters for each other — all hair-braiding and Asian photo poses and bathroom humor — and we’ve lovingly forced the males in our lives to feel the same way. (They might think they had a choice in the matter. They didn’t.)
So you can imagine how it feels to be back at home, just me and Chris, tucked into one of the mellowest suburbs in all the Bay Area. It’s nice, the quiet. And I am truly grateful to put the focus back on our little family of two. But I do miss my buddies, and tonight, with Chris off playing bikes with his buddy, it’s crickets here on my own.
Good thing for the silver lining: Solo Supper.
Sure, there are nights when cooking for one is pure Bumsville. Those are the evenings when a comforting bowl of soupy noodles would seem fair compensation for the void but a handful of dry Shredded Wheat and two cups of applesauce are fairly at hand.
And then there are nights when the temptation of consequence-free failure is so delightfully luxurious that you can’t help but buck the ordinary — or at least pour a little extra time into creating the extraordinary. It’s on those solo evenings that you tackle the perfect artichoke, carefully prying apart each layer of squeaky leaves to accomodate tiny handfuls of buttered panko and parm. You roll dozens of tender gnocchi, one at a time, down the back of a fork into salted, boiling water before methodically dunking each pillowy bite into tomatoey olive oil dotted with sage.
Or, in the case of tonight, you produce an egg so delicately poached it seems the slightest jostle from pan to plate will surely release its quivering, golden interior. (Ha. Quivering.)
Sure, this can all be done in the company of others, but there is joy to be found in the process when there is but one mouth to please. There is a warranted degree of selfishness that comes with solitude.
And it is altogether delicious.
Poached Egg over Fried Eggplant & Spring Pea Mash
By Emily Stoffel
Cooking time: 15 mins | Serves: 1
Note: Double, triple, quadruple it if the occasion calls for it. I ate one (plus the remnants of a second that didn’t quite make it to photos) for a light dinner but would definitely increase the portion size if using this as an entree. As a first course or starter, this is perfect as-is. As for the eggplant, I know there are die hards out there who can fry the pants off an eggplant and would be happy to take the time to do so. If that is you, please, do it! That’s what this post is all about. In my generous transparency, I will admit to using Trader Joe’s Breaded Eggplant Cutlets. Ten mins in the toaster oven and they are crispy and delicious. Even better, you can heat exactly the portion you need.
- 1 T butter
- 1/2 cup fresh shell peas or frozen peas, blanched
- 1/4 cup good quality prepared marinara, warmed
- 1-2 slices eggplant, breaded and lightly fried (see note)
- 1 large cage-free, organic egg (or farm egg — the best you can find)
- good olive oil
- sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- crushed red chili flakes
Preheat toaster oven to 425 and pop eggplant slices in to bake for 10 mins, if using. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat butter over medium-high flame until foamy and just beginning to brown. Add blanched peas, a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper, and mash lightly with a fork. Keep warm. In a separate shallow saucepan, set water to simmer and poach egg to desired doneness. Don’t skippy on the drippy, it’s super tasty. Arrange hot eggplant slice(s) on plate, top with warmed marinara, pea mash and, finally, poached egg. Drizzle with good olive oil and season to taste to with additional sea salt and chili flakes. Serve, or devour greedily over the stove, as pictured above.