When lunchtime comes, instead of heading to a break room, cafeteria, or restaurant, I usually have a tête-à-tête with my refrigerator. You see, I work from home, so to me, noon rhymes with opportunity. Of course, I most often have leftovers or a dish from a local catering service that makes delicious, nutritious single-portion meals. Recently, however, I decided that at least once a week I would challenge myself to create something from scratch. The rules are simple: I have to use what’s in the fridge or pantry—obviously—and the dish must be done in 10 minutes or less.
My go-to lunch solutions are tartines and pasta dishes because they are naturally quick to make and they lend themselves to infinite variations. I don’t see myself as an instinctive cook (I like to follow recipes), so I’m often surprised at how delicious and satisfying the dishes I create are, especially within such constraints. I think it has to do with my tendency to naturally steer towards using my favorite ingredients and my ability to build on assimilated knowledge, pairing flavors that I know go well together without even having to think.
This little private game of mine has actually helped me start being more independent in the kitchen and breaking free from recipes from time to time. Now, on the weekends, sometimes I’ll say, “There’s nothing in the fridge. I don’t know what we’ll be eating for lunch today.” However, 15 minutes later, something delicious is on the table. These moments make me feel especially proud, which in itself surprises me because it shows that I may have a hidden instinct for cooking that wants to come out.
Every March marks the return of one of my favorite vegetables: Asparagus. I like using it raw, which allows me to skip a cooking step, and its delicate flavor works especially well in this simple, sauce-free pasta dish. The thin slices of asparagus add some crunch, and they’re a natural match to the other Mediterranean cuisine-inspired ingredients. Make sure to use top-quality olive oil-packed tuna for a meatier, more satisfying texture and a deeper flavor.
Serves 1 (scale quantities as needed)
Set a pot of water on the stove, bring it to boil, and cook the pasta until al dente (it should take about 6 minutes; refer to manufacturer’s instructions for precise timing).
While the pasta is cooking, thinly slice the asparagus stalks on the bias, keeping the flowery tips whole. Set aside.
When the pasta is done, drain, then return to the pot. Add the extra-virgin olive oil, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and lemon juice and toss to coat the pasta. Season with a pinch of fleur de sel and a couple of grinds of black pepper, then toss again. Add the cherry tomatoes, tuna, sliced almonds, and capers, toss one last time, then transfer the pasta to a serving plate.
Serve with an additional lemon wedge so you can liberally add more juice, if you like things as lemony as I do.
Recipe Credit: Marie AsselinYum