When I broke up with my British boyfriend and moved from London to Washington, I was sure there was nothing that I would miss about Matt. And I was mostly right -- except for one thing: our nightly dinners. A passionate cook, I love the excuse to whip up something fabulous on a weekday evening. "What's for dinner?" Matt would ask, slinging his bag down at the door. "This new recipe I found for scallops with cauliflower beurre blanc," I'd call from the stove. "Oh, and I made lemon tart." I always got a grateful kiss.
Now that I live alone, it's a challenge to find something that's cheap and can turn an average evening into a culinary event. Sometimes I splurge, say, on a coconut shrimp curry. But three days later, when I'm still eating the same ol' entree, I regret it.
To solve the problem, I scoured cookbooks for recipes that require little work and leave no leftovers. My best inspiration comes from Elizabeth David, the remarkable British food writer who almost single-handedly reintroduced England's ration-fed post-war generation to the pleasures of simple continental cuisine. Though she dined at three-star Michelin restaurants while on the payroll of publications including the Spectator, the Sunday Times and Vogue, David often preferred the understated perfection of a humble omelet to towers of saucy meat and vegetables.
"The omelette should not be a busy, important urban dish but something gentle and pastoral with the clean scent of the dairy, the kitchen garden, the basket of early morning mushrooms or the sharp tang of freshly picked herbs, sorrel, chives and tarragon," she wrote in her famous essay "An Omelette and a Glass of Wine." "And although there are those who maintain that wine and egg dishes don't go together, I must say I do regard a glass or two of wine as not, obviously, essential but at least as an enormous enhancement of the enjoyment of a well-cooked omelette."
Me too. An omelet alone smacks of desperation or an attempt to use up leftover cheese and vegetables (though as a single cook that is important). Yet, paired with a chilled glass of pinot grigio, an omelet of Parmesan and Gruyere is a sophisticated and pleasing plate, while a lightly-oaked chardonnay suits a heavier concoction of goat cheese, asparagus and red pepper.