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Sunday, June 18th, 2017

Recipe: morel prosciutto asparagus pizza

No matter how hard I try to prepare myself for the onslaught of summer temperatures, it always takes my body by surprise. Our overnight lows dip less each night and the midday sun now feels as if my face and skin are ready to burn right off. It makes me wonder how I ever survived growing up in Virginia and living in Southern California for ten years. If there is one drawback to living in the mountains, it’s that I’ve become a wimp when the mercury rises above 65°F. Give me single digits and snow ANY day, thanks! Heat aside, watching the mountains spring to life in all their glory is something magical to behold. I could spend the rest of my days marveling at these brief but productive mountain summers and never get enough.


false hellebore

phlox blossoms and lupine leaves

neva enjoying the lupine flowers

gold banner and shooting stars (pink) and a happy bumblebee



For the past couple of months, we have been following the journey of two friends who live up the road from us in Nederland. They started at the U.S. border with Mexico and hiked north on the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) through New Mexico, then made the first ski crossing this season of the formidable San Juan mountains in Southern Colorado and are continuing north through the state. A few days before they crossed Colorado State Highway 114, Elaine and I coordinated via very short messages to meet where the trail intersects that lonely stretch of road. It was an 80 minute drive from Crested Butte, but it was the easiest way to meet up logistically. Jeremy and I brought food and water, and we took their skis, boots, and skins because the snow pack has been withering under the warm and intensely sunny days. What’s cool is that they will be hiking the CDT into our local mountains on the Front Range and they will hike home for a few days before resuming their trek northward into Canada. Dan and Elaine are not only amazing endurance athletes, they are two genuinely thoughtful and wonderful individuals. If you’d like to follow their progress and cheer them on, they post when they can on Instagram as @elainevardamis and @nomadwolf360.

elaine and dan



We returned to the Front Range at the end of last week right about when Nature decided to turn the dial up to BROIL. En route from Crested Butte to Nederland, we made a pit stop at Copper Mountain. All of the mountain streams are flowing fast and high due to the runoff from the melting snow pack. Because it was so warm, we walked Neva down a little path to a small protected eddy on the edge of the nearby creek. She walked in and seemed to enjoy cooling her paws when she took one step out of the eddy into the heavy flow and got swept downstream in a split second. Luckily, Neva was on her halti (gentle leader) and leash and I was holding the other end, but the current was so strong that I worried the halti would slip off or break or that she would drown. I waded in and tried to carefully reel her back to me, calling her to swim to me. She tried, but the stream was clearly so much stronger than her legs could paddle. In less than a minute, I grabbed her and had her back on the bank – Jeremy was already slightly downstream in anticipation of having to catch Neva if the leash or leader broke. We toweled her off and kissed her wet head. She was back to her usual self after showing a little affection by rubbing herself against our legs. She’s used to her alpine lakes that are safe and calm, but we’ll see to it that she sticks to low-flow streams from here on out.

This past weekend was apparently our farewell to spring. Jeremy and I went for a quick backcountry ski to escape the heat, only to discover the heat had been hanging out in the high country for a while. Winter and spring ski travel through the trees is easier in part because you are navigating some twenty feet above ground where the conifer branches are smaller and there is more space between trees. A week before summer and you find yourself clambering over deadfall (fallen trees), bare muddy patches, rocks, and bushwhacking through dense branches that you had gleefully skied a month earlier and twelve feet higher before the snow began to melt. Then Erin and I made one more foraging trip and found a good number of morels considering we were expecting to go home empty-handed. To be honest, I am a little relieved to stop thinking, dreaming, researching, obsessing, and hunting morels. It will be nice to have a break before the other mushroom seasons kick into high gear. This year I come away with a jar of dried morels thanks to my friend, Jay (Erin’s husband), and a happy stash of butter-sautéed morels in my freezer. It was a great season.


one last backcountry ski for the season

wave cloud over the reservoir

erin still finding morels

such a beautiful and weird mushroom



It seems fitting to post one more morel recipe for those still finding them to our north and west, or buying them in markets, or those who have their own stash to draw upon. We love our pizza year round, but it is especially lovely come summertime because we grill them on a pizza stone on the deck while the house remains cool. For mushroom foragers, there are some standard recipes you can always count on for enjoying mushrooms: pasta, steak, sautéed in butter, quiche, pot pies or pastries, toast, batter-fried, and pizza.

morels, mozzarella, salt, butter, prosciutto, garlic, asparagus, more butter, eggs, black pepper, pizza dough



Though official summer is a few days away, morels are very much a spring mushroom. That’s why I really enjoy serving them with a spring vegetable like asparagus and creamy, mild flavors like eggs and mozzarella. I’m sure a red sauce would be great with any mushroom, but garlic butter complements morels without masking their deliciousness.

mash the garlic and salt into a paste

stir the garlic paste into softened butter

dry fry the morels in a hot pan

add a pat of butter and sauté

you can chop or slice the asparagus (i like ribbons here)



**Jump for more butter**

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**

exploding eggplants

Monday, February 15th, 2016

Recipe: baba ganoush

Over the weekend, Neva spent a lot of time smooshing her little puppy body against the double-cell honeycomb blinds that insulate our glass deck door. This is her way of indicating that she’d like to go out on the deck very much please why don’t you just open the door and let me outside. Unfortunately, little Neva doesn’t understand that going out on the deck is risky business when snow is flying horizontally into the next county and the big Ponderosa pines are bending worriedly under the crush of 70 mph wind gusts. When it is this windy, there isn’t a lot of outside anything for her besides (very brief) potty breaks. But she is still a puppy – 10.5 months old and most definitely a puppy. Neva gets to play tug and chase her toys up and down the stairs when the weather is blowing like it is now. Our threshold for suck is usually wind gusts greater than 50 mph.


before the storm

throw the ball! throw the ball! for the love of god, throw the baaaaaaaaaall!!!!



After you experience windstorms like we experience on the Front Range, anything below 50 mph winds is fair game. It requires that you get out and take advantage while the weather isn’t impossibly shitty. Ever wake up to a gorgeous day and think, “I should get out for a run, but I’ll do it tomorrow,” and then tomorrow is a tornado? That’s what I’m talking about. It’s all relative, you know. The old route I used to skate ski was so hard, but my new route REALLY kicks my butt which makes skating the old route feel not so bad at all. Snow conditions were pretty craptastic on our most recent ski tour, but… it was just great to be outside. If we waited to do things until everything was perfect, we’d never do anything. Ever.

snow cover getting sparse near tennessee mountain hut

cute little ski hut

jeremy patiently waits for me to finish taking pictures



We largely ignored Valentine’s Day – working, eating leftover pizza for dinner, playing with the puppy in the house, and watching behind the scenes reels for OK Go’s music videos. Hopefully we’ll catch a break in the weather soon (tomorrow, please) and get the pup and ourselves back out for some exercise. Sometimes the wind will rage all morning and then around noon it will settle down for a couple of hours as if on lunch break and resume again later in the afternoon. Luckily for me, that’s exactly what happened last week while I was making baba ganoush.

eggplant, tahini, kosher salt, garlic, lemon, parsley, olive oil



Whenever I have good baba ganoush (eggplant dip) in a restaurant, I fall in love with it. Then I go home and make a batch, and I fall out of love with it after three bites. What gives? I did a little research and decided to try The Food Lab’s version. Kenji does several things differently, all of which result in a creamy dreamy final baba ganoush. First, you need to roast the eggplant. You can do this either on the grill (preferred for the smoky flavor) or under a broiler. I opted for the broiler because it seemed easier. I’ve always scored my eggplants before roasting them in the oven because it’s supposed to allow the steam to escape during cooking. Kenji determined that more moisture evaporates from the eggplant when you DON’T score the skin because at some point the skin will bust open and bye bye water vapor! So that’s what I did. [I made a half recipe in the photos.]

the eggplant on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet

it exploded



**Jump for more butter**