butter-seared porcini-crusted salmon lemon poppy seed cake chinese steamed lotus leaf buns white russian ice cream


copyright jennifer yu © 2004-2015 all rights reserved: no photos or content may be reproduced without prior written consent

archive for dinner

porcini pup

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

Recipe: butter-seared porcini-crusted salmon

Wow, it’s good to be home in Nederland. While I know Jeremy prefers to be in Crested Butte (and I love it there, too), there is something extra special about this time of year in the Front Range. The pine pollen has gone away, the high country is melted out and bursting with wildflowers, and the moose happily munch away in the meadows. Neva continues hiking longer distances and steeper climbs. Her little body grows stronger, more nimble, and bigger each day, yet she is still my affectionate little pup who comes running when I call her and curls herself against my legs like I am home base. Just the other day we walked past Kaweah’s favorite rock outcrop. I directed Neva to the top, wondering if I was being silly to hope that she might recognize how special this hunk of weathered granite was to Kaweah and in turn, how special Kaweah was to me. Dogs are not deep thinkers… at least the two shallow-thinking dogs I’ve had aren’t, but Neva did oblige me and it tickled my heart.


queen of the hill

she is finally fetching

moose sighting after our hike the other day

here’s a closeup of that good-looking boy



One of the reasons I’m so jazzed to be home is that the porcini are flushing. Okay, they are flushing in Crested Butte as well. I know this because we found some on our hikes last week. We even trained Neva to sniff them out without eating them and she did a great job. But for me, the part I love most is foraging porcini (and then huckleberries) with my fellow mountain pal, Erin. Erin and I share a special knowledge and love of these local mountains and this is an especially beautiful time of year. But we don’t just visit when mushrooms flush or hucks ripen – we walk or ski this land throughout the year. This is our home. We joke that we understand one another because we’re WAMPs (weird-ass mountain people – a term coined by my other WAMP friend, Andrew).

We’ve been out a few times with Neva and found some nice porcini specimens that she completely ignored. Turns out that once we climb into marmot territory, Neva turns her nose off to mushrooms and on to marmots. It’s just as well, though. There’s quite a thrill when you find your own king bolete (porcini). While gathering several perfect kings and laughing with Erin and Jeremy over Neva’s dismal performance, I demoted Neva from Porcini Pup back to Silly Little Pup and all was well with the world.


such a beauty

neva learns the scent of a porcini

the look she gave me when i asked why i found them before she did



I did not seriously expect Neva to become a porcini-sniffing pup, but she did show some promise at the start. Jeremy and I are merely having fun training her to do all sorts of things because she’s so willing to oblige. So far, we have not fed her ANY human food. That’s intentional, because we don’t want it to detract from her training for the first year. It’s important that she thinks her dog treats and kibble are the yummiest things in the world. I’ve witnessed a woman feed her dog scraps from the dinner table only to wonder aloud to the rest of us why the dog won’t eat its dog food – that made my head hurt. Neva’s kibble and some of her treats are salmon, which made me wonder how she would react when I prepared some fresh Coho salmon the other day. Her nose shot straight into the air when I unwrapped the fillets, but then she resumed happily defuzzing a tennis ball. Good girl.

Salmon is in season and so are porcini, but even if you can’t get your hands on fresh porcini, you can make this delightful recipe because it uses dried porcini powder. You can get porcini powder from specialty spice shops (check out Savory Spice Shop) or dried porcini from Whole Foods or other gourmet stores if you don’t dry your own. The recipe is short on time and big on flavor – isn’t that how summer meals should be?


salmon, salt, pepper, dried porcini, chardonnay, butter

put the dried porcini slices in a spice grinder and blitz

porcini powder



**Jump for more butter**

back to soup weather

Thursday, April 16th, 2015

Recipe: roasted tomato soup

“Did you finish your taxes?”

I blinked at the nice fellow on the other side of the post office counter as I handed him my yellow pick-up slip. Oh, it’s tax day! Yes, yes we finished those several weeks ago. We smiled at one another and eventually wrapped up the small talk with thank yous and have-a-nice-days. My mind was elsewhere because I had a list of things to get done before our neighbors came over for dinner. Every April, they are bustling with activity doing proper house maintenance on the exterior (something we ought to do, but tell ourselves that we can wait until May when the weather is more reliable), tidying up the yard, packing gear and equipment to take to Canada for the next 6 months where they will run their wilderness camp. And every April, we tell them, “We need to have you over for dinner before you take off!”


we started with some appetizers



These excellent people are the best kind of neighbors: friendly, generous, considerate, fun, reliable, kind, genuine. Instead of our usual quick conversations in the driveway as we’re coming and going, we could relax and enjoy a few hours together over good food and wine. We miss them in summer, when our neck of the woods is at its greatest splendor. “Walk home safely!” I joked after them as they stepped into the night. The snow was just getting started after several warm and sunny days, materializing out of the darkness as it fell into our porch light’s sphere of illumination.

flowering trees on the flats just a few days ago

and now, proper snow



I’ve learned to contain my excitement about the snow until it’s here, on the ground, and accumulating. The skis are ready, but we must be patient and wait for the base to rebuild. It might be a few hours. It might have to be tomorrow. In the meantime, we opt for hot soup over a fresh salad while the world outside turns silent and white. Soup. I love all manner of soup. Digging deep into my childhood, tomato soup was the default on those rare snow days in Virginia. Of course, it came out of a can with a red and white label. It only took me a few decades to realize the beauty of making my own tomato soup, and then a few more years to discover the flavorful roasted version. It’s easy. I’ll show you.

olive oil, pepper, chicken broth, red pepper flakes, garlic, thyme, tomatoes (not pictured: salt)

chop the herbs, pick out the garlic cloves

halve the tomatoes

wrap the unpeeled garlic in foil



**Jump for more butter**

spring things

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

Recipe: baingan bharta (indian mashed eggplant)

Year after year, I look forward to those wonderful events that reliably happen in spring. This wackadoo teeter totter between snow storms and sunny days. The planters full of daffodils and tulips on Pearl Street in Boulder. A chorus of red-winged blackbirds by the lake that fills your ears when you run (or walk) by. Just this morning, we watched a yearling moose (following his mama) pass through the neighborhood, stopping to nibble on the young aspens in our yard.


a double daffodil on the flats

snowing and moosing



Spring is also when I have various medical appointments. It’s been seven and a half years since my breast cancer diagnosis. After all of the surgeries, scans, chemo, radiation, blood draws, ER visits, and more surgeries, the aftermath seemed pretty tame. Managing lingering side effects – some temporary, some permanent – and getting on with my life, I felt that returning to normal was like winning the jackpot. And for the most part, life is normal and good. The further in time I drift from my diagnosis, the less cancer nags at the back of my mind. Dad always touts the power of positive thinking, but truth be told, that constant fear hovering over my shoulder for the first few years after treatment made me feel like I had failed. I couldn’t distinguish between my scar tissue and a possible tumor. Was that cough indicative of metastasized cancer? What caused that sharp pain in my side? While the intensity of my worries has faded considerably, it is always there like a low-level noise creeping in the corner of the room, growing louder when the night is still and dark.

the waiting room



I check in with oncology on a regular basis. It used to be every 6 months and has now transitioned to once a year. It’s bittersweet. When I walk in, I’m greeted by familiar smiles – all of the wonderful staff and nurses who cared for me during the infusions, gave me advice over the phone when emergencies arose, and continue to put in orders for my annual mammograms and MRIs. These are some of the nicest people you will ever encounter. This last time – yesterday – I exchanged hugs with each of them. While one asked how long it has been since I finished chemo, another was smiling and touching my ponytail. I typically ask local businesses if things have been busy, because busy is good for business. But it’s sad when oncology says they’ve been busy. They’re always busy. Cancer sucks. Eventually my oncologist bustles into the exam room like Santa Claus on Christmas doling out handshakes and hugs. He is the very best. Behind the closed door, Jeremy and I can update him with observations and questions interspersed with genuinely friendly conversation and laughs. He allays most of my concerns and follows up on the rest.

MRI in a week. Let’s get an X-ray while you’re here for the MRI and do blood labs after you’re done here today. How was that colonoscopy?

The colonoscopy was fine because I don’t remember any of it. The prep beforehand was unpleasant, but nothing compared to chemo. My instruction sheet said to stop eating all seeds, nuts, whole grains, and beans five days prior to the procedure. I thought that would be easy, but it was harder than I had anticipated. Everything in our kitchen seemed to have nuts, seeds, whole grains, or beans. The bummer was that I had made baingan bharta, a lovely Indian mashed eggplant dish, the day before. I could only stare at the leftovers in the refrigerator since the tomatoes and eggplants had loads of seeds.


onion, tomatoes, jalapeƱo, eggplant, lime, cilantro, vegetable oil, turmeric, salt, garlic, garam masala

prick the eggplants with a sharp knife

char the eggplants

let cool



**Jump for more butter**