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cheeseboarding

Sunday, November 19th, 2017

Recipe: build your own cheeseboard

My parents did a lot of entertaining when I was growing up. It was something I was vaguely aware of as a little kid. Kris and I would belly flop onto my parents’ bed and watch television until we heard the adults move to the dining room for dinner. At that point, Kris would nudge me and say, “Come on, let’s go downstairs.” We’d sneak into the kitchen unseen by the guests (but always seen by Dad, who would flash us one of his goofy smiles as we tiptoed down the stairs) and nosh on whatever was left of the appetizers: smoked oysters, cheese, crackers, olives, caviar. Party food.

Mom and Dad still entertain to this day, so I found it amusing when Dad texted me last year asking what goes on a cheeseboard. He wanted ideas since I had plated a few during various dinner parties they had attended. I grabbed some photos from my archives as well as a handful off of Pinterest to give him some inspiration. When I threw Dad’s belated birthday party at our place last weekend, I made sure to kick it off with a nice cheeseboard because I know my Dad loves a cheeseboard packed with ALL of the goodies.

The holidays are upon us and that means party season is in full swing. Cheeseboards are a lovely way to get a dinner party started or to act as the workhorse for a cocktail party or to keep family and friends occupied as you rush to cook Thanksgiving dinner. If you are looking for ideas to spark your own cheeseboard artistry, I list and show some of my favorites here. There is enormous flexibility in cheeseboards, including not having any cheese!


neva wants to become an olympic cheeseboarder [note: grapes are toxic for dogs]



Let’s start with the actual board. The board can be a plate (porcelain, glass, etc.), slate, wood, whatever you like! Plates are the easiest to clean – especially if you serve things that are oily or messy directly on the board. And slate is great for writing the names of cheeses with chalk. I am partial to wood boards because of the beautiful natural colors and grain, which is why I have a lot of them. Some are gifts from my friend, Jamie, who is an incredibly talented woodworking artist. Occasionally, I use my largest Boos cutting blocks (24×18-inch walnut and 20×15-inch maple) because they give me the greatest surface area.

If you do have something oily like hot smoked salmon, and you don’t want the oils to soak into your nice wood boards (because let’s face it, once the board is out, it doesn’t get cleaned up until after the last guest leaves), you can slap a small plate underneath it to keep the fishy smells out of the wood. And remember, cheeseboards don’t have to be these gigantic cornucopias that can feed the whole neighborhood. Small cheeseboards for two are romantic. Medium cheeseboards for a cozy gathering of close friends work very well without being overwhelming. So don’t go crazy, but… you can go a little crazy.


you can serve on plates or slate

wood boards: an array of shapes, sizes, and designs



The fun part of cheeseboarding is picking out what to serve on your cheeseboard. It’s whatever you want it to be. I personally like the cheeseboards that don’t have much if any cheese because I don’t dig on eating cheese straight up. But I know the majority of my guests love cheese, so there is always at least one soft, one semi-soft, and one hard cheese. I also have friends who have Celiac disease, so I can either omit all gluten items (mostly crackers and breads) or plate those separately to avoid contamination of the gluten-free items.

Another nice thing about cheeseboards is that they can be as labor intensive as you like – or not! Just about everything can be purchased, but sometimes it’s nice to add your own personal touch. I always make my own crostini and I usually make those prohibitively expensive fruit, nut, and seed crisps unless I am slammed for time. Grissini happen to be quite easy to make at home, too.

I find fruit and fruity things pair well with various cheeses or act as a nice palate cleanser between nibbles. I don’t make my own fruit, but I do make my own fig and brandy jam every summer to serve with brie throughout the year. I have made membrillo, a delectable quince paste in the past to pair with manchego, but it requires a lot of work at my elevation, so I have resorted to purchasing it now that more stores carry it. In late summer, I love it when I can find good fresh figs. Lots of folks like figs with blue cheese and honey, but I tend eat them straight or with a little slice of prosciutto. Another crowd pleaser is baked brie with fresh cranberry sauce or fig jam or tomato jam. Goat cheese and jam is also a hit.


cheeses: aged cheddar, smoked gouda, brie, boursin, manchego

some gluten options: croccantini, brioche toasts, grissini, crostini, fruit and nut crisps, sliced baguette

fruity things: pomegranate, fig brandy jam, grapes, apple, membrillo



**Jump for more butter**

we got the beet

Sunday, January 1st, 2017

Recipe: pickled beets

Happy New Year! It’s January first and I already feel as if we’ve accomplished something wonderful over here in our snowy little corner of the world. As many of you know, Neva is on a leash outside of the house 99% of the time unless she is fetching her orange tennis ball. Most of the dogs we meet are roaming free because the dogs are reliable on voice command or because their owners are irresponsible jerks (this is the truth). Off-leash dogs get lots of exercise because they can run and explore and cover so much more distance than their people do. But our sweet Neva has a nose that overrides all brain functionality and she will bolt after the first thing she smells – which is pretty much anything – and follow it until she is lost, hit by a car or snow mobile, or trampled by a moose. We keep her on leash for her safety, because we love her. And because we love her, we want her to get outside for the exercise she needs and enjoys.

In summer, Jeremy will trail run with Neva in addition to the fetch sessions, swim sessions, and long hikes. In winter, we would take her on short walks, ski tour, or backcountry ski with her. All of those are sloooow for a little rocket like Neva (except when we ski downhill). I mean, she’s all legs! But last week, Jeremy and I gave her a trial run on a skate ski. Skate skiing is fast. It’s like the trail running of winter. Here in Crested Butte, we have groomed Nordic trails right out of our neighborhood that are dog-friendly. Some of the trails in the Crested Butte Nordic trail system are also designated as dog-friendly, allowing ski pups access to miles of running with their ski person, as long as the pup has a Nordic pass. It costs $40 for the season for each dog, but it’s incredibly nice of CB Nordic to accommodate dog owners as our other Nordic center prohibits dogs, period. The reason we test drove Neva on our neighborhood trails was to determine if we wanted to spring for a dog pass. Why waste $40 if she’s a nightmare and can’t have fun?


neva on her first skate ski



First, Neva LOVED it. Second, Jeremy wasn’t dragged to his death. Third, Jeremy worked out a system with her leash, harness, and no poles. Neva can run even faster than on summer trails because Jeremy skate skis faster than he runs. And while she’s full speed ahead for the first few miles, she gets into a nice groove and eventually gallops along happily. We decided to pull the trigger and get her a pass, taking her out to our favorite stretch of trail – Mike’s Mile, up the Slate River Valley – which is simply beautiful and serene and fast!

neva sports her doggy nordic pass



We do try to mix things up for us and for Neva. On New Year’s Eve morning, we took her on an uphill ski on the mountain (yes, we’re trying to train her to do that, too). She basically pulled, cried, and whined at every skier, snow mobile, ski patrol, lift chair, or leaf blowing by. But she had a blast on the way down because Neva likes to run FAST.

at the top of our uphill ski – neva promptly destroyed the headband after this photo

new year’s eve fireworks and torchlight parade on the mountain (neva safely at home)



This morning we lay in bed debating what to do – ski uphill, telemark on the mountain, or skate ski? With snow in the forecast all week, this was probably our last opportunity to skate for several days, so we roped up the little doggy and headed for the Nordic trails. We never thought it would be possible to skate with Neva on leash, but she’s good about not crossing the skis and she isn’t trying to run away from them either (she is scared of our fat skis on the mountain). The other nice thing about skate skiing with Neva is that these skis don’t have metal edges, so there’s far less danger of cutting her. The things we do for our pup… but she’s so worth it.

happy 2017!



New year, fresh starts. I wasn’t going to post some crazy butter-rich dish the first day of the new year. No, I’m sharing something easy, healthy, and delicious because everyone needs to eat their vegetables. Beets are one of those vegetables that I can never get enough of – they taste like corn with the texture of carrots and they are good for you. Save the greens for a nice sauté! Turn your fingers bright pink for days! Pickle the beetroot for a most delightful snack or the starring role in a salad. Yes, please!

beautiful beets

cider vinegar, olive oil, sugar, salt, pepper, dry mustard, beets

roast the beets in foil



**Jump for more butter**

let the summer of puppy commence

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

Recipe: tuna melt

Oh man. Summer is REAL, people. The furnace blast arrived with a vengeance last week and like the true heat wimps that we are – we retreated to higher elevations and sunrise/sunset activities. Neva is now almost 20 pounds and has been with us for a month. Recalling the first 24 hours with her (and wondering what we had gotten ourselves into), she has come a long way in her training and development – and so have we! Part of her progress is simply growing up and gaining more coordination, strength, and speed. She no longer has to sniff and put every new plant, rock, stick, pine cone, or speck of dirt in her mouth. Neva is learning silly tricks now on top of the important commands. She let’s us know when she needs to go out to potty, she’s really good in her crate, and she is sleeping through the night (HALLELUJAH!). That last one was a serious game changer for the humans.


tossing her toy in the air and (sort of) catching it

moar swimming in icy cold lakes!!

neva gets at least one hike a day

she’s so mellow she sometimes falls asleep like this

running down the stairs with a toy



Neva is becoming a free range puppy, by which I mean, she roams parts of the house while we’re around and we don’t have to chase after her for fear of accidents or drive-by chewings on inappropriate things (like furniture, power cords, the compost bucket). She overcame her fear of the stairs in a matter of days – up was easy, down took a little coaxing. I can trim and file her nails while she sleeps (amazing!). We have her hiking up to 3 miles now and just this morning she did the rockiest, steepest hike yet – all on leash and behaving like a good dog should. Best of all, she likes to lie nearby while we are working and just nap or happily chew her toys. We still have plenty of work to do, but the stage of feeling hopeless was quite short-lived for us. I think Neva is becoming a Good Dog.

thimbleberry blossoms

the rare neva bloom amidst a potpourri of wildflowers

that’s my pack

shooting stars in a sea of summer green



Neva’s hiking progress has been of particular interest to me because I’d like to bring her with us when Erin, Banjo, and I hike and forage huckleberries. All signs point to Neva becoming a strong hiker and I think with some good long hikes together, she’ll learn to be a good companion to Banjo instead of a total pill (she seems to jump on his head less these days – that’s improvement).

As you can imagine, with all of the effort we’re putting into puppy training, I haven’t cooked anything elaborate in a while. In fact, I lost 8 pounds in the first 2 weeks of getting Neva because I was too tired to eat, let alone cook. We’ve been keeping things pretty simple out of necessity – mostly salads and sandwiches with the occasional ghetto pizza bread. One of those sandwiches is a tuna melt, which Jeremy loves and I like to pair with a bowl of tomato soup. I think of the tuna melt as an upgraded version of a tuna fish sandwich. If you really want to get 1970s throwback with it, stuff some jalapeño potato chips into the sandwich before eating (mmmm – so good!).


tuna fish, bread, lemon, mayonnaise, butter, pickles, salt, cheese, celery (not pictured: black pepper)

chop the pickles and celery

ready to roll



**Jump for more butter**