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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 Viking, OXO and Tiny Prints, and a spot in the next Food52 cookbook!
Q&A with Ms. T
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.
Ms. T being helpful in the kitchen as a little one.