Jenny Crack Corn


Summer is in the air, and so is fresh, delicious corn on the cob! Corn has gotten a bad wrap lately due to the high fructose corn syrup industry and its contributions to the diabetes and obesity epidemics in the US. When not forced into unnaturally high concentrations of sugar content, corn is actually a delicious and nutritious food. I love grilling corn in the summer, but if I’m too lazy to start up the grill, I often like to sauté my fresh corn. Sautéing achieves a delicious caramelization and sweetness that, in my opinion, surpasses the flavors you can obtain through grilling.

I call this my crack corn because it has been a crowd pleaser at family gatherings and friends get-togethers. It can become seriously addictive. The combination of corn’s natural sweetness, salty bite, a bit of a kick from the pepper and red pepper flake, and the nuttiness achieved from the caramelization process in butter….this corn dish is one of my all-time favorites. I often serve this as a side for decadent steak dinners because the sweetness of the corn adds a pleasant contrast to the richness of the steak and its heavy friends of mashed potato and mac and cheese.

Cooking Tips

This dish is best when you use fresh corn on the cob. However, frozen corn would also do the trick. You might need to add a tablespoon of sugar halfway into the sautéing process to add some sweetness that is often lost in frozen corn.

I add garlic toward the end of cooking of this dish because if you add garlic too soon, it could burn before your corn has finished cooking. In general this is a good rule of thumb when you are doing sautés that do not include the addition of wines, broth, or any other kind of liquid. Stir-fries are an exception because the vegetables used often release liquid into the pan, which prevent garlic from burning during the cooking process.

If you want to infuse your dish with a specific herb or spice, make sure to sauté it in your cooking oil for a minute or two before adding other ingredients. In this dish, I did this with both red pepper flake and shallot, as well as garlic toward the end.


Servings: 3-4
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes

4 ears of fresh corn on the cob or 2 cups frozen corn
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, sliced
1 pinch red pepper flake
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp salt, or to taste
1 tbsp black pepper
2 sprigs of scallion, finely chopped
Optional: splash of fish sauce for a Vietnamese twist


Cut corn off of the cob.

Heat a skillet on high heat and add butter and olive oil. Once butter is melted and well incorporated with olive oil, add shallots and red pepper flake. Sauté for 2 minutes on medium heat or until softened.

Add corn and continue to sauté on medium heat for ~10 minutes or until corn becomes slightly golden brown. Stir frequently as it will stick.

Add garlic and scallions and season with salt and black pepper to taste. Continue to sauté for another 3-5 minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust seasoning to taste.

Optional: add a little splash of fish sauce for a Vietnamese flavor.



Addictive sautéed mushrooms


As fall begins to kiss the air with its crispness in southern California, I find myself craving earthy rich flavors, soups, stews, and overall more sumptuous hearty food. Tonight for dinner we are having some marinated beef ribs to change things up from our typical steak dinner on Fridays. Fridays have become date night, a small tradition we’ve started to dangle a carrot in front of us throughout the workweek. The daily grind often feels so repetitive and unending that we need to see that light at the end of the tunnel. On date nights, we sometimes choose to eat out, but there is an unparalleled satisfaction that comes from preparing food with your own hands and watching other people consume and enjoy it. Michael Pollen spoke about this on his documentary entitled “Cooked.” He described the primal instinct to hunt, gather, and interact with food on a very intimate level. Anyway, as the prepared meals for the week have been almost completely devoured, I was prompted to cook a nice home-made meal for our first date night of the fall season.

When I think steak, the usual suspects include creamed corn, creamed spinach, and some kind of mashed or baked potato dish. As I’ve described previously, we are still in the midst of making lifestyle changes to our diet, so that essentially negates most of the usual side dishes that come with a proper steak dinner. Thinking outside the box using fresh healthy vegetable-based ingredients, I was struck by the earthiness of beef and thought that mushrooms would be a lovely pairing. When treated properly, mushrooms are the meat of the ground. They bind onto our umami receptors and create a delightful sensation that can only be described as “yum.” Paired with some butter, aromatics, and a splash of white wine and you have a delicious side-dish that bursts with flavor and deserves a spot on your dinner table in its own right!

Cooking Tips
Browning of mushrooms requires a good amount of oil, changing the heat and patience. If you have a lot of mushrooms that will crowd the pan, all you need to do is add some more oil, let the mushrooms cook down and release their juices, and then turn up the fire to let those liquids evaporate and leave behind their concentrated umami goodness.

Controlling heat and flames is such an important part of cooking. Mastering control of temperature and heat will help you to sauté to perfection every time. I was taught to cook Chinese food first and foremost. For stir-fries, you want your pan to be literally smoking hot before you place your oil and food to be cooked. For all other sautéing, I do not allow my pan to smoke. I place my hand above the surface of the pan to check for temperature. If I can sense the heat and it makes it uncomfortable for my hand to remain there for more than a second, I know that the pan is ready. Another check is that your cooking oil should become shimmery and start to disperse (becoming looser) if your pan is hot enough. This is when you can place your meats, veggies, and other foods for browning or sautéing. For veggies or meats that require longer cooking time due to thickness or the type of protein that needs to be cooked down, it is imperative to lower your flame to either medium or medium-low to prevent burning. At times, it may be necessary to add a liquid (e.g., water, broth, wine) to de-glaze your pan and prevent food from sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning. This is also a great opportunity to imbue your food with delicious flavors.

Servings: 3-4
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes

3 large king trumpet mushrooms
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, sliced
½ tsp salt, or to taste
1 tbsp black pepper
splash dry white wine
2 sprigs of scallion
optional: splash of truffle oil or pinch of truffle salt


Thinly slice mushrooms, shallots, and scallion.

Heat a skillet on high heat and add 1 tbsp butter and 2 tbsp olive oil. Once butter is melted and well incorporated with olive oil, add mushrooms. Sauté for 5 minutes on high heat and place a lid on the skillet. Cooked covered for 5 minutes.

Uncover lid and continue cooking until mushroom juices evaporate. When almost all liquid is gone, lower fire to medium and allow mushrooms to sauté until browned, stirring occasionally.

When most mushroom pieces have become golden brown, add shallots and scallion stems. Turn fire lower to medium-low. Sauté until shallots are translucent, stirring occasionally.

Add salt and pepper to taste. Then pour a splash of white wine into mushrooms. Turn fire to high to allow wine to evaporate, then back to medium once liquid has evaporated. Again, sauté to allow mushrooms to brown and caramelize. Add in scallion tips (the green tender parts) and the other tbsp of butter and sauté for another minute.

Taste for flavor and add additional pinches of salt, pepper, or even red pepper flake for additional flavor. If you are feeling fancy, go ahead and add some truffle salt. Sere and enjoy! If you are feeling even fancier, drizzle some truffle oil upon serving. Never heat up your truffle oil because that will destroy its delicate flavor.



Chickpea Quinoa Salad with Avocado

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My fiancée and I recently started working out at a fitness boot camp that provided a clean eating meal plan. As we were getting tired of open-faced turkey avocado sandwiches and salads without dressing, I thought I would venture out and try different ways to eat light and healthy, while incorporating lots of yummy and fiberful veggies and enough protein to keep us energized and strong throughout the day. So I thought quinoa and chickpeas would be the perfect power couple for the job. In my fight against the summer heat, I shield myself with lots of sunscreen and eat lots of cold dishes that are full of hydrating veggies. I hope that you enjoy this summer salad as part of your backyard BBQ spread or as part of a healthy eating routine!

Cooking tips:

My problem with clean and healthy eating is that it can be extreme and bland. I don’t enjoy foods that contain zero salt and zero fat. They are incredibly unsatisfying and leave me with almost irresistible cravings for fat, salt, AND sugar (salted caramel ice cream anyone?). So to trick my mind into eating healthier, I often have to disguise my healthful foods and dress them up so that they feel more gourmet and not like I’m eating “grass,” in the words of Paula Dean. The solution: lots of fresh herbs, spices, moderate amounts of salt, and even, dare I say, some sugar and fat! Asian cuisine uses a balance of these flavors and it seems to satisfy palates enough so that dessert is not needed on day-to-day basis. Fruit after a meal usually satisfies any lingering sweet tooth.

This recipes uses Persian cucumbers, which are especially crispy and delicious. One quick tip when making a cucumber dish is to remove the fleshy seeded part in the middle to prevent excess fluid from entering your dish. The crunchy outer flesh is the more enjoyable part of the cucumber in my opinion. So I usually just  remove the seeds and snack on the middle parts or use them as skin food for my face. =)

Serves 10-12
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Marinade time: 2 hours-overnight

1 cup dry quinoa
2 cups water
2 red bell peppers, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 shallot, finely diced
1 bunch of flat leaf parsley
5 Persian cucumbers, diced
1 can chickpeas, drained
1 tsp Goya Adobo all-purpose seasoning
pepper to taste
juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp Modena white vinegar
6 small avocados (add upon serving)


Add quinoa and water into a pot and bring to a boil, then reduce to medium low heat. Allow to cook for ~20 minutes until quinoa is translucent and its spirals begin to separate from the grain. Set aside to cool after it is done.

In the meantime, finely dice bell pepper, onion, shallot, and parsley and mix together.

When cutting cucumbers, slice in half length-wise and remove seedy flesh in the middle. Save seedy flesh for skincare or for separate snacking.

Mix chopped up vegetables with lime juice, vinegar, and Goya seasoning. When juicing the lime, try to get some of the oils from the skin out-it intensifies the lemon flavor.

Add garbanzo beans and cooled quinoa and mix well with diced vegetables. Add additional salt and pepper to taste.

Let it sit for at least 2 hours. For best results, let sit overnight.

Serve with fresh avocado. Do not pre-mix avocado into the salad as it will brown.



Shrimp Ceviche/Black Bean Salsa

IMG_7754Growing up in a primarily Mexican-American neighborhood, I had easy access to authentic Mexican food-moist tamales, mouthwatering sopes, satisfying but simple tacos, and oh my goodness, the ceviche! I realize that authentic ceviche involves cooking raw seafood in citrus (usually lemon or lime juice) for many hours. However, I had to cater my ceviche to an Asian audience-namely, my family members. The Chinese palate leaves little room for raw anything, much less raw meat. Coming from a time and place when cleanliness concerns and food-borne infections could mean life or death, I understand my parents’ and grandparents’ concern when I told them how I had made my first batch of ceviche. So, I have modified my shrimp ceviche recipe to minimize the possibility of GI issues from having consumed undercooked meat. I realize that pre-boiling shrimp is not the authentic approach to making ceviche, but it is what gives my loved ones and me peace of mind when we plunge our tostadas into the juicy satisfying coolness of a fresh batch of ceviche.

For those who do not eat seafood, I have also made a black bean version of this dish, which has also been a crowd pleaser. In fact, that is one of the reasons that I created this food blog. After bringing the black bean salsa, I had several people ask me for the recipe, which prompted the thought: Wouldn’t it be nice if I actually had recipes in print that I can refer people to when they want to know how I made something? Now here we are. I finally have a place to direct people to for my recipes. I’m not trying to get instafamous or youtube famous (although that would be so lovely). I just want to share my food, cooking, and thoughts about food with others.

Anyway, coming back from that personal aside, shrimp can get expensive, so substituting black bean for the seafood makes this a great dish for potlucks, entertaining, or good healthy plant-based eating. The base of both these dishes is the same- a solid pico de gallo, comprised of tomato, onion, cilantro, chili pepper, and lemon/lime juice. So once you master the perfect umami balance that characterizes pico de gallo, you can use this as a base with a wide range of ingredients to create equally tantalizing concoctions.

Cooking tips:

Always keep in mind the chip you are serving with any salsa. If you have a very salty chip, go easy on the salt with your salsa. Mexican food is all about that perfect umami balance of salt, sour and spicy.

I made my own tostadas because they are healthier than the deep-fried kind. With tostadas, I’ve learned one thing: they are extremists when it comes to oil. Either use a lot of oil to fry them or don’t use any at all. Anything in between these extremes and you’ll get a soggy chewy mess. I opt for the no oil option for health reasons. And honestly, I don’t even really notice the difference between fried and baked tostada when you’ve got a delicious nest of ceviche or black bean salsa resting on it.

For any chunky salsa recipe, including pico de gallo, that I make, I always squeeze the chopped up ingredients with my hands. In my not-so-scientific opinion, it releases the juices from the respective veggies, allows them to swim with the juices of others, and then absorb the flavors of all the other kids in the pool. Try it out and see if you notice a difference!

Serves 6
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Marinade time: 3 hours-overnight

Ceviche/Black Bean Salsa
1 lb shrimp or 1 can black beans
2 ears fresh corn or 2 cups of frozen corn (only add if making black bean salsa)
5 large roma or any juicy ripe tomato
1 bunch of cilantro
1/2 onion, chopped
6 small avocados
3-5 pickled Serrano chiles
optional: 1-2 fresh jalapenos or Serrano chiles
a few generous pinches of salt, to taste
juice of 1 lemon and 2 limes

Corn tortillas

Peel and devein shrimp. Drop into boiling water and allow to boil for 3-5 minutes until just cooked through. Rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process and chop into bite sized pieces. (or Rinse black beans and allow to drain for 1-2 minutes.)

Finely dice tomatoes, onion, chiles, and cilantro and mix together. Add lemon juice and salt. When juicing lemon try to get some of the oils from the skin out-it intensifies the lemon flavor.

(Add in corn if you are making the black bean salsa.)

Wear plastic cooking gloves. Using your hands, squeeze the juices of the mixed chopped vegetables and continue to mix for approximately 2-3 minutes. This allows the flavors of the salsa ingredients to combine. Add in shrimp and continue squeezing and combining. (If you are making the black bean salsa, simply incorporate black beans to the salsa and let sit. Do not squeeze into the pico de gallo mix as that will smash the beans.)

Let it sit for at least 3 hours. For best results, let sit overnight.

For tostadas, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and place tortillas in a single layer onto a baking sheet. Allow to bake 15-20 minutes, rotating at least once to prevent burning. Take tostadas out when they are golden brown.

Serve with fresh avocado. Do not pre-mix avocado into the salsa as it will brown.