THERE'S AN OLD saying: We are born alone and we die alone. I'd like to add a new wrinkle to that: A lot of times we eat alone.
There are many advantages to being single. One enjoys more peace and quiet, a greater degree of control over life, and there's no one to nag you about dishes or dusting. On the other hand, when you live alone you tend to neglect some of the amenities that would be observed if someone were watching.
Like civilized meals. How many times have you been guilty of eating a TV dinner or a tepid can of creamed corn, secure in the knowledge that no one will ever know? Or making a meal of chocolate chip cookies, chocolate-covered grahams or Mallomars?
Why abuse yourself? Someone else is bound to, life being what it is, so treat yourself to the delight of dining alone well. In the time it takes to throw together a mundane meal, you can sit down to an elegant dinner designed to be enjoyed in the quiet stillness of a late-fall evening.
Following are recipes from singles who believe that eating well is the best revenge: DENISE FURGESON
When Denise Furgeson was 4 years old, she would watch her grandmother -- arms dusted up to the elbows with flour--bake pies, cakes, breads, tarts and all sorts of fragrant wonderful things. Later memories of her peripatetic childhood are of travels with her mother and sister around Europe. They would stop in little towns and villages for a few days: her mother would find a house with a kitchen and would cook dishes of the various regions using local produce.
When her family returned to the United States, Ferguson went to law school in California and later worked with the California legislature where the lessons of her eclectic childhood paid off. By day, a lawyer; by night, a caterer for members of the state legislature. Today, living in Washington, she knows how to pamper herself. CHICKEN BREASTS A LA DENISE (1 serving) 2 tablespoons butter 1 clove garlic, minced 1 boned chicken breast 1/2 cup white wine 1/2 cup heavy cream 1 tablespoon Moutarde de Meaux 1/4 teaspoon basil Salt and pepper to taste
Heat butter in pan. Allow to bubble up. Add the garlic and saute' for 3 mintues. Add the chicken breast and saute' for 10 minutes on each side. (Set aside on platter to warm.)
Add white wine to pan. Deglaze pan. When wine is reduced to half, add the heavy cream, mustard and basil. Cook for 7 minutes over medium flame until sauce is reduced. Pour over the chicken breast. Serve with steamed green vegetable and a salad. RIPLEY TEMPLE
Ripley Temple, a recent star of the New York Marathon, loves to cook and eat. A lawyer on a Senate committee, Temple was born in Richmond, where he first became interested in food. "My mother was a traditional southern cook," he says. "I would hang around the kitchen and watch her make fried chicken, peach pies, spoon bread, fried butterfish, and other authentic southern dishes." He loved the warm room with its fragrant smells. By the time he was 14 or 15, he was cooking, too.
Because he runs and must keep in shape, Temple has forsworn the rich foods of his childhood and has created recipes for lighter dishes. And because he spends long hours at work, sometimes coming home as late as 10 o'clock, his recipes are quick as well. BAKED STUFFED FISH (1 serving)
Have the fishmonger clean and scale a fresh fish that looks good (bright-red gills; clear, rounded eyes, no fishy smell). Small red snapper or brook trout are suitable. Bluefish is also wonderful when obtainable. 5 tablespoons sweet butter 12-to 15-ounce fish, size depending on appetite 1/4 cup minced parsley 2 tablespoons chopped celery 3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs Salt and pepper 3 tablespoons butter Juice of 1/2 lemon
Butter an oven-to-table platter with 1/2 tablespoon butter. Wash and dry the fish and place it on the platter. In a saucepan, melt 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter. Add parsley (reserving 1 tablespoon) and celery, cooking over medium heat until celery becomes translucent.
Add bread crumbs to the celery mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. (Mix well.) Remove from heat. Spoon the bread crumb mixture into the fish. Be sure that you do not overstuff. Bake in a 375-degree oven for about 30 minutes.
While fish is baking, in a skillet melt the remaining butter over medium high heat until the foam subsides. Remove from heat, and add the reserved parsley. Squeeze in the lemon juice and mix well. Pour this on the fish just before serving. ROMANO ROMANI
Romano Romani's family once presided over villas and farms in Tuscany where fresh cheeses were carted on sweet hay to the kitchens; where spring meant fresh basil, thyme and tarragon from the herb garden; and newly slaughtered milk-fed calves were brought to the manor house to be consumed as tender veal roasts.
Romani is a legislative assistant in the U.S. Senate, and the traditions of Italy are still a part of his life. Today, he keeps up these traditions by eating well, even when alone and listening to Rosa Ponselle on the stereo. VEAL A LA ROMANI (1 serving) 3/4-inch cut thick veal round steak 2 tablespoons flour Salt and pepper to taste 2 tablespoons butter 2 tablespoons olive oil 3/4 cup sweet sherry 1/4 cup lemon juice
Cut the veal into medallions. Put pieces between 2 pieces of waxed paper and pound until thin with a mallet. Dredge in the flour with salt and pepper to taste.
Heat butter and oil in skillet. Allow to bubble up. Saute' the medallions in the mixture -- 2 minutes on each side or until golden. Set veal aside. Add sherry and lemon juice to the pan. Deglaze for 5 minutes. Pour the mixture on the meat. Serve with buttered pasta and a salad. DAVID ADAIR
David Adair is single and, like many District residents, recently unemployed. But he is able to stretch his dollars by cooking with chicken and vegetables, which are relatively inexpensive.
Adair, who is from the Midwest, has traveled extensively. He has a special love for India and Indian food, which happily make use of the inexpensive staples of beans, vegetables and rice. DAHL WITH VEGETABLES (1 serving with leftovers)
This recipe makes more than enough for one meal especially if it is served with rice. It will only improve with reheating. 1 cup lentils 3 cups water 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric 1 tablespoon tamarind paste (this may be eliminated but 1 or 2 tablespoons of lemon juice should be added in that case) 2 tablespoons ghee (Indian clarified butter) or vegetable oil 1 tablespoon ground coriander 2 teaspoons ground cumin 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric 2 green chili peppers, seeded and sliced 2 1/2 teaspoons salt 1 cup or more vegetables, such as eggplant, carrot, green beans, zucchini, carrots, potatoes, cut into 3/4-inch cubes or slices 1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds 1 small onion halved and thinly sliced
Clean and wash the lentils, and discard any discolored or damaged grains and any foreign matter. Put them in a heavy 4-quart pot with 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Remove any scum with a spoon. Add turmeric and cover. Lower heat and simmer gently until tender, about 1 hour, stirring about every 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, soak the tamarind paste with hot water until the water is cool and the tamarind is very soft. Strain the tamarind through a seive or pass through a food mill. Retain the liquid and discard the seeds, skins and fiber.
In a small frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of butter or oil and over low heat, fry the remaining ground spices for a minute or two, then add to the lentils, together with the peppers, salt, tamarind pulp and vegetables. Cook 30 minutes longer or until the vegetables and lentils are tender.
In the frying pan, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil. Fry the mustard seeds and sliced onion until the onion is brown but be careful not to burn it. Add to the lentil mixture. Simmer a minute or two longer, remove from heat and serve with rice. SHELLEY CLARK
Shelley Clark is a 28-year-old sales and public relations professional who is director of development at the New Playwrights Theatre. She recently returned to Washington after a year on the West Coast. During that time, she lived on and sailed a 40-foot cutter-rigged sailboat.
Says Clark, "The single nautical chef is limited by space and haunted by the prospect of attracting bugs -- once ants and roaches invade a boat, it is just about impossible to get rid of them. Therefore, I tended to concentrate on meals that didn't require much preparation space and that could be cooked quickly, cleanly and efficiently, leaving no leftovers and little clean-up." Stir frying in a wok, Clark says, meets these criteria, and the cook needn't feel restricted to traditional Chinese ingredients. CHICKEN LIVERS CHINOIS (1 serving) 1 tablespoon sesame oil 1/2 pound chicken livers, cut into bite-size pieces 1 large shallot, finely chopped 1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced 2 tablespoons cognac 1 tablespoon amaretto 1/4 cup cream 1 teaspoon cornstarch Sprig of fresh chervil
Toast, noodles or baked potato, for serving
Heat oil in wok until very hot. Add chicken livers and shallots and stir 1 minute. Add mushrooms and cognac and stir 1 minute. Add amaretto and mix thoroughly. Lower heat. Mix cornstarch with cream and add to chicken liver mixture and stir until slightly thickened. Do not allow cream to boil.
Garnish with chervil. Serve on toast, noodles or baked potato. ROBERTA WEINER
Roberta Weiner, a press secretary on the Hill, says: "There are three elements to cooking for myself when I'm alone. First is time. The second is having, keeping and cultivating leftovers, whether it's two scallions or some leftover carrots, or an extra chicken breast. Third is having a well-stocked larder.
"I'm also a firm believer that simplicity is elegant, and fussing with sauces or complicated recipes is not a requirement for making something terrific for myself." BROILED SCAMPI (1 serving) 1 teaspoon of garlic, chopped$$1 tablespoon of butter 1/2 pound of large shrimp (giant ones) Salt and pepper to taste Salad and rice, for serving
Saute' garlic in butter until soft, but not brown, about 4 minutes. Shell and split shrimp, but leave connected at the tail. Pour butter and garlic over shrimp, in oven dish. Broil under high heat for 4 to 5 minutes, depending on size. VICTOR KAMBER
Victor Kamber is a labor consultant. He is constantly on the run, from conference to seminar to meeting, and flies around the country on a moment's notice. His Capitol Hill house is the scene of many a party and benefit. Somewhere in the midst of all of this frenetic activity, Kamber finds a few quiet moments at home, collecting his thoughts . . . and collecting ingredients to pull together a rare dinner alone.
His family is of Assyrian origin, and as a child he was steeped in its Middle Eastern culture. For large dinner parties he does some traditional dishes, such as stuffed grape leaves, and stews, such as ground beef meatball stew and beef chunks with okra.
At home alone, he indulges in foods he didn't get much as a child -- American food. He especially loves meat loaf, which can be eaten cold or hot. MEAT LOAF (1 serving) 1 egg 1/4 cup milk 1/2 cup bread crumbs 1/2 cup finely chopped celery 1/2 cup saute'ed onions 3 tablespoons lemon juice Dash hot pepper sauce 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce 1/2 pound ground beef (chuck or round) Salad and baked potato for serving
Beat egg with milk until well mixed. In another bowl, mix bread crumbs, celery, onions, lemon juice, hot pepper sauce and worcestershire sauce. Mix all ingredients plus meat in another bowl. Shape into loaf, place in shallow pan and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Serve with salad and a baked potato, baked in the oven with the meat loaf. BRIAN MOIR
Brian Moir looks at things from a long-term point of view. He is an old-house buff and renovator and he is a cook. This year, he is renovating his kitchen. His cooking reflects the planning instinct: He cooks in bulk, then divides things up, and uses them at leisure. When he makes quiche he prepares six, and freezes five in a freezer bag. He makes soups with turkey, beef and vegetable bases, then freezes the finished product in several one-serving containers.
He learned to cook at his mother's knee. As a kid, he hung around the kitchen to nibble and taste and poke and sniff. By the time he was in law school he had, as he says, developed an "instinctive understanding about what tasted good." His experimentation began in earnest at that time, and is still going on.
One of his favorite eating-alone recipes is: LAMB CHOPS (1 serving) 1 tablespoon ketchup 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce 1 strip bacon 1 loin lamb chop 1-inch-thick Salt and pepper Salad and green vegetable for serving
Mix ketchup and worcestershire sauce; spread over the chop. Wrap the bacon around the chop. Season with salt and pepper. Broil for 10 minutes and cook 10 minutes more. Serve with a salad and a green vegetable.