It is hard for many of us to look forward to cooking a meal that’s just for ourselves. It’s not just laziness, but some feeling that it’s not quite worth the effort when it’s just for us. That we’re not worth it! […] When people say they take the time to shop and cook well for themselves, that they don’t stint when it comes to solo meals, or deny themselves good food and wine, there’s something self-respectful and positive in that. But it’s oddly rare. We seem to have little tolerance for such pleasures.
-Deborah Madison (What We Eat When We Eat Alone)
I don’t know if a simple dinner of baked feta on whole wheat bread with a salad and a glass of wine qualifies as cooking well for oneself, but I can most definitely tell you that it was a very pleasurable meal. And one that was perhaps made even better by its sheer simplicity. Things have been busy enough recently that, instead of embracing elaborate recipes that will have me in the kitchen for more than an hour or two (yes, I am a masochist), I’ve been looking for things that come together with minimal effort on my part. As I see it, life knows how to complicate things; I don’t have to offer it any help.
So, when I went to get a library card this weekend and made my way to the cookbook section (yes, the memory of all those boxes of books during our move is still fresh; plus, the library is a good way of getting to sample a lot of cookbooks and all for the cost of $0–a graduate student’s favorite price!), I was intrigued by an older book of Nigel Slater’s Real Fast Food: 350 Recipes Ready-to-Eat in 30 Minutes (this was pre-Rachael Ray, too–in 1995). A quick look at some of the recipes (Spiced Chicken with Brown Butter, Mushroom Beignets and Warm Pea and Lentil Salad) and I was sold.
It was only when I got to the bus stop and was thumbing through the book that my eye caught the Baked Feta with Thyme recipe. The Greek had plans to attend a Serbian cultural evening and I couldn’t help but think that it seemed just right for a dinner for one. It’s amazing what a little olive oil, fresh thyme and being baked in foil can do for a 3.5 ounce hunk of feta. When it came out of the oven all soft and quivery and the smell of thyme hit my nose, I knew that a new comfort food had been born. And my first bite only proved it.
Baked Feta with Thyme
From Nigel Slater’s Real Fast Food: 350 Recipes Ready-to-Eat in 30 Minutes
Nigel’s recipe is for two, but, since it was just little old me, I cut things in half. I’ll give you the original quantities, however, since this would make either a lovely appetizer or a simple dinner, depending on your circumstances. If you have a cookbook on hand–Nigel’s or anybody else’s–and you just happen to be eating alone, it would make for a superb dining companion.
7-ounce block of Feta
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 springs fresh thyme, chopped
-Preheat oven to 425 F or turn on the broiler (I used the oven, but the broiler would lead to more color).
-Cut the cheese into 2 thick slices.
-Place the feta slices on a piece of aluminum foil and lightly drizzle them with olive oil.
-Scatter the thyme leaves over the cheese.
-Wrap the foil around the cheese lightly and put directly into the oven and/or broiler.
-Cook until the cheese is heated through, with the feta’s typical firmness giving way to a slight jiggle.
-Place baked cheese onto bread, pour yourself some wine and enjoy the meal–with or without a side salad.