What they needed, I decided, were two kinds of recipes: First, large quantities of things such as roasted vegetables and home-cooked beans that they can make on a weekend and split the expense. Dried beans, a fraction of the cost of canned, would be particularly appropriate for Ardinger's new unemployment-check budget. Second, they needed ways to use those shared ingredients in dishes they could throw together at the end of a long day. If they wanted such dishes to be single-serving, they easily could be.
In a sense, it's a way of thinking about cooking for one that turns the idea of leftovers on its head. Rather than make a finished dish and eat it for days, you make some of the components of many dishes in advance and then use them to make different things night by night.
I returned a week later, with four recipes: a base of smoky roasted vegetables and three for meals aimed at each housemate. When I laid them out on the counter, it was easy for the single cooks to guess. Ardinger, who had professed his love of an overstuffed burrito, could roll the vegetables and cooked black beans in a whole-wheat tortilla with salmon, sour cream, avocado and salsa. (I showed him how to quickly cook the salmon in his trusty toaster oven.) Novick could toss those veggies and beans with spinach, feta, dried tomatoes and barley for a hearty vegetarian salad. And Delaney could combine more of the salmon and veggies with coconut milk and Thai curry paste for a spicy fish stew to eat over rice.
The recipes can be modified with seasonal veggies and different varieties of beans and grains. Because some of the same ingredients show up in all three dishes, the trio could pile into Ardinger's car to grocery shop once a week or so and return with the makings of several nights' worth of food apiece.
I coaxed Delaney, Novick and Ardinger into making their Cooking for One recipes, which they managed with ease. The most satisfying moment, though, came when they looked at one another, switched plates and kept eating.
"You know what?" Ardinger said. "I think we should do this again this weekend."
Yonan is the author of "Serve Yourself: Nightly Adventures in Cooking for One," coming in March from Ten Speed Press.