From Finland to San Francisco, Kira Åkerström has been calling California home on and off, but she’s settled down, for now. The winner of Finland’s Masterchef 2013 develops recipes, styles and photographs for brands & magazines, has hosted her own cooking show, runs her food blog, Truly Kira, ( only in Finnish *sadface* ) and writes cook books.
So naturally we are super happy she found time to share with us her fresh smoked salmon & farro salad with preserved lemon (we had the pleasure to taste it for the first time while on a camping trip with Kira) that was our lunch staple for weeks. In this salad every ingredient is a star, making it work without any taste masking dressing. The salad is super simple to make and convenient for picnics, brunches, lunches, and of course, camping. Kira was also up for a quick interview, talking about what to do in San Francisco, what’s always in her fridge and what she whips up when in a hurry. Read on and root that she starts blogging in English! Kira Åkerström
FROM INVESTMENT BANK ASSISTANT TO MASTERCHEF… HOW DID YOU GET HERE? TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY?
I’ve been surrounded by food my whole life, it has always played an important role in our family. I became interested in cooking when I moved to my own place and from there I started my food blog as well. After graduating I got a job as an investment banking assistant. I really enjoyed my work for a few years but noticed that more and more thoughts circled around food. I had always watched MasterChef (the amateur cooking competition) on TV and wondered what it would have been like to enter the competition. So with the encouragement of my family, I decided to quit my job and enter the competition, win or lose, I needed a change. It ended up being the best decision I’ve ever made. I won the competition and through that many doors opened up for me professionally. I’ve worked as a freelancer in recipe development, food styling and food photography. But it hasn’t been easy, I tell you that. No one comes and offers things on a silver platter, you really have to put yourself out there.
Shortly after the competition me and my husband were offered a chance to move to San Francisco. We had always dreamt of living abroad, so of course we decided to take up on the offer! That is the second best decision I’ve made ;).
FOOD IS A BIG DEAL FOR YOU. WHAT’S YOUR SIGNATURE DISH?
This is something that everyone always asks me and every time I don’t really know how to answer. To be honest, I don’t have a signature dish. I constantly like to try new things and expand my knowledge in food. But of course I have to admit that I have those weeknight meals which I make very often, I don’t constantly go around being inspired to cook and create new exciting things.
COOK TO IMPRESS. WHAT DISH IS SUPER SIMPLE TO MAKE BUT WILL ALWAYS WOW! THE GUESTS?
Whole roasted cauliflower! Everyone is always skeptical about the cauliflower when I bring it to the table, but it’s really easy to make and it’s super yummy. Just smother a cauliflower with salt and lots of butter and pop it in the oven on 375 F. Keep it there for aprox. 30-60 minutes depending on the size until browned and tender. Meanwhile melt more butter in a saucepan, let it brown lightly. Season with lemon zest, fresh herbs and grated parmesan. Baste the cauliflower with a pastry brush with the melted butter when it comes out of the oven. Serve with roasted chicken or a cassoulet for example. I sometimes do a middle eastern version with a ras el hanout spice mix.
5 THINGS ALWAYS IN YOUR FRIDGE?
Lemon (fresh and preserved), butter, cilantro, eggs and random fermentation experiments.
YOU HAVE 20 MIN…WHAT DO YOU WHIP UP?
If I’m in a hurry and want to make something fast, I usually go for an omelette and a side salad.
WHAT FOOD TREND OR INGREDIENT IS OVERRATED IN YOUR OPINION?
There’s an audience for every food trend out there, but to be honest, I don’t get the hype around “monster” milkshakes. How do you even drink them :D??
WHAT’S THE NEXT BIG TREND IN COOKING?
I think vegetarian food will keep on trending. I’d love to see more vegetarian and vegan restaurants in San Francisco, there aren’t that many good ones.
BEST HEALTHY ROAD TRIP SNACK?
Roasted nuts. I always carry them in my purse.
FILL IN THE BLANKS…
I’m dying to go to__Finland___ and have _crayfish____.
TELL US YOUR FIVE FAVORITE FOOD SPOTS IN SF
Liholiho Yachtclub. It’s so relaxed and fun and the food is delicious (<3 SPAM). Bar Tartine is still one of my favorite, especially their brunch. They have such an unique touch, I’m always inspired when walking out of there. Del Popolo, I love their white pizza and the appetizers are always solid. Weekday breakfast at Outerlands is a great start to the day. Go for a stroll by Ocean Beach afterwards. Kira Åkerström
Last but not least. I have to mention ABV even though they mainly are a bar. Have their kimchi fritter, it’s like an okonomiyaki but better, and a delicious cocktail. You’re welcome.
BEST SF BRUNCH WITHOUT A WAITING LINE?
Is there such thing as no line for brunch in SF?? Please tell me, I’d love to know!
If we have only 12 hours in San Francisco, what should we do … Where do you take out-of-town friends?
We would definitely start early with an urban hike from the Marina and walk by Crissy Field up to the bluffs by Marshall’s and Baker beach. Then continue to Lands End all the way to Ocean beach and have a late breakfast at Outerlands. Assuming these are foodie friends, I would take them out to Dogpatch and check out all the cool spots there (Smokestack, Mr & Mrs. Miscellaneous, Dogpatch Saloon, Piccino) and have lunch. Maybe grab a beer by The Ramp before heading to The Mission where we of course would grab coffee at Sightglass or Four Barrel while checking out some cool shops there. Then definitely take a well needed power nap in Dolores Park.
Before dinner we would grab a few classic cocktails at Tosca Cafe in North Beach, the space there is so cool and old school. Dinner at LihoLiho and after that collapse into a food coma.
It’s weekend in California….
SATURDAY OR SUNDAY…
Saturday! That’s the day my husband usually makes me a french omelette. Otherwise he doesn’t cook, ever. But I do like Sundays as well, that’s farmer’s market day and I get to buy all the beautiful produce California offers.
DO YOU HAVE ANY WEEKEND TRADITIONS…
We usually explore a new neighborhood or street corner, maybe rent a car and go for a hike.
BEACH OR MOUNTAINS…
Both! The ocean calms me but I can’t help but to be in awe every time I hike up to Mt. Tam – nothing beats that view, you can see all of San Francisco!
Mindset by Dr. Carol S. Dweck. I’m currently reading it and it’s amazing how much I discovered about myself and the way I act and think in different situations.
YOUR WAY TO RELAX…
I love being at home. Grabbing take out and binge watch a series on Netflix.
BEST KEPT CALIFORNIA SECRET…
As a foodie I have to say the Dogpatch neighbourhood in SF. There so much good food there – Neighbor Bakehouse, Mr & Mrs Miscellaneous, Piccino, Smokestack, Aina, Olivier’s Butchery….the list goes on!
What do you love most about California?
Oh gosh, so many things! Mostly the beauty and diversity of the nature. It’s amazing how Northern California is so different from the southern part, I love it both parts (even the infamous SF fog)! Coming from Finland with a very long winter, I really appreciate the amazing bounty of local produce we have year round.
Smoked salmon and farro salad with preserved lemon (serves 2-3)
- 1 cup pearled farro (kamut works as well)
- 2 corn cobs
- 3/4 bunch fresh cilantro
- 3/4 bunch fresh dill
- 4 small scallions
- 1/2 lbs fresh sugar snap peas
- 1 preserved lemon
- 1/2 lbs hot smoked salmon
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- Freshly ground black pepper black pepper
Set oven on 400 F.
Cook farro in salted water according to package instructions. Drain and rinse the farro in a sieve with cold water until cool. Let drain for 10 minutes until dry.
Husk corn and cut kernels with a knife onto a baking sheet. Roast corn in the oven for about 10 minutes. Let cool. If desired, you can also grill the corn and then cut the kernels. This adds a nice, toasty flavor.
Mince cilantro, dill and green onions and place in a large serving bowl. Cut sugar snap peas into thin, diagonal pieces, add to bowl. Rinse preserved lemon and cut in four. Cut out the flesh, discard. Mince rind and add to bowl.
Break up the salmon into small pieces with the help of two forks, discard skin. Add meat to bowl together with the drained and cooled farro and corn. Season with olive oil, lemon juice, a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss the salad until combined. Enjoy! Kira Åkerström