mendiants porcini salt strawberry vanilla shortbread cookies roasted kabocha squash


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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**

in with the new

Sunday, November 18th, 2018

Recipe: roasted kabocha squash

The past few days have involved a lot of cleaning and precious little outside time, but we tell ourselves it is all worth it because we finally updated our refrigerator of 16 years and the crappy stove that came with the house (guessing 21 years old). I consider this a major accomplishment because we’ve had these upgrades on our list for about 10 years… we just hate shopping.


made a clear path for the delivery guys while yuki wonders what’s up

new refrigerator, new stove



The old refrigerator went into the basement to increase our cold storage capacity. The old stove was hauled away. Good riddance. But these things never go as smoothly as planned. We planed off 5 millimeters of cabinet siding to get the refrigerator to fit in its cubby and then replaced 20 feet of old copper water line which had been left unused for 13 years. And now that we have a slide-in range rather than a free-standing range, we need a backsplash. I’m going with stainless steel and it will be easily removable so I can scrub the hell out of it. It’s nice to have the kitchen back in place and working better than before! After all of that, we finally got out with the pups for some exercise and fresh air.

little yuki has a new harness because she outgrew her size small harness!



Thanksgiving is this week and I’ll have a lovely little story to share with you later, but for now I must tell you about kabocha squash. It sounds like kombucha, but it is kabocha, and it is my favorite squash. Kabocha is a Japanese winter squash, also called Japanese Pumpkin, and it has a beautiful sweetness. I love it stewed, in soup, tempura fried, and roasted. You can find it at Asian grocery stores with decent produce sections or at places like Whole Foods or farmers markets. Like many squashes, these are quite hard and a little scary to cut when raw, so do be careful as you would with any similar squash.

to roast: olive oil, salt, pepper, kabocha squash(es)



The skin on the kabocha squash is edible, which is great! Simply wash the squash before cutting. I like to remove the stem because it’s nearly impossible to cut through when splitting the kabocha in half. A careful shallow cut around the base of the stem with the tip of a paring knife (don’t twist, keep it flat) makes popping the stem off by hand a cinch. Once that’s done, carefully cut the kabocha squash in half and scoop out the guts. I then cut the halves in half to get four quarters and trim the hard corners off. From there, I like to slice my squash into 1-inch thick pieces.

scoop out the guts

cut into 1-inch thick slices



**Jump for more butter**

winners and winners

Monday, October 22nd, 2018

Recipe: lentil chicken soup

Thank you to everyone who left a comment on the previous post and took a guess at Yuki’s breeds! We had 177 comments which I’m rounding up to $200 that I will donate to Rezdawg Rescue.

Now for Yuki’s Wisdom Panel results:

25% American Staffordshire Terrier
12.5% Australian Cattle Dog
12.5% Chow Chow
12.5% Rottweiler
37.5% Mixed Breeds in the following groups: Herding, Guard, Companion

Are you surprised? We were totally surprised! Of course, the naming and classification of breeds can be utterly confounding and inconsistent between official organizations in different countries. We accepted Pit bull for American Staffordshire Terrier, but not Staffordshire Bull Terrier as that is listed as a separate breed in the Wisdom Panel listing of tested breeds. Australian Cattle Dog (ACD), Heeler, or Blue Heeler were all considered the ACD.

Only one person named three of the four breeds (American Pit Bull, Chow, and Heeler) and that was Linda, Yuki’s foster mom. It made complete sense because she knows dogs (she fosters SO many pups) and aside from us, Linda has spent the most time with Yuki.

[Another commenter named three of the four breeds, but listed five breeds which gained a statistical advantage over everyone else. I contacted all individuals who guessed more than four breeds to please revise their guess and when this commenter revised theirs, they removed one of the three correct breeds.]

I am absolutely going to give Linda a prize of her choosing, but I am also going to give a SECOND person a prize of their choosing.

Fifteen people correctly guessed two of the four breeds. We numbered them 1-15 according to the order in which they commented on the blog post. I set up a cheeseboard with 15 treats associated with 1 through 15 and let Yuki pick the winner by selecting the corresponding treat (basically the one she went to first).


the set up

the winner



Yuki picked #15 and that is Sona who listed American Staffordshire Terrier and Australian Cattle Dog.

Congratulations to Sona and Linda! I will contact you both shortly. Thank you all so much for your enthusiasm and love for this special little pup. It was thoroughly entertaining reading through all of the entries!

Those of you who follow my Instagram know that Yuki gave us a scare Friday morning when she began vomiting and crying out in terrible pain several times within a few hours. A trip to the vet, some meds, rest, and eventually passing a two-foot long piece of rope toy (whaaaaat?!?!) summed up our weekend. I’m relieved to report that Yuki is back to her happy puppy self and the rope toys have been banished.

It’s hard to believe that I was wearing shorts while walking the dogs this past Sunday evening when a week earlier Jeremy and I were skiing a lovely blanket of fresh snow in our local backcountry. Colorado weather keeps you on your toes.


almost a foot on our grill

i love the early season storms

storm clouds gave way to a colorful close to the day



I try to plan my cooking with the weather. If it’s hot, there are lots of fresh salads, sushi, grilling, sandwiches, and things that don’t produce a good deal of heat. When it’s cold, I happily crank up the oven for roasting, baking, braising, or dedicate hours to simmering soups and stews on the stove. Not only does the heat from the kitchen keep our living space comfortably toasty, but it fills the house with heady aromas that are the equivalent of wrapping yourself in a cozy blanket. Right now, we are bouncing between Indian Summer and early winter. So here is a hearty soup-as-meal for the next (hopefully snowy) cold spell: lentil chicken soup.

chicken, lentils, onion, salt, garlic, tomato paste, celery, carrots, pepper, olive oil



Homemade chicken broth is superior to store-bought chicken broth in flavor, quality, and the fact that you control the sodium. My preference is to make my own if I have the time. If you are short on time, then you can easily use store-bought chicken broth and chicken meat and essentially reduce the time investment by half or more.

If you do make your own broth, you can simmer it for 3-4 hours or use a pressure cooker for an hour plus change. Either way, start that process first. Once the broth is done, strain it through a fine-mesh sieve to remove random particles (there are always random particles). I like to de-fat my chicken broth one of two ways. The first, refrigeration, requires time. Lots of time. Chill the broth until the fat solidifies or at least clumps together on the surface to be scooped or skimmed off. The second method is in the immediate gratification camp and involves pouring the hot or warm broth into a gallon-size ziploc bag, sealing the bag and holding it over a large bowl or stock pot, cutting a slit in the bottom corner and letting the broth drain out as the fat rises to the top. The trick is pinching the outlet corner off right as the fat layer is about to drain, and discarding the bag and fat.


chicken and water in the pressure cooker

homemade de-fatted chicken broth



**Jump for more butter**