Depending on your life, lunch during the week may be grab-and-go or going out for a sandwich. On the other hand, if you work at home, or telecommute, these lunch recipes for one person are just the thing. Many of them can be put together in just a few minutes. A few are best for the weekend when you have more time and want to treat yourself (try the shakshouka for that).
Some of these recipes require cooking, and some just need chopping and tossing. There are also a few that you can make with leftover (or even a rotisserie) chicken from a different recipe.
Like starch? Like fried foods? Want to be a bit more healthy about eating them? Think of these zucchini carrot fritters as “healthy veggie” potato pancakes. Except, instead of potatoes, this recipe uses zucchini (or yellow squash) and carrots (for vitamins!) and is topped with a yogurt mint dip instead of sour cream or applesauce. You end up with tiny, crispy, slightly salty fritters which you can gobble down in two bites.
I got the recipe from the NY Times (which I would link to, except they now hide everything behind a paywall). I’ve cut it in half, to make it more suitable for one person. The recipe writer developed them for her picky daughter. It was something she’d eat, and a semi-sneaky way to get in some veggies.
I confess this is a bit messier than usual, but they do taste good! And most people probably have a dishwasher and don’t fuss about cleanup as much as I do.
1/2 large egg (break the egg, scramble it a bit, and pour off half)
1/8 tsp lemon zest
Pinch black pepper
1 large carrot, finely chopped (about 3/4 C)
2 small yellow squash, finely chopped (about 1 C)
1 small garlic clove
1/4 C thick Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
1 1/2 tsp olive oil, plus more for frying
Combine the baking powder, coriander, flour, and a pinch of the salt in a medium size bowl. Mix together thoroughly.
In a small bowl, mix the milk, egg, lemon zest, and pepper.
Pour the flour mixture into the egg mixture, and stir until everything is mixed together. It should be roughly the consistency of cream. If it's too thick, add a bit more milk. If it's too thin, add more flour.
Dice the carrots and zucchini in a food processor or mini-chopper. Add the veggies to the flour/milk mixture and let it rest for half an hour.
While it's resting, make the yogurt dip (see below).
Fill a wide, shallow frying pan with about 1/2 inch of oil olive. Heat until the oil reaches 375 degrees (if you don't have a frying thermometer, test it with a drop of water or batter; it's ready when it sizzles).
Line a flat platter or plate with paper towels.
Drop the batter into the pan, one tablespoon at a time. Don't overcrowd the pan (make maybe four or five at a time).
Fry, for about 4 minutes, turning the fritters every two minutes or so, until they turn golden brown. Transfer to the plate to drain the oil. Serve with the yogurt dip.
Smash the garlic clove and a pinch of kosher salt with the flat side of a wide knife (or some other handy heavy object) in a bowl. Whisk that together with the yogurt, mint, and the teaspoon of olive oil. Refrigerate that until ready to use.
Zucchini Carrot Fritters Substitutions and Variations
try different combinations of vegetables, such as mashed up chickpeas, potatoes, or diced bell peppers
spice it up with some curry (and swap the mint for cucumber)
add a chopped scallion (which was supposed to be in there, but I blanked out!)
This weekend is the unofficial start of summer here in the US, even though actual summer doesn’t start for another month. This quick and easy summer pasta lives up to its name. It’s great for hot, sticky weather (which we always get plenty of here in NY).The dish can be eaten hot or cold, and since there’s no mayonnaise, it’s perfect for picnics or traveling. And, it’s good either for a quick lunch or a light dinner.Pairs beautifully with a cold glass of Chardonnay.
I’ve adapted this dish from a recipe for summer pasta in Jacques Pépin’s Fast Food My Waycookbook.The only thing you have to cook is the pasta. The rest is just a bit of chopping and maybe shredding or grating the cheese.I’ve used parmesan, but put in anything you like that works. It could be mozzarella, or Fontina too.
He says to warm the veggies first, but I didn’t. I don’t like freshly cooked tomatoes; they taste odd to me (kind of like some people think coriander tastes like soap).If you don’t have that issue, go right ahead and heat the veggies, for thirty seconds or so, in the microwave.
The original recipe called for zucchini, but having none, I went with some bell pepper instead. So, use whatever vegetables you like or have handy. For example, use zucchini, carrots, some cooked eggplant, a handful of spinach, or a mixture of bell peppers (I love the mini ones). This is not baking, so exact ingredients and careful measuring aren’t crucial.
One more thing, as is, this is a light, easy meal. If you want to make it heartier, add some protein to make it more filling.
So here we are again with two major holidays on the same weekend.And, they’re two holidays with entirely different food requirements!One traditionally goes for brisket and matzo; the other gets lamb or ham. However, there are two common themes. The first one is eggs.Lots and lots of eggs.The second is everyone stuffs themselves silly at either one or two big dinners.But, you still have to eat something in-between all of that. Eggs with spinach and chili peppers is just the thing. It’s quick, and easy to make. And, it’s not a big, heavy meal.It’s essentially a sort of egg pancake or frittata, except with South Asian flavoring.
The other nice thing about this recipe, is it’s done in two stages, but you only need a single skillet to make it.First you cook the veggies, garlic, and ginger, then add the eggs to the same pot.Let those cook, and you’re done.Add the yogurt (or not) to serve.Depending on your affiliation, serve with toast, matzo, or just some fresh fruit. If your chili is super hot, the sweetness in the fruit will also help reduce the burn from the pepper.
Oh, and a third thing. It’s ready in about 15 minutes.So, if you’re hungry, and it’s late (as it was the first time I made this), you don’t have to wait long for a hot meal.
I adapted this from Madhur Jaffrey’s Quick and Easy Indian Cooking.In addition to reducing the amounts, I replaced the coriander with spinach. I don’t particularly like fresh coriander and I know lots of other people don’t care for it either.And, since my jalapeño pepper turned out to be really, really super hot, I added a dollop of Greek yogurt to cool it off, even though that wasn’t in the recipe.I found I liked it better that way too.
1/2 jalapeño pepper, sliced into thin rounds (keep the seeds if you prefer your food spicier, remove them if not)
1/4 tsp grated ginger
1/2 tsp lemon juice
Crack the eggs into a small bowl and beat them with a fork. Add one pinch of salt and a grinding of black pepper.
Pour the oil into a medium size skillet and set it over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot (it will sizzle if you add a drop of water), add the scallions.
Stir the scallions in the pan with a wooden spoon and let them cook for a minute until they brown slightly.
Add the garlic and cook for a few seconds more.
Once the garlic softens, add the spinach, jalapeño pepper, ginger, and turmeric to the pan and stir briefly.
Add the lemon juice and the rest of the salt and stir that into the spinach mixture, spreading everything evenly over the bottom of the pan.
Now pour in the eggs. Pick up the pan and swirl it around so that the eggs cover the pan from side to side. It should look like an egg pancake.
Put a cover over the pan and turn the heat down to medium-low. Cook for two or three minutes, until the eggs are firm on the edges and cooked through. They may be slightly brown and crispy on the edges.
Cut into wedges (like a pie) and serve topped with yogurt (if you like).
Eggs with Spinach and Chili Pepper Substitutions and Variations
use the coriander if you like it
add two or three sliced mushrooms to the vegetable mixture
toss in 1/4 C diced canned tomatoes
if you’re not a spicy food fan, replace the chili with some bell pepper
OK, two confessions. The first is that this spaetzle recipe is nearly identical to Tyler Florence’s spaetzle recipe. Also, his version claims it’s six servings. I suppose that’s as a side dish. Or maybe it’s a typo. My second confession is that it was soooo good I ate the whole thing. All at once.
First of all, it was delicious! But that alone wouldn’t make it something I’d normally share, especially since I made so few changes. The important thing about this recipe isn’t that I adapted it or altered it. What I did do was figure out a way to make it without any special equipment.
I hate single use gadgets and while the recipe is really good, I wasn’t going to go out and buy a special spaetzle maker. Besides my dislike of one-use gadgets, there’s just no place to keep the thing. Tyler’s recipe, as well as many others, suggest using a slotted spoon or a cheese grater instead of the spaetzle machine. I tried both of those. They just didn’t work very well.
Then I had a brainstorm. The potato masher! It worked perfectly! Just hold it in one hand, scoop up some batter with a spoon in the other hand, and scrape the spoon back and forth over the masher (like you were grating cheese). Ta da!!!
You want the flat-bottomed sort of masher, with lots of holes, not the squiggly kind that looks like a bicycle rack.
There’s no brand name on the one I have, so I don’t know exactly what it is, but the masher on the left is the closest I could find. The holes on mine are rectangular, not round, but I think that will be OK, since real spaetzle maker holes are round. The key is that there’s a flat surface, with lots of holes in it.
I included the image below so you could see what it should look like. That design will work fine. The one on the right will mash potatoes, but will be useless for spaetzle.
A super-easy way to get your noodle fix. And, with my method you don't need any special tools either.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Get two bowls, one large, and one medium. Put the flour, salt, pepper, and nutmeg in the larger bowl, and mix them together.
Now get the smaller bowl and whisk together the milk and eggs.
Make a depression in the center of the flour mixture and pour the milk-egg mixture into it.
Push the flour in from the sides toward the milk-egg mixture and then gradually mix everything together to form a dough.
It should be fairly smooth and thick. Let the mixture rest for at least 10-15 minutes.
While the dough is resting, fill a 3 quart saucepan with water and bring it to a boil. Once it's boiling, turn the heat down to a simmer.
Now, grasp your potato masher by the handle with one hand, holding it with the flat mashing side down. Pour a spoonful of batter over the mashing head. Then scrape it back and forth with the spoon (like you were grating cheese). This will make your spaetzle.
Do it in batches, so the pot doesn't get too full. Cook the spaezle for three minutes or so, until they start to float to the top. Stir every once in a while so they don't stick. Then remove them with a slotted spoon, drain, and set aside while you make the next batch.
Once the spaetzle are cooked, heat the butter in a large skillet. Or be lazy and reuse the saucepan. Add the spaetzle, and turn and toss them so they are coated with the butter. Cook for a couple of minutes, then sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve.
Spaetzle Recipe Substitutions and Variations
Serve with grated cheese, like Emmenthaler or Gruyère
Cook some onions until caramelized, add them to the spaetzle (with or without cheese)
Cut off small pieces of dough and flick them into a pot of simmering chicken soup or broth (like mini dumplings!)
This super-easy smoked salmon artichoke salad requires absolutely no cooking. And it’s ready in about 10 minutes. It not only looks good (check out all those beautiful colors: green, orange, pink, and red), but it’s got the zing of citrus, smoky, salty salmon and zesty marinated artichokes. The balsamic dressing and the parmesan add a savory flavor. It’s a great combination because the bitter greens from the spinach play off against the sweet oranges, the salty parmesan, and the smoked fish.
It’s a great lunch just for yourself (especially if you’re hungry and in a hurry). Or, scale it up and serve it to company. It’s elegant enough for a party if you’re having one.
Since we’re not catering, or necessarily fancy, this version will just cut everything up and serve it all together in a single bowl. You can use blood oranges if you like. I went with the regular navel oranges, since they seem to be particularly good this year.
I also used smoked salmon bits (which my grocery store sells for less than the carefully sliced kind). Look for it in your local store, and save a bit of money. Lastly, I substituted spinach for arugula, since I prefer it, and it’s more readily available.
There are three holidays this weekend: two big ones and one silly one. The big ones are Easter and Passover and since each holiday has entirely different traditions and foods, I was initially stumped. What do I post that works for both holidays? Then it hit me! These holidays do have something in common: eggs. This egg and tomato grain is just the thing.
I adapted this dish from a recipe by Jacques Pépin. It’s from his Fast Food My Way cookbook. I haven’t changed much, other than the quantities, and using canned tomatoes instead of fresh. The fresh tomatoes aren’t very good this time of year, and besides, I dislike fresh-cooked tomatoes.
The eggs are mixed with tomato and onions, garlic, and thyme. The thyme adds a slightly spicy flavor and pairs beautifully with tomato. The whole thing is then finished with grated, slightly nutty Swiss cheese. Delicious!
And it works whether you’re on Team Pesach or Team Easter. Not to mention that whether you observe Easter or Passover, you’re likely to want a light lunch before your big meal(s) or want to take it easy the next day. This egg dish is relatively light and won’t fill you up too much before or after all that heavy food. I’ve listed it as lunch, but it would also make a good breakfast or light brunch.
The third holiday? That’s April Fool’s. There’s no specific food for that (except in France maybe when they call it April Fish), but somehow the tomato cheese mixture on top of the eggs looks like bacon if you squint. April Fool’s!
Adapted from a Jacques Pépin recipe, I've cut the quantity to make the grain suitable for one person. Eggs, thyme, and tomato mixed with a generous grating of cheese for a quick, light and satisfying lunch or brunch.
1 quart water
1 1/2 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, sliced (about 2/3
of a cup)
1 teaspoon garlic, chopped (roughly one clove)
pinch dried thyme
pinch black pepper
1/3 C canned peeled tomatoes
2 T plus 2 tsp grated Swiss (or Emmenthaler or whatever mild cheese you like)
Heat the water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, gently poke the rounded end of the eggs with a pin or a thumbtack.
Once the water is boiling place the eggs on a large slotted spoon and add them carefully to the water, one at a time.
Let the water come back to a boil, and cook the eggs for 10 minutes. When they're done, remove them with the slotted spoon and place in a bowl of cold water to cool.
Then peel the eggs and cut them into wedges.
Add the egg wedges to a small casserole or baking dish.
Heat the toaster oven to 400 degrees.
Heat the oil in a small skillet on medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook for a minute. Then add the garlic, thyme, salt, pepper, and tomatoes. Let the mixture come to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover the pan, and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
Pour the tomato mixture over the eggs in the baking dish. And sprinkle the cheese on top.
Put the baking dish into the toaster oven and bake for 10 minutes.
Egg and Tomato Gratin Substitutions and Variations
At the end, turn up the toaster oven to broil and cook for a couple of minutes to brown the cheese
Don’t just have a dish that looks like bacon, add some real bacon and crumble it on top
Vary the cheeses: try Gruyère or mozzarella or Monterey Jack
Sauté some sliced porcini mushrooms with the onion/tomato mixture
Cooking tip: Poking the end of the eggs with a pin reduces the pressure inside, making them less likely to burst in the boiling water.
Quick, what’s gooey, melty, cheesy, and great comfort food?This egg and pasta gratin has crispy eggs, tender noodles, and lots of cheese. It’s almost a cousin to pasta carbonara (but no bacon).The flavor is simple and delicate and the recipe incorporates two of my favorite “food groups”: pasta and cheese!
It’s adapted from a a new cookbook I just got (because given a bookstore gift card as a gift, I naturally headed straight for the cookbook section!). The cookbook is called Fast Food My Way and it’s chock full of inspiration. As you may have guessed from the title, all the meals are relatively easy and quick. They’re just perfect for those days when you don’t feel like fussing (or simply don’t have the time).Of course, you can also make this for a leisurely weekend brunch or scale the recipe up and serve it to guests.
The whole thing fits in perfectly with my own philosophy, which is delicious food for one person, made from real ingredients. Because, just because you’re cooking for one rather than two or more doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a home-cooked meal.And, of course, making it yourself is much cheaper than going out, or ordering a meal kit.
As written, the flavor is pure comfort food; not spicy or salty. However, if you want, you can add other flavors (more on that in the substitutions and variations section).
Crispy eggs, gooey cheese, and tender pasta combine to make this dish great comfort food. Great for a fast meal, or to warm up with on a cold day.
4 oz short pasta (I used cavatelli)
1 T olive oil
1.5 teaspoons fresh chives, minced
Grinding of black pepper
1.5 teaspoons butter (preferably unsalted, if you only have salted butter, skip the added salt)
2 large eggs
1/3 C grated hard cheese, such as Swiss or Emmenthaler
Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a saucepan. Add salt. Pour in the pasta and cook for about 10 minutes (or until it is al dente)
Toss the olive oil, chives, salt, and pepper together in a medium to large bowl (it should be big enough to hold the finished dish; I used a large soup bowl).
Once the pasta is cooked, turn off the heat, but don’t drain it yet.
Grab a soup ladle and pour a ladleful of the pasta water into the bowl.
Now, drain the pasta, and put it back in the pot. Scoop up a ladleful of the pasta, and add it to the chive/water mixture. Mix it all together thoroughly.
Keep both the remaining pasta in the pot and the pasta in the bowl warm while you make the eggs.
Next, heat the butter in a skillet. Add the eggs and cook on medium-high heat with the pan covered for about 2 minutes. The eggs should be set (the whites will be firm, while the yolk is still soft).
Sprinkle a generous tablespoonful of the cheese on top of the pasta in the bowl. Next, add one of the cooked eggs. Add more cheese, then pasta from the pot, then cheese, and then the second egg, then more pasta in succession.
Egg and Pasta Gratin Substitutions and Variations
Add crumbled bacon on top
Go for more sweetness and crunch with a sweet bell pepper
Tuna cannellini bean salad is a great meal for those days when you just don’t feel like “cooking.” Maybe you got home late from work, or you’ve been out running errands all day, or it’s just too hot to fuss. This meal requires nothing more complicated than opening a few cans, sprinkling some seasonings, and a little bit of chopping. Easy.
Everything comes straight from your pantry. The beans are canned, the tuna is canned, and the only fresh ingredient you need is some scallions, and maybe the lemon juice. Even that isn’t essential; if you don’t have scallions, use onion instead. If you’re out of fresh lemons, the bottled juice will do just fine.
If you do have the time and energy, this is a bit better with freshly cooked beans. The canned beans tend to be slightly mushy, and sometimes they’re a little salty. If you go the dried bean route, use my quick soak method to speed things up. If not, no harm, no foul.
The recipe is enough for two lunches or one dinner (depending how hungry you are). I usually find that I eat a whole 5 oz. can of tuna for lunch if I just make ordinary tuna salad, but adding the beans stretches it enough for two meals.
I’ve adapted it slightly from one of Pierre Franey’s Sixty Minute Gourmet cookbooks. I reduced the quantity and eliminated the parsley (never had any use for parsley). This is not only better than sixty minutes, it only takes about ten.
Serve with some fresh fruit and you have a fast lunch in under fifteen minutes. Add crusty bread to that and you have dinner.
A great way to take advantage of fresh, local strawberries, this strawberry balsamic grilled cheese sandwich is an updated childhood classic meant for grownups. Don’t worry, it’s still wonderful comfort food!
I saw a similar recipe on social media and decided I had to try it. They used blackberries, but I figured strawberries would work just as well, and I had just a few local summer strawberries left (since the season was delayed by wet weather). The original post I saw didn’t specify what cheese to use. The internet suggested a strawberry balsamic brie sandwich, but I didn’t have brie either. So, I used smoked gouda instead. The gooey, melty, smoky gouda, the tart vinegar, and the sweet strawberries combine for a salty-sweet-tangy burst of flavor. Plus, some crunch from the grilled bread.
You can use the gouda, or brie, or probably any mild cheese that melts well for this. If you don’t have strawberries, use blackberries instead. I made this with rye bread, but any crusty bread would work well. Ciabatta would likely be great (it makes wonderful grilled cheese sandwiches), because it absorbs the oil’s flavor and turns a beautiful golden brown without getting greasy.
There are lots of different opinions on how to grill cheese sandwiches (or toast them if you are in the UK). Some butter the bread, others slather on mayonnaise (no no no). I prefer to just cook them in a mixture of butter and oil. The oil has a higher smoking point than butter does (so it’s less likely to burn). The butter adds extra flavor.
Caprese salad meets the classic grilled cheese sandwich with a bit of roast chicken added. Perfect when you’re in a hurry and want something to eat fast! This chicken caprese salad sandwich feels rich and decadent, but you don’t need to invest a lot of time or effort to make it. You don’t really even have to measure much of anything.
The market had some beautiful Campari tomatoes on sale, right next to the fresh mozzarella. I couldn’t resist. So, I put that together with some basil, leftover roast chicken, and a fresh loaf of ciabatta bread. Voila! The chicken caprese salad panini sandwich.
I started with leftover roast chicken, so I didn’t need to make the chicken. If you already have cooked chicken, just pop it into the sandwich. Some leftover rotisserie chicken would work nicely. All you have to do now is grill the bread, melt the cheese, and add the tomatoes and basil.
If not, see the substitutions and variations section below for ideas on how to cook the chicken.
The bread does tend to slurp up the olive oil, but really it’s worth it! The sandwich gets golden brown, and the cheese is gooey and melty. It’s your favorite childhood grilled cheese sandwich for grownups!
Do use the fresh mozzarella if you can get it. It’s far more flavorful (and I think it melts better) than the pre-packaged kind.
Turn a caprese salad into a full lunch with some chicken and grilled bread.
2 T olive oil
2 slices ciabatta bread (or a small baguette, you want something crusty)
1/4 C shredded cooked chicken
1-2 slices fresh mozzarella
1 Campari tomato (or half a small beefsteak tomato), sliced
2-4 basil leaves
Heat the oil in a small frying pan
Add the two slices of bread, side by side.
Let the bread cook until it turns golden brown (about 3-5 minutes).
Add the cooked chicken and the mozzarella cheese. Put the second slice of bread on top of the first one, to make a sandwich. If you like freshly cooked tomato, add it with the cheese. If not, slide it in after you remove the sandwich from the pan.
Cover the pan and let the sandwich cook for 30 seconds or so until the cheese melts.
Add the tomato (if you haven't already) and the basil.
Substitutions and Variations for Chicken Caprese Panini Sandwich
Saute some mushrooms (do that first) and add them to the sandwich at the end.
Start with fresh chicken breasts (season with salt/pepper/balsamic vinegar/olive oil) then gently cook in olive oil
Or, season the chicken with Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper. Cook that in a bit of olive oil
Add some avocado
Get an extra serving of veggies and put in a few spinach leaves
Or, try cooking it in the broiler instead (less oil needed)