Couple doesn't compromise quality when cooking for one

In 2010, 27 percent of Americans lived in one-person households, according to Census data.

That's a lot of people cooking for one.

For all the lone diners out there, two East Cobb-based chefs created "Cooking for One," (Lebhar-Friedman Books, $25).

Mark and Lisa Erickson, happen to be married, but also happen to spend a lot of time dining alone. Monday through Friday, while Mark travels for work -- he's dean of faculty at the Culinary Institute of America -- he and his wife find themselves prepping meals solo.

The couple, who both attended CIA and met while working at The Greenbriar, a luxury resort in West Virginia, had never collaborated on a project before, but decided they each had a unique take on cooking for themselves.

"Mark has a lot of the strategies and planning," Lisa Erickson said. "Things like the sea bass are his and the baked apple. Those are things he exclusively made, that I never had before."

Lisa's contributions include a recipe for rigatoni with sausage, which she picked up while working at Bugatti Restaurant in Atlanta's Omni Hotel and passed to nearly everyone in her extended family.

Many of the recipes included in the book are made healthier with the addition of extra vegetables and the use of seasonal ingredients. Some include his and her tips on meal preparation or planning. And all of the recipes are organized by season.

Dishes like the Chèvre Soufflé with broccoli salad or the Brazilian style fish stew may sound elaborate or time-consuming for the single cook, but Lisa Erickson says making the effort yields a big return.

"You have to keep food interesting so you look forward to coming home and cooking every night," she said. That means even though some ingredients may be used over and over, they are used in completely different ways, she said.

"In the end, you are saving money because you are not wasting and you don't have a freezer full of a family pack of chicken that you grow tired of," she said. "In Atlanta in particular, we are blessed to have small markets, so you can go in and get one sausage or one 4-ounce portion of fish."

As for time-savers, Erickson offers up some of her own tricks such as peeling carrots or chopping celery as soon as she returns home from the grocery store so the ingredients are ready when she wants a salad. She's also been known to spread some tasks over several days instead of trying to complete them all at once, such as making stock to store and freeze for use in future recipes.

Mark Erickson's goal, said his wife, is a fairly speedy turnaround in the kitchen.

"When he gets home he is starving and he has got to eat," Erickson said. "Whatever he is having for dinner that night has to be on the table in 30 minutes. When you are cooking for one person, it can go pretty quickly."

Asparagus Salad with Crispy Prosciutto from "Cooking for One," by Mark Erickson, CMC and Lisa Erickson (Lebhar-Friedman Books, $25)

This easy appetizer salad is at its best when the asparagus is crisp, bright and in season. It is quick to make and should be tossed together just before serving. The quantities for the salad dressing make more than a single salad serving, so save any extra dressing to use on salads or as a marinade for chicken or fish.

MARK: Slender asparagus looks pretty, but the best flavor is found in more substantial stalks. If you have a choice, opt for thicker asparagus.

LISA: If you’ve never tasted crisp, raw spring asparagus, you are in for a revelation. Use a mandolin or Japanese slicer, if you have one, to cut the asparagus very thin.

1 tbsp finely chopped shallots

2 tbsp lemon juice

Salt and freshly ground pepper as needed

1 slice prosciutto or pancetta

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp grated lemon zest

8 spears asparagus, peeled and sliced thin on the diagonal

1/2 oz Parmesan, shaved into curls with a vegetable peeler

1 tbsp pine nuts, toasted

1. Place the shallots in a small bowl with the lemon juice, a pinch of salt, and a few twists of freshly grated pepper. Let the shallots macerate for 15 minutes. (This will reduce any harsh bite in the shallots.)

2. Sauté the prosciutto in a dry, nonstick sauté pan over medium-high heat until crisp and browned on both sides, about 1 minute on each side. When it is cool, tear into irregular pieces and reserve.

3. Add the olive oil and lemon zest to the shallots and lemon juice. Whisk until the dressing is slightly thickened and well-blended. Add the sliced asparagus and toss to coat evenly.

4. Mound the asparagus on a plate, scatter the prosciutto and Parmesan pieces over the top, sprinkle with the pine nuts and serve.