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All You Can Eat

Seattle Times food writer Nancy Leson serves up the best info and tips on Northwest food, cooking, dining and restaurants.

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August 12, 2010 11:19 AM

Basil's sweet perfume: it hits me where I live

Posted by Nancy Leson

Forty-eight hours ago I was standing in my husband's cousin's garden near Chicago admiring her herbs and tomato plants. As I stood there "enjoying" the humidity and sweltering in the noonday sun, I thought about the state of my own garden (disastrous) and the fact that I'd just spent a week sleeping in an un-airconditioned apartment in the heat of a Chicago summer, so help me God.

Quietly chanting, "Aren't you glad you use Dial? Don't you wish everybody did?" I smiled broadly, knowing that in a very few hours, I'd be flying the not-so-friendly skies, heading home. Home! Where, according to the pilot who flew me there, "It's 61 degrees in Seattle." Home! Where my sunny kitchen awaits even when it's foggy, perfumed by the sweet summer scent of fresh basil -- courtesy of my good friend Trader Joe.



Wake up and smell the basil!


No offense to those of you who've found the time and the energy to fight the elements this summer and coddle your homegrown edibles outdoors, but I've long been a fan of TJ's fresh basil plants, including the one you see above. It's been on my kitchen counter providing me with fragrant herbs for months.

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August 26, 2009 8:33 AM

Time for tomatoes! And your favorite recipe is?

Posted by Nancy Leson

Yes, I tried to grow tomatoes again this year. With all that hot summer weather we had, I was excited to think I'd soon have enough sun-ripened tomatoes to make one of my favorite summer recipes: Linguine with Tomatoes and Basil, culled from that kitchen classic "The Silver Palate Cookbook." And while I didn't exactly fail, my "crop" -- if you can call it that -- was minimal. I harvested my first Black Krim a couple of nights ago and ate it with just a little salt. Impressive! And here's what I came up with this morning:



The wee ones are Tumbling Toms and "patio" tomatoes.


Unfortunately, I only grew two edible Black Krims and the one left standing may be smiling, but I'm not.



Black (Krim) humor. So funny, I forgot to laugh.

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August 25, 2009 9:46 AM

Be fruitful and multiply: share the harvest

Posted by Nancy Leson

Mother Nature's done her thing this summer, and those of us lucky enough to have fruit trees at our fingertips don't have far to go to grab a bowlful of plums or a crisp rain-kissed apple. But what do you do when your trees are bearing more fruit than you can -- or want -- to eat? Well, you can always share with friends and neighbors, or bring a bag, box or bowlful into the office. Or, you can reach out to the broader community as Marc Ramirez explains in this story in the Seattle Times today profiling a new community resource: City Fruit.



Our alkmene apple tree got a much-needed drink this morning. Thanks, Mother Nature!


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April 28, 2009 3:30 PM

Big names in biz collaborate at Ballard's Bastille Cafe & Bar

Posted by Nancy Leson

For months, people have been talking about the transformation of yet another historic Ballard building (sold last year) and the French restaurant set to open in it -- after a couple of Seattle restaurant entrepreneurs shelled out $3.62 million to seal the deal. Now, with contractors hard at it, a liquor license application in the works and an opening date slated for "early summer," it's high time somebody dished the details. Here goes:

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December 19, 2008 11:43 AM

Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme: A garden of frozen delights

Posted by Nancy Leson

As I've pointed out before: I'm no gardener. But I'm convinced that a garden can bring a world of pleasure to the table. Even a brown-thumbed, weed-no-whacking, way-too-busy-to-deal-with-a-garden troll like me can grow a few hearty must-haves. Like the potatoes I was carrying on about in my previous post:



Those were especially delicious because I cooked them in smoked-paprika flavored duck fat, rendered a few weeks ago when Mac was, once again, making paella. Next time, he says, he's sticking to chicken thighs. Though I was mightily impressed by the quack-meat and glad I was smart enough to save the schmaltz from the duck (in a canning jar, in the fridge), which is far better for frying potatoes than chicken fat. Or even freshly rendered leaf lard. Of course, it didn't hurt that those potatoes were the carolas I grew this summer.

Back in the spring, my potato plot looked like this:


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August 28, 2008 4:01 PM

Who needs lemonade?

Posted by Nancy Leson

I'm one of the gazillion parents looking forward to next week, when our darling children go back to school and we get to go back to the business of doing business -- without wondering how we're going to entertain the kids. Actually, Nate's been pretty good this week, hanging with his homeboys (and girls), playing (a little too much) Mario Kart and behaving when I give him the evil-eye -- the one that translates as "Don't bug me! I'm on a work phone-call!" Then, about an hour ago, he told me he was going outside to pick blackberries. And a while later he came into my office and asked, "Mom, how do you spell produce?" Face in the computer, hard at work, I told him: P-R-O-D-U-C-E. And the next thing you know, I looked out the front window to find this:

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August 27, 2008 10:38 AM

Call me well-grounded: DIY burgers

Posted by Nancy Leson

After the latest go-round of ground-beef scares, and many years of thinking about doing so, I finally purchased a grinder attachment for my KitchenAid mixer (as I discussed this week on KPLU). I tried it out for the first time last weekend, when I decided to make some homemade burgers -- a family favorite. When my husband makes burgers, our son calls them "Dadu Deluxe" -- after a certain fast-food chain. But since Dadu was out of town on an extended business trip, and I've been pretty cranky and short-tempered in his absence, I figured I'd get on Nate's good side (and one-up his dear-old-dad) with my own version, the Mamu Deluxe:


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August 21, 2008 10:02 AM

What's your favorite ice cream flavor? Mine's cinnamon basil.

Posted by Nancy Leson


It's certainly been an ice cream summer, what with artisan-ice cream makers popping up everywhere you turn. Me? I don't feel the need to rush out to, say, Wallingford, to stand in line for a creamy-sweet concoction flavored with fresh lavender or bergamot-infused olive oil. Because I'm a do-it-yerself kind of gal. And yesterday I did it myself at home, cribbing from the Jerry Traunfeld playbook to make the most amazing ice cream, using this:



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August 15, 2008 11:13 AM

Urban foraging -- a berry good pastime

Posted by Nancy Leson

On Tuesday morning, after dropping my son off at camp, I was driving down the street just a few block from my house when I spotted this woman enjoying a quick snack:



So I did what any food blogger with a camera in her purse would do. I pulled over, got out of the car, introduced myself and said, "Hey, lady! Save some for me!"

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August 7, 2008 11:13 AM

Food mags -- what's in your pile?

Posted by Nancy Leson

In my dreams I spend the lazy days of August at the beach -- with a big stack of books and magazines beside me. Believe me: those days at the beach are few and far between for this busy scribe (ditto for the "lazy" days). But when it comes to those stacks, I've got 'em in spades. There's the sky-high bedside stack. The either side of the couch and armchair stack. The piles and piles in the office stack. The magazines-to-recycle-at-the-doctors'-office stack. And then there's this spread of current culinary ink:



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July 23, 2008 11:07 AM

You say tomato, I say. . .

Posted by Nancy Leson


Check out Karen Gaudette's Seattle Times story today re: prolonging the life of your produce. Among the helpful hints was a quote from supermarket anaylst and "Today" show food editor Phil Lempert, who says to better horde your harvest, stick with that old standby: paper towels. Lempert suggests layering a paper towel in the bottom of the crisper drawer (something I do) and regularly replacing it (something I don't do often enough) -- which helps remove excess moisture. "A paper towel is produce's best friend," he says. Anybody have any other produce life-enhancing tips? Feel free to comment, below.

Speaking of produce, in today's New York Times, Julia Moskin takes on one of my favorite subjects -- tomatoes that taste like tomatoes. In her tale "The Return of a Lost Jersey Tomato," she profiles that elusive fruit: the one whose mythic food-memory is deeply imprinted on this (adopted) "Jersey"-girl's soul. In its honor, I plan on eating this homegrown -- and appropriately "cold tolerant" -- Stupice for lunch today, with only a sprinkling of sea salt. If it tastes anything like the Jersey tomatoes of my girlhood, I'll eat my hat:


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May 30, 2008 10:30 AM

Sweet on sour cherries

Posted by Nancy Leson

When I opened my email-box this morning, I found a query near and dear to my heart -- and my stomach. "I'm wondering if you can tell me the season for sour pie cherries, and if this is something I'm likely to find at a Northwest farmer's market," wondered Debbie Jeske. Funny she should ask. The short answer? "Soon" and "yes." I know this because we have two sour cherry trees in our backyard, small-rootstock that began bearing a year after we bought them from Raintree Nursery in 1997.


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April 15, 2008 8:05 AM

Reader in a pickle. Can you help?

Posted by Nancy Leson

This query in from a not-so-sour-puss named "C" who wondered:

"So, now that Farman's parent company has gone to India for cukes, is there any local jar of pickles left? I refuse to make my own (you do NOT want me near that kind of cooking, I may blow Seattle off the map!) and I don't want to buy leeetle craft jars of 3 baby pickles each at a Farmer's Market. I want a hefty jar 'o pickles, not sweet, just good mainstream dill pickles. From local farmers. Am I building cloud pickles? Barking up the wrong pickle tree?"

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Food for Thought | Nancy Leson on KPLU

Listen to Nancy at 5:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. during Morning Edition, at 4:40 p.m. during All Things Considered and again the following Saturday at 8:30 a.m. during Weekend Edition on KPLU 88.5.

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