Winner of Your Best Corn off the Cob

August 17, 2011

Congratulations to Ms. T, whose Corn Salad with Cilantro and Caramelized Onions won this week's contest for Your Best Corn off the Cob, earning her big prizes from VikingOXO and Tiny Prints, and a spot in the next Food52 cookbook!

Ms. T - entertaining  Corn Salad with Cilantro and Caramelized Onions

Q&A with Ms. T

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Describe an early food experience that has influenced the way you think about food and/or cooking.
In the house where I grew up, my bedroom was linked to the kitchen by a heating duct. My mom (a.k.a. lime lassi on Food52) is a fantastic cook, and the aromas of her cooking would waft into my room and dance around the edges of my dreams. When I was sick, the smell of chicken soup nourished me as much as the taste. In teenage years when I was prone to sleeping late, my mom would lure me out of bed with the smell of pancakes with pear ginger sauce. To this day, some of my favorite recipes are the ones that simmer on the stove for hours and fill the house with their smells.

What's your least favorite food?
Cheesecake. I'll eat it to be polite if I must, but I can think of so many other ways I'd rather spend my caloric splurges.

What is the best thing you've made so far this year?
A roasted peach and chipotle "mole" sauce I made for a recent dinner party when I was craving hot summery flavors to chase away the San Francisco fog. I first served it on grilled flank steak with a sweet paprika spice rub and grilled peaches. Then we enjoyed the leftover sauce on everything from pork chops to fish tacos. (Here's a link to the recipe.)

Describe your most spectacular kitchen disaster.
The mini disasters are a regular occurrence in my kitchen. I can't remember the last time I broiled something without setting off the smoke detector, and if you look closely, you can probably find traces of chimichurri sauce on my ceiling from when I forgot to put the top on the blender before turning it on. One of the more memorable kitchen disasters happened when I made my first Thanksgiving turkey in college. While the turkey was in the oven, I turned my attention to the gravy. When I got to the part in the recipe about giblets, I called my mom in a panic and asked what the hell giblets were and where I could find them. Well...I found them when I carved the turkey--still in their little paper baggie. Luckily, college students are not very fussy dinner guests.

What is your idea of comfort food?
Mashed potatoes, roast chicken, and pear crisp with vanilla ice cream.

Apron or no apron?
Usually only when my husband comes into the kitchen to find me in the middle of a big mess and I begrudgingly pause what I'm doing to allow him to slip one over my head.

What's your favorite food-related scene in a movie?
In Like Water for Chocolate when Tita pours her heartache into her cooking, while preparing a wedding cake for her sister's marriage to the man she loves. When the guests eat the wedding cake, they are overcome with their own memories of heartache and longing. I love this illustration of how emotions can be expressed so powerfully through cooking.

If you could make a show-stopping dinner for one person, living or dead, who would it be?
My great grandmother Mary Blanche was an amazing cook and influenced generations of cooks in my family. When I was a little girl, she and I would have tea parties at her house with homemade snickerdoodles, tapioca pudding, her finest china and all my dolls. I was ten when she died, so she never knew what a lasting impression she had on me as a cook. I would love a chance to cook a meal for her and the rest of our family, inspired by her old Michigan fruit farm recipes, but with a few new California twists.

You prefer to cook: a. alone, b. with others, c. it depends on your mood.
It depends on my mood. A day in the kitchen alone, with some jazz or an NPR podcast is like therapy for me. But I also love cooking with my husband as a way to reconnect after a long day at work, and it's always a treat to cook with my mom. And then there's my cooking club—the women I have been cooking, eating and gabbing with every month for ten years. They inspire me endlessly and always come to my rescue when I can't get my soufflés to rise or my aioli to emulsify.

When it comes to tidying up, you usually: a. clean as you cook, b. do all the dishes once you've finished cooking, c. leave the kitchen a shambles for your spouse/roommate/kids to clean.
It's a sliding scale that leans heavily towards "B" and "C". I like to joke that you can tell how delicious the meal was by gauging the level of destruction that's left in my wake.

Young Ms. T
Ms. T being helpful in the kitchen as a little one.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Mamafunk
  • TheWimpyVegetarian
  • nannydeb
  • SouffleBombay
  • lime lassi
    lime lassi
A museum marketing professional 8 hours a day, and a gal who's dreaming, drooling, obsessing about food for the other 18 hours. Wait, that doesn't add up to 24? Oh, that's because I'm counting the hours I'm supposed to be working that I dream about food (don't tell my boss). Several years ago, I started a cooking club with six girlfriends...ten years later...many of our addresses and last names have changed, our palettes have gotten more sophisticated and the wine has gotten less cheap. We now usually sit at dining room tables like grownups instead of on cushions on the floor of studio apartments, and the conversations have shifted with the life stages...but we're still going strong, the food gets better every month, and nothing is more pleasurable than sharing an afternoon laughing, eating, and trading tips on recipes and life.


Mamafunk August 20, 2011
Ah this made me cry somehow. And without an onion in sight! My first memories of you involve food (and toilets but that's another story)... 1st Block Island: you were coming down with a summer cold and went to great lengths to find some beautiful fresh veggies to chase away the - you know what? I'm just going to write them down and mail them! there are so many that are rushing back to me! Xo
Ms. T. August 22, 2011
Thanks Funkster :) Yes, we do share lots of food memories, don't we? Just the other day, M and I were picking blackberries in our neighborhood, which of course made me think of picking blackberries and wildflowers with you on Block Island...
TheWimpyVegetarian August 18, 2011
Big congrats to you Ms. T! And really enjoyed your Q&A. Your peach and chipotle mole sounds amazing and is something I am going to have to make now. Love your "sliding scale" - something I share with you no matter how hard I try to be a "clean as I go girl" :-(
Ms. T. August 22, 2011
Thanks ChezSuzanne :) Messy just tastes better, don't you think?
nannydeb August 18, 2011
Congratulations! Thanks for reminding me about Like Water for Chocolate! I must see that again!
Ms. T. August 22, 2011
Thank you. I think I need to see it again too! Such a beautiful, sensual movie and book.
SouffleBombay August 18, 2011
Congratulations! Beautiful dish! I enjoyed reading your answers too!! Enjoy your win!
Ms. T. August 22, 2011
Thank you :)
lime L. August 18, 2011
Well, it's a wonderful feeling to see you get recognized by a wider audience for being an amazing and passionate cook. You have come a long way since cooking the turkey with the paper sack of giblets inside. And we have been on the receiving end of so many fine meals from your kitchen. So proud of you ! And glad that the kitchen aromas delivered via heating duct had a lasting impact. Cook on Ms. T. !
Ms. T. August 22, 2011
Thanks Mom for all the inspiration and support along the way! Hope we get a chance to cook together when I'm home in a few weeks :)
Ms. T. August 18, 2011
Thank you all for the wonderful comments! It was so fun to answer these questions.
cookinginvictoria August 18, 2011
Congratulations on your win, Ms. T! What a lovely Q&A. It is great to get to know you. I loved reading your family memories about how your mother and great-grandmother have both inspired your cooking, and I too am guilty of putting on an apron after things are getting messy in the kitchen, not before. I look forward to trying your delicious-sounding corn salad recipe soon, but I also intend to make your roasted peach and chipotle mole sauce. That too sounds seriously yummy!
Ms. T. August 18, 2011
Thank you cookinginvictoria! Here's to messy chefs ;) BTW, I saw on your profile that you had treasured rolling pin. I have a wooden rolling pin that I adore from my great grandmother Mary Blanche. You just can't beat family treasures like that. I hope that someday I can pass it on to another generation of cooks.
BlueKaleRoad August 18, 2011
Congratulations! Loved reading about the tea parties you had with your great grandmother. Very special!
Ms. T. August 18, 2011
Thank you so much! Yes, Mary Blanche was something special. We have her handwritten recipe cards--but she never wrote down all the steps, so we can't get the recipes to taste quite like hers did. I'm sure she's laughing at us as we try in vain to get the Mexican wedding cakes just right :)
ursula M. August 17, 2011
Tiffany, congratulations. You are a wonderful inventive cook & a loving beautiful girl. Much LOVE Ulla.
Ms. T. August 18, 2011
Thanks Aunt Ulla! You should post your rugelach recipe on this site :) It's a prize-winner for sure.
rooster August 17, 2011
Congratulations, Tiff...way to go!! You are definitely your mother's daughter! (with your own special twist)...
Ms. T. August 18, 2011
Thanks Lynn! And thanks for the offer for the corn tool. I think I just won one of my own :)
mickeyr August 17, 2011
I could not be more proud of my wonderful daughter ! Mick
Ms. T. August 18, 2011
Thanks pops :)
EmilyC August 17, 2011
So nice to learn more about you. Congrats on your win!
drbabs August 17, 2011
Congratulations--so nice to get to know you!
My P. August 17, 2011
Congratulations! I love Like Water for Chocolate as well. I just reread the book. It is so full of deliciously mystical and scrumptious scenes. I would like to eat them all.
Ms. T. August 18, 2011
Indeed. It might be the only example of a movie I liked better than the book--but just barely. I haven't read it in 15 years, so I think I'm due for a re-read. If I recall correctly, there are recipes in the book--have you tried any of them?
boulangere August 17, 2011
What beautiful photos. With regard to cleaning practices, I love, "It's a sliding scale."
mary.birkel August 17, 2011
Congratulations Ms. T!!! Can't wait to try this recipe and see many more from you! Love the Q&A =))
mary.birkel August 17, 2011
And love your pictures!!
Midge August 17, 2011
What a lovely Q&A and an incredibly cute little Ms.T!
maralo August 17, 2011
You are an inspiration! And an incredibly wonderful gal :) Congrats!
Bevi August 17, 2011
Congrats on your win! I am making your recipe this week for sure!!
nogaga August 17, 2011
Congratulations on your win! It looks like a wonderful recipe. I hope to try it this weekend :)