Table for One with a One-Pan Dinner


Some of us cook for one every day and every night; some of us only on the rare occasion.  If you’re a parent who’s had to cook for a big family most of your life, cooking for only you might seem like one of the highlights of the year, a cause for celebration. You can cook what you like, for as long as you like.  You can set the table exactly as you want or choose a tray and do the previously unthinkable:  read or movie your way through dinner. On the other hand, you might be totally mystified and ready to pour a bowl of cereal or order pizza.  Take heart.

While the weather holds, I’m still outdoors when evening comes.  The candle is lit, the music turned on, and I make sure I’m in a place where I can be grateful and enjoy the beauty of plenty to eat. I mostly like to cook for myself and I cook fish a lot. It’s maybe the fastest and easiest thing to cook for one person. Needless to say, I love fish. I encourage singles to decide you’re worth cooking for. (No more, “Oh, it’s just me.”)

I am, however, a tad cautious outside at dinner lately….


(photo courtesy C.P. Perry–right down the street from my house)

Because this time of year we have all kinds of visitors to the mesa!  I eat on the deck and there are no stairs, but there is a great big cherry tree!  Wherever you eat, be safe, and you might like to try this:



serves 1

While it’s not asparagus season, there’s still beautiful asparagus in the store and I take advantage of it.  It keeps well, is good for breakfast with eggs, on top of a salad, or as a green-green side for your fish.  Frozen fish fillets are perfect for those cooking for one; pull one out of the freezer and cook it frozen.  While the fish and asparagus cook, you’ll make your caprese (tomato/mozzarella/basil) salad and have it ready to go.

Ingredients in bold.

If there is an ice coating or ice crystals on your fish, rinse it briefly under cold running water and pat it dry with a paper towel.

Heat a heavy 10 or 12-inch skillet over medium heat with two tablespoons of neutral oil like canola or grape seed.  Add a frozen salmon fillet skin down (4-6 ounces)  and sprinkle it with salt, pepper, and a pinch of crushed red pepper.  Cover and let cook until nearly unthawed; add 8-12 trimmed asparagus spears and season them with salt and pepper.  Cover again and cook until the fish is medium–opaque, but still fairly red  and juicy at the center–and the asparagus is tender. Turn down if it’s cooking too quickly. My fish and vegetables took about 12 or 13 minutes; your time will depend on the thickness of your fish, the heaviness of your skillet, and how hot your burner is. (If you use fresh salmon, it’ll be done in about 6 minutes or less.)

While the fish and asparagus are cooking, make the caprese. Slice 4 small tomatoes and layer them onto your dinner plate or shallow pasta bowl with 6 small slices of fresh mozzarella and 6 leaves of fresh basil. Season with a tablespoon or two of good balsamic vinegar  and a drizzle of olive oil, if desired.   Season with salt and pepper.

To serve, add the fish and asparagus to the dish with the caprese salad.  Drizzle the fish with a little balsamic vinegar or a squeeze of fresh lemon. Garnish with a leaf or two of basil.  Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.


Want to find other ways to cook frozen fish?  Start here.

Sing a new song,


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