Vinaigrette Basics [video lesson]

Do you have so many bottles of vinaigrette in your fridge that when you open the door it sounds like wind chimes? Vinaigrette is one of the first things that any home cook should master for a couple of reasons. One, it's expensive to buy and tends to be loaded with ingredients. I did a survey of eight popular brands of "Italian-style" vinaigrette. They averaged 17 ingredients. The basic recipe below has six. Most people … [Read more...]

Provencal tomato spread

This recipe first appeared in The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry. It's loosely based on a dish that I learned to make while studying at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. During the heat of summer, I probably make this once a week and if I have to take something to a party, this is my go-to dish in the summer. You can use as it a spread for crackers or bruschetta, and also as a sauce for simple pan-seared fish or chicken. … [Read more...]

Recipe: Salade Niçoise

I first encountered  Salade Niçoise in a most embarrassing way -- by reading about it in a cheap romance novel the summer I turned 14. The scene was typically evocative of a dime store read. A beautiful protagonist perched at a table under a striped umbrella on an immaculate beach in Cannes waiting for a murky character. The server brought her a bracingly cold glass of chablis and Salade Niçoise. At this point, the … [Read more...]

Recipe: Salmon cakes with avocado basil cream

If you live in Seattle, it’s nearly required by state law to eat wild salmon during the summer. Lately, I’ve been grilling more than we need in order to use the leftovers for these fragrant salmon cakes that I developed last year when faced with a pile of leftover salmon after a rained-out BBQ.  They’re simple to make and freeze well, and offer a healthy alternative to fish sticks. They’re easily dressed up by a simple … [Read more...]

Recipe: Easy Thai Curry

Thai curry sounds exotic and complicated, but in truth it's a quick meal for which you can keep the bulk of ingredients in your pantry or freezer, plus it’s a great option for using up leftovers. If you can't find it in your supermarket, you can order a variety of curries online for under $12. Vary up the main protein and vegetables based on what’s in your fridge. The basic formula calls for one pound of a protein (tofu, … [Read more...]

Recipe: Chilled Spinach Asparagus Soup

Chilled soup carries a stamp of posh. "Oh James, prepare the vichyssoise and the champagne for dinner, will you?" The first time that I can recall having chilled soup was as a impressionable 20-year-old college student at the home of a wealthy older man that I was interviewing for a story in the Chicago Sun-Times. His private chef served a wide, shallow bowl of soup of cucumber and melon. The flavor was so delicate, … [Read more...]

Recipe: Spicy, Garlicky Planked Fish

Pike Place Market in summer reminds me of when I first moved to Seattle back in 1996. Can that possibly be 13 years ago? I’d never lived on the west coast, or in a place with mountains or even one with a major public market. Although I loved to cooked, I’d rarely cooked salmon or mussels, never laid eyes on a geoduck. My formative years were in Michigan. I didn’t know that you could buy fish at a store. This was back … [Read more...]

Moules à la Mariniére

Something big happened in my life recently. Taylor Shellfish Farms opened a store in my neighborhood. I'm a huge fan of, well, any shellfish to be honest. But mussels - moules in French - make me weak at the knees. Combined with fries and a crisp glass of white wine, it's probably one of my favorite meals ever. In France, mussels are often referred to as “moules de bouchot,” which isn’t a type but a reference to the way … [Read more...]