Food for Thought

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. 

Stein

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.

Caddyshack

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.  

Marisa McClellan / Flickr

I freely admit that up to now, I hadn't really been sure what the stuff was or even how to say it. Let's get that out of the way right now: It's pronounced “kremm fresh.” So what is it? Think sour cream, only not so sour and, for my money, way better-tasting. 

“Crème fraîche is really a cultured cream, just like sour cream,” says Nancy Leson. “And you can put it on anything, from sweets to savories. You can put it on fruit, you can put it on dumplings.”

Nancy Leson

My whole life I've been soaking dried beans overnight for use in the next day's soup or stew. At this late date, I've learned I've been wasting my time. 

Nancy Leson

I'm an open-minded, non-judgmental kind of guy (disregard that snickering from my wife), but I draw the line at fruit in meatloaf. Nancy Leson doesn't, as she made brazenly clear in her Seattle Times story last weekend.

Amazingly, Nancy sees nothing shameful about including raisins, apples and curry powder in meatloaf mix, and then topping the whole mess with chutney. 

“Don’t knock if you haven't tried it, buddy,” she said. “The raisins and the apple are what make this meatloaf so delicious to me.”

Nancy Leson

Given the blustery weather we're enjoying this week, why not some molasses-laden Anadama bread to provide the interior insulation we need? What's more, it turns out that I've been wrong, wrong, wrong all these years about the stuff.

The first time I watched hand-pulled noodles being made, I could hardly believe what I was seeing.  

The chef took a lump of dough, stretched, twisted, tossed and swung and lo — there were noodles.

Here. See for yourself.

Dick Stein

Back when Caddys had tail fins, my favorite dish was equally piscine: Gorton's Codfish Cakes. Mom mixed this whitish paste with mashed potatoes, shaped it into patties and fried them like little fishburgers. 

But I didn't want my codfish cakes in patties. I wanted what the photo on the side of the Gorton's can described  as "serving suggestion," which was the patty shaped into the form of a stylized fish. It even had a slice of pimento-stuffed olive for a fish eye. 

KPLU is excited to announce our first listener trip of the year, which you won't want to miss:A Taste of San Francisco”—a jazz, food and art lover’s trip to the City by the Bay (and home of Rice-a-Roni), March 20-23, 2014—with special guest, KPLU's Food for Thought commentator Nancy Leson.  The trip features Wynton Marsalis in concert at the new, state-of-the-art SFJAZZ Center, culinary tours, and a visit to the renowned de Young Museum

Nancy Leson

Nancy and her colleagues at the Seattle Times must have had a ball testing the 14 holiday recipes they got from Seattle chefs. If Times photographer Ken Lambert's beautiful shots hadn't already made me psychotically hungr, the names of the dishes alone would have blasted my appetite into low earth orbit.

Dick Stein

OK, I admit it. I'm not big on throwing dinner parties. But Nancy Leson sure is, and in this week's Food for Thought adventure, she tells all about her last one. I must admit I'm envious. But at least I got those swell bandages.   

Here's a recipe for just one of the enticing dishes she served.

Heather W. / Yelp.com

So how long would you be willing to stand on line for a table at a popular restaurant? Ten minutes? A half hour? Longer? Not KPLU’s Dick Stein, as he tells Seattle Times food writer Nancy Leson on today’s Food for Thought.

Thanks to all who contributed an amazing 481 haiku to the contest. There were so many clever and inventive entries that Nancy and I are gladder than ever that we didn’t have to judge. But you did.

Here are the top three:

Cold Food, Hot Contest

Aug 7, 2013
Stein

With hot weather comes cold food. In this episode of Food for Thought, Nancy Leson offers a cold soup made with grapes, cream cheese and cucumbers among other things. I talk about those pickles up there. But wait—there's more! Be very excited because you're just...

This is an encore episode of Food for Thought.

I blame my mother. 

Nancy Leson

Making your own vinegar is not complicated, thank goodness, but it does require a  good starter. Seattle Times food writer, Nancy Leson, tells KPLU's Erin Hennessey how she makes her own red wine vinegar and why it's so special.

Pages