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Food

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

Food For Thought is produced by KNKX Public Radio. 

OK, I could have taken more trouble crimping the crust.
The L&T Cheryl DeGroot / KNKX

When someone asks me "Do you like a challenge, Dick?" I start looking around for the exits. So what was I thinking when I tried to make Stella Parks' "Impossible" pecan pie pie – a baking project even its creator warns against attempting. The recipe was originally in the draft for her BraveTart pastry cookbook, but the editors thought it too difficult for inclusion.

Parks famously refuses to publish the recipe. She doesn't want to deal with the desperate questions and moans of anguish from those who foolishly try it. If you want her Impossible Pecan Pie recipe, you have to ask her for it and she'll send it but you're on your your own. 

I did, she did, and I was.  

Nancy's great results with Stevens' bean and sausage gratin.
Nancy Leson / KNKX

Nancy Leson recently got to interview one of our favorite cookbook authors, Molly Stevens at Seattle's The Book Larder.  Our copies of her previous books, "All About Braising" and "All About Roasting" are splattered with grease and gravy stains.  Can there be higher praise for any cookbook?

In this week's Food for Thought, Nance and I talk about the recipes we've made from Molly's new book and some of the great tips she offers – including the best way to crack an egg. Hint: Not on the edge of a bowl.

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

Sometimes my mind has a mind of its own. Especially when I purchase a kitchen gadget that I know I can't really justify but just...want. Nancy's the same. 

Even so, sometimes going against our better judgment turns out to have been pretty good judgment after all. In this week's Food for Thought we offer our personal examples.

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.  

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

One in six children in Washington is food insecure. And in the greater Seattle area, one in eight working people struggles against hunger.

That fight  will be center stage on Monday (Nov. 11) at a food justice panel at Town Hall Seattle.

Northwest Harvest is one of the panel organizers. The organization is aiming to cut hunger rates in Washington in half by 2028.

The L&T Cheryl DeGroot / KNKX

It was the Big Uh-Oh. An inch of lemon poppy seed sludge was left in the bottom of the KitchenAid mixer bowl when I poured out my cake batter. Could the gap between the bottom of the paddle and the bottom of the bowl be out of adjustment? 

It was easy to find out and all it took was one thin dime.

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 and new Seattle supermarket friends Suzanne, Glen and 4-year-old August.
Nancy Leson / KNKX

Just back from Philly, Nancy Leson says that easterners are more likely to chat up people they don't know,  especially in restaurants and in supermarkets. "Strangers just come up to you and talk.  Or I come up to strangers and talk. About anything. About what you're ordering, how to make it."

Nance says this happens all the time back east but not so much in Seattle. Does she think this is the much bemoaned Seattle Freeze?

The L&T Cheryl DeGroot

"What was I thinking?"  The question's not just for past relationships. In this week's Food for Thought, Nancy Leson and I share tales of some of the questionable gizmos we've bought over the years.

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

Those colorful bean seeds I traded our cow for worked only too well. No vine to the sky, but plenty of green beans here on the ground. So many that we're having trouble keeping up. One day the thought came to me: Green bean spaghetti. Could there be a recipe for such a thing?

In .47 seconds I discovered 14,100,000 of them.  

Another note Nancy didn't pass.
Nancy Leson / KNKX

 

Covering the food and restaurant scene in and around Seattle is a tall order. Ask me, I know: I did it, in one capacity or another, for more than two decades, much of that time at The Seattle Times, where I kept a desk — and file cabinets filled with restaurant review notes — before retiring from that job in 2014.

Nancy Leson / KNKX

I told Nancy Leson about the years of flops I'd had with a certain complicated, hard to follow and very chancy lemon meringue pie recipe. Then one day in the supermarket, I saw a better way on the back of a can of Eagle sweetened condensed milk: a recipe both simple, sensible and foolproof. Now I'll never make LMP any other way.

This week Nancy and I talk about the wealth of good recipes available right on the box, can or bottle.  And by the way...

Nancy's Lillet with soda and cukeslice
Nancy Leson / KNKX

Nancy Leson says her favorite thirst quencher is (in Philly-ese) "werter." Mine's just plain, unflavored seltzer.  Except on special occasions. Like when I make a pastrami. Then, nothing will do but the officially sanctioned pairing for deli-style pastrami, corned beef or pickled tongue sandwiches.

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

 

 

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.

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.

Nancy Leson / KNKX

"Hey Nance," I asked. "Do you ever go to the library any more — the regular brick and mortar library?" She sure does. "My Edmonds library has the biggest selection of cookbooks you can imagine." How big? "Bigger than my own personal collection."

I've seen Nancy Leson's collection and can tell you that's a lot of cookbooks.

Stein / KNKX

Nancy Leson says she's not the kind to clip coupons from the paper, "But I swear by that thing called the Chinook Book." I was surprised to learn that you have to buy these coupon books, but Nancy says "You have to pay money to save money." 

All very well, but if those two-for-one pork chops you stocked up on are consigned to freezer limbo, never to be seen again, you've spent money to waste money. My totebag system of freezer filing prevents that and many of the other thousand natural shocks that frozen flesh is heir to.

Mac / KNKX

As I suggested to Nancy,  "Today I thought we'd talk about stuff that's really good for things you never thought to use them for." For instance?

Squeegees.  Sure, they're great for windows and windshields. But you know what else?

When it comes to crushing ice, the Lewis Bag...ummm, crushes it.
Dick Stein / KNKX

I'd never found a good way to make crushed ice at home. Pound the cubes in a dish towel? They fly out and what’s left sticks to the fibers. Put 'em in a Ziploc? It tears. The thrift shop '50s era crank ice grinder was awkward to use, hard to turn and yielded very little product. There had to be a better way.

And there was.

Stein / KNKX

In the dentist's waiting room, searching in vain for the latest Muffler Monthly I struck pay dirt in an old Sunset.  "How to make a two-ingredient all purpose cleaner" with white vinegar and rosemary.

Vinegar and water has been the sole cleaning solution in my kitchen for years but I hadn't thought to add rosemary.  Since we have a rosemary bush the size of a small Christmas tree in the yard I gave the recipe a try. 

C. DeGroot / KNKX

In a recent New Yorker Annals of Gastronomy article, Lauren Collins disagrees with Fresh Air's Terry Gross on the best way to start a conversation. Gross says it's "Tell me about yourself." Collins thinks the best ice breaker is "What time do you eat dinner?"

When I mentioned this to Nancy Leson, she said "Sounds like a Food for Thought to me."  

paella
Nancy Leson / KNKX

Nancy Leson's husband, Mac, has always been the paella maker of the two. But this time around, Nancy wanted to give it a try. Paella is one of those dishes like gumbo or cassoulet that court controversy. There are probably as many paella recipes as there are people who will passionately decry them as inauthentic.  

So since no recipe will ever please everyone the best bet is always to please yourself.  "You know that thing you do when you look at umpteen different recipes and then just do what you want to do?"

And that's just what she did.

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