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. 

"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.

Nancy Leson

It was buckwheat all the way down. 

While Nancy Leson was whipping out a batch of buckwheat crepes in Edmonds this past weekend, 39 miles to the south I was mixing the sponge for the next morning's sourdough buckwheat flapjacks. 

Background and recipes below the fold.

Nancy Leson

With warm summer weather just about here what better time to crank up the oven to 550 degrees?  A little thermal discomfort is a small price to pay for the pleasures of the pizza and calzone Nancy Leson and I talked about.

Nancy Leson

We all have favorite old standby recipes, comfortable and familiar as well-worn jeans.  Recipes like that don't come along often, but when they do you just know you'll be making them again.  This last week, both Nancy Leson and I were lucky enough to come across several new "old favorites" to add to our lists.

Nancy Leson

Sometimes the simplest kitchen tools are the most useful.  One of my favorites is an old rubber mallet I picked up at the auto parts years ago.  I use it for pounding meat.  It was cheaper than the "official" flesh whackers sold in kitchen stores and way easier to handle than the frequently suggested substitute, a cast-iron skillet.

Nancy Leson

"All the chefs think they know how to season your meal," complains Nancy Leson about the disappearance of salt and pepper shakers from restaurant tabletops. 

That's never bothered me.  Mainly because I think the chefs do know how to season my meal.  But for those who want it saltier, Nance has the solution: Bring your own.   

That and other restaurant-going tips and tricks, dos and don'ts in this week's Food for Thought.

Concept: Stein; Photoshop: Parker Miles Blohm

"Well, Nance," I reminded Nancy Leson.  "Mother's Day is Sunday – let's talk about some mom food."   Since Nancy actually is somebody's mother I wanted to know not just what dishes her mother made, but also the ones she thought her son would remember. First her own childhood favorites.

The advice to eat a healthy diet is not new. Back around 400 B.C., Hippocrates, the Greek doctor, had this missive: Let food be thy medicine.

But as a society, we've got a long way to go. About 1 out of every 2 deaths from heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes in the U.S. is linked to a poor diet. That's about 1,000 deaths a day.

Cheryl DeGroot

Nancy Leson and I love to share cooking and eating tips and tricks, but we don't always see things the same way.  Nance says we agree to disagree.  I say we agree to each think the other is wrong and say so. 

Nancy Leson

So Leson emails me a link to a Bon Appetit recipe which claims to make mushrooms taste like bacon.  In the subject line she writes "Methinks this has a FfT in it."  Methought the same.

Nothing evokes memory like smells.  Nancy Leson says one whiff of mint, and she's suddenly 6 again.  My ticket to 6 is a strong snort off a box of Crayolas.  Try it sometime.

Nancy Leson

A slight touch of pneumonia got in the way of the dim sum feast I'd planned with my visiting sister Debbie and niece Jen, both ace cooks.  Fast forward a year and we were ready to roll (wrappers) again.  Naturally, Nancy Leson came to share the cooking and eating.

Nancy Leson

Nancy Leson was more into pickles than I was this winter.

"Late last fall, when the last of the local peppers were at the farmer's market I snagged some gorgeous red jalapenos and I pickled a small batch," she said.

Nance says she continued to make them through the winter and has used them on everything from sandwiches to salads.

Nancy Leson

Hi. Nancy here.  I recently read an article about the joys of being a restaurant regular and the tears inevitably shed when your favorite restaurant hauls out the “closed” sign — for good.

It got me thinking about the places I hit on a regular basis, and what it is about those particular restaurants that turned me into a regular in the first place.

Nancy Leson

Traditional lore says sear your steak first then finish it at a lower temperature. I recently tried J. Kenji Lopez-Alt's "reverse sear" method, which saves the sear for last and liked it.  Nancy Leson's approach is sear first, oven second..

Photo: Cheryl DeGroot. Layout & Design: Parker Blohm

"Stein, what do you eat when no one's looking?" Nancy Leson asked.  I turned the question back to her and Leson was firm in her preferences. 

"It's gotta be fatty, salty, preferably both," she said.

Nancy Leson

Nancy Leson grew up with plain old paper napkins, but planned for a more elegant wipe while still a teen.  These days, she mops her mug at every meal with linen napkins.  When not on duty, those napkins nestle in their own rings, engraved Madame or Monsieur. 

(The L&T) Cheryl DeGroot

"Stein," Nancy Leson asked me, "If you could spend a day at the elbow of a restaurant cook, what kind of restaurant would it be?" 

Well, a Chinese restaurant, natch.  But I don't want to be standing around getting in the way in any busy restaurant kitchen.  Fortunately, many eateries these days feature open kitchens where customers can enjoy their dinners while watching the cooks at work. 

Nancy Leson

Nancy Leson asked, "When did you start drinking coffee?"  

In an instant (forgive the expression), I remembered elementary school mornings when my mom, Chesterfield ash trembling dangerously over my glass, dripped some drops of her barely brown Maxwell House into my milk.

Nancy Leson

When I asked Nancy Leson about the cooking classes she's been teaching she said, "The more I teach, the more I learn – especially from my students." 

Yeah, yeah, all the teachers say that. 

"So what have you learned lately?" I challenged her.

Charles Kelly / AP Photo

I am not a Luddite. I'm not; I'm not; I'm not! I mention that only because when Nancy Leson confessed to her seduction by Amazon Echo, I had to ask her what that was.


Nancy Leson

I hoard shrimp shells.  "I've got a wad of them the size of soccer ball in the freezer," I told Nancy Leson. They're a great start to a good seafood stock.

The L&T Cheryl DeGroot

At the conclusion of last week's Food for Thought, I bragged to Nancy Leson that I would create an LP sized giant cheese cracker in my home oven. 

"I'm talkin' about the big Corellian Cheez-Its now" I told her.   Thanks to pastry chef Stella Parks' BraveTart blog I can declare "mission accomplished!"

The L&T Cheryl DeGroot

A man and woman meet in a bar and get along perfectly — same sense of humor, same favorite authors and movies, food, music; they're a perfect match.  Naturally, they wind up at her place that very night.  There on the living room floor he sees a dead horse.

"My God," he exclaims. "A dead horse!"

"Well," she shrugs, "I never said I was neat."

Nancy Leson

Between the maddening traffic up and back from Tacoma and the crushing crowds,  I’d started to wonder last summer if a trip to Pike Place Market was worth the aggravation.  Nancy Leson showed me in just two words why right now is such a great time to go — no tourists.

Nancy Leson

My whole life I've been soaking dried beans overnight for use in the next day's soup or stew. At this late date, I've learned I've been wasting my time. 

Justin Steyer / knkx

The first time I ever did it was right out in public in front of everyone at the Taylor Shellfish Oyster Bar on Queen Anne. My first raw oyster.

The Lovely & Talented Cheryl DeGroot

When it comes to dinner rolls, Nancy goes fancy, while I opt for the straightforwardly simple.  After describing what are now my all-time favorite rolls, I dared her, "Top that, Leson."

As always, she was equal to the challenge.

NANCY LESON

This is the time of year Nancy Leson and her friends get together for cookie-exchange parties. But Nance, not much of a sweets fan, didn’t have a favorite recipe.  And then she remembered a cookie she'd sampled while shopping Fremont’s Book Larder.  The effect was immediate.

“The lights went on and the angels started singing Christmas carols.”

Nancy Leson

It all started a few Food for Thoughts ago when I asked Nancy Leson if she thought expensive mail-ordered foods could really be worth the money.  We decided that the only way to know for sure would be to try some out.

Pages