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feels like a new year

Tuesday, January 5th, 2021

Recipe: japanese spinach salad with sesame (horenso gomaae)

Happy New Year, everyone!

I was convinced that the new year would mean nothing and that nothing would change. I still think that’s true, but my mood is noticeably brighter and I think it has to do with the increase in daylight (even if it is only by a few minutes) and my resumption of daily exercise over the holidays. Or perhaps it is that clean slate feeling when you hang the new calendar on your office wall. I hope you were all able to get some rest the last few weeks. Most of December was a frenzy of deadlines, but once those were met we skied our brains out and holed up with the pups at our place in Crested Butte. We also cranked out our annual Year in Photos (such as it was) which you can find at: http://jenyu.net/newyear/.


heading into the brighter side of the winter solstice



Neva’s surgery to remove a tumor from her foot at the start of December went well. Our vet instructed us to keep her in a cone for two weeks while the wound healed. At first, Neva was paralyzed by this new attachment. Any time she brushed against something she cowered. But after 24 hours, she became used to the appendage and began crashing through doorways, dragging the cone along furniture and walls, and terrorizing Yuki. I think she secretly liked this not-so-secret weapon of hers! Eventually the stitches came out, she healed for another week, and then Neva got the green light to PLAY and RUN and BE A DOGGO AGAIN!

neva and the one cone to rule them all

christmas scooby snacks



And just in case you missed the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn on the winter solstice, we had clear skies that evening and I snapped a photo from our deck in the middle of dinner prep. On the left is a 100% crop and on the right I’ve zoomed in a bit and labeled the gas giants and their moons. By my naked eye, it looked like one brilliant star. A little magnification can go a long way to revealing the amazingness of the world(s) around us!

jupiter-saturn conjunction



Colorado is cruising at 79% of the state’s normal snow pack right now. That combined with the pandemic means we’ve only ventured onto the ski resorts a handful of times so far this season, opting for more physically distant endeavors like skating the Nordic trails, backcountry ski touring (conservatively, as the avalanche danger dictates), and uphill skiing the resorts before the lifts start running. All summer and fall I dream of sliding on snow and when the season arrives, I start to panic that it’s going to be over in 6-7 months. But it goes both ways because yesterday I was waxing poetic to Jeremy about foraging summer alpine mushrooms.

feel the burn, earn your turns

grabbing some miles before the storm rolls in

new year’s morning uphill ski



Right! The reason I posted today was not so much to wish you all a happy new year (although that’s part of it), but to document a delightful new-to-me salad that I’ve been making at least once a week for the past couple of months. While we love vegetables and I am in a constant state of casually seeking new vegetable recipes, I decided a few months into the pandemic that I wanted to proactively move us in the direction of consuming less meat without resorting to mounds of pasta, potatoes, and cheese. Meat substitutions don’t interest me and tofu is a right and proper food unto itself. Despite having a decent repertoire of vegetable and vegetarian recipes, I honestly don’t think you can ever have enough. This Japanese spinach salad, with a handful of ingredients and simple preparation, has rekindled my love affair with the leafy green.

spinach, soy sauce, sesame seeds, sugar, salt, sake, mirin



What I’ve shot here is the original recipe for 8 ounces of raw spinach that serves 4 people. The recipe listed at the end of the post is a double batch because Jeremy and I easily polish off 8 ounces in one sitting. It keeps well enough in the refrigerator that we can enjoy the salad again the next day, so now I usually prepare a pound of spinach at a time. I buy those 1 pound cartons of organic baby spinach, but adult spinach leaves work great, too. For the sesame dressing, you can heat the toasted sesame seeds or not. I’ve made the recipe both ways and prefer the more pronounced sesame flavor when the seeds have been warmed.

heat the sesame seeds in a pan

grind them with a mortar and pestle

stir the sugar, soy sauce, mirin, and sake into the sesame seeds



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flowers gone wild

Monday, July 8th, 2019

Recipe: brassica poppy seed salad

Everything happens in summer. Jeremy and I sat down with our calendars last month to map commitments and schedule those “want to do” things that will never get done unless you cordon off the dates well in advance. Even then, a good percentage is usually punted to the next year because stuff invariably comes up. Since my last post, my parents have returned to Colorado for the summer, we celebrated Yuki’s one year Gotchaversary (the day we adopted her), and the high country snow has begun to melt, leaving wildflowers in its path of retreat.


out for sushi with the parents

yuki and her gotcha cake (which she shared with neva)

hiking through verdant forests

still easy to get to snow in july

stopping for flowers and a view

amazing fields of wildflowers on my trail run

colors on the ground and in the sky

dandelion and larkspur carpet the hillslope

lupine at peak bloom



With my parents in town for the summer, we are dining out a lot more than we usually do when left to our homebody tendencies. It happens every summer because getting together to eat is the de facto way Chinese people hang out. At home, I’ve been sticking to exercise, simple meals, and lots of salads to counteract the effects of indulgent restaurant food. One of my favorites happens to be a homemade take on a prepackaged salad. They look so tempting, but I never buy them because I start calculating how much it costs to make it myself. Plus, this kale and cabbage salad never has enough dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds for my taste.

the salad: kale, cabbage, red cabbage, toasted pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries

the dressing: apple cider vinegar, white vinegar, canola oil, poppy seeds, salt, sugar, mustard, onion



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mindshift

Tuesday, February 19th, 2019

Recipe: lentil beet salad

This winter has been deeply satisfying compared to last winter. First off, we are getting snow. Although the Colorado snowpack currently registers slightly above average, we find this exhilarating and refreshing. Second, Yuki is learning the ways of the Colorado Mountain Dog. Not only has she been our easiest dog to train, but she is loving her little snow adventures on the Nordic trails, the mountain, and in the backcountry. Third, Jeremy and I have been exploring new-to-us trails and scoping out potential mushroom spots for this spring/summer.


skinning up through bright and happy aspen forests

yuki’s first time on our favorite stretch of (dog-friendly) nordic trail

sunshine after the storm: grabbing powder on a bluebird morning

the winds sending prayers and mantras across the mountains

a colorful and stormy sunrise



You might think with all of the great snow this season that we would never want winter to end. Not so. I do love my winters very much, but I find joy in every season. The extra daylight as we inch closer to spring has my brain spinning in anticipation of crust cruising, the sound of snow melt trickling past newly sprouted blades of grass, hunting morels, the return of birds and their songs. Don’t even get me started on summer. We have high hopes for some big hikes and backpacking trips with Neva and Yuki. Of course, I am certain come July I will be pining for the cold starry nights, fluffy snow, and long-simmered stews of January. I love it all.

After the celebratory dishes for Chinese New Year, a chocolate shoot for a client, and recipe testing sweets, I just want to eat salad. These days my salads take on the hearty form of a meal in contrast to the delicate summer counterparts loaded with seasonal greens and presented as side-dishes. I like sweet, sour, crunchy, nutty, earthy components in my bowl. The beauty of the salad is that you include or omit ingredients according to your tastes. Here are some of my favorites.


beets, romaine lettuce, croutons, red cabbage, lentils, edamame, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, kidney beans, garbanzo beans



I find the easiest way for me to regularly eat salads is to prep the ingredients at the start of the week so that I essentially have a “salad bar” from which to pack or assemble my lunch. If you use dried lentils and beans, that means cooking them ahead of time. Of course, to save time, you can purchase cooked lentils (I’ve seen them pre-packaged at Trader Joe’s) and canned beans. Same applies to beets – you can cook them (roast or boil) or purchase them already cooked or pickled.

a half cup of dry lentils will yield about 1 1/2 cups of cooked lentils

toasting pumpkin seeds

shredding cabbage



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