Food

Stories related to food in Seattle, including Dick Stein and Nancy Leson's weekly commentary Food for Thought.

Food For Thought is produced by KNKX Public Radio. 

Nancy Leson / KNKX

All I had to do was tell Nancy Leson I'd made a pot of gumbo, and right away she's saying her husband Mac's is better.  Even though...Even Though... she's never even tasted mine.  Come to think of it, I've never tasted Mac's, either. 

There's a gumbo throw down brewing but it'll probably have to wait til next year.  And of course it's really all just a matter of personal taste. I  doubt that in the history of the world any two people ever made gumbo in exactly the same way.

Besides, this Food for Thought is really about making changes to recipes.  And Nancy and Mac did make an interesting switch in their gumbo recipe.

L. Luthor / KNKX

KNKX South Sound reporter Will James said the nicest thing about Food for Thought to me recently.  I tell Nancy Leson all about it in this week's segment which also includes...

Nancy Leson

  (This segment originally aired July 6, 2016)

Nancy Leson loves the taste of Maldon sea salt.  I claim that what she loves is the texture.  She says "Some salts taste saltier than others."  I maintain that all salt tastes about the same, "It's all sodium chloride," differing only in texture.   What's more, all salt is sea salt.  Even the stuff they mine on land was originally in a bygone sea.

The L&T Cheryl DeGroot / KNKX

Don't look for sous vide cookers, wi-fi enabled digital electronic smokers, or enchanted knives forged by the dwarves of Middle Earth on this list.  For holiday gift-giving Nancy Leson and I recommend these inexpensive items any cook will be thrilled to get. 

Nancy Leson / KNKX

Depending on your pan and the amount you're cooking, it'll take you at least 40 minutes to an hour to get onions to deliver up that golden brown sweetness.  Yet many recipes claim it can be done in five or ten minutes.

Who ya gonna believe, eaters?  The recipe writers or your lyin' eyes?

Best Biscuits Ever

Dec 6, 2017
Stein / KNKX

Nancy Leson and I each got a copy of the new Hello My Name is Tasty: Global Diner Favorites from Portland's Tasty Restaurants.  There's plenty in there I'm looking forward to trying, but like Nancy I went straight to the biscuits. We both made them and agree they're the best ever.  Here's how:

Nancy Leson / KNKX

I like lentils and I love the spicy red lentil soup recipe Nancy Leson recently sent me.  Adapted from Lynne Rossetto Kasper's The Splendid Table's How to Eat Weekends, this recipe is fast and easy to make, and perfect for rainy weeknight dinners, too.

For a more time-consuming, weekend lentil dish, do try the lamb shanks and lentils recipe from another Kaspar – Kaspar Donier.  You'll find both recipes below.  As of publication we still have not received recipes from Kaspar Hauser or Casper the Friendly Ghost but remain hopeful.

Duck Thanksgiving!

Nov 22, 2017
Nancy Leson / KNKX

"Do you have anything new to say about Thanksgiving dinner?" I asked Nancy Leson.

"No, I don't,"   she admitted.  Me neither,  So I suggested we talk turkey about our favorite waterfowl, instead.  

Nancy Leson / KNKX

There are any number of overused, hackneyed and just flat out annoying words at large in current food writing.  My personal worst would have to be the infuriatingly infantile "veggie."  Nancy Leson shares my loathing for another "-ie," the pointless and demeaning "foodie."  But she doesn't stop there.

Stein / KNKX

"I am a believer!" I told Nancy Leson,  "In the single most useful kitchen tool I've encountered in years. "

Tweezers. 

"I have those, Stein," Nancy said.  "What's the big deal?" 

The big deal is that these tweezers are big – and amazingly versatile. 

Nancy Leson / KNKX

"Good service starts the minute you walk in the door," Nancy Leson says. "There's a certain sense of welcome.  If you have it right away, even if people are busy, that's great service."

I agree.  A simple acknowledgment of my presence is plenty for me.  No one likes to feel invisible.  Even if  the person behind the podium is busy taking a reservation on the phone, a smile,  eye contact and a silently mouthed "Just a second" make me feel welcomed.

Nancy has firm ideas on what else makes for great restaurant service – and its opposite.

Nancy Leson

I'm a guy who appreciates the virtues, however imaginary, of the quick fix.  And what could be more emblematic of the QF than duct tape?  Surely there's something analogous in cooking.  When I asked Nancy Leson what she thought that might be, she posed the question on her Facebook page. 

Nancy Leson / KNKX

As I told Nancy Leson in this week's chat, "I just don't have the kind of kitchen where everything is put away nice and neat."  Nance keeps her kitchen, though shinier than mine, the same way.

The L&T Cheryl DeGroot / KNKX

Alarm bells went off in my head when my wife, the Lovely & Talented Cheryl DeGroot asked, "What is all that smoke floating under the ceiling?"  How could that be?  The kitchen exhaust fan was going full blast.

I noticed that the door on the overhead cabinet housing the fan was slightly ajar.  I turned off the fan and closed it.  When I re-started the fan the door popped open again. 

Uh-oh.

Dick Stein / KNKX

The good news? We harvested 60+ lbs. of Roma tomatoes this year.  Bad news?  I'd have to puree them in my little food mill as I did last year. It's a nice enough tool but just not up to processing that kind of volume.  The plates clog up and have to be removed and cleaned, then re-installed.  It just takes forever.

But this time around I found something robust enough for heavy tomato lifting.

Nancy Leson / KNKX

Last week I received a text from Nancy Leson containing the lobster shot above and "Live @ $4.50/lb.  Eat yer heart out."  The surge of envy that coursed through me was powerful enough to make me drop my can of Beanie-Weenies. 

What kind of madcap optimist attempts homemade pastrami?  Well, uh — me.

When I told Nancy Leson about the breakthrough recipe I found at Mandy Lee's utterly swell Lady And Pups blog, she had to try it too.

Stein

Run wild!  Sure, if you've never made something before, it's a good idea to follow the instructions. But remember that recipes come from all-too-fallible humans, not infallible food deities.

I speak from bitter experience.

Dick Stein / KNKX

I got so excited last week listening to Nancy describe her homemade tortillas that I ran right out and bought a tortilla press and some masa harina.  My intention was a taco feast with homemade Mexican chorizo and salsa verde and homemade tortillas.  What could go wrong?

Nancy Leson / KNKX

"Why would you make your own tortillas when they're available in every store?" I asked Nancy Leson.

"Because I can. Because it's fun.  And it's easy!"  And, she claims, better than store-bought.  Read on for Nancy's tortillas, the book they rode in and actual live footage of La Leson wielding her tortilla press.

Nancy Leson / KNKX

Nancy Leson was just over the moon about the Persian cooking class she'd recently taken from cookbook author and teacher Najmieh Batmanglij.  I took one look at Batmanglij's site and immediately found recipes I had to try. 

Nancy Leson / KNKX

Nancy Leson is the first to talk up the virtues of the produce on sale at local farmers markets, but she was wowed by the tomatoes she saw at Eugene's Lane County Farmers Market.  Her only regret?  "I just wasn't in a position to take home a box of San Marzanos that were just unbe-LEEEV-able."

I had thought San Marzanos were the same thing as the Romas I'm growing.  I was half-right.

Nancy Leson / KNKX

"Hey Nance," I asked Ms. Leson.  "Mussels or clams – which wunna dese?" 

"Of dose?" she Philly'd.  "I like 'em both, but it would have to be mussels.  Especially in the summer."

Here's why.

Nancy Leson / KNKX

As a guy who excludes fruit from his diet, I have no business pointing a finger at anyone else's food phobias.  But I will, anyway. 

How can my wife, the Lovely & Talented Cheryl DeGroot, a generally omnivorous woman, hate grits? And she'll have nothing to do with Pisum sativum, either no matter how I beg her to give peas a chance. 

Nancy Leson's husband Mac won't eat the cheeses she finds so pleasing. This week Nance and I commiserate on our spouses' food phobias and offer recipes for stuff that they won't eat, but you might love.

Jim Robbins / KNKX

This showdown's been brewing ever since Nancy Leson claimed she could make perfectly good bagels, start to finish in one hour.  Naturally I scoffed, but Nancy swears they're good.  We and about ten other guests finally got a chance to do a comparison tasting last weekend.  The results surprised me.

Dick Stein / KNKX

Mayonnaise is Chile's favorite sandwich spread.  It's a must for the famous Chacarero (farm style) beef, tomato and green bean sandwich.  I made one recently and, in the process, discovered a whole new use for both mayo and my gas grill.

Nancy Leson / KNKX

“Seattle restaurants are so uncomfortable that it’s driving me crazy,” Nancy Leson beefed.  Nancy’s main complaint is fundamental.  “Isn’t the definition of 'restaurant' to restore?  How restored can you get when your tush is numb after a half hour?”

Nancy Leson / KNKX

Last week, Seattle celebrated the grand opening of the new Pike Place MarketFront. It was a long time coming. Not only for folks who tried to navigate Western Avenue amid the mass construction, but for all of us who love Pike Place Market and use it regularly, whether we’re showing off the city’s historic centerpiece to out-of-towners or eating, drinking and shopping there — as I regularly do.

Nancy Leson / KNKX

I asked Nancy Leson what she likes to chop on.  Once we got past her lumberjack (Jill?) joke I learned she likes plastic for cutting and wood for serving. 

I'd always preferred wood for cutting and hubcaps for serving. Now I'm a convert to the convenience of plastic for cutting.  Especially the new one sent to us by a listener.  What’s so great about it? 

It’s full of holes.

"My kid finally got a real, paying job," Nancy Leson announced.  Young Nate's now a B.C. barista.  Which led us to reminisce about our first food service jobs.  Nancy's was at the Chalfonte, a venerable Cape May, N.J. hotel. 

My first food service job nearly earned me a deep-fried head.

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