mendiants porcini salt strawberry vanilla shortbread cookies roasted kabocha squash


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archive for mushrooms

salt of the earth

Tuesday, December 4th, 2018

Recipe: porcini salt

We are still in the throes of our Spring in Autumn Cleaning fest, but I’ve gotten my OCD under control enough to mentally ignore the disastrous mess on the ground floor – to be dealt with as time permits. It’s a constant nagging in the back of my mind. An itch that demands scratching. Then you realize there are other more pressing issues like eating, sleeping, and taking the pups out for exercise.


yuki and neva confined to the bedroom while evil vacuum works downstairs

this is what cabin fever looks like



The snow wasn’t great, but at least there was snow! And the entire point of this ski tour was to get dialed in with Yuki, not to get our jollies on turns. We are teaching her to respect the classic Nordic skis before working up to the backcountry skis in steeper and deeper snow. Neva could always use more training, too. We stopped a lot for the first mile, adjusting harnesses and leashes and belts. While Yuki has a thicker and warmer coat than Neva, Neva has the metabolism of a blast furnace. Yuki’s paws got cold in 20°F snow such that we had to pull out the booties to keep her paws from freezing. Neva plowed her face through the snow drifts, lying with her naked belly (it’s bare, we can’t figure out why her hair is super bald along her ventral midline) directly on the snow whenever we stopped. Yuki didn’t struggle as we put the booties on her and she completely ignored them the whole trip!

By the way, folks on Instagram have asked where we get the dog booties. dogbooties.com out of Anchorage, Alaska sells inexpensive and super functional dog boots for $3/paw. I recommend buying spares and we always choose colors that are easiest to find in the snow. Neva tends to need them if the temperatures drop to single digits and the snow is deep. We did notice a little slippage as Yuki crossed a few sections of ice. I think an easy fix would be to buy some silicone gel and apply little dots to the booties. I’d put the dots all around the bootie because they don’t appear to remain in a preferred orientation.


figuring it all out

neva points in the direction she wants to go

this is why we get fluorescent orange booties (and spares)



For some reason, our holiday duties are on an accelerated schedule this year. I haven’t had the time to stop and figure out why. Instead, I’m determined to get it all done and hope I’m in one piece at the end. Which brings me to homemade gifts. EASY homemade gifts like a lovely jar of porcini salt. Maybe not so easy if you have to go and forage your own porcini mushrooms, dress them, and dry them. But SUPER easy if you buy the dried porcini. They are not inexpensive, however a little goes a long way. Fresh porcini have a delightful earthy, rich flavor. Once you dry porcini, the flavor becomes an intensely concentrated burst of heady umami. Pair that with salt, and you have MAGIC. I opt for Maldon sea salt or Murray River flake sea salt. Flake sea salt dissolves easily and has a big surface area to collect the porcini powder.

maldon sea salt and dried porcini



The easiest way to pulverize the dried porcini is in a coffee grinder or spice grinder. Except if you grind coffee in that coffee grinder, your porcini powder will have noticeable hints of coffee. I actually have a dedicated coffee grinder that I only use for spices and clean between uses. It’s best to weigh the porcini slices than measure them by volume because the pieces are large and flat and sometimes twisty. But the recipe is pretty forgiving. Nothing wrong with grabbing a handful of dried porcini and tossing them into the grinder. I try to grind the porcini slices into a very fine powder. A few flecks here and there are no big deal.

fill the grinder up to the lip of the metal cup

grind into a fine powder



**Jump for more butter**

mushroom madness

Thursday, October 11th, 2018

Recipe: shroomaki (japanese mushroom roll)

Our cooler weather turned to unsettled weather which turned to glorious cold and snowy weather this past week. While the snow will move on after Sunday and give way to sunshine for a week or more, I’m pretty spanking happy about getting this early dose of winter right now. I baked breads, we got Yuki out for her first romp in the snow, we are running the heat, and ALL of the warm blankies are out for people and canines alike. The transition is always a touch startling as we adjust our internal thermostat to sub-freezing temperatures outside, but we find exercising outside in the cold is the best and most fun way to get your body geared up for winter!


first came the rains and the sunrise rainbows

dusting off my sourdough starter and baking some bread

and cranberry walnut sourdough bâtards

my all-weather pups in the high country

my beloved pack

officemates chilling out while i work



The kitchen has seen more use in the past couple of weeks than it did most of the summer. So far I’ve made chili, posole, pasta bakes, several batches of cookies, breads, and plenty of sushi. The wonderful nature of sushi is that it’s a no-brainer meal for summer, but it is also perfect for cold weather with its accompanying tempura and miso soup and agedashi tofu and warm seasoned sushi rice. As I rummaged through my chest freezer recently, I grabbed a bag of frozen sliced matsutake and decided to season them Japanese-style. And then a vision of mushroom sushi goodness came to me. I knew what I had to do. If you aren’t a mushroom lover, you must now look away and return for the next post. If you even remotely like mushrooms, this roll is for you.

3 kinds of mushrooms: shiitake (left), beech (top), and matsutake (right)



A dedicated mushroom sushi roll sounded like a great idea. Each type of mushroom is prepared a different way. I decided on matsutake mushrooms simmered in a soy sauce base, shiitake mushrooms simply sautéed, and tempura-fried beech mushrooms. What’s great about mushrooms is that you can substitute other varieties if you don’t have, let’s say, matsutake on hand. Shiitake would be great in place of matsutake and you could sauté oyster mushrooms instead of shiitake, and tempura fry enoki or maitake in place of beech. Flexibility is good. Options are good. I will say, if you CAN use matsutake, please do. They have this certain special cinnamon-pine spiciness that is so complementary with the soy sauce, mirin, and sugar. It’s magical. And if you are looking to make this gluten-free, replace the soy sauce with tamari.

water, mirin, hondashi granules, sugar, soy sauce, sliced matsutake

put everything in a small saucepan

bring to a boil, then simmer until liquid is gone

super flavorful mushroom slices



**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



**Jump for more butter**