Cooking in Someone Else’s Kitchen

Thank you all for the Seattle restaurant recommendations. As predicted, I didn’t get a chance to explore as much as I usually do on these kinds of trips. Other than a quick hop to Fremont Bowl to eat salmon poke bowls and what I think is maybe the best tofu on the planet, we cooked and ate in. I should explain that I was in town helping out an old friend who is going through a rough stretch, so the priority was less about getting my hands on the lemon curd donuts at General Porpoise or throwing back a cocktail at that new spot in Ballard, and more about just being there, hanging out, running errands, re-bingeing Cheer, and of course, cooking the kind of food that said I LOVE YOU the loudest.

Night 1 was the kale-tofu-soba dish I alluded to in my previous post. It was great, but involved a shop at the PCC (Seattle people: LUCKY!) more pots and pans than I thought, a fleet of knives, and lots of prepping and chopping. (Don’t worry, I will simplify that one before it ends up in your hands.)

Night 2, though, Night 2 was about a million times easier, and way more fun because it involved my most favorite activity, i.e. hunting around in someone else’s refrigerator and pantry to see what their staples are, then challenging myself to figure out something to make for family dinner, which in this case meant a meal good enough for me, my friend, her husband, two teen-age daughters, and a second friend also in town to help. (The TV pilot elevator pitch: Chopped with a Soul??)

One of the first items I locked in on was a Trader Joe’s six-ounce smoked salmon fillet like the one you see above. I’ve probably walked by it eight thousand times in my own Trader Joe’s 3000 miles away but it never occurred to me that I’d like it. Why not? I have no idea! There is no rhyme or reason for where I draw the line in the sand on Trader Joe’s pre-cooked, pre-packaged foods. For instance, I would never buy their bottled salad dressing, but I have no problem picking up the 10-minute farro or their frozen French green beans that I actually think taste better than fresh. (I know! SHOTS FIRED!) Anyway, next to the salmon was a package of prepared lentils, also from TJoes, and also something that I’ve never considered throwing into the cart. Maybe it’s because I’ve been editing so many Five-Ingredient Dinners over at Cup of Jo, but from there I had a clear vision for an assembly-only kind of dinner, one that managed to deliver on intense flavors with minimal ingredients and without turning on the stove. In fact the most “cooking” involved here would be making a salad dressing. Here’s the direction we went:

Smoked flakey salmon + lentils + a handful of greens (not a lot, this is not a leaf-based salad, it’s a stuff-based salad) + green beans + red onion + dressing

My friend had some homemade Caesar on hand, so we used that and it did the job, but smoked salmon has such a strong flavor, I’m not sure we really needed more than a simple, bright vinaigrette or dressing (like this one) to bring the whole thing together. My friend sliced up some fresh bread and the grown-ups all sat at her kitchen table while various combinations of teen-agers and their friends dashed in and out, on their way to and from their volunteer work and Hebrew School and dance class and cheer practice. That’s one thing in her kitchen that felt exactly the same.

Big Green Salad with Flakey Smoked Salmon and Lentils
Look for the smoked salmon in the fresh fish part of your Trader Joe’s, keeping in mind that the packaging might not look exactly the same as the one I showed above. The lentils, when they’re in stock are in the produce department, usually next to the pre-cooked beets. They were sold out at both of my local Traders, so when I recreated the dish last night, I simmered two cups of regular brown lentils in vegetable broth. I also added some dill because I had it! Serves 4

Toss all of the following in a large bowl:

6-ounce piece smoked salmon (specifically the 6-ounce flakey fillet from Trader Joe’s, not the typically thin-sliced kind)
17-ounce package Trader Joe’s pre-cooked lentils
2 cups arugula (or shredded romaine)
3 tablespoons minced red onions (I quick-pickled* mine, but you don’t have to!)
2 cups green beans (the frozen fancy French kind, thawed or, if fresh, simmered for 4 minutes, then plunged in ice water)
Simple dressing of your choosing (again, I recommend this one)
Dill for garnish (optional)

Serve with slices of ciabatta or crusty buttered bread.

*Quick pickled onions: Combine 2 cups water, 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon salt in a small saucepan and simmer over medium heat until sugar has dissolved. Add 1 sliced medium red onion and simmer five minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

P.S. For those of you who want actual Seattle recommendations, here’s a post from my last visit. Also be sure to check the comments in last week’s thread for some more updated suggestions. Thanks again Seattle friends. I just love your city.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

What is 4 + 14 ?
Please leave these two fields as-is:
IMPORTANT! To be able to proceed, you need to solve the following simple math (so we know that you are a human) :-)



We really are so lucky to have PCC! I drive by my nearest one four times a day and am in there nearly daily. It’s such a wonderful combination of beautiful food and lovely community. 🙂

Maya Polton

That salmon is always on my list. It’s so versatile from a grain salad to a bagel or anywhere in between. Glad you finally discovered it too.


We picked up the Trader Joe’s new soba noodle stir fry and added cubed teriyaki baked tofu for a (basically) 2 ingredient, 1 pan dinner the other day. Inspired by you! Thank you!


In the summer when I get delicious medium hot yellow peppers in my CSA, I love making veggie stuffed peppers with TJ’s precooked lentils and sauteed greens. So good and easy!


The best, easiest appetizer using TJ’s ingredients is the lentils mixed with their bruschetta and then it’s optional if you add feta (though I personally love it). Serve with pita chips on the side. It’s not the prettiest but it gets devoured every time and people always say they forgot how good/easy it is. You can serve it warmed or room temp (or leftover straight out of the fridge) and it’s also good spooned over chicken or fish.


I hope your friend and her family are ok. You are truly a great friend! And thanks for the recipe – – this is perfect and is definitely happening this week.