Food | KNKX

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. 

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.

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.

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.

Nancy Leson / KNKX

I love world travel if I don't have to leave Tacoma to do it.  But after hearing from Nancy Leson about DK Market I'm willing to make an exception and journey all the way to exotic Renton. DK is a cavernous, warehouse-style market on Renton's Lind Avenue offering foodstuffs from a dozen cultures around the world.

"Say hello to my little friend."  Doña Yuya at her Polloria Yuya in Puerto Vallarta's Emiliano Zaapata Mercado.
Nancy Leson / KNKX

Nancy Leson's back from Puerto Vallarta and the wedding of her friends Grant and Martha, which her husband Mac officiated. A lovely time was had by all. But let's get right to the food.

Nancy Leson

"We've been looking at them and lusting after them for at least a decade."  That's Nancy Leson talking about the Big Green Egg outdoor cooker. She and husband Mac had always been put off by the price – some models cost more than $1,000. And that's not including accessories.

But Mac's friend Alan and Craigslist came to the rescue. Together, they found a reasonably priced, used BGE, which Mac brought home just in time to roast an Easter leg of lamb. 

Was it any good?

Loren Lukens

Like most home pizza bakers I've always lamented the puny 500-degree max on my oven. I've had good enough results using a pre-heated pizza stone, and later even better with my pizza steel, but still I dreamt the impossible 800-degree dream. 

Don't settle for anything less than neon green in a hot dog relish. Dick Stein tells how to make your own in this encore Food for Thought.

Photo: Cheryl DeGroot. Layout & Design: Parker Blohm

The sordid secret eating habits of KNKX staffers revealed in this encore Food for Thought.

"Stein, what do you eat when no one's looking?" Nancy Leson asked. I turned the question back to her and Leson was firm in her preferences. 

"It's gotta be fatty, salty, preferably both," she said.

Nancy Leson / KNKX

Who but Nancy Leson could utter the phrase "The dog ate my carrots"?  Was there no homework in the house that day?

Stein / KNKX

One look at Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen recipe for Salted Peanut Tart convinced me that I was in the presence of a large, circular version of my favorite candy bar. 

It was PayDay pie and I would bake it!

Rory O'Brien

As soon as we got our hands on Andrea Nguyen's new "Vietnamese Food Any Day" Nancy Leson and I went right to work. The book focuses on recipes for Viet food using ingredients available at most American supermarkets and Nance and I each cooked off several of them..  

KNKX

Nancy Leson says that adds up to 550-plus Food for Thoughts. Which is a lot more thought than I normally give to anything other than food. On this week’s we talk about just a few of our favorite episodes, recipes and food sites.

Stein / KNKX

Not my own personal pork belly. That seems to be a lost cause.  But I did have pretty good luck celebrating the Year of the Pig last week with the kind that comes from the underside of a hog.

"Stein, it's been a very long time since I've seen you so excited about a recipe," Nancy Leson said. And I was. My usual random food surfing had brought me to a site I'd not seen before. Woks of Life. "Sounds like a soap opera," Nancy cracked.  But it was there I found the recipe for larou, Chinese cured pork belly, that would take me over a week to complete.

Nancy Leson / KNKX

That would be James Beard Award-winning cookbook author Samin Nosrat, coming to Seattle on March 10, and the Netflix documentary made of her bestselling "Salt Fat Acid Heat."

"It's my favorite thing I've ever seen foodwise on television," Nancy Leson told me.  She explained Nosrat started out with an interest in books, just not the kitchen kind.

Nancy Leson / KNKX

With weather conditions too extreme for my usual gyrocopter commute, I was forced to hitch up Yukon King to break trail for the mush into snowbound Fort KNKX. It was a hard slog, but I arrived in time to connect with Nancy Leson, calling in from her Edmonds Fortress of Freeze to trade our snow dining experiences.

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