quince jam shrimp and vegetable tempura posole huckleberry panna cotta

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the frenzy

Monday, September 12th, 2016

Recipe: wild mushroom pizza

Here it comes. Cooler weather, I’ve been waiting for you since May. We were so used to leaving our windows open overnight to cool the house down that it came as a surprise to us when we woke up Saturday morning and the temperature inside was 52°F. That’s even lower than what we set our heat to overnight in winter (we set it to 55°F). No wonder Neva was all snuggled up between us on the bed after her 6 am breakfast. Outside we could see an impressive frost on the deck. Well alright then! The scrub in the high country has been turning red and gold for a couple of weeks now, but the leaves are finally following suit at higher elevations. My landscape photographer friends are getting itchy for the fall shoot. We’re all waiting to see if the colors will be on time (like usual) or if they’re going to bust out of the gate early.

bright red huckleberry bushes on cottonwood pass (looking west toward taylor reservoir)

dreamy sunset colors

red aspen leaves against bluebird skies

But before I could even think about the fall shoot, I had to research, test, make, and photograph recipes with my foraged chanterelles and porcini from last weekend. Oh, and I had to clean them – a time-consuming process with the chanties when you have several pounds. From the moment I cut the mushrooms off the ground, the clock starts ticking. I store them in brown paper bags in the refrigerator and they last about a week. Brown paper bags populated all of the non-freeze zones of my refrigerator while I shifted everything else around them. The rest will be sautéed in butter and frozen for winter. Any chanterelles that are too far gone to eat get chucked into a separate bag. Those will soak in a combination of water, molasses, and salt for a day or two before pouring the “spore” water out in suitable chanterelle environments.

Generally, I don’t pick the porcini that have been wormed out (the stipe or cap will feel particularly squishy), but sometimes you can pick a firm porcini and the few worms present will make Swiss cheese of the inside while you hike around, drive home, and pop it in the refrigerator. That’s why I try to dress the porcini (cut out any worms) in the field if I have the time. Porcini that are too wormed out (those itty bitty worms, they have voracious appetites) get staked under an appropriate spruce where some spores might take hold in the future.

always delightful to peer into the huckleberry leaves and find a chanterelle or two

porcini like the huckleberry plants, too

The first recipe I wanted to shoot involved both kinds of mushrooms, mostly because I wanted to take care of the porcini before the worms ate anymore of them (or any more worms escaped onto the refrigerator shelf). The reality of foraging porcini is that you will deal with worms. I’ve rarely encountered chanterelles that were wormed out, but it has happened on rare occasion. Even if your porcini have some worms, you can usually cut that section out and salvage the rest. So let’s make some wild mushroom pizza! And as always, you can substitute any combination of edible mushrooms.

chanterelles, porcini, pizza dough, parmesan, fontina, butter, flake sea salt, sea salt, thyme, garlic

melt the butter and mince the garlic

mix the garlic into the butter

**Jump for more butter**

the best part of summer

Sunday, August 21st, 2016

Recipe: chanterelle ravioli with sage brown butter

School is starting and summer is winding down even though we have a good month of it left before we can officially declare autumn’s arrival. We spent the beginning of last week getting outside with Neva to explore and play and continue “training” her – whatever that means. Our neighborhood lake in Crested Butte had some strange water biochemistry going on, so we took little Neva to a nicer lake with cleaner water. This required a much longer drive on bumpy backcountry roads, but instead of puking or drooling or crying, Neva had her nose out the window and she was quite excited about our destination. Our little girl may have finally (finally!!) turned the corner on the car ride! I don’t know what we’re going to do come winter when we can’t open the window if it is -20°F outside, but I’ll take what I can get.

sometimes neva’s life jacket looks like a superhero cape from the front

the happiest, dorkiest dog

Jeremy and I also spent our final morning in Crested Butte hunting for chanterelles as they were starting to flush. Normally I would wait to forage after more time had passed so they would be larger, but we were leaving and I wanted to bring some chanterelles home to make a special birthday dinner for my mom. I only took the biggest ones and left the littles to grow and spore and do their happy mushroom thing. If you’re wondering how I prepared them, I sautéed the chanterelles and fresh local sweet corn in butter and served them alongside a small hash browned potato with two seared scallops on top (drizzled with pan sauce, natch). That was the second course of four.

neva likes to sniff chanterelles

a perfectly mossy home

clean and beautiful

toasting mom’s birthday with some bubbles

I hadn’t planned on trying a new recipe with the chanterelles, but we managed to forage enough that I could make some chanterelle ravioli. I’ve always wanted to make ravioli from scratch and by hand. My mother-in-law gave me some ravioli stamps and a ravioli pasta cutter last year, so I really had zero excuse to not try this. Start with the ravioli pasta dough.

flour, eggs, olive oil, salt

Most pasta I’ve made from scratch involves flour and eggs, but this one had a little salt and olive oil added to the dough. The flour doubled as an ingredient and a bowl because all of the wet ingredients went into a well in the flour. I thought that would be terribly messy, but it was actually rather tidy as long as you didn’t breach the well wall. The recipe called for four cups of flour, but you don’t use all of that flour in the pasta dough. I incorporated as much as needed and then sifted the remaining unused flour and kept it around for working the pasta.

make a well in the flour and add the rest of the ingredients

stir flour into the eggs until the mixture is too thick to stir

then work more flour in with your hands

when the dough won’t take on any more flour, knead it

it’s ready when you poke it and the dough bounces back

**Jump for more butter**

veg head

Sunday, July 17th, 2016

Recipe: veg head sandwich

We waited out the Cold Springs Fire in Crested Butte as federal, state, and local wildland fire response teams accomplished the superhuman feat of keeping the fire in check during terrible conditions – high and erratic winds, dry air, hot temperatures – and put everything they had into it. After the worst of the weather had passed, these amazing crews were able to get the fire contained and put out within a week of it starting. That right there is beyond impressive considering how bad past wildfires have gotten.

Jeremy and I were glued to Twitter and other information sources for a day, but had to pull ourselves away as we realized how exhausting and futile that activity was. Our neighborhood remained out of harm’s way, but was still disturbingly close to it. We kept tabs on developments, but for the most part we resumed our work schedules and managed to get some fresh air. It comes up time and again, but you learn an awful lot about a person in times of crisis. Some people are helpful, others are useless, still others are worse than useless – they are drama queens (or kings). Thankfully the majority of our neighbors are great, keeping level heads and having plans of action. Those are the folks you want on your team during the zombie apocalypse. That one neighbor who is always drunk, stoned, or both? He’s a red shirt.

neva enjoys a nice cool stream crossing

hiking above copper lake (on the return, neva swam her brains out in the lake)

wildflowers showing off their stuff in the high country

jeremy and neva at east maroon pass with aspen in the background

cutthroat trout coming to check me out

jeremy paddles at lake irwin

rafting together to enjoy a cool breeze and a lovely view

Crested Butte’s wildflower season gets going in late June and runs through August and even into September if the rains deliver on their promise to the land. I know when the wildflowers are going strong without having to look because my allergies kick into overdrive. My nose starts running as soon as I start running. My eyes itch the minute I set foot on the trail. But it’s worth it. I just wish it would rain, because the animals need their berries, the mushrooms have yet to really flush, and wildfire season is just getting started.

We came home to Nederland a few days ago. Everything seems to be that crunchy kind of dry underfoot right now, but there is rain in the forecast that would be most welcome here. Oh, angelitacarmelita asked for a picture of the oyster mushrooms we found in Crested Butte a couple of weeks ago. These aren’t the best oysters I’ve found, but the ones we ate were certainly delicious. These aspen oyster mushrooms grow on – you guessed it – aspens (and sometimes other trees)! We found both sets at the base of dead aspens.

a single (with a really tiny mini version growing behind it which i left in place)

the older ones were more tan and dried out and ruffled (and wormed out)

Porcini (king bolete) or Kings are supposed to be making an appearance any day now. Actually, some already have, but they are being extra shy without the rain to coax them up. It’s easy to become obsessed with mushrooms, until you realize that they can dominate your entire summer. I like finding mushrooms and I have a pretty good eye for them, but for Jeremy’s and my own sanity, I try not to let mushrooms derail plans for long hikes, trail runs, or backpacks. In any case, when they do flush, I will have to revisit this sandwich which was so wonderfully packed with vegetables. I call it the veg head and you can make it with any kind of favorite mushroom.

arugula, mozzarella, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, pepper, eggplant, zucchini, salt, maple syrup, butter, dijon mustard, ciabatta roll, and porcini

slice the vegetables

**Jump for more butter**