Food for Thought

Food For Thought: Nancy Dreams Of Sushi

Sep 20, 2016

Stein’s not big on sushi, but I eat enough to make up for his lack of interest. Sure, he’ll humor his wife — the lovely and talented Cheryl DeGroot — when she’s got the sushi jones. That’s when they’ll head out to Fujiya in Tacoma where she can go all raw fish and he can eat something fried.

Food For Thought: College Bites

Sep 14, 2016
Nate

Nancy here. You know how they say, “It goes so fast” (whoever they are)? They’re right. One minute I’m sending my only child off to kindergarten with a brightly colored lunchbox (as I wrote here), and next thing you know — Poof! — he’s blowing out of town for college.

(the lovely and talented) Cheryl DeGroot

One thing the summer's unconscionably hot weather seems to have been good for is my pepper crop.  I've got eight pots going, with poblanos, beaver dam (I just liked the name) fireballs, pepperoncini, cayanetta, and cubanelle and Italian sweet for pepper and scrambled egg or sausage subs.

I'm also growing two shisito plants, similar to the popular Spanish tapas pepper, the Padrón.  I've seen both at farmer's markets lately and they share a characteristic that makes eating them a suspenseful experience.

Nancy Leson

When the mercury rockets past 85 degrees, even I forgo pot roast — which is why I turned to Nancy Leson for some of her favorite hot-weather recipes. Vietnamese salad rolls are one of Nancy's hot weather go-tos. 

"For me, it's a whole dinner in itself and so easy to make," she said. "I buy a soft lettuce like a bibb, fresh herbs – cilantro, basil, mint.  I slice up cucumbers lengthwise and make little bowls full of chopped jalapeno, peanuts"

Nancy Leson

When Nancy Leson told me about the time her young son Nate opened a little stand in front of their house selling vegetables from their backyard, I asked, "So as the tenant sharecropper on your land, did he hand over half the money he made?"  He did not.

Nancy Leson

Africa was never on my bucket list, but after traveling with family and friends to Kenya and Tanzania this month, I hope it’s on yours. There are a million reasons why, and I told Stein only a handful of them (food related, of course!) this week on Food for Thought.

So, what was I doing there?

For years, our friends Emily and Aaron, a young Seattle couple who’ve lived, worked and traveled extensively on the continent, have been carrying on about how they’d love to introduce us to their favorite place on earth — East Africa.

Nancy Leson

The first recipe I tried from "Churrasco: Grilling the Brazilian Way" by chef Evandro Caregnato had nothing to do with grilling.  It was Moqueca De Peixe com Coco  (moh-KE-kah de pay-SHEE com Ko-ko); a seafood stew with coconut milk, peppers and onions.   How good was it?

Nancy leson

Since last week's Food for Thought was all about salt it seemed only right this week to ask Nancy Leson  “Where is the love for plain old black pepper?”  With all the exotic heat available today, black pepper doesn’t get the respect it should.  As Nancy points out, “Black pepper is the world’s most traded spice. Who among us doesn’t have black pepper in the house?”

True dat.  And we’re fortunate that it's so affordable today because once the stuff was rare and expensive enough to be called “black gold.”

Nancy Leson

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 mouth feel. 

Dick Stein / KPLU

Cochinita Pibil, the Yucatan-style roast pork is smoked and slow roasted in banana leaves.  My mistake was trying to smoke it in a gas grill.  After 30 minutes over max heat my little disposable aluminum tray of wood chips was barely scorched, let alone smoking.

N. Leson

"I do like to have a nice summer quaff," says Nancy Leson.  My Food for Thought pard goes on to explain that "At our house, what we drink in the summertime is really different than what we drink in the winter."  

What's that?  Read on, dear reader, if you would know.

Stein

Okay, maybe not "profit," exactly; but not all that "hard," either.  Plus, you could save a few bucks.

Recently, KPLU Promo Queen Brenda Goldstein-Young, chatting with me on a non-food related topic, asserted, "I live in hope." 

"Hope!" I scoffed. "The only thing left in Pandora's box after she released all those evils into the world"   I added, "Who but the Greeks could've come up with that one?"   Brenda said, "Yeah, but they sure make great yogurt."  Now so can you.

Nancy Leson; Dick Stein

Nancy Leson was so excited!  "I just came back from Goodwill with the definitive Chinese Cookbook!"   I recognized the title immediately.  I've been using that one since it hit the shelves in the '70s.

Nancy Leson

Recently, DeGroot and I shared a root beer float made with Tacoma's Ice Cream Social vanilla at the Crown Bar, right down the street.  We reflected on how simple and perfect a concoction that is. It got me thinking that some of the very best food preparations are the simplest.

When I mentioned this to Nancy Leson, she was quick to weigh in with some of her favorite simple preparations.

Dick Stein & Nancy Leson

Kitchen queen Nancy Leson claims that size does matter.  She thinks my tried and true sheetpan, pictured above, is (sob)...  inadequate.  Sheetpan snobbery, I calls it.  She'd never even have known had it not been for...

Nancy Leson

It's kind of a grab bag on this week's Food for Thought. 

Among other things, Nancy Leson and I chat about leek scapes.  She loved the store-bought ones she grilled the other day.  I (cough, cough) grow my own, but intend to follow her example very soon.  We also discuss a time-saving tweak to that homemade pastrami recipe seen here a while back. 

And we do some general grousing about how all the used-to-be cheap cuts of meat are now pricier than a slushy in hell. 

Nancy Leson

There's nothing I like better than spending a whole day or two working a complicated recipe.  I'm a little nuts that way.  But just as games with the simplest rules often have the most depth, sometimes the simplest recipes yield the the most flavor.

Nancy Leson's candidate comes from cookbook author Marcella Hazan.  Nance says it's "reputedly the world's simplest, most delicious sauce.  I really could not get over the complexity of flavor out of just three ingredients."

Stein

Call me quotidian, but one my favorite sandwiches is just a plain old ham and cheese.  I used to prefer thinly sliced ham, but now I want it thick.  That's because my H&C is both hot and cold at the same time.

Nancy Leson

Though its population, at a mere three million or so is relatively small, the language of Wales uses up as much as 80 percent of the world's supply of consonants. The Welsh national symbol is the leek.  Fortunately they’ve left plenty of those for the rest of us.

On this week’s Food for Thought learn how to grow new leeks from old.

Shannon Dininny / AP Photo

Editor's note: This segment originally aired April 28, 2010.

Spring has finally arrived here in the Pacific Northwest and the signs are everywhere — flowers are blooming, birds are singing and lawnmowers are buzzing.

But for Dick Stein, it’s the arrival of Yakima asparagus at the local grocery store that proves to be the surest sign that winter is behind us.

As I told Nancy Leson in this week's Food for Thought outing, "It's all just too sweet and slimy." 

I've been unhappy with the supermarket selection of hot dog relish for some time now.  But I do like that neon green Chicago-style stuff.  I never see it for sale in actual stores around here so I was driven to the web. 

"$14.95 for a jar of relish? Are you [expletive deleted] KIDDING me?"  I enquired mildly.  I knew I could make the stuff myself for a lot less than that.  After all, how hard could it be?

Not hard at all, actually.

Nancy "Cumin-a my house" Leson

Just a few Food for Thoughts ago in our Restaurant Round-up, Nancy Leson mentioned the cumin-chili ribs at Seattle's Stateside Restaurant.  They sounded so good that for a brief, madcap moment, I actually considered making the schlep north from the City of Destiny. 

But then, in a flash of ribbitty serendipity, I didn't have to.

Leson here, holding the quill for Stein. Like me – and unlike the millions of Americans who celebrate Valentine's Day (or as Stein calls it, “National Emotional Extortion Day” ) by making reservations – we prefer to stay at home and cook.

N. Leson

When Nancy Leson told me the kind of seeds she'd sprinkled on the challah she baked, I immediately dropped a dime on her to the Bread Police.  Wounded she asked, "Was that really necessary, Stein?" But the simple fact is she left me no choice. 

Fennel seeds on challah, indeed!  Everyone knows the only legit topping is poppy seeds.  But fennel? And orange juice?  And orange zest.  Hmmm...actually sounds kind of good...

David French via Creative Commons / Flickr

This week's "Food for Thought" opens with audio from a vintage Kitchen of the Future short ("Plastics in all their colorful, functional, and beautiful versatility!").  When I asked Nancy Leson if her microwave oven "rises from the counter" a la the clip she told me "No, it sits right on the counter as a shelf for clutter."

Nance says she mainly uses her microwave for pre-heating her coffee cup, popping popcorn, and as a place to hide pies.  But when she thought a little more about it she came up with several other ways to employ the magic of the magnetron.

Nancy leson

Gluttonous minds must think alike.  I just discovered that independently and on the same day Nancy Leson and I had both jonse'd for Eggplant Parmigiana – or as she describes it "a big fat, fabulous layer cake of  eggplant, cheese, and homemade tomato sauce."  

Nancy leson

Nancy Leson says it's "My new favorite cookbook.  I just got my hands on it a couple of weeks ago and I can't stop cooking out of it."  Nance adds that she'll be making some of its recipes for the rest of her life. 

That's such a strong recommendation that I'm considering actually shelling out my own money for a copy of  "Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking."   The Pink Lentil Soup with Lamb Meatballs alone looks  worth the price of admission.

Nancy Leson

After decades of, well,  fruitless requests from her husband Mac, Nancy Leson has finally baked him a homemade cake.  And this one has plenty of fruit.

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.

Someone related to Nancy

Nancy Leson calls me J. Kenji Lopez-Alt's fanboy.  I admit it;  I love this guy!  He's so, so... scientific.  In this week's Food For Thought, Nance and I enthuse over Kenji's new cookbook, plus three more. 

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