Food for Thought

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. 

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!

Stein

“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?

thegreenbeet.com

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." 

Stein

The Andrews Sisters were singing "One Meatball" in my head as I browsed through one of my favorite cooking sites, seriouseats.com. 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.

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