Friends often suggest I go into the catering business, but the thought makes my skin crawl. I find it hard to imagine feeding people I scarcely know (and possibly don't even like). Yet nothing gives me greater pleasure than cooking for those I love. Cooking is my gift, and sometimes it can make a nice present. My last night in LA, I was lucky enough to be able to celebrate the birthday of a good friend, someone who has known my family for nearly 40 years. She let me into her kitchen (a cook's paradise, amazingly organized and well stocked) and I did my thing. Knowing that Santa Monica Seafood was nearby, I decided to make a dish that would take advantage of all that fresh, gleaming seafood. The result was this warming but relatively light bouillabaisse
, the classic French fisherman's stew. It contains a mix of ingredients typical of Provence: seafood, garlic, tomato, saffron and fennel. Although some will say it’s not truly bouillabaisse without the rascasse
(scorpion fish), I say hooey. Use whatever firm, white-fleshed fish you like and throw in all manner of shellfish, including scallops, clams, mussels, lobster and shrimp (in the shell, preferably). It’s about what’s fresh, and what you like best, of course.