Food | KNKX


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. 

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.

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!


“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.

Fun With Tomatoes

Sep 23, 2015
N. Leson

This week I bragged to Nancy Leson, "I have done something I have never done before and that I thought I never would do.  It all goes back to a trip to the hardware store."  

Nancy, with only the slightest of eye-rolls asked, "So what'd you do now, Stein?" She probably wasn't expecting tomatoes.

Makayla Tolmie

For many, "fast and easy" are the most important criteria in recipes.  Lengthy and difficult are deal breakers.  Nancy's cooking-phobic friend wails "Who would waste that much time when ten minutes later it's gonna be gone?" 

Well, me, actually.

I'm always browsing around for something that looks to be a fun day or more in the kitchen..  But when I do, I want a result for all that effort that's better than just okay.

Recently, both Nancy and I spent multiple hours on complex cooking projects that turned out fine.  They were good.  But not all that good for the amount of work we put in.  Especially when we think of the fast easy stuff we've made that actually turned out better results. 

Sales of green tea are rising in the U.S and the U.K., driven largely by evidence of the health benefits of this stimulating elixir. So it's ironic that a little over a century ago, this so-called superfood was demonized as super toxic.

Same Day Pickles!

Sep 9, 2015
Nancy Leson

Not all pickles take weeks of slow fermentation in a dark, cool cellar.  Lots can be made and enjoyed within hours.  In this week's Food for Thought Nancy Leson tells of two she recently put up and enjoyed that evening. 

One's from right around here in Renee Erickson's A Boat, a Whale & a Walrus, the other from Japan in Preserving the Japanese Way by Nancy Singleton Hachisu

I'm definitely making both.  And now, so can you.

It's that time of year when some gardeners and tomato-coveting shoppers face a vexing question: What on earth am I going to do with all these tomatoes I grew (or bought)?

A select few up to their elbows in tomatoes may have an additional quandary: How am I going to prepare different kinds of tomatoes to honor their unique qualities?

In the annals of ill-conceived public relations campaigns, the egg industry's war on Just Mayo deserves at least a mention.

Just Mayo is a product that looks like mayonnaise, tastes like mayonnaise and yet contains no eggs. The company behind it, Hampton Creek, has been getting lots of attention.

Josh Tetrick, the company's founder, has big ambitions. "If we're successful, there are a lot of [food] industries out there that are going to have to adjust," says Tetrick.

Nancy Leson

I've long enjoyed and profited from the food experiments conducted by J. Kenji-Lopez-Alt on the Serious Eats website.  I expect even more enjoyment, both in the reading and the cooking, from his new The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science.

Nancy Leson

Can any restaurant meal be worth as much as $800?  $1700?  How about a couple thousand?   What about a Heimlich-demanding five figures?  Laughing?   So was I when I read Tonya Gold's A Goose in a Dress, her hilarious review of four absurdly expensive NYC restaurants in this month's Harper's Magazine.

But judging by some of the online comments it's plain to see that not everyone was amused.  Sounds to me like an Emperor's New Wardrobe Malfunction but even my Food for Thought pard Nancy Leson thought the review unfair.

Nancy Leson

That little old wine drinker Nancy Leson found herself in oenophile heaven recently.  She joined fellow journalists as  guests of the Washington Wine Commission at wineries in Woodinville and Seattle as part of events surrounding the Auction of Washington Wines

Nancy Leson

Nancy tells me "This week I had relatives in from out of town, young cousins, their romantic partners, their room-mates, and I had to figure okay what am I going to feed everyone?"  That decision could have been easier had she not asked "Is there anything that some people don't eat?"

Shubert Ho

So, a month or two ago my wife (The Lovely & Talented) C. DeGroot woke and spoke but a single word.  And lo, the word that she spake was "Waffles."  I offered to make them but DG insisted on doing it and an hour later we were eating some of the best waffles ever.  More than we could eat.  So we froze the leftovers for  future toasterizing.

Then, just last week while  browsing some fried chicken recipes it hit me!  Waffles in the freezer.  I could make chicken and waffles --  a combination I had first heard of in the Joan Crawford vehicle Mildred Pierce but never tried.    

Nancy Leson

"So Stein," Nancy asks me.  "Do you say APP-ricot or AYP-ricot?"  Sure, I know that an AYP-ricot is where an ape sleeps but as a certified fruit-o-phobic I prefer not to say either.  Even typing out the word "apricot" makes me a little queasy, but in the interest of Art I'll tough it out.

Nancy's apricot tree, an under-performer for decades, finally came across.  This week's Food for Thought covers some of the stuff that she, her son Nate, and her dog (video follows) did with all that fruit.


I admit it.  When Kelly from KPLU Listener Relations first mentioned Zucchini Crab Cakes to me I scoffed.  But after my first bite I stopped scoffing and started scarfing.  They're good, with very much the taste and mouth-feel of regular crab cakes.  

And, as Nancy pointed out, they're just the thing for eaters allergic to shellfish –  or just to the high cost of crab.  And even if you do use real crab, this method is a great way to stretch it.

Here's how I made them

Courtesy of Kurt Timmermeister

Oh my God," I told Nancy.  "That sounds horrible."  But she swears that Vashon's Kurt Timmermeister of Kurtwood Farms tomato jam ice cream is "Beyond the pale of delicious."  I'll have to take her word for it.  But you don't have to.   The author of Growing a Feast:The chronicle of a farm-to-table meal has opened a tiny shop on Capitol Hill's new Chophouse Row selling his cheeses and...unusual ice cream.

Bellamy Pailthorp


Making sure seafood is both healthy and sustainable can be complicated.

A new label called Smart Catch is trying to change that. Launched in Seattle, Smart Catch attempts to make consumers aware of how their purchased seafood came to their plates by placing a seal of approval on restaurant menus.

As I tell Nancy Leson in this week's Food for Thought, I have had an iceberg lettuce epiphany.  A voice whispered, "Slice it horizontally." 


There can be no doubt that restaurant shrimp cocktails are never big enough.  Oh, the individual shrimp may be sizeable, but though they be proud they are also the few.  Which is why I was compelled last weekend to create a shrimp cocktail big enough to have its own zip code. 

Nancy Leson agrees that size matters, but her idea of what constitutes the crustaceanaceous concoction left me shocked – simply shocked. 

Nancy Leson

At the start of this Father's Day edition of Food for Thought Nancy asked "Hey Stein – do you feel left out on Father's Day because you don't have children?"  After assuring Ms. Leson that I have all the tacky neckties I can use we moved on to Tales of Our Dads in regard to cooking and eating.

I credit my father with teaching me to keep my fingertips curled under when slicing stuff.  To this day the remaining 7.5 of those tips thank him for it.  Murray also gave me my first exposure to fermented tofu – a taste he acquired during prohibition while dining with the Chinese bootleggers he sold supplies to.

Three capital letters appeared in the air over my head when I saw the sign: The Root Beer Store –  World's Largest Root Beer Selection.  I pulled a 6G right turn onto Tacoma's 6th & Orchard, roared to the door and charged in.

I was not disappointed.

These people are serious about root beer.   The Root Beer Store stocks over 100 different brands of root beers, birch beers, ginger ales, ginger beers, and other specialty sodas, plus root beer candies, root beer rental kegs, even root beer apparel.  Besides the one I visited in Tacoma there are Root Beer Stores in Puyallup, Redmond, Lynnwood, and sometime this summer, Mill Creek.

Herbs of Steel!

Jun 3, 2015
C. Kent

Never again cry "They've been slimed!" when you pull a bunch of what were recently fresh herbs from the crisper. Now your parsley, cilantro, and other herbs can stay fresh and crisp for three or more weeks after the day you bought them.

Nancy Leson

I'd mentioned to Nancy Leson that I was out of two of my favorite spices. Recently, shopping one of our favorite food stores, Big John's PFI, the ever-thoughtful Leson picked up my Aleppo pepper and sumac and mailed them to me, along with a bonus spice.  Thanks, Nance! 

Nancy had included a small bag of bright yellow powder. One of her favorites, it was a blend I'd never heard of called vadouvan.  So what is that stuff?

file photo


For food writer Nancy Leson, “comfort food” means Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews. This Philadelphia-based regional candy is made of peanuts suspended in molasses covered in dark chocolate.

For me, that’s not an appealing description, and the proud declaration on the package that they “originally served as a WWI ration bar” doesn’t help. But for Nancy, they mean something different.

Nancy leson

Nancy says "I love gardening." But she admits that she's not good at it "the way I'm good at cooking."  Me neither.  I'm a way better cook than a gardener.  I'd rather have chicken guts on my hands than dirt any day.  

But this year Nancy's got a brand new gardening bag.  It's called "Square Foot Gardening" from Mel Bartholomew's book of the same name.

Nancy Leson

Both Nancy and I have loved this Chinese American restaurant staple since childhood. 

I've been playing around with the dish, adding my own refinements and tweaks for years before finally synthesizing a method for Shrimp & Lobster Sauce as I remember it from childhood dinners at New Rochelle's House of Wu.

Nancy thought we should do S&LS for a FfT but I was reluctant.  I've been making this dish for so long that it's second nature to me. 

I had no idea about measurements or how to tell anyone to go about putting it together.  "No problem," Nancy said.  "You cook. I'll watch and take notes."

So Nancy came over, watched me cook and asked many questions.  By the time we'd finished and worked the recipe up I saw that what seemed simple to me is actually more complicated than I realized. Still, it's not cold fusion. Follow the directions below and you'll be rewarded with the Platonic Ideal of this old Chinese-American favorite.  Ready? Let's saddle up and go.


The debate is on.

In this week's Food for Thought Nancy Leson cites a recent Stranger article by Angela Garbes reporting that Renee Erikson has eliminated tipping at her restaurants The Whale Wins, The Walrus and the Carpenter, and Barnacle.  Which story then prompted a debate among Stranger staff about the virtues and drawbacks of tipping.