Food for Thought

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The editor of Food & Wine magazine owns up: "I am going to be honest: I am not a great cook." 

Early in the book "Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen," author Dana Cowin acknowledges that she's "messed up literally every type of food." 

But there's no cooking conundrum that can't be made at least a little more manageable, especially with the help of top chefs such as Mario Batali,  Jacques Pepin, Alice Waters and Thomas Keller, who wrote the introduction. 

Brenda Goldstein

I can't even remember exactly where or when I bought the monster steamer pictured above, but it's been at least 30 years. I've given it plenty of use over the decades but it's always been way more steamer than I needed. 

Finally, after a few not so gentle nudges from DeGroot (she should talk about clutter!), I figured I'd fob it off on Leson in exchange for her more practical-sized utensil. But nooooooo...

Nancy Leson

Both Nance and I have been traveling these past weeks. I traveled across Canada by train, and Nancy went to Spain and France with the KPLU Travel Club. While there, she and her fellow eaters tried their hands at the iconic Valencia dish, paella.

Nancy Leson

Editor's Note: This is a rerun of a vintage Food for Thought post.

Nancy Leson and I love the XO sauce, the incredibly flavorful Chinese condiment, but we don't love the price. Besides, it's always more fun to make your own. And there's no shortage of recipes.

What say you? In Nancy Leson's case, "1,500 to 2,000" was too many cookbooks — so many that she could hardly get into her office any more.  So she called in her good friend Judy Amster, she said, "and we had an intervention." 

Nancy Leson

Nancy Leson now knows more about apples, thanks to her friend Bill Davis, who really knows his apples. Which is way more than I knew, never having bitten into one in my whole life. But even fruitophobic me learned plenty of interesting stuff this week, including the best kind to grow in the Pacific Northwest.

Justin Steyer / KPLU

Fall is mushroom madness time, which means the new book "Shroom" by Seattle author, chef and 10-year PCC cooking instructor Becky Selengut couldn't be more timely. 

Nancy leson

Nancy Leson keeps a lot of stuff on hand to do what she characterizes as stir-frying. These techniques include first searing meat on the grill rather than in the wok. Tut-tut.

She also uses "stir-fry" as a noun, as in "my favorite stir-fry." I am left with no choice but to remonstrate.

Nancy Leson

Who but Nancy Leson could go so gaga over yogurt? You, maybe, but not me. A  little may do no harm but I'm just not an eat-it-out-of-the-carton kind of guy. Still, when Nancy cajoled me into trying Ellenos Greek Yogurt, it really was the best I'd ever tasted. The Big Balk came when she attempted to get fruit-o-phobic me to try the passionfruit variety.  

"I would not get out of an electric chair to eat that," I told her. And I didn't.

Nancy Leson

I can't believe I've never come across this method for corn off the cob before. After our friends Lori and Denny made it for us this weekend, I checked online and there were pages of variations on this same theme. It's so simple that ingredients are measured in units of "some." 

Nancy leson

It's my favorite time of year. The cukes are out at the Duris Cucumber Farm on River Road, just a little west of Puyallup. For years, I've been trying to convince my Food for Thought pard Nancy Leson to accompany me there. She finally did, and boy, was she glad.

Nancy Leson

Nancy Leson's just back from a trip to downstate Illinois where she ate not wisely but too well. Besides the extra avoirdupois, she also brought back the rust bucket pictured above. It came from the estate of her husband Mac's aunt. Can you guess what it is?

Dick Stein

Nancy Leson thought I was repeating an urban legend when I told her that diners have swallowed bristles from metal grill brushes along with their steaks.  But then I showed her this story about their dangers , and she admitted in an email I will save forever, "You were right — as always, Stein."  

And it's happened not just in Seattle, but all over the country.

Nancy Leson

Nancy Leson's got a brand new bag, and it's full of bees.

In a recent Seattle Times piece about backyard beekeeping, she expressed interest in keeping bees in her backyard. In this week's "Food for Thought" I suggested that she leave them where they always were — in her bonnet. Ms. Leson begged to differ.

Nancy Leson

I'm a recent though enthusiastic consumer of banh mi and a longtime fan of Andrea Nguyen's superb cookbooks. Her newest, "The Banh Mi Handbook: Recipes for Crazy Delicious Vietnamese Sandwiches," was just released.

That subtitle is no overstatement. If you're unfamiliar with banh mi (bunn mee) Viet sub sandwiches, it's time to try one. And what better way to get started than to make your own with the easy-to-follow instructions in Andrea's handbook. 


I know, I know. It's no concern of mine what other people do with their money in a supermarket.

But for the life of me, I cannot understand how bottled iced tea got to be such a popular item. How could something in a bottle on a shelf possibly be better than what you can get started at home in 10 seconds? One thing I do know — it sure ain't cheaper. And it's not exactly hard to make. You don't even have to boil it.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

"Stein, do you cook much fish?" Nancy Leson asked me.

To get a rise out of her, I answered, "No, never!" 

The Gilbert and Sullivan fan that I am, I was hoping she'd sing her reply as: "What neverrrrr?" To which I could have answered, "Well...hardly ever."

Instead I just got, "Oh, c'mon, really?"

Nancy Leson

Trigger warning for the gluten-hysterical: This segment contains multiple and appreciative references.

Eaters, I am scandalized! Nancy Leson has slammed out a batch of made-from-scratch bagels in just one hour — that's one hour from the mixer to out of the oven.  

I haven't tried them; I've just seen the pictures, but I must admit that they at least look good. Here's how she did it.

Dick Stein

When I bragged to my Food for Thought partner Nancy Leson that I'd attempted to make halva, I was absolutely gobsmacked to learn that she doesn't like the sesame candy. 

Even though my homemade version was less than — OK, a lot less than — perfect, I've always taken it for granted that everybody in the world loves the stuff. After all, it's been around in one form or another for at least three thousand years.

Nancy Leson

Nancy Leson recently traveled to Philadelphia for her cousin’s wedding, and she taunted me with emailed photos of some of the great deli chow she enjoyed.

She also raved about the teensy lamb chops her cousin served. 

“They were just perfect. I couldn’t believe that it wasn’t rubber chicken,” Nancy said. “But the thing I really want to tell you about is the open-faced pastrami reuben I had at the Chit Chat Diner in Hackensack, New Jersey.”

Aaron Hushagen

In this second installment of highlights from our Food for Thought Happy Hour event, we turn to Tom Douglas and his "cheap" green onion pancakes.

The Seattle chef's quickie version of the Chinese favorite starts with "cheap flour tortillas" which are painted with egg mixed with a little sesame oil, then sprinkled with minced green onions and sesame seeds. Fold, press down — or as Douglas says," Stand on it" — and give it a quick fry. 

Aaron Hushagen

If you were one of many who joined Nancy Leson and me for our Food for Thought Happy Hour last week, you know what a blast we all had.

But if you just couldn't make it, here's a recap for you with sound and pictures.

Everyone, especially us, had a ball at the event which featured Seattle chefs Holly Smith of Cafe Juanita, the chef in the hat, Thierry Rauturau of Luc and now Loulay, and Large Seattle chef Tom Douglas of, well, pretty much every where else.  All were introduced to the music of Eric "Two Scoops" Moore and his combo. 

And what eating we did!

Nancy Leson

When my Food for Thought pard Nancy Leson first met her husband-to-be, Mac, she helped him pick out a dining room table. If she had known that eventually she'd be moving in, she says, "I might have picked something different." 

Nancy Leson

I have a close relationship with the herbs I grow. And unlike some of my previous relationships, herbs actually seem to thrive on neglect. I never do much for them other than snip the blossoms when they bolt and once in a while throw a little water on them. And yet they keep coming back. Nancy Leson reports the same results. 

Nancy Leson

How's this for a switch: rye on ham.

It used to be a vague childhood memory for Nancy Leson's husband, Mac. 

Nancy Leson

Of all the places I haven't been to, Paris is the place I haven't been to the most.  But my Food for Thought co-conspirator Nancy Leson is just back from the City of Light and boy, did she eat.


Back in February, Nancy and I devoted a Food for Thought to annoying things restaurants do. It seems only fair that we now open the forum to restaurant workers about the annoying things customers do. 

Nancy and I have both worked in restaurants, so we had a few little items with which to scratch the surface of Annoying Customer Behavior.

Nancy leson

Hanging out at Capitol Hill's La Bete Bistro enabled Nancy Leson to learn the closely-guarded secret of slicing multiple olives in one fell swipe using just two yogurt lids and a sharp knife. Continue on, dear reader, if you would like to know...

We just can't figure out how those tulips got into our garlic bed, but there they are, poking their broader leaves up through the straw amongst the thinner but tastier garlic shoots.

Seeing them reminds me of the story in Charles MacKay's 19th century masterpiece, "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds" about Holland's Tulipmania. It concerns a sailor who returns from years overseas, unaware of the astronomical prices tulips had reached during that insane bubble.  Mistaking a bulb worth thousands for an onion, he eats it.

In this week's Food for Thought, Nancy Leson and I heave big sighs of anticipation over the fresh produce to come — for me, my 45 garlic plants and their scapes, and for her, local fresh asparagus. 

Nancy Leson

I love homemade food stuffs — things I might otherwise have to buy at a restaurant or a grocery store. But it’s never occurred to me to make my own crackers. Until now. 

The way my co-conspirator Nancy Leson tells it, "it's the easiest thing in the world.”

“For people like us who like to make homemade bread, pie crust, crackers are really, really easy,” she says.

Nancy asked Seattle chef Bruce Naftaly of the late Le Gourmand to share his recipe for his famous handmade crackers, which he makes with homegrown poppy seeds.