korean jajangmyeon (black bean noodles) caulilini with bagna cauda fig bread pudding elk chorizo chile rellenos


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snowy october

Wednesday, October 30th, 2019

Recipe: korean jajangmyeon (black bean noodles)

Ready or not, winter is here! At least in Colorado, it’s been the snowiest October in a while with records being broken in various locations after multiple storms have tracked through the state. Not only are we experiencing a snowy October, but it is downright cold for this early in the season logging a low of -8°F at our house this morning. Even the pups couldn’t dawdle long in the yard before they had to come in to warm their little paws.


clearing after an earlier storm (but with more snow on the way!)

slipping out for a quick ski tour

fresh snow or white sand dunes?

jeremy breaking trail to earn his first turns of the season



This sort of deep freeze is conducive to baking and soup-making. So far I’ve cranked out lots of sourdough épi de blés, banana breads (the result of a sale at the local grocer on spotted bananas), and big pots of 13 bean soup. Actually, it was 12 bean soup and if you really want to know why, you can read about it on Instagram. Also noodles. Noodles are forever a part of my year-round menu because I am a bona fide Noodle Girl. But please don’t think that I stand around at home cranking out hand-pulled Asian style noodles all the time… or ever. There is no shame in store bought packs of ramen (my current favorite is Nongshim Shin Ramyun Black) that get dressed up with lots of vegetables, spicy pickled radishes, a few slices of char siu pork, and a soft-boiled egg.

I’m always on the lookout for good varieties of instant ramen that appear along the noodle aisle of the Asian grocery store. It’s hit or miss – mostly misses, but occasionally I’ll come across something worth remembering. Last year I chucked a black bean Korean noodle affair into my cart. The preparation was a simple boiling of noodles, straining the noodles, and tossing them with a packet of black bean sauce. I didn’t notice the blazing fire symbols on the packet and half of my face melted off while I ate it. It was delicious – and painful – but delicious. After a couple more face-melting events, I finally inspected the noodle packets on my next trip to the Asian grocery store and found a version of the same Korean noodles without the inferno symbol. Bingo!

At this point I was so in love with these noodles that the next logical step was to make it at home. Pictures matter, especially when you venture into unfamiliar cuisines and don’t speak or read the language. I have moderate comfort when it comes to navigating Chinese ingredients because I grew up with this stuff and I also have my Mom as a helpful reference (Dad could be considered a reference, but a lot less helpful). I understand some Mandarin Chinese, can speak less than I understand, and the extent of my reading comprehension ends at mah jong tiles. I’m a big fat zero on Korean. And so I found myself squinting at photos of black bean paste labels on my phone as I held it next to all of the black bean pastes on the shelf at the H-Mart (Korean grocer) in the Denver suburbs. Most of the pastes were spicy, but I wanted the mild version so Jeremy could eat it, too. As a last resort, you could order online. The black bean paste is probably the only ingredient you might have trouble tracking down. Everything else appears to be easier to get or substitute.


two brands of non-spicy black bean paste

the korean noodz i used (i think most asian noodles could work)



The other ingredients can be found in most grocery stores. My Whole Foods carries daikon radish on occasion, but I picked up the Korean radish from the Asian store since I was already there. And if you are more of a Rice Person than a Noodle Person, it’s easy enough to serve the sauce over steamed rice instead.

onion, cucumber, zucchini, korean radish, potato, pork belly

water, more water, vegetable oil, sesame oil, black bean sauce, salt, sugar, potato starch



**Jump for more butter**

new and old

Monday, October 14th, 2019

Recipe: caulilini with bagna cauda

It was only a few days after my last post that our autumn sunshine and warmth plunged into the grey and white hues of an early season storm. That first real snowfall of the season takes on magical notes, especially when it catches the fall colors – powdered sugar coating honeyed canopies. Short-lived, but one of life’s many joyful experiences.


getting neva and yuki out to play the evening before the storm

yuki starts the hike out of our neighborhood

felt like winter, but looked like fall

24 hours of overlapping seasons



After the storm, our weather warmed up, the snow melted, and the leaves turned black and fell. Now we ping pong between warm and cold spells. Another storm, then sun, then storm, then sun, all the while the temperatures trend cooler and we build a base in the mountains that will soon be good enough to ski without scraping rocks. In the meantime, I’m cranking the oven up and getting reacquainted with my sourdough starter and resuming the production of homemade dog treats (I use canned pumpkin instead of sweet potato now, but either works fine). Admittedly, I purchase dog treats in summer when the last of the homemade spring batch has been exhausted and it is too bloody hot to run the oven. Neva was particularly happy to stand watch over the treats late into the night.

playing with bâtard scoring

neva stayed up late with me to make sure “her” treats baked properly



We love our vegetables around here and have a nice rotation of several varieties, but sometimes I fall into a rut and feel bored. That’s one of the reasons we like to dine out from time to time – to get inspired by new ideas and new menus. We haven’t gotten out much since we adopted Yuki, but this summer she transformed into a big girl and now behaves pretty well at home when we’re gone. One dish that really stuck with me was the caulilini at Sunflower in Crested Butte. It’s like broccolini, but in cauliflower form except the stalks are sweeter and more tender than cauliflower stalks.

Fast forward a couple of months and I spot caulilini in the produce section of Trader Joe’s! I grabbed two bags and have since returned for several more. Some people have referred to caulilini as baby cauliflower, but it isn’t. A little googling revealed that this version of cauliflower is actually the one most commonly consumed in China. So it’s new to me (us), but old hat for my motherland. Dang! I never even knew. But now that I know, I’m going to make up for lost time. Taking a cue from Sunflower, I decided to sauté the caulilini and serve it with bagna cauda.


caulilini, butter, olive oil, salt, pepper, more olive oil, garlic, anchovies



I grew up prepping vegetables and defrosting various meats and tofu and stock for my mom before she got home from work so that she could start cooking dinner the moment she stepped into the house. We ate a lot of broccoli back in the day because that was an easy vegetable to get in American grocery stores that translated well to Chinese cooking. I was taught to peel the fibrous and tough outer skins on the stalks and now I just do it out of habit. I think the caulilini is tender enough that you can skip this step (especially if you are short on time), but I do break them down into bite-size stalks if they are especially bulky.

peeling the outer skins (optional)

breaking down the stalks



**Jump for more butter**

i give a fig

Monday, October 7th, 2019

Recipe: fig bread pudding

We waited impatiently for the flip from green to yellow in the aspen stands, but summer seemed to hold on a few weeks longer than usual. The hints dotted trails and shores on our hikes and paddles. Eventually that golden wave appeared and led the way to impressive bursts of color. We refer to this time of year as pure magic. The smell of sweet leafy fermentation lingers in the air when the aspen forests glow gold and red. It’s not rotten… rather a little funky in the way a well-aged red wine can become.


enter autumn

the pups are digging it

glowing

hiking for the views and the fresh air

crested butte mountain dons her fall colors

mountain passes at their finest

yuki and neva loving any season



I did not intend to be absent for this long, but mountain homes require pre-winter maintenance, fall colors demand to be seen, puppy dogs need exercise, and it was time for me to address some nagging injuries before they progressed and negated any chance of winter activities. Don’t think I haven’t been cooking! We finally kicked that awful hot weather to the curb and now have flannel sheets on the bed. The dog blankets are out of summer storage and our heat ran for the first time yesterday morning. It’s lovely baking weather in the mountains and a perfect time for fig bread pudding.

figs, butter, brandy, vanilla extract, cream, milk, eggs, brown sugar, lemon (juice and zest), cinnamon bread



My initial plan was to use challah or brioche for the bread, but I thought I could use up some cinnamon bread that was hanging around the house. You can use pretty much any bread you fancy. Bread pudding is quite forgiving that way. The original recipe includes raisins, but I live with an individual who is adamantly against raisins, so they got the boot (the raisins, not Jeremy). Since I didn’t have enough figs (because I doubled the figs), I halved the recipe, but doubled the brandy because that always sounds like a good idea. Sometimes you just wing it.

chop the figs and soak in brandy

butter the bread (i did both sides, but you don’t have to)

cut the bread into cubes



**Jump for more butter**