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

Dick Stein, Nancy Leson / KPLU

At first I took it personally when Nancy Leson told me she had a new use for old vegetables.  Then she explained it had nothing to do with me and everything to do with making a tasty vegetable stock.   Meat-centric old me asked, "Really?  It actually had some flavor?"

"It did after I got done with it." she bragged.

Editor's note: A version of this story originally ran in November 2014.

The countdown to Thanksgiving has begun. And for those of us who already feel short on time during a regular week, the pressure is on to figure out just how to squeeze in all that extra shopping, prep work and cooking ahead of the holiday.

For those who like to try new recipes at Thanksgiving, let Clay Dunn and Zach Patton be your guides. They're the couple behind the food blog, The Bitten Word, and every year before the holiday, they scan 10 leading food magazines to identify recipe trends.

Nancy Leson

Making a bold executive decision, I told Nancy Leson, "The last thing anyone needs this Thanksgiving is another how to make gravy story.  Not all the turkeys are on the table; Some are sitting around it.  Let's talk about what honks off the hosts."

At the top of that list is cellphones — people texting and talking right at the table.  Fortunately, I have a solution. And I got it from the drug cartels.

Nancy leson

Who could possibly get all huffy about steak knives?  Nancy Leson's sister Sherry, that's who. 

When Nance told me how honked off Sherry was about them, I had to call her in Philadelphia for confirmation.  Sherry turned out to be a woman of strong—though strange—convictions.

"I say, if you present me with a steak that cannot be cut with a butter knife, do not give it to me.  I don't even own a steak knife,” she said. 

N. Leson

Nancy and I start off this week's Food For Thought wondering where all the kids were on Halloween. La Leson thinks they were all at the mall getting sugared up by wily merchants. All I know is that DeGroot and I are now stuck with five pounds of Necco wafers that aren't going to eat themselves. 

But wait, there’s more.

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.

I've seen lots of pastrami recipes over the years, but they’ve all had the same hitch:  long, temperature-controlled smoking.  I don't have the equipment, skill or patience for that. 

David Nogueras / KPLU

When I asked Nancy Leson about her favorite food websites she surprised me with "Y'know, Stein, I'm not a big food website person."  Say what?!? 

This from the social media queen who has teased me for years because I don't have a smartphone, Facebook, a Twitter account, or any of the countless web-based enablers of 21st century self-obsession - the woman who, if you clicked on her name, we see now has her own website!


“Hey, Stein?” Nancy asked.  "You had a birthday this past week.  Did the lovely and talented Cheryl DeGroot bake you a birthday cake?"

After explaining what a fraught and reckless project that would be, I admitted that I had made my own birthday cake.  It was not round, had no layers or candles, but it was gooo-ood!

I'd been browsing around on the blog, the Smitten Kitchen and saw Deb Perelman’s recipe for Cannoli Pound Cake.

Nancy Leson

Nancy was puce with envy when I told her about my new digital cooking thermometer.

“A Thermapen?" she gasped.  She'd been lusting after one for years.

“Nope,” I told her. I bought a cheap knock-off.

Nancy leson

Nancy says her Aunt Joan's voice, "could stop a clock."  I've heard Aunt Joan's voice and I am confident that it could stop a runaway train.  Don't believe me?  Check out the video Nancy shot of a kaffeeklatsch even louder than said train.

Fun With Tomatoes

Sep 23, 2015
N. Leson

This week I bragged to Nancy Leson, "I have done something I have never done before and that I thought I never would do.  It all goes back to a trip to the hardware store."  

Nancy, with only the slightest of eye-rolls asked, "So what'd you do now, Stein?" She probably wasn't expecting tomatoes.

Makayla Tolmie

For many, "fast and easy" are the most important criteria in recipes.  Lengthy and difficult are deal breakers.  Nancy's cooking-phobic friend wails "Who would waste that much time when ten minutes later it's gonna be gone?" 

Well, me, actually.

I'm always browsing around for something that looks to be a fun day or more in the kitchen..  But when I do, I want a result for all that effort that's better than just okay.

Recently, both Nancy and I spent multiple hours on complex cooking projects that turned out fine.  They were good.  But not all that good for the amount of work we put in.  Especially when we think of the fast easy stuff we've made that actually turned out better results. 

Sales of green tea are rising in the U.S and the U.K., driven largely by evidence of the health benefits of this stimulating elixir. So it's ironic that a little over a century ago, this so-called superfood was demonized as super toxic.

Same Day Pickles!

Sep 9, 2015
Nancy Leson

Not all pickles take weeks of slow fermentation in a dark, cool cellar.  Lots can be made and enjoyed within hours.  In this week's Food for Thought Nancy Leson tells of two she recently put up and enjoyed that evening. 

One's from right around here in Renee Erickson's A Boat, a Whale & a Walrus, the other from Japan in Preserving the Japanese Way by Nancy Singleton Hachisu

I'm definitely making both.  And now, so can you.

It's that time of year when some gardeners and tomato-coveting shoppers face a vexing question: What on earth am I going to do with all these tomatoes I grew (or bought)?

A select few up to their elbows in tomatoes may have an additional quandary: How am I going to prepare different kinds of tomatoes to honor their unique qualities?

In the annals of ill-conceived public relations campaigns, the egg industry's war on Just Mayo deserves at least a mention.

Just Mayo is a product that looks like mayonnaise, tastes like mayonnaise and yet contains no eggs. The company behind it, Hampton Creek, has been getting lots of attention.

Josh Tetrick, the company's founder, has big ambitions. "If we're successful, there are a lot of [food] industries out there that are going to have to adjust," says Tetrick.

Nancy Leson

I've long enjoyed and profited from the food experiments conducted by J. Kenji-Lopez-Alt on the Serious Eats website.  I expect even more enjoyment, both in the reading and the cooking, from his new The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science.

Nancy Leson

Can any restaurant meal be worth as much as $800?  $1700?  How about a couple thousand?   What about a Heimlich-demanding five figures?  Laughing?   So was I when I read Tonya Gold's A Goose in a Dress, her hilarious review of four absurdly expensive NYC restaurants in this month's Harper's Magazine.

But judging by some of the online comments it's plain to see that not everyone was amused.  Sounds to me like an Emperor's New Wardrobe Malfunction but even my Food for Thought pard Nancy Leson thought the review unfair.

Nancy Leson

That little old wine drinker Nancy Leson found herself in oenophile heaven recently.  She joined fellow journalists as  guests of the Washington Wine Commission at wineries in Woodinville and Seattle as part of events surrounding the Auction of Washington Wines

The L & T Cheryl DeGroot

Nancy Leson asked me how the horseradish got its name.  It's not because of its resemblance to a certain part of a horse.  And it's not because horses like to eat it -- the stuff's actually poisonous to them.  The "Horse" in horseradish is just an antique adjective describing anything large or strong.  For my taste, the stronger the better.

It's not hard to grate your own horseradish but if you do, it wouldn't hurt to wear a nuke suit or at least a gas mask when you do.  Once the cell walls of the root are broken down two chemicals previously kept separate combine to form allyl isothiocyanate -- the stuff that shoots the vaporized razor blades through your sinuses.  It's the plant's natural defense against getting eaten.  Ironic, no?

Nancy Leson

Nancy tells me "This week I had relatives in from out of town, young cousins, their romantic partners, their room-mates, and I had to figure okay what am I going to feed everyone?"  That decision could have been easier had she not asked "Is there anything that some people don't eat?"

Shubert Ho

So, a month or two ago my wife (The Lovely & Talented) C. DeGroot woke and spoke but a single word.  And lo, the word that she spake was "Waffles."  I offered to make them but DG insisted on doing it and an hour later we were eating some of the best waffles ever.  More than we could eat.  So we froze the leftovers for  future toasterizing.

Then, just last week while  browsing some fried chicken recipes it hit me!  Waffles in the freezer.  I could make chicken and waffles --  a combination I had first heard of in the Joan Crawford vehicle Mildred Pierce but never tried.    

Nancy Leson

"So Stein," Nancy asks me.  "Do you say APP-ricot or AYP-ricot?"  Sure, I know that an AYP-ricot is where an ape sleeps but as a certified fruit-o-phobic I prefer not to say either.  Even typing out the word "apricot" makes me a little queasy, but in the interest of Art I'll tough it out.

Nancy's apricot tree, an under-performer for decades, finally came across.  This week's Food for Thought covers some of the stuff that she, her son Nate, and her dog (video follows) did with all that fruit.


I admit it.  When Kelly from KPLU Listener Relations first mentioned Zucchini Crab Cakes to me I scoffed.  But after my first bite I stopped scoffing and started scarfing.  They're good, with very much the taste and mouth-feel of regular crab cakes.  

And, as Nancy pointed out, they're just the thing for eaters allergic to shellfish –  or just to the high cost of crab.  And even if you do use real crab, this method is a great way to stretch it.

Here's how I made them

Courtesy of Kurt Timmermeister

Oh my God," I told Nancy.  "That sounds horrible."  But she swears that Vashon's Kurt Timmermeister of Kurtwood Farms tomato jam ice cream is "Beyond the pale of delicious."  I'll have to take her word for it.  But you don't have to.   The author of Growing a Feast:The chronicle of a farm-to-table meal has opened a tiny shop on Capitol Hill's new Chophouse Row selling his cheeses and...unusual ice cream.

Bellamy Pailthorp


Making sure seafood is both healthy and sustainable can be complicated.

A new label called Smart Catch is trying to change that. Launched in Seattle, Smart Catch attempts to make consumers aware of how their purchased seafood came to their plates by placing a seal of approval on restaurant menus.

As I tell Nancy Leson in this week's Food for Thought, I have had an iceberg lettuce epiphany.  A voice whispered, "Slice it horizontally." 


There can be no doubt that restaurant shrimp cocktails are never big enough.  Oh, the individual shrimp may be sizeable, but though they be proud they are also the few.  Which is why I was compelled last weekend to create a shrimp cocktail big enough to have its own zip code. 

Nancy Leson agrees that size matters, but her idea of what constitutes the crustaceanaceous concoction left me shocked – simply shocked. 

Nancy Leson

At the start of this Father's Day edition of Food for Thought Nancy asked "Hey Stein – do you feel left out on Father's Day because you don't have children?"  After assuring Ms. Leson that I have all the tacky neckties I can use we moved on to Tales of Our Dads in regard to cooking and eating.

I credit my father with teaching me to keep my fingertips curled under when slicing stuff.  To this day the remaining 7.5 of those tips thank him for it.  Murray also gave me my first exposure to fermented tofu – a taste he acquired during prohibition while dining with the Chinese bootleggers he sold supplies to.