Food

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

Korean food is built on bold flavors: spicy pickled vegetables, sweet, smoky meats and pungent, salty stews. That can be a little intimidating for some American diners. But the authors of a new book called Koreatown hope to change that.

Nancy "Hawkeye" Leson

I first heard the term "condimentia" from Nancy Leson in this week's  "Food for Thought."   Nancy meant it as having to do with condiments.  Just for fun, I checked and it turns out it has a few other meanings. 

Condimentia is defined by the Urban Dictionary as "A medical condition in which the elderly lose their sense of taste and overstock their condiments to enhance every food item they prepare."  Condimentia is also the title of the comedy short about "... a sane and loving husband and father until his craving for condiments got out of control, and eventually landed him in prison."

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.

Which beer goes with guacamole? And which brew adds a nice clean, crisp finish to spicy wings?

Those are burning questions for anyone who wants to take his snack game to the next level this Super Bowl weekend. And two craft beer experts who wrote the book on pairing have the answers.

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...

Over the holidays, my family drove across the beautiful voids of West Texas and New Mexico and stopped at a lot of convenience stores for gas. Every time I went inside to use the loo, I saw them: giant displays of dried meat in every size and flavor.

I remember jerky almost ripping my molars out on car trips when I was kid. It's been around forever. So why the comeback?

Flip through the pages of Mi Comida Latina and you may quickly fall under its spell. The pages of this cookbook beckon with vibrant watercolor illustrations and recipes written in the kind of delicate hand lettering that make us mourn penmanship as a dying art. The end result combines the charm of a children's book, the promise of a tasty meal and the intimacy of a journal.

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.

N. Leson

In this week's "Food for Thought," Nancy Leson and I share a couple of recipes we love for shatteringly crisp chicken skin and neither calls for a deep fry.

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.

Nate McCarthy

Pastrami topped the list of our favorite recipes for 2015.  Who knew a regular person could make great pastrami at home?  And who would ever have expected a recipe for that iconic Jewish deli favorite to come by way of a Taiwanese=Canadian living in Beijing?  Well, it can — and it did. 

Blending up eggs, milk, sugar, booze and with a bit of spice grated on top — sounds like eggnog, right? But use pisco instead of rum; sweetened, condensed milk in place of fresh milk and cream and a special ingredient — and you've got a cocktail de algarrobina. In Peru, it wouldn't be Christmas without it.

In October, Hilda Mascarenhas, who writes a popular food blog in Pune, India, began her Christmas preparations with an unusual request to her fruit seller.

After buying a pineapple, she asked the vendor to separately pack the peel and eyes that he had skillfully removed with his long knife.

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 / KPLU

I started cooking at an early age, with the goal of learning to make at home all the things we could then get only at restaurants.  This I did by reading cookbooks and through sometimes disastrous experimentation. 

I think I could have saved myself a lot of trouble and blind alley excursions just by taking a few classes. 

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. 

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!

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.

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