A story about home… and some lunch recipes

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This is a story about home – where home is and what home means to me these days.

And also, about what probably defines to eat lunch with me. Fish, involved, of course.

Black cod and crispy garlic tartine

Black cod, avocado and crispy garlic tartine

We arrived in Seattle 357 days ago.

People ask me “why Seattle?” all the time. Many seem surprised that I am indeed new to the city. “Feels like you have been here all your life”. Exactly.

What I still call home however is roughly 5,000 miles (or some odd 8,000 km) away. I have lived away from the Basque Country for 15 years now and when I say I am going home, I mean I am going here. Where my parents, brothers and all my relatives live. Where Ayarza – the pastry shop still stands and where I cannot take five steps without running into someone I know. I will always be Aran “from Ayarza” or “Nekane’s daughter”.

But in this year in Seattle, I have found a community that perhaps (dare I say) didn’t know that could exist anywhere. Maybe not even back home.

I think what lies under this sentiment is also a sense of growing up. Realizing that I am the only one who can create my community that I was craving so much, to find the jobs I want or to surround myself with beauty. It is all up to me. And it only took about 20 years for me to finally realize this.

In Seattle, I have found “my people” as they say… but, and most importantly…

… I have found myself.

And I say this with no sense of sappiness. No overly sentimental feelings in me anymore. Just excited to be here and do things, which I feel is what I learn from the artistic community in Seattle. Just create for the sake of creating.

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Above are some snippets of what my life here means. These colors and this light.

These children.

Home through Instagram photos

Home through Instagram photos

Cannelle et Vanille

But let’s not forget about the recipes, which I want to keep the focus for this blog.

If you popped by my house or studio any day for lunch, this is the sort of fare you would most likely find. Super simple things assembled in short few minutes. Most likely involving fish. I am after all Basque.

Stemed mussels.
Black cod, avocado and crispy garlic tartine.
A simple mecerated kale salad.

… maybe some cheese (except those times I must avoid dairy… that’s a story for another day)

And although not represented here, some sort of dish that requires a spoon. Soup or dessert. That is comfort to me.


Here and there.

Black cod, avocado and crispy garlic tartines

serves 4

3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for bread
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
12 oz (375 g) black cod filet, skinned
Black pepper
4 slices gluten-free bread
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced
1 small watermelon radish, thinly sliced

Heat a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and the garlic. Cook gently until the garlic becomes golden but do not let it burn or it will turn bitter. Remove the garlic from the pan and set aside.

Pat dry the black cod and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Cook the fish in the same pan over medium hight heat. Once you put the cod on the pan, do not try to flip it or move it. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes on one side and then gently flip over with a spatula. Cook for another 2 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. Black cod is slightly oily and flaky. remove the fish from the pan and assemble the tartines.

Brush the bread with a little bit of olive oil. If there isn’t much olive oil leftover from cooking the fish, you could even use that oil. It has a lot of flavor.

Assemble the tartines by toping bread with avocado slices, crumbled up fish, crispy garlic, watermelon radishes and some micro greens (optional). Another pinch of black pepper and a little bit of the leftover oil from cooking the garlic.

Steamed mussels

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small shallot, minced
1 pound (450 g) mussels, any beards removed and rinsed
1/4 cup (60 ml) dry white wine
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1 lemon, cut into wedges

Note: inspect mussels before cooking and discard any cracked or open ones.

Heat a medium pan over medium high heat. Add the olive oil and shallot and cook for a minute. Add the mussels and white wine. Cover the pan and cook for a minute or until mussels begin to open. remove the mussels that are open and cover the pan and continue cooking for a few more seconds until they are all open. If any mussels have not opened, discard them. Add all the mussels back in the pan and add the parsley. Stir and serve immediately with lemon wedges.

Massaged kale salad

8 leaves of kale, chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon shallot, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil

In a large bowl, toss together the kale, salt, pepper, lemon zest and lemon juice with your hands. Don’t be too gentle as the tossing action or massage helps the kale macerate. Let sit for 2 minutes. Add the shallot and olive oil. Toss and serve immediately.

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65 Responses to “A story about home… and some lunch recipes”

  1. Giulia says:

    Aran, this is beautiful. I admire that you made it happen – that you picked up and left when you no longer were happy.
    It seems that for me due to my dual nationality of Swiss and Canadian I always feel torn as to where my ‘home’ is. While living in Europe I identified with North America, now living 10 years in Canada I identify with Europe – it’s a constant back and forth, up and down – actually very true to my Libra nature.
    I’ve had a tendency to move every 3-6 years – from city to city, country to country…but now that I have my beautiful family I am happy to rest a bit and enjoy all the beauty they bring to my life – always open to try a new place though and show my family how big this world is.

    • Aran says:

      I think feeling torn between two places will always be true for us. But it’s also very enriching especially for the children. Beautiful sentiment!

      • I also like the “transplant” theme you weave through your stories – they really strum a chord with me – a Floridian transplanted 18 years in Sweden. It is so enriching for the children – I think so too! Reentry to the US may mean settling in Seattle for a while – which I would do for the sea food alone!

  2. Marilee Kaufman says:

    Such a lovely piece – the phrase I use most often when I am hungry (especially lunch) or it comes time to offer comfort to someone is “food in a bowl”. … I think your need for spoons carries the same weight. … … All the best to you in Seattle from Punta Rassa FL in the sub-tropics, Marilee

  3. Rosa says:

    It’s good to hear that you are dfeeling at home in Seattle. I’m sure it is a wonderful town.

    Lovely recipes. I particularly like the tartines.



  4. Jeremy says:

    This is a great post, really grounding and yet enlightening at the same time. Coming from Canada where relocation isn’t as prevalent in my experience, it is a little more difficult sometimes to find yourself I find. Having lived my life in the same city since birth I have always toyed with the idea of relocating and using that as the staging ground for establishing my new community. But I think you made a great point, it’s up to us to define that community regardless of where you are.

    Now if only I could get a longer growing season in the arctic air we have here ;).

    • Aran says:

      I think leaving the town where you grow up really gives you perspective. With it, also comes a bit of detachment and not being from here or from there, but I have learned so much about myself and my family after leaving.

  5. Melissa says:

    Beautiful post Aran. So happy you have found your community in Seattle and are doing the work you love!

  6. Juliette says:

    It’s so nice to read that someone feels the same way I do about my little town back “home”, in Italy. I moved to the Netherlands more than two years ago, but I still call my mountains, the little village where my parents live, the woods and everything surrounding, “home”. Sure enough I am at home here now as well. Unfortunately I have yet to find “my” people, but I like it here. But how I feel intensely at home in my valley, walking through “my” garden and “my” woods, is a feeling that lays deeper that the meaning of “home” as being where you live.

  7. Aran. Beautiful! You are way ahead of the curve. Happy for you to be surrounded by home away from home. ❤️

  8. Aran:

    Thank you for this deeply personal post. I am so happy Seattle found you. It is an enchanting city, one that I called home for a time, where a part of my heart still lives. I am certain it is a better place now that you and your family have settled your roots in its soil. Live, grow, prosper and continue to create in its glorious light.


  9. sandra says:

    So lovely that you have found the place you feel you belong. I looked for one a while ago only to find that where I was brought up was the closest to it after all. But I did do some searching before I made this realization.

  10. Kimberley says:

    Yes yes yes. I love this so much! And I love seeing Seattle and the PNW through your eyes.

  11. Kathleen says:

    This is just stunning, Aran. I feel the same way about Seattle, and returning after years of heartbreak while away has only amplified my appreciation for Seattle’s people, culture, geography, food and farms. I’m so glad you found another home.

    Also, these recipes are right up my alley… I love cooking cod, and since my boys only pick at it, there’s always leftovers to be eaten with avocado!

  12. Aran! What a lovely tale. (no sappiness here) Moving across the country has been transformative for you, and as it should be. I love seeing the shift in your work, and that you are so close to so much good seafood. Jealous about that for sure. :)

    What a life you have made. You inspire me regularly. Thank you for that.

    • Aran says:

      Love that you picked up on the sappiness. Sometimes I feel my posts sound too romantic about life. But this one is more pragmatic or at least that’s how I wanted to write it.

      Thank you!

  13. These recipes are fabulous. Lunch definitely doesn’t get enough attention!

  14. Beautiful story Aran and amazing post. Love love the recipes. I am happy you have found your community in Seattle and happy with your amazing work, such an inspiration. Wishing you happiness and success always xx

  15. Love to read this blogpost because I was just feeling the same for you! How you’ve seemed to have found the perfect place for you and your creativity! (and this can be seen in your work!) Seattle suits you really well and I couldn’t be happier for you!

  16. Sanda says:

    Oh how I understand every word you wrote. I am so happy you found community , I am still searching… This may be my favorite post of yours

  17. tara says:

    Truly, truly stunning, Aran. Wherever you may be, those around you are lucky to have you.

  18. Lovely pictures and that light is really something…

  19. Kacie says:

    I haven’t lived in Seattle for eight years, but my whole family is there and my husband’s family, and many friends and we come up every other month. I LOVE that city, and it feels like home to me too. So glad that my “home” has become your “home”.


  20. Aran, knowing you personally and a bit of what you bring to a community, I’d say this was Seattle’s win. That said, I gave a sigh when I read this post because I am so happy you’ve found where you belong on this side of the pond. I can’t wait to visit.

    • Aran says:

      Wow Aimee, you are so kind. Montreal made me feel this way too and that would be another city I know I would be happy in. Hope we can meet up soon again. Thank you friend. xx

  21. Aran, thank you for sharing such a compelling visual and prose narrative. I am South African born living in New Zealand now, and I often ponder the beautiful tension within me about having roots that span across the oceans.

    One thing your post captures so well for me is how food connects people and place. Our relationship to the land and how we create meals to share and nourish, is so much about ‘home’ and family. I love how sharing meals with strangers in new countries has resulted in strong friendships and communities when I am away from my family.

    Of course, I always love looking at the light in your images.
    Best wishes from the south, Laura

  22. Shelby says:

    What a beautiful reflection on the direction your life and career has taken you… How lovely that you found somewhere that simultaneously helped you to find you :) Thank you for sharing! Beautiful photography, as always!

  23. Love this:

    “I think what lies under this sentiment is also a sense of growing up. Realizing that I am the only one who can create my community that I was craving so much, to find the jobs I want or to surround myself with beauty. It is all up to me. And it only took about 20 years for me to finally realize this.”

    I feel the same way about Oregon Wine Country. It has been so refreshing to find the simpler, slower, small town life with all the youth, creativity and excitement I craved from the city. Being an introvert, I never realized the value of community in my life. But so much can be accomplished with the help of others. And it’s just so much more fun! :)

    Glad you are loving your new PNW home.

  24. cheri says:

    What a beautiful post. I definitely that food connects people. Your pics and recipes are beautiful as usual.

  25. Rebecca says:

    Your words are lovely and touching. I’m glad you’ve found a place away from “home” where you belong :)

  26. Sarah R. says:

    Beatiful! I have a question about gluten free bread–do you ever purchase bread that lives up to your high standards, or do you always bake your own? I love both the bread recipes I have made from your cookbook, especially the quinoa brioche! However… I have been craving sourdough bread and am not quite sure where to start–have you had any gluten free sourdough successes? There are recipes out there, but it is a long process to go through if I am going to end up with something mediocre :)

  27. Olatz says:

    Kaixo Aran,

    Gaurko historio hau irakurri dodanean, titulua ikusi bezain laister konturatu naiz, zure herriarengatik daukazun maitasuna, ez dakit kasualitatea edo pentsauta bazeneukan holako posta idaztea, baina zeozer esaten dozte, beharbada egunotan nonork zure herrira nolabait hurbildu ahal izan dotzula, eta horrrek izugarri posten nau, naiz eta horrela izan ez bada ere, zoriondu nahi dotzut egiten duzun lanagatik eta nola ateratzen dozun barruan daukazuna gurekin konpartitzeko.

    Muxu haundi bat,



  28. Teresa says:

    Such beautiful words, Aran. Thank you for sharing your life & thoughts with us. They struck me to my core. I feel as though I am still searching for “home.” It gives me hope that I will find a great community some day & that it is in me to create it. I appreciate you. Thank you.

  29. El says:

    Lovely Aran. I’m glad you found your special place, your home.

  30. Cathy says:

    Thank you so much for your homage to *my* hometown Seattle. I just moved away from the PNW four months ago to New England (for an amazing job), and I agree with you that you need to move away to get perspective for your home. Seattle will always be home, and I don’t think I’ll be able to stay away for ever, but you reminded me both of how amazing my hometown is, and yet how important it was to step away for it, if only for a while.

  31. Hi Aran, I’m totally in the same boat. Born and raised in Malaysia and now residing in Orlando for a few years — this is definitely home, away from home :)

    Glad Seattle is doing great for you!

  32. It’s just beautiful, absolutely dreamy! So wonderful to find a place that really feels like home, deep inside your heart. x

  33. Querida Aran,
    me da tanta alegría saber que has encontrado tu verdadera casa y no sabes cuánto te entiendo. Hace 5 años fui a Italia por primera vez, y desde aquella primera vez, y luego de regresar varias veces, siento que mi casa está allá, mi lugar en el mundo, mi razón, mis deberes, mi causa…
    De manera que en estos años, la nostalgia y la batalla por hallar el modo de hacerlo real me preocupa más y más y me ocupa menos. Por qué? Miedo, Aran, siempre el miedo, el único motivo que nos paraliza, nos minimiza, nos hace más inseguros.
    Ojalá me alcance la sabiduría y el coraje para, en poco tiempo, poder escribir algo como lo que nos has regalado tú en esta entrada. Estoy muy feliz por ti, te lo digo de todo corazón, me alegro inmensamente por ti y por tu familia también.
    Te mando un abrazo con todo mi cariño!

  34. Keli says:

    I feel so happy that we encountered each other shortly after you moved here; we’re lucky to have your kind spirit here. It’s been pretty rad to witness such a radically seamless transition to this city. Here’s to much goodness ahead!

  35. I’m so happy for you that you found your “home away from home”. That you found a place you can settle down and let your creativity flow. Thanks for sharing your words and photos.

  36. Francesca says:

    As I was looking at your images I thought wow look how different the light is from the ones you took in Florida.i live in the Pacific Notthwest, and the light in your photos reminds me of my home. They feel familiar.

  37. tammy says:

    I followed my husband’s career to Seattle. I was willing, but a few short months of being here had me wishing to be elsewhere. I longed for the skies to open up after a storm, but they seemed content to stay put, clouds intact, and gray for days. It’s a few years later now and we are both happy to be here. There’s no place like our Seattle.

  38. What a gorgeous, raw, inspiring & beautiful post, Aran. Thank you for your words! “Realizing that I am the only one who can create my community that I was craving so much, to find the jobs I want or to surround myself with beauty. It is all up to me.” – yes. Beautiful recipes, too.
    Heidi xo

  39. nazli says:

    you are truly the most inspiring person on earth for me, it was only through your beautiful and elegant photgraphy, but now that I have read this, I know it is your personality. very happy to know you, and hopefully meet you someday at one of your workshops somewhere in the world..


  40. Yes! Home is where the heart is. So glad you found yours.
    The kale salad–massage is the only way to go in my book. Kale needs the touchy feel-y to be right.

  41. gail says:

    I just wanted to comment on so very beautifully written this post is. Creating your own community is sage advice that I’m trying to follow, that you’ve been able to create yours so far away from ‘home’ brings me hope and happiness! Gail x


  42. Aran, so happy For you and all that you have created in Seattle both professionally and personally. I hope to get to one of your workshops one of these days soon and finally meet you in person. In the meantime, I would love to know what gluten free bread you like to use for your tartines. And if you make it yourself which recipe would you recommend? Thank you!

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