Food For Thought | KNKX

Food For Thought

KNKX's Dick Stein and Nancy Leson share their views on food, cooking and eating.  Sometimes they even agree.

Nancy Leson / KNKX

Seattle Times columnist Nicole Brodeur recently published a story about a growing number of bread bakers contributing homemade loaves to area food banks. It was news to me, but Nancy Leson was already a participant.

Nance says that after 18 years of reliable service, "This refrigerator owes us NOTHING."
Nancy Leson / KNKX

After 18 years in Nancy's basement, her backup fridge, a move-in gift from a neighbor, finally found its final defrost. That left Leson with only (gasp) one fridge. I enjoyed twitting her about her two-fridge household, but she really does need them both.

“Stein,” Nancy Leson said. “You need a toaster oven.”  I continue to maintain that I don't need no stinkin' toaster oven, but I must admit she makes a pretty good case.

Cheryl E. DeGroot

Even I had to laugh. After all my years in the kitchen I'd never had much interest in a cuisine on the very short list of world's greatest. Then a YouTube video from the French Cooking Academy made me a believer.

Nancy Leson / KNKX

“I don't know if it's because we've all been feeling extra emotional lately or what,” Nancy Leson told me. “But I've been thinking about the emotional attachments I have to certain kitchen tools.”

She went on to describe the giant cleaver taking up real estate on their knife rack even though they never use it. Get rid of it? Never. It was Mac's grandmother's and they love to see it there.

My wife, the lovely and talented Cheryl DeGroot has always loved the kitchen treasure she hauled from the Alder Lake mud, while I have a curious attachment to my rubber auto body mallet. Also covered in this week's Food for Thought: The fabulous Montana corkscrew and Nancy's feel-good tale of how an heirloom found its way back to her.

Cheryl E. DeGroot / KNKX

Nancy Leson and I didn't bother with any introductory chitchat to begin this week's show. I hit the music and we were off to the food races. 

While our favorite foods may not be yours (yet), I hope this list will prove a resource for those times when you just can't decide between cold Velveeta on toasted English muffin or fried noodles dipped in fermented tofu.

We kick this week's off with our seventh-grade lunch favs and continue (downhill, in my case) from there. Please feel free to channel your inner Julie Andrews and sing along.

Stein / KNKX

I demurred when my wife, the Lovely & Talented Cheryl DeGroot, dared me to use an entire batch of dough to make one gigantic bagel.  

But then she double-dog dared me, so I really had no choice.

This just in! Nancy Leson's report on responses to a recent Twitter thread asking “Are you really !#&! tired of cooking?”

I was shocked — simply shocked — to learn that after all these months of home isolation many people really are !#&! tired of cooking.

Not me, though.

Nancy Leson / KNKX

It's always sounded like fun to have an ice cream machine. But years back I also thought it would be fun to have a fondue pot. See where that's going?  After all, how often would I really make my own ice cream?

So I asked Nancy Leson if she had a machine and how often she used it.

C. DeGroot / KNKX

Nancy Leson thinks there's more sharing going on these days, especially of food, and I agree. Just down the block from us in East Tacoma a neighbor is cultivating two raised beds of produce, free for the taking.

Nancy's friends have been dropping off everything from home made masks to strawberries to fresh seafoood. I need to get to know these people.

Stein / KNKX

Note to the reader: This Food for Thought post about woks is certified to be pun-free.

An email from listener Nancy B suggesting we do a show on woks got Nancy L and me talking about things you can do with them other than stir-fry. It's certainly the most versatile cooking vessel in my kitchen.

Apricot jam from Leson's miracle tree.
Nancy Leson / KNKX


This story originally aired July 24, 2019. 


Nancy Leson's apricot tree, a Puget Gold she's had for 21 years, only puts out fruit about every five years. This was one of those years, and a bumper crop it was.  With all those apricots the only thing to do was make apricot jam. There was just one problem.

"Over the years," she says, “the one thing I have failed at is jam-making.”


Not anymore.

Nancy Leson / KNKX

The other day DeGroot came home with a package of Beyond Meat hamburger, a product I'd been flirting with for some time but never did get around to trying. We shaped it into patties and griddled it up just like a regular burger. I was expecting it to be one of those "OK for what it is" things, but it wasn't okay.

It was way better.

The L&T Cheryl DeGroot

Nancy Leson's been reading Washington Post columnist Megan McArdle's column about why the Betty Crocker cookbooks of the '50s and the shopping practices they encouraged are newly relevant today in the time of the Coronavirus.


Among McArdle's favorite Betty recipes was "Bohemian Braided Bread," recipe pictured in the slide show above.  All very well as retro recipes go but I found one that out-retros it by almost 2,000 years.


Stein's results with Daniel Gritzer's vegetable galette recipe.
Stein / KNKX

This story originally aired June 5, 2019. 

While browsing recipes at the station last week, Daniel Gritzer's savory vegetable galette caught my eye. Leeks, mushrooms, asparagus and cheese open-faced in a flaky pie crust. No need to even stop at the store on my way home. I had asparagus and mushrooms still unwithered in the fridge and two thick wintered-over leeks in the garden.   

Stein / KNKX

Originally aired July 25, 2018.

This is not a weeknight recipe.  

Both Nancy Leson's and my emails crossed in the cybersphere.  "Let's make this!"  It was J. Kenji Lopez-Alt's recipe for Balinese Pork Saté and it was pretty complicated.  In fact, three recipes in one: the spice blend for the pork marinade, the sweet soy glaze for grilling, and the hand-pounded (more on that down-blog) peanuts for the sauce.

Nancy Leson / KNKX

Pre-pandemic, Stein and I went to our local supermarkets and specialty grocers on a daily basis. But with COVID-19 precautions in place we’re doing our part to “Stay Home, Stay Healthy,” which means that neither of us is spending as much time shopping for food. And yes, that makes me really grumpy. But as I told Stein this week on Food for Thought, I’ve been a lot happier lately. Why?

This week Nancy Leson and I look at some long accepted cooking rules that just don't hold up. My first entry was the prohibition against putting a certain kind of utensil into the dishwasher.

All we need is a cold 'Gansett.
Stein / KNKX

For a real New England style seafood roll, you need a New England style hot dog bun, also called a split-top. As you can see from the picture above, they look like a folded slice of thick bread. Griddle the sides and stuff them with lobster, crab or shrimp. They're great for fried clams too, or even an actual hotdog.

Problem is those buns are thin on the ground around here. I've long thought about getting the special pan and making my own. Then, when DeGroot came home with a big can of crab, I had all the excuse I needed.  A few days later I pulled a batch of perfect New England style buns out of the oven and stuffed them with the canned crab dressed with mayo, lemon juice, minced celery and a dash of Old Bay.


They were awful.

Nance and Mac's Korean Jindo, Doug, dining out on his second adoptiversary
Nancy Leson / KNKX

Flame away, but I'm just not a dog person. It's cats for me. They're the superior animal anyway, as our cats would tell you if they could just be bothered.

It's the opposite at Chez Leson, which Nancy and husband Mac share with Doug, a Korean Jindo and Mya-Kai, a Shiba Inu. Nance reports that big bad Doug is terrified of Instant Pots. I am too, but that's for another episode.


This week, Nance and I discuss the feeding and relative merits of cats vs. dogs, Mac's morning dog ritual, and my classical music debut with KitchenAid mixer.

Nancy Leson / KNKX

These days when we're all staying home so much, Nancy Leson loves cookbooks that take her away. “I like the ones that make me feel like I'm traveling, even though the farthest I go these days is Bartell's. For me the recipes are secondary almost to everything else, the history, the culture.”

Me, I just want the recipes. But here are some of Nancy's favorite armchair traveling cookbooks.

Stein / KNKX

Nancy Leson thought I might be using all this stay-at-home time to reorder my kitchen. “Are you alphabetizing your spices?”she snarked. I explained that everything in my kitchen is always in place, including the dust bunnies I noticed crouching like gargoyles at the top of my hanging pot rack.

This week we talk about deep cleaning, reorganizing, finally doing those long put-off chores, and how I will use the Earth's revolution to improve the appearance of my cabinet doors.

Stein / KNKX

Sure, you fridged up those leftovers with the best of intentions but days later they still languish.  Then it's weeks and now they're so deteriorated that you can finally toss them with a clear(ish) conscience.  The progression parallels certain aspects of personal relationships but this is not the forum for that.

This week, Nancy Leson and I discuss, with only a little self-congratulation, how much better we've become at using up leftovers now that our supermarket visits are so infrequent.

With all the newly motivated home cooking going on these days, it's safe to say there’s more home cooking fails than ever before. If some of your kitchen trials have turned out to be errors, take heart. Even experienced cooks have plenty of stories on recipes gone wrrrrrrrong.

This week Nancy Leson and I play a perversely prideful game of "Can You Top This?" with our own tales of stovetop nosedives.

Nancy Leson / KNKX

This story originally published May 1, 2019. 

I told Nancy Leson that I'm not interested in eating anything that "tastes like chicken" unless it is chicken.  That bird has got to be the most versatile eating there is. 

In this week's episode Nancy and I do a brief rundown, in no particular order, of some of our favorite chicken recipes. Ready? Saddle up, here we go.

The L&T Cheryl DeGroot

When toddler vegetables misbehave, their mothers threaten them with Nancy Leson. She admits "I do a very good job of killing things." So no one was more surprised than her when something she'd planted actually made it through the winter.

That weird, telescoping thing pictured above that Jack's about to climb is what grew out of the root end of our last leek. DeGroot re-planted it about a month ago and we're watchfully waiting to see what he brings back from the top. A self-playing golden harp would be nice, but we'll settle for some leek soup

Stein / KNKX

Given today's rampant hoarding of hot dog buns, I thought it only prudent to try making my own. King Arthur Flour's Chicago-style bun recipe, pictured above and linked below, yielded Best of Show results.

While our flour supplies hold out, Nancy Leson and I are using our shelter in place time to bake. We've aired lots of baking shows over the years. Here are some of our favorite recipes from those shows.

Mac / KNKX

Though sit-down service is banned for now, many area eateries are doing what they can to keep staff employed.  In this week's Food for Thought, Nancy Leson tells what they're doing to cope with the times.

Nancy Leson / KNKX

Nancy Leson and I are beating the 6-foot social distancing rule by many miles for the CoviDuration by recording via broadcast-quality phone line. I'm alone in our Tacoma studios and she's in her bedroom closet in Edmonds. “The quietest space in the house," she says. "So we won't be interrupted by sirens, doorbells and dog barks."

In this week's Food for Thought, Nancy names the stuff she's trying to keep on hand to stave off culinary boredom and shares a good suggestion from one of our favorite cookbook authors on how to support local farmers and freeze produce at home.

Nancy Leson / KNKX

This story originally aired Jan. 17, 2018.

"Stein, some women spend money on shoes and jewelry.  I buy pots."  And Nancy Leson has the cookware to prove it.