Food for Thought | KNKX

Food for Thought

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.

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.

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.

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

Nancy Leson / KNKX

Now that we can't just run out to the store every time we need something for the recipe, it's good to know about some common substitutions. In this week's Food for Thought, Nancy Leson and I share a few.

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.

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.

  

This story originally aired March 7, 2018.  

In this week’s Food for Thought, Nancy Leson and I dredged up our earliest memories of food.  Nancy recalls wolfing an entire stick of butter.  I tell how years later I learned what my grandmother’s “special” soup was really made of.

All that plus shopping for live chickens, Nancy’s lima bean phobia, wax flakes in the milk and collapsing straws in this week’s Early Food Memories show. 

Nancy Leson

Nancy Leson’s raving about Fuschia Dunlop’s update to her classic cookbook “Land of Plenty.” “I’ve been cooking a lot out of 'Food of Sichuan.'"

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.

The L&T Cheryl DeGroot

At the end of this encore segment I brag to Nancy about my intention to bake a giant Cheez-it -- and made good!  Here's a link to the story about a Cheez-It the size of an LP cover.

A man and woman meet in a bar and get along perfectly — same sense of humor, same favorite authors and movies, food, music; they're a perfect match.  Naturally, they wind up at her place that very night.  There on the living room floor he sees a dead horse.

"My God," he exclaims. "A dead horse!"

"Well," she shrugs, "I never said I was neat."

Nancy Leson

"All the chefs think they know how to season your meal," complains Nancy Leson about the disappearance of salt and pepper shakers from restaurant tabletops. 

That's never bothered me.  Mainly because I think the chefs do know how to season my meal.  But for those who want it saltier, Nance has the solution: Bring your own.   

That and other restaurant-going tips and tricks, dos and don'ts in this week's Food for Thought.

Stein / KNKX

This story originally aired Nov. 10, 2018.

It's getting to be soup season, and both Nancy Leson and I have our favorites.  In this week's Food for Thought, Nance and I trade favorites from childhood, our go-to's at restaurants, and the homemade must-haves.

Nancy Leson / KNKX

I claim that the number one job of a Thanksgiving roll is to soak up gravy.  "And butter," Nancy Leson added.  

Here are our two favorite roll recipes.  Both have the virtue of being started the night before, giving already harried TG cooks a head start on Turkey Day.  

Nancy and Julia Collin Davison inspect wine inside DeLaurenti Food & Wine at Pike Place Market.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Julia Collin Davison needed to get a feel for Northwest food resources. And who better to give the host of PBS's popular America's Test Kitchen the tour than our own Nancy Leson.

Stein / KNKX

In this week's installment of Food for Thought, Nancy Leson and I explore the delights of dunking with not a donut or basketball in sight. Instead, we break out the dunkage on cookies, whiskey, sandwiches, saltines and soup.

Stein / KNKX

"The nicest thing happened last Thursday," I told Nancy Leson. It was Broadway Farmers Market day, happening right outside the door of our new Tacoma studios.

And what a nice surprise a market shopper gave to me that morning.

Nancy Leson

I'm a guy who appreciates the virtues, however imaginary, of the quick fix.  And what could be more emblematic of the QF than duct tape?  Surely there's something analogous in cooking.  When I asked Nancy Leson what she thought that might be, she posed the question on her Facebook page. 

Nancy Leson

Back by popular demand:  Nancy's favorite easiest pasta sauce from 2016

There's nothing I like better than spending a whole day or two working a complicated recipe.  I'm a little nuts that way.  But just as games with the simplest rules often have the most depth, sometimes the simplest recipes yield the the most flavor.

Nancy Leson's candidate comes from cookbook author Marcella Hazan.  Nance says it's "reputedly the world's simplest, most delicious sauce.  I really could not get over the complexity of flavor out of just three ingredients."

Nancy Leson and Dick Stein enjoy a tasty Philly cheesesteak at the Broadway farmers market.
Geoffrey Redick / KNKX

“It’s so much like the days of yore, when the marketplace was a place for people to meet and greet.”

That’s how food commentator Nancy Leson described Tacoma’s Broadway farmers market, after she’d spent a couple hours there with KNKX’s Dick Stein on a recent Thursday morning. It’s one of four around the city.

This segment originally aired June 21, 2017.  

"My kid finally got a real, paying job," Nancy Leson announced.  Young Nate's now a B.C. barista.  Which led us to reminisce about our first food service jobs.  Nancy's was at the Chalfonte, a venerable Cape May, N.J. hotel. 

My first food service job nearly earned me a deep-fried head.

Nancy Leson / KNKX

As a guy who excludes fruit from his diet, I have no business pointing a finger at anyone else's food phobias. But I will, anyway. 

How can my wife, the Lovely & Talented Cheryl DeGroot, a generally omnivorous woman, hate grits? And she'll have nothing to do with Pisum sativum, either, no matter how I beg her to give peas a chance. 

Nancy Leson's husband Mac won't eat the cheeses she finds so pleasing. This week, Nance and I commiserate on our spouses' food phobias and offer recipes for stuff that they won't eat, but you might love.

Stein / KNKX

If you know gardeners, sooner or later one of them will present you with a zucchini the size of a baby seal. When that happens, don't wonder if there's room in the hall closet. Make zucchini "crab" cakes. I told Nancy Leson about this years ago and she still hasn't made them. But you should.

But first, "lettuce" praise famous gems.

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