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Image: Claire Sites

Local cooking class 'Pike to Plate' made me fall in love with the art of cooking

I will be the first to admit I am not a good cook.

I have been known to make hot dog salads, and if you find yourself confused — it's exactly what it sounds like. I have cooked oatmeal BEFORE putting it into an oatmeal cookie dough, and I definitely don't know the difference between the words ceviche and cioppino and will use them interchangeably.

I know, it's not great.

I've never really been inclined to go to a cooking class. Obviously, it doesn't come naturally to me, and it's not really a passion or interest pique for me, but when I heard about Pike To Plate, I was fully intrigued.

It wasn't necessarily the cooking class that intrigued me but rather the fact that Jennifer (Jen) O'Connor had created a full foodie experience sourcing ingredients from Pike Place Market.

Giiiiiirl. You know I love Seattle. Heck, I've made a living for several years writing and exploring this lovely city, so the idea of having Jen, a former educator-turned-chef, source ingredients from the market, cook with us AND serve us some interesting tidbits about the iconic Pike Place Market? Ya girl was, how should I say — sold.

The experience started with an email from Jen asking about who was going to join me, what types of dietary restrictions did we have and if we'd prefer a Mediterranean, Persian or Middle Eastern meal. I responded and said, "My mom and best friend Claire, gluten-free, please, and SURPRISE ME."

Now, because we took our cooking class on Monday, Jen had shopped for the ingredients at the market beforehand. If we had booked either a Friday or Saturday cooking class, Jen would have met us at the market, shown us where she buys and sources all the ingredients and would have taken us back to her beautiful Beacon Hill home, where we would cook together. We would have LOVED to do that part of the Pike To Plate experience as well, but we only had so many hours in the day.

We met Jen at her house and waltzed into the bright and vibrant kitchen. All of the ingredients and cooking supplies were set out on the butcher block, the stove was hot and ready to go and the menu was revealed to us...drum roll, please...Spanish cuisine *insert heart eyes here.*

The full menu was comprised of three courses, starting with a light salad of arugula, apple, la dama Sagrada cheese and a cider vinaigrette. For the main course, we had Black Cod with Romesco sauce and potato fritas. For dessert, tarte de santiago!

Claire, mom and I each had different sections. Claire became a baking extraordinaire, I chopped the potatoes and onions (and learned how to do so the fancy chef way) and my mom was in charge of charring the tomatoes and toasting the nuts for the romesco sauce.

Jen was very patient and walked us through the different recipes, all while giving us tips, tricks and information on different ingredients. Think, what's the difference between virgin and extra virgin olive oil or labels to look for when looking for authentic ingredients from Spain, or where have you.

Jen is extremely knowledgeable about the histories of different stores within the market, which made the experience that much sweeter for me. It's easy to walk by the little hole-in-the-wall spots at Pike Place Market — that place can sometimes feel like an absolute labyrinth, but it's fun to talk to someone who has spent the time getting to know the folks who work and sell beautiful produce in all the little nooks and crannies.

Back to the food.

After we had prepared the salad, Jen continued to cook the black cod as we ate. The salad was incredible, so fresh and so crisp and the cheese she put on it? Absolutely unbelievable. It's called la dama Sagrada, which was recommended to Jen by a cheesemonger at the market. It paired so wonderfully with the arugula, apple and cider vinaigrette.

Once Jen finished the cod, she brought out the fish and potatoes fritas, which were topped with the romesco sauce. If you don't know what a romesco sauce is, I highly suggest you look this puppy up because it was probably the most wonderful thing I have ever eaten in my entire life. Cities, children and musical masterpieces must be named after this sauce. It includes toasted hazelnuts, almonds, tomatoes, roasted red peppers and garlic.

The romesco sauce was perfect with the black cod fish — they truly complemented each other stupendously, and by the time dessert came out, I was about ready to roll out the door, not because I wanted to leave but because I was STUFFED.

But there's always room for dessert...

The almond cake was just heavenly. Perfectly moist, almondy but not too almondy, gluten-free and fluffy as all get out. I am now planning on making these cakes for every occasion moving forward in my life! In fact, I made two cakes for my family's Thanksgiving dinner, and we snacked on those cakes for two days — at dinner and for breakfast the next morning with a cup of black coffee.

I left the Pike To Plate experience stuffed to the brim and absolutely delighted that I had so much fun cooking (and eating, teehee). Not only did it make me love Seattle and the history of Pike Place Market that much more, but it showed me that cooking is not just to eat. It's for sharing information and knowledge and building community.

Bon apple teeth!

Learn more about Pike to Plate here.

Gena Wynkoop is a freelance writer for Seattle Refined. Follow more of her adventures here. Read more from Gena:

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