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archive for September 2010

pleasant surprises

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

Recipe: sautéed shishito peppers

I ran around the house gathering my things. I was running late for a meeting in Boulder. Kaweah, who never feels my sense of urgency, sauntered out into the yard to do her doggy business, but really, Kaweah just wants to mosey about and sniff things. Plop. Something hit me on the head. Cold plop. I squinted and looked up. Dark clouds had been building overhead for a few hours and now was the answer to our collective rain dances. My face broke into a huge smile – I couldn’t help it. I called to Kaweah to stop sniffing the grasses and to come inside for her treat. As I drove down the canyon, the rain increased from spitting to pitter patter to real rain. Never have I squealed with this magnitude of joy and gratitude at the rain coming down around me. Passing drivers coming up the canyon seemed to be smiling too.

But it petered out as I neared the entrance to Sugarloaf Canyon where a police car was stationed to block access to the evacuated zone… to the fire zone. Come on, rain!

Jason and I stood under the tent of the Boulder Farmer’s Market discussing logistics about our upcoming shoot while watching big drops of rain randomly splatter the rest of the market.

“I told Josh that you snore like a [expletive] and that I refuse to share a room with you.”


“He said that’s cool, because he’s a big snorer too.”

“Nice!” Jason rubbed his hands together, “It’s going to be a race to see who falls asleep first!”

By the time I drove up to where I buy Kaweah’s dog food (yeah, we’ve moved her to Senior food now) it was pouring rain. POURING! But just because it was coming down in Boulder didn’t mean it was raining on the fire. Still, any little bit helped and I hoped that the clouds over the foothills to the west were rain clouds and not just smoke clouds. [The wonderful crews fighting the fire have it 10% contained as of this morning. The community in and around Boulder has opened its heart and arms wide open to those affected by the fire. Truly inspiring and amazing.] And thanks to all of you who have sent your sweet messages. xo

the bouquet of sunflowers i bought at the farmer’s market

Not long after the Food and Light workshop ended, I received several dozens of emails inquiring about the next workshop. One of those emails asked if there would be another workshop by September (um, no…) and if not, what I would recommend for a trip to Boulder for someone’s birthday. I get a lot of questions about things to do and places to eat for folks visiting Boulder, so I cranked out a quick reply with several suggestions. That email exchange that began in July evolved and materialized into a birthday surprise yesterday evening.

a meal at frasca is not complete without their excellent wines

Rich planned a dinner at Frasca for his wife Kelly’s birthday – and he graciously invited us to join them as a surprise! Kelly is the photo editor of Fine Cooking – my hands down favorite magazine. How could I possibly say no? We arrived with the bouquet of flowers, which Frasca’s staff kindly whisked away, trimmed, arranged in a vase, and placed on our table. The service was flawless (as always), the wine bright and crisp, and the food… oh the food.

pacific hiramasa crudo, finger lime, lavash, cilantro

robiola and soft ricotta tortelloni, garlic brodo, porcini mushroom conserva

pan-seared red snapper with sweet corn ragú and baby carrots

Isn’t that lovely? Let me tell you, I was so excited when one of those finger lime vesicles popped in my mouth. Citrus caviar is what it is. Suddenly, life became even more beautiful and I have a new obsession. The word that surfaces in my brain when I think of savory dishes at Frasca is “perfection”. Textures, flavors, temperatures, colors, aromas. Our hosts thoroughly enjoyed their plates as well, which in some small way makes me proud of Boulder because I’m never ashamed to recommend this fine town to others. Rich and Kelly are utterly charming and delightful people – a fun, witty, and handsome couple (you’d never guess her age, she looks incredible). So if you will recall my rant about not caring if I have readers or not, the truth is that I don’t. However, I cannot deny that I have met some truly wonderful people thanks in no small part to the interwebs, and that includes Rich and Kelly. Happy birthday, Kelly! Thank you both for making us a part of your special day.

Now before I head to the airport, I’ve had something on my mind…

shishito peppers

Ever since Tea and I indulged in that lovely Padrón pizza at Delancey in Seattle last week, my mind has been on those peppers. Peppers are funny beasts. Some varieties are always mild, some are always insanely hot, and some are hit and miss. Hatch green chiles can even have hot bites within a single pepper. I’ve found shishito peppers to be mostly mild and occasionally – wow! Espicy! Note: there has been some confusion in my head… I always thought shishitos were the same as padróns, but they are not! Sorry ’bout that.

a quick rinse

**Jump for more butter**


Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

Recipe: chocolate espresso crème brûlée

I got up before sunrise and tip-toed around the house this morning. We dipped below freezing overnight. Sticking my nose to the open window, I took several shallow sniffs then one deep inhale. No smoke. Scanning to the east I saw clear skies. The absolute best news? Calm winds. This in contrast to yesterday morning’s hostile 60 mph gusts that slapped our aspens around like rag dolls, ripping leaves off the branches. We found some wood siding from our house had been torn off by the winds as well. At noon, Manisha emailed to ask if we were all right. There was a fire near Boulder Canyon.

It’s September. In parts of the American West, this is synonymous with fire season: the driest (we had 4% humidity yesterday) and sometimes hottest time of year. Toss strong winds and bone dry vegetation in, and you are primed for a fire. We are no strangers to fire season having lived at the boundary of the Angeles National Forest in Southern California. The price one pays to live in Awesome. I hopped on Twitter and the stream of information was flowing fast. Boulder is a good place to be on Twitter. Those crazy winds whipped the wildfire into a nightmare starting in Four-Mile Canyon. It quickly spread in almost all directions and we followed news of evacuations and road closures. Good citizens updated maps in real-time or tweeted updates from the police scanner. When the reverse 911 system failed, authorities asked people on Twitter spread the word that they were going door to door to evacuate.

Smaller fires popped up around the area, but were quickly put out. It was the big one, now called the Emerson Gulch Fire, that was consuming homes and whole neighborhoods. If you look at the satellite imagery of the area, the houses are not next door to each other – they are scattered about, in the woods and canyons/mountains. It’s rough and rugged terrain (people are not on municipal services there – they have giant propane tanks for heating… which explode in wildfires). If someone dropped you into that scenario where several fronts are threatened, how do you go about deciding what to save, what to defend? It’s heartbreaking. That firestorm was so bad, the only thing authorities could focus on was evacuation. Photographs, video, descriptions and links to more information poured in on the hashtag #boulderfire. We watched as the evacuation zone expanded, inching closer to our home.

smoke from the fire was the only cloud in all of colorado (taken at dusk looking east)

When the zone was within 6 miles of our house and authorities closed Boulder Canyon, we began to gather our things. Things are just things. As I packed up letters from and photos of my sister, I realized that the only “things” I could not do without are Jeremy and Kaweah. The rest – even those cherished items that I had of Kris – I could let go of. But while we had the time, we packed what we might need if we had to evacuate and if ultimately the house was lost. [For those of you with an invested digital existence, it’s a handy thing to have an external drive (updated daily) to unplug and grab.] Without a doubt, my mind turned to Ivory Hut who just last week lost all of her worldly possessions to a fire. Thankfully, the winds had calmed considerably since the morning and tankers were finally able to fly in the waning light before nightfall grounded them.

the plume of smoke rising into the evening sky

By last night, the evacuation zone had extended again – to within 2 miles of our home. Evac zone and fire are not the same things, mind you, but we were ready. Here is an incredible time-lapse shot from Flagstaff Mountain last night. Right now Boulder lies choking under a blanket of smoke from the fire. I’m trying to reconcile those images with the clear, sunny day we are experiencing just west of the fire. Our hope is for containment. Thank you for all of your concerned and caring tweets, FB messages and comments, and emails. We are sending good juju to the victims of the fire and the incredible rescue, firefighting, and relief personnel.

Life goes on. My dear friend, Andrew, is leaving today to travel the world for a year, or two, or six. Boulder will miss you, Andrew. We will miss you. Thanks for spending an evening with us on Sunday. Thanks for being such a Force of Good in the community. Safe and remarkable travels, friend. Come back to us any time.

andrew on the terrace at the flagstaff house

perusing the wine list (the guys got cocktails instead)

crab- and salmon-stuffed squash blossoms with caviar (zomgdelicious!)

Well now, there is a recipe after all. This one dates back to my pre-blog days when I had a static website. I have a little sticky note (the virtual kind, not a paper sticky) on my desktop telling me to transfer some of those old recipes over. I think it might be one of Jeremy’s favorites.

chocolate, of course

espresso powder and cream

Chocolate espresso crème brûlée. The chocolate and espresso are enough to win most folks over, but crème brûlée will surely round up the rest of the holdouts. Crème brûlée is one of the more annoying things to have to type out, so I’m glad the fabulosity of the dessert itself far outweighs any inconvenience experienced in writing about it.

add chopped chocolate to the hot cream

whisking egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla

**Jump for more butter**

green chile cheeseburger

Sunday, September 5th, 2010

Recipe: green chile cheeseburger

Have you heard about the Threadcakes contest? It’s a fascinating event where entrants select a favorite Threadless t-shirt design (really cool t-shirts, by the way) and make a cake based on that design. Wait a second – they don’t just make a cake, they create edible works of art. This year (the second Threadcakes) I was one of the judges for the competition and WOW! I always talk about how less is more to me, and with regard to cakes it’s because I suck at cake decorating. So to flip through and marvel at each of the entries was an exercise in shouting out to Jeremy, “Come look at THIS one!” again and again until he gave up and just sat down next to me to see all of the lovely interpretations. Please hop over and have a look at the Threadcakes winners – while you’re there, you can grab a discount code for a purchase at Threadless too. Nice. Congratulations to the winners!

soaking up that september sun

I’ve noticed the light is changing around here. The sun is dropping lower as it crosses the sky and my local mountains are starting to take on a faint hint of autumn. It is ever so faint and the shift is subtle. In a couple of weeks it will be that familiar and welcome golden light streaming through the glowing yellow aspen leaves against our deep blue, gorgeous skies. That is Colorado autumn and it is my favorite time of year.

Many years ago, Jeremy and I flew from Ithaca, New York to Albuquerque, New Mexico to attend his grandfather’s funeral. Grandpa was the kind of gentleman who quietly walked you out to his garden in March to show you his tomato seedling projects. When he spoke to me, he would lean forward, smiling sweetly as if sharing a joke. One Thanksgiving when the entire family (and I do mean the ENTIRE family) sat around the long dinner table as dessert wound down, Grandpa sat down next to me and opened his genealogy project notebook. He showed me how much progress he had made in his research by connecting with people on the internet. He eventually turned to the later pages and pointed to Mom and Dad, and then to Jeremy and his brother. His finger moved back to Jeremy’s name which had an empty space next to it. “I’d be honored to have your name there some day.”

The funeral was in October – not a time we typically visited New Mexico. Hot air balloons dotted the skies and you could find Hatch green chiles roasting on several street corners and markets. This is quintessential Albuquerque in October. But for me, there will always be the memory of the sleepy, warm light of fall filtering across the speeding landscape as we transported Grandpa to The Santa Fe National Cemetery. So it was last week when I spied a little chalkboard sign outside of Whole Foods advertising Hatch green chiles from New Mexico. Inside, an employee was loading bags of diced chiles into a small freezer – these were not what I was hoping for. He pointed me to the cauliflower and said there were fresh chiles right next to them. While I stood running my hands over the chiles, the mental associations came flooding into my head. I remembered Albuquerque, Jeremy’s parents’ old house, his old pups (black and chocolate labs) Smudge and Chaco, Grandpa, Grandma, Uncle Bill’s awesome pies, looking in wonder at the dozens of colorful and odd shapes that drifted over the horizon during the Balloon Fiesta.

finally, i can show you fresh hatch chiles

for scale

**Jump for more butter**