japanese spinach salad with sesame (horenso gomaae) porcini tagliatelle s'mores rice krispies treats crab porcini mac and cheese


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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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roller coaster

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020

Recipe: porcini tagliatelle


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Hello my dearest readers! As many of you know, our lovable goofy Yuki came to us through the good people of Rezdawg Rescue. They are currently holding their Rezdawg Rescue Pawliday Auction through 8 pm MT, December 6, 2020 to raise funds so they may continue to rescue unwanted dogs and cats from the Four Corners region, educate the community, and run spay and neuter clinics. I have donated three fine art photographic prints to the auction. Two have already sold, but there is one still accepting bids: https://www.32auctions.com/organizations/48054/auctions/90182/auction_items/2590041. I encourage you to browse the auction’s selection of artwork, jewelry, services, and other great offerings to help support this wonderful nonprofit organization that saved our sweet Yuki. Thank you! -jen


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In the past three months, the leaves turned green to gold and stayed for a longer than usual season of beautiful fall colors. But a pall of smoke hung over our local mountains as wildlands burned around the state. October was our month of burning despite a summer of fires. Severe drought, warm temperatures, lack of precipitation, and windy conditions drove multiple wildfires to record-breaking sizes in a period of 24 hours. The East Troublesome Fire even jumped the Continental Divide in Rocky Mountain National Park. Two fires sprang up in our local foothills. Evacuation zones came within a few miles of our home in Nederland. We had our essentials, including our ballots, packed and ready to go for a week while others were forced to evacuate their homes. I wept over photos and web cam footage of wildlife fleeing the flames, homes left in ruins, and the most dedicated fire crews working through a pandemic under apocalyptic red skies.

We are not unaccustomed to wildfire threat, but this was surreal.


aspens reflected on the lake

a window of blue sky between periods of hazy smoke

a setting sun paints the underbelly of smoke plumes from the east troublesome fire



We waited impatiently for snow, and not just because we wanted to ski. The two largest wildfires in Colorado recorded history (East Troublesome and Cameron Peak) were separated by a mere 10 miles and on the brink of merging. Relief arrived in late October and we were able to unpack our evacuation bags. [NOTE: We always have an evacuation box ready.]

Meanwhile, Neva had developed an odd growth on the side of her back foot and we asked our vet to check it out. It was melanoma, but not invasive and most likely benign. Because Neva is so active, we agreed it was best to have it removed. As I type, Neva is sleeping off the anesthesia at the vet and we are scheduled to pick her up in an hour. Her procedure went well and she had her teeth cleaned and nails trimmed to boot!


everyone rejoiced in the arrival of snow

a mellow backcountry ski over thanksgiving

thanksgiving plates for the pups



I had grand plans to share a recipe celebrating summer’s last hurrah and maybe a couple of autumny dishes. But now we’re barreling toward winter and it feels like this year is flushing down a whirlpool headed for the sewer, where 2020 belongs. And for those who were concerned over the prolonged silence on the blog, you can always check my Instagram (@jenyuphoto) to see if I am indeed alive.

At the start of the pandemic, a friend inspired me to make porcini pasta. I don’t mean pasta served with porcini mushrooms, but ground up dried porcini or porcini powder mixed into the pasta dough. I may not have foraged many porcini this summer (I think we may have found five in total – a meager showing for what has been a craptastic year), but I do have a solid supply of dried porcini from previous seasons. Even if you don’t have your own private stash of dried porcini, they can be found in grocery stores and gourmet food shops.


olive oil, salt, eggs, dried porcini, flour

a coffee grinder or spice grinder works well to powder dried porcini

blend the flour, porcini powder, and salt together



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summer wonders

Monday, August 3rd, 2020

Recipe: crab porcini mac and cheese

July and August meld together for me as one long hot month. I tend to put my head down and muddle through with a lot of ice water, watermelon, and popsicles. But August 1 always stands out as it is Kris’ birthday. She would have turned 54 on Saturday. I arranged flowers, made somen noodle soup, and called my mother to cheer her up.


miss you, love you



Our big excitement was getting out to see comet Neowise in mid-July. Skies were touch and go in the evenings thanks to a sudden influx of moisture and clouds over Colorado. But mountain weather keeps you on your toes and we were able to see the comet with the unaided eye! I photographed it from various locations with decent dark skies. I hope many of you were able to get out to view the comet, but if not, here are a couple of my captures.

close-up of comet neowise and two distinct tails (the white dust tail and the blue ion tail)

neowise reflected in the lake as it set behind the mountains



Did I mention it was hot? It’s still hot and it’s getting hotter this week. On those days that we didn’t venture out on the trails to let the pups wade through cold mountain streams, we thought they might enjoy some baby pool time. We hadn’t pulled the pool out in 5 years (since Neva was a wee pup and peed in the pool) and were curious to see how Yuki reacted to this concept. She seemed leery of it at first, then fascinated, then took to jumping in and out of the pool with an occasional pause to quench her thirst (from the pool). It was like a giant water dish she could stand in and simultaneously take a swig from.

what the hecc?

a moment of blissful stillness



When we hiked into the high country, we sought out solitude, views, wildflowers, wildlife, and swimming holes. With so many putting their typical summer activities on hold due to the pandemic, our mountain trails have been inundated with throngs of people – plenty of whom aren’t wearing masks or respecting physical distance. Instead of dealing with that idiocy, we’ve been frequenting the lesser known local trails and tackling home tasks that have been on the to-do list forever. Our guest room is now a second office since no one should visit us while the pandemic is ongoing.

yuki side-eye and a view

mountain meadows sprinkled with color

magenta paintbrush

larkspur

lounging moose

neva dives in while yuki looks on



And it looks as if it might be porcini season. Even the mushrooms appear to be uncertain about this year. I can’t really blame them as much of the state is in drought and last year’s astounding flush is a tough act to follow.

found this early bolter all alone



Still, if there are any porcini to be found and foraged, I have lots of recipes for them. I made this crab porcini macaroni and cheese last summer with my abundant haul. This rich and decadent dish goes a long way, which means you might get to enjoy the leftovers the following day. Use whatever pasta shape you like. Macaroni works, of course, but I happen to like small shells, penne, or pipe rigate (pictured below), too. I realize fresh porcini can be difficult to find, so you can substitute whatever edible mushroom you like.

pepper, milk, cheddar, bread crumbs, salt, gruyère, pasta, butter, flour

crab legs, fresh thyme, fresh porcini



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