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homebody

Tuesday, March 5th, 2019

Recipe: futomaki

Last week we went on a vacation. Of sorts. We brought Neva and Yuki along with us to Steamboat Springs for a ski trip. Sadly, most of what we previously loved about Steamboat were absent: 1) fresh powder and 2) our favorite sushi bar in town (Yama has closed indefinitely). We did ski the mountain and took the pups skijoring on dog-friendly trails at a couple of the Nordic centers near town. Yuki’s endurance continues to improve and Neva is really becoming a well-behaved pup on the trails as long as she can run her brains out.


jeremy with neva and yuki at haymaker nordic center

this is what yuki does when she doesn’t want to go



Steamboat is great and all, but after our third day we were over it. A big winter storm was about to blast its way through the state (big winter storm = powder) and we were slated to check out and drive home in the thick of it. Instead, we left a day early before the storm and drove home – not east to Nederland – but south to Crested Butte. It was the right decision. We arrived just as the snow began to fall, and proceeded to ski amazing powder, celebrate our 22nd wedding anniversary, and meet our friend’s new puppy, Moke (Moe-kee).

the road south

the snow piles up in crested butte

jeremy drops into a foot of fresh powder and free refills

enjoying our anniversary dinner

yuki playing with her new pal, moke



On our drive from Steamboat Springs to Crested Butte, we stopped at the Whole Foods in Frisco to grab salads for lunch and ran into my friend who lives in Breckenridge. We chatted and at some point in the conversation I apologized that we hadn’t seen one another in a while. He dismissed it with a wave, “Oh, you don’t have to explain it. You know me,” he chuckled, “I’m a homebody.” Back on the road, I mentioned to Jeremy that I didn’t think of Graham as a homebody – he spends a good deal of time outside running, biking, hiking, skiing. Jeremy was silent for a moment, then, “Most people think of homebodies as people who stay indoors, but I think Graham meant he doesn’t want to be away from home. Sort of like what we’re doing now by going to Crested Butte.”

It’s true. I am becoming more of a Graham homebody every day. Jeremy has always been one. This might also explain why I try to replicate my favorite restaurant dishes at home, to avoid the headache of driving into town and interacting with people. The futomaki sushi roll has eluded me for over a decade because I didn’t know that the sweet pink powdery ingredient, which is dried shredded sweetened cod, was called sakura denbu. Once I learned the proper name, I couldn’t find it anywhere. Last year, I ventured into Denver’s Pacific Mercantile Company on a little Japanese grocery safari with my pal, Ellen, and there it was in the refrigerated section. It was the final piece to my futomaki puzzle!


some of the less common ingredients for a home cook: unagi (grilled eel), sakura denbu, makizushi no moto (seasoned gourd strips with mushrooms)



I had always assumed there was a set recipe for making futomaki because most of the sushi bars I frequented made it the same way. It turns out you can make futomaki with whatever ingredients float your boat, so please feel free to customize! The version I make here follows the recipe from Just One Cookbook because this is how I like it AND I could either purchase or make the ingredients myself. I can easily find the unagi (grilled eel) and seasoned gourd and mushrooms at most Asian grocers, but I have only ever seen the sakura denbu in a Japanese grocery store. You can also purchase the tamago (egg omelette) at an Asian grocery store, but I find making tamagoyaki at home to be far tastier.

fillings: spinach, cucumber, tamago, unagi, kanpyo (gourd strips), mushrooms, sakura denbu



**Jump for more butter**

september, i feel ya!

Tuesday, September 4th, 2018

Recipe: matsutake soup

Ah, September! If ever there was a month I love most, it is September. When I was a kid, September was special to me because it was my birthday month and it meant a new school year, which I really looked forward to. I outgrew the birthday thing at the age of 16 and thankfully the school year didn’t matter so much once I was done with coursework in graduate school. But September remains my favorite month because it represents a sigh of relief. Summer, with her nonstop crush of things to do and the incessant heat that makes me borderline homicidal and the long days that limit a good night’s rest to 6 hours at best – it is finally over, at least here in the mountains. Normally I would be planning for the fall shoot, but there is a puppy to train and some projects I’m working on. I am okay with not trying to cram every possible thing into my schedule and running myself ragged in the process. This might be called “getting older”, but I like to think of it as deliberate sanity.


these two napping in the sun after their morning hike

the colors are starting a tad earlier than usual



We were in Crested Butte over the holiday weekend and everything was going just fine until Yuki got a little territorial and aggressive with Neva one evening. It made me sad because Neva, while completely crazy, is the sweetest dog who doesn’t consider herself the boss of anyone. We suspect Yuki, at 7 months, is testing the boundaries of her “authority” in her adolescence. After keeping a close eye on the two pups for a couple of days, they seem to be back to their normal goofy selves. The following morning, Yuki was cuddling with Neva on their favorite perch by the window. We continue observing their interactions to make sure this doesn’t evolve into a real problem. The dynamics of two dogs is certainly different from the dynamic of one dog!

as if nothing had happened

pretty views on the drive home

sitting for a treat – yuki feels this is the best way to get both treats



A year ago I was finding more matsutake than I had energy to deal with. Matsutake, that prized mushroom of Japan, translates into pine mushroom and fetches top dollar in circles that recognize its value. The brown matsutake is found in Asia. The white matsutake is found in parts of North America – including Colorado. This year, I have yet to see signs of the subterranean gems in the usual places. But even if I did find some, I’m not sure I would be gathering too many as there are bagfuls of them in my freezer from the crazy flush of 2017 (what a season, folks, I mean REALLY). With cooler evenings, I have begun to contemplate making soups and stews of all kinds. But the days remain warm, so I’m partial to soups that are not too heavy. Last September, I tried a lovely and simple matsutake clear soup that allows the pine mushroom’s unique flavor to shine among a handful of ingredients.

bonito flakes, dried kelp, green onions, water, salt, matsutake, tofu, soy sauce, sake, mirin



The kelp and bonito flakes are used to make dashi. If you don’t want to make dashi from scratch, you can find Hondashi brand granules (instant dashi – just add hot water) at most Asian grocery stores or well-stocked Asian sections in supermarkets. If you are making the dashi from scratch, wipe the kelp with a wet paper towel without removing the white residue – it contributes to the umami of the broth. Start soaking the dried kelp in water 3 hours before you’re ready to make the soup.

wipe the dried kelp with a wet paper towel

soak the kelp in water for 3 hours



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special days

Tuesday, July 31st, 2018

Recipe: tuna poke bowl

Tomorrow, August 1, is my sister’s birthday. I normally post flowers in remembrance of her, but this year I took a photo of something far more meaningful. My niece came out to spend a week in Colorado with my parents, and Jeremy and I took her standup paddleboarding in the mountains and met up for a few meals. It’s been almost 11 years since I’ve seen her and she’s grown into quite the remarkable young lady – smart, hard-working, motivated, athletic, sweet, polite, confident.


also a fan of cheesecake

posing for a photo with her grandma and grandpa



Mid-July is about the time I really start paying attention to what is growing in the high country. You never know when a season will start earlier than normal, but more than catching an early season, I like to make the observations for my own data purposes. Turns out the huckleberries are having a very good season and they seem to be a month sooner than usual. My pre-sunrise mornings are consumed with checking my huckleberry patches or picking huckleberries or both.

a nice display of showy fleabane

mycelium growing on a dead tree in a delicate dendritic pattern



When we took my niece paddleboarding, we brought Yuki to give her another day on the board. As I paddled her out on the lake, we passed a boulder that was jutting out of the water. Yuki began to growl at it, then she started to bark. It must have made her nervous because she backed up and fell off the board! And like everything else, she took it in stride and remained her calm self as she swam up to me and I pulled her back onto the board.

Yuki is six months old today according to her estimated birth date of January 31, 2018 (she was found at 2 weeks old). Yuki continues to bounce about the house like a rompy pup, sometimes stopping mid-bounce to scratch an itch on her chin and tumbling over backwards clumsily. It’s ridiculous how cute she is. This little pup has gained four pounds in the four weeks we’ve had her and we think her legs are longer. She is certainly taller, but she remains shorter than Neva. We have no idea how big she will get (we suspect Neva-size or smaller), but it doesn’t really matter. We are just so happy she is ours.


seaworthy

togetherness

sisters



The last time we were in Crested Butte, we enjoyed a seared tuna rice bowl at Montanya’s tasting room, one of our favorite restaurants in town. It was loaded with vegetables and seared ahi tuna on a bed of forbidden rice. I was hooked. When we got back to Nederland, I put it on our weekly menu, but as I shopped for the ingredients I changed it up a little. I didn’t want to sear anything (it was hot) and I thought tuna poke would taste even better. Instead, I made a tuna poke bowl – and it was awesome.

These sorts of dishes have great flexibility so that you can cater them to your own preferences. First off, you don’t have to use forbidden rice. I just happen to like the taste and I think it’s a gorgeous purple-black color. Use steamed short grain brown rice or sushi rice if forbidden rice is hard to find. Omit the fish and pile on your favorite vegetables for a vegetarian version, or you can substitute chicken teriyaki for the fish. Lots of options!


cucumber, forbidden rice, avocado, masago (flying fish roe), radish, pickled ginger

forbidden rice steamed in the rice cooker



In addition to the goodies listed above are some pickled red onions. I find pickled foods add a nice tangy bite to rice bowls. These onions get better the longer they sit in the pickling liquid, so don’t slice them too thin. I kept mine about 1/4-inch thick. If you’re in a hurry, give the onions at least an hour in the vinegar and start them around the time you start cooking the rice.

sugar, salt, rice vinegar, red onion

combine the vinegar, sugar, and salt

slice the onions

pour the hot vinegar over the onions

pickled and pink



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