Food for Thought

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. 

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.

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?

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." 


The Andrews Sisters were singing "One Meatball" in my head as I browsed through one of my favorite cooking sites, And then my eyes fell upon Daniel Gritzer's eye-opening (and gut-expanding) recipe for Italian-American style meatballs.  Coincidence?  I think not. 

Justin Steyer / KPLU

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.

Cafe Presse Facebook page

That sneaky Nancy Leson! She tried to get me to name the musician I'd most like to have entertain at a Valentine's dinner for me and DeGroot. Naturally, I refused. If I name someone, then I'm excluding everyone else, I told her.

I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. Nancy, of course, has no such qualm. 

Nancy Leson

Summer is made endurable by anticipation of the winter to come. How I look forward to those long nights and lovely gray, rainy days! And to eating the pot that was already legal in Washington — pot roast, pot pies, pot au feu.

But Nancy Leson? In deepest, darkest February, she's thinking salad, and some pretty enticing ones, too.

Nancy Leson

My phone rang and it was Nancy Leson: "Hey, Stein, I'm sitting in the exit row of an  Alaska Airlines flight, on my way to Ft. Lauderdale and Miami," she said.

And it wasn't on just any flight. It was the famed "Salmon-30-Salmon", the airliner that looks like a fish. With jet engines.

AP Photo/Cuisinart

All it took was for friend and colleague Nick Morrison to mention that his wife Ceal had brought home an electric griddle for visions of panini to dance in my head. So while wife DeGroot rolled her eyes, I rushed to the store for my own Cuisinart Griddler.

Nancy Leson

They've been saying, "They just don't make'em like they used to" since shortly after the first stone ax was updated.  But when that old saw is applied to the KitchenAid stand mixer, Nancy Leson says it's true.

Deb Buchanan

Nancy Leson was suffering from cake envy. For husband Mac's birthday, she'd gone to all the trouble of baking a big deal birthday cake for him  But at the party, "a cake that came out of a box" stole the glory from her "multi-layered, gorge-a-mondo" job.   

"Stein, are you much of a cake baker?" she asked me.

Not really, but my kid sister Debbie Buchanan used to bake fancy cakes for a living. So we got her on the line from Annapolis to answer Nancy's questions.

daisy.r / Flickr

During the years she was the Seattle Times restaurant critic, Nancy Leson was often told she had the perfect job. Go out to eat every night on the boss's dime — that ain't workin'. 

But it wasn't all honey for nothin' and tips for free. As Nancy asked me back then: "How'd you like to go back to a restaurant you didn't like? Twice? After all, any restaurant can have a bad night. And that's what you have to do if you're going to give a fair review."

Workld Spice Merchants

Seems that both Nancy Leson and I are into heavy metal for gift giving this time around.  

"There's one piece of equipment that I adore, and that's my Lodge 15-inch, pre-seasoned cast iron skillet," Nance says.

She loves it because, well, it turns out that size does matter after all.

Dick Stein

From now on, my my pizza stone is demoted to trivet duty. I've been reading about pizza "steels" for a while now, and last week, in a moment of wild abandon, actually shelled out $42 for a 15"x15"x1/4" plate of carbon steel. 

Nancy Leson came home from a week of media blackout, reactivated all her many electronic devices, "and all I hear about is buying stuff!" she wailed.  

That was my cue to brag of my immunity to all retail blandishments. 

"But," she replied, "I saw something that was a great idea if you were going to buy somebody something."

Dick Stein

As we all know, the real reason for the Thanksgiving Feast is to ready the components of the post-TG turkey sandwich (PTGTS).  Like just about everyone, I have strong feelings as to what constitutes its most perfect manifestation.

Nancy Leson

Nancy Leson always hosts huge gatherings for Thanksgiving. How huge? Huge enough to require two  birds, each the size of a turkey-shaped dirigible. 

One way she keeps the cooking-day rush to a minimum is to make what she can in advance, especially her favorite cranberry sauce, which keeps so well she can make it six months ahead of time. I was shocked — simply shocked.

"Nancy Leson," I gasped, "I cannot believe that you are talking on an NPR affiliate about a cranberry sauce recipe that is not Susan Stamberg's."