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. 

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.


It's RamenMania in Seattle these days and Nancy Leson's favorite slurp is Samurai Noodle. "It's long been my favorite place to get a big, rich bowl of Ramen noodles."  Recently Nance got to hang out with owner Ryo Izawa and got a look at how they make their tonkotsu broth.  Short version: Pork bones, water and 20 hours of slow simmering.

Nance explained that flavorful Tonkotsu broth is not de-fatted or strained for clarity.  "That's where the mouth feel and flavor comes from."  Now me...

You Want Frites Wit Dat?

Apr 22, 2015

It's Sandwich City.  Nancy says "I'm lookin' at this week's Seattle Weekly's 'The City's Best Sandwiches,' the New York Times had a killer special issue – even Bethany Jean Clement of the Seattle Times was writing about Five Great Chicken sandwiches that aren't Chic-fil-A.  So what do you think about this?" she asked me.

I told her I thought there was no reason why "...any normal human being cannot make a sandwich at home as good as anything you would go to a store and buy."  Ms. Leson disagreed.

Nancy's Dutch Treat

Apr 15, 2015

Nance, husband Mac and son Nate are back from a spring break outing to The Netherlands.  While there she ate herring.  Quite a bit of it.

Pickled herring with onions.  Deep fried herring.  Whole herring (pictured above) which she lowered into her mouth while it screamed for mercy.   Herring Bun (a great pattern for a man's suit). She also learned a new word.

Lemon is a frequent ingredient in the cuisine at both the Stein and Leson households.  Nancy says "It's a rare day when I don't use one or three of them when I'm cooking."   I like lemons, too but my wife (The Lovely and Talented) Cheryl DeGroot believes there's nothing they can't improve.

Nancy Leson

Lucky Nancy.  The other day a friend of her son's showed up at her door bearing a dozen razor clams fresh from Ocean Shores.   That's some massive clammage but Nancy knew what to do with them.

Yes, it's true that I ate three days worth of food in three hours. Wretched excess?  Absolutely.  Would I do it again?  Need you ask?  Besides, I think Nancy ate more. So what were we all doing there?  Well, it's a medium-long story.

Nancy leson

Pork Rinds, Pirogi, Injera, Oh My!

My Food for Thought pard Nancy Leson happily cruises the strip malls of Highway 99 in search of hole-in-the-wall international grocery stores and she thinks you should, too.   "Yes," she says, "And the more interesting, unusual to us, and adventurous the better."

Nancy Leson

I've never been able to make Italian potato Gnocchi (NYOH-kee).  I admitted my secret shame to Nancy Leson in this week's Food for Thought. "I just end up with this soggy, waterlogged mess.  They almost dissolve.  Where am I goin' wrong, here?"  Nancy's answer was a question.


The Andrews Sisters were singing "One Meatball" in my head as I browsed through one of my favorite cooking sites, And then my eyes fell upon Daniel Gritzer's eye-opening (and gut-expanding) recipe for Italian-American style meatballs.  Coincidence?  I think not. 

Cafe Presse Facebook page

That sneaky Nancy Leson! She tried to get me to name the musician I'd most like to have entertain at a Valentine's dinner for me and DeGroot. Naturally, I refused. If I name someone, then I'm excluding everyone else, I told her.

I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. Nancy, of course, has no such qualm. 

Nancy Leson

Summer is made endurable by anticipation of the winter to come. How I look forward to those long nights and lovely gray, rainy days! And to eating the pot that was already legal in Washington — pot roast, pot pies, pot au feu.

But Nancy Leson? In deepest, darkest February, she's thinking salad, and some pretty enticing ones, too.

Nancy Leson

It's January, the best time of the year to eat Pacific Northwest oysters. In this encore edition of Food for Thought, Nancy sings an ode to the joys of slurping and answers the question "What goes best with an oyster on the half-shell?" Stein's answer: courage!  

Nancy Leson

My phone rang and it was Nancy Leson: "Hey, Stein, I'm sitting in the exit row of an  Alaska Airlines flight, on my way to Ft. Lauderdale and Miami," she said.

And it wasn't on just any flight. It was the famed "Salmon-30-Salmon", the airliner that looks like a fish. With jet engines.

AP Photo/Cuisinart

All it took was for friend and colleague Nick Morrison to mention that his wife Ceal had brought home an electric griddle for visions of panini to dance in my head. So while wife DeGroot rolled her eyes, I rushed to the store for my own Cuisinart Griddler.

Nancy Leson

They've been saying, "They just don't make'em like they used to" since shortly after the first stone ax was updated.  But when that old saw is applied to the KitchenAid stand mixer, Nancy Leson says it's true.

Deb Buchanan

Nancy Leson was suffering from cake envy. For husband Mac's birthday, she'd gone to all the trouble of baking a big deal birthday cake for him  But at the party, "a cake that came out of a box" stole the glory from her "multi-layered, gorge-a-mondo" job.   

"Stein, are you much of a cake baker?" she asked me.

Not really, but my kid sister Debbie Buchanan used to bake fancy cakes for a living. So we got her on the line from Annapolis to answer Nancy's questions.