Cooking for one should have become an art form in Washington, given the large number of single people here and the number of restaurants for expense accounts only. For single cooks, it's often a choice between fast food and snacking.
It's not easy being single. Oh, you can do the Jill Clayburgh "Starting Over" routine with the feathery boa and candlelight and a nice meal served just for one -- cloth placemat and napkin, wine and a real wineglass. Such people have learned to ask their butchers for one pork chop and think ahead so they pull chicken from the freezer before they leave for work.
On the opposite side of the coin, there are those who stand at the kitchen counter eating tuna out of a can or cottage cheese out of the carton. Or just eat out.
And there are those in between who manage to make a tuna fish sandwich, and if they don't actually set the table, might at least use a plate, or a paper towel. They're inclined to make a meal of something easy: cheese and crackers or salad or Mom's spaghetti sauce.
Steve Moyer, a proofreader at National Geographic, is a single cook who has perfected the easy-but-hot-meal routine. On Sunday he cooks chili, bakes chicken, or simmers sauces (to put over rice) which are reheated for several consecutive days.
In one specialty -- dubbed "wild man rice" -- he stretches a pint of oysters into a week's menu. Actually, the dish is a little unusual for even the most eclectic cook -- it calls for boiled peanuts, an ingredient as Southern as greens and grits. The peanuts have a mild taste and retain only a little crunch, quite unlike roasted peanuts that you might be tempted to substitute and which make the dish taste like peanut butter (at best). If you can't find raw peanuts, substitute garbanzo beans.
Moyer, who has lived in Washington about 10 years, says this dish is "an odd mixture of things" that reheats splendidly. In months without "r" he uses squid instead of oysters. It's a one-dish meal for him, requiring no salad to balance it. But if you wanted something on the side you could serve steamed greens and vinegar and still make it through the express lane of the supermarket, provided you already have the five common staples at home: flour, sugar, pepper, salt and oil. Beef bouillon adds flavor to this dish, but is by no means required. EXPRESS LANE LIST: Brown rice, green peppers, oysters, tomatoes, garlic, raw peanuts, mustard greens, apple cider vinegar.
WILD MAN RICE (8 to 10 servings) 2 cups brown rice 1 1/2 cups shelled, raw peanuts Beef bouillon, optional 3 tablespoons vegetable oil (preferably peanut or sesame) 1 or 2 green peppers, diced 2 cloves garlic, minced 2 to 4 tomatoes, peeled and chopped (canned are fine) 1 pint oysters Salt and pepper to taste
Cook brown rice according to package directions. Boil peanuts in water or bouillon for 10 or 15 minutes. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large skillet and add peppers and garlic. Cook until peppers are softened. Add tomatoes. Stir 1 minute over medium-high heat and add this to cooked rice. Add remaining oil to skillet and add oysters. Stir over medium-high heat until the edges of the oysters curl. Add to rice with salt and a generous amount of freshly ground pepper. Stores and reheats well.
Serve with hot mustard greens that have been chopped, steamed and flavored with cider vinegar and freshly ground pepper.