jalapeno popper dip korean jajangmyeon (black bean noodles) caulilini with bagna cauda fig bread pudding


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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**

slow, but steady progress

Monday, April 15th, 2019

Recipe: shrimp tatsuta-age

April is a flirt, taunting us with peaceful warm days of spring and chasing those with wintry snowstorms. I enjoy experiencing both kinds of weather, but this interplay of seasons certainly keeps you on your toes. We took advantage of the sunshine and sent Neva and Yuki to a doggy daycare in Boulder last week. It was their trial day as we finally caved rather than holding out hope for a competent, responsible, and professional outfit to emerge in Nederland (that trio of requirements is a rare find in mountain towns).

I went about the day expecting a call to come get my dogs because they were causing a ruckus, but none came. Instead, when we went to pick them up, they were happy and excited to see us. We learned they were both on the shy side, warming up slowly to all of the regular pups. That’s not surprising for either one considering Neva has issues reading other dogs’ signals and Yuki puts her guard up in strange or new settings as part of her survival instinct. They both received baths once we were home and then proceeded to pass out. Mission accomplished.


yuki doesn’t like baths, but she’s good about tolerating them

so tired



The next day, Colorado received her second bomb cyclone in a month. Temperatures in the teens left us with a foot of fluffy powder reminiscent of proper winter. We skied it, then we skied it with the puppies, and then we skied it again. Yuki is getting the hang of this ski dog thing (see her video here). It appears we are slated for more snow through the end of April, and I’m all for it!

uphill skiing with the pups in our local wilderness

jeremy grabs some turns in the backcountry



Neva’s fur is fluffier lately. First the fur on her hind quarters had grown thicker and softer over the holidays. In the last month, her tail began filling in with more hair and looking like the signature otter tail of a Labrador Retriever instead of her usual thin whip-like tail. We suspect it has to do with her anti-anxiety medication. She started on it last fall and it takes some weeks to see results. The prescription doesn’t make her instantly good, but it helps Neva keep a more even keel during events that would normally send her into a frenzy. With less anxiety, she is able to focus on our commands. As she concentrates on what we tell her to do, we can train her to remain calm around wildlife on the trails, or the FedEx and UPS trucks driving past the house, or strangers, or riding in the car. Pre-medicated Neva would lose SO MUCH HAIR each time she got worked up. Pre-medicated Neva would never settle down long enough to cuddle. Now, she will offer up her belly for a rub or hop onto the bed for a scratch behind the ears in the mornings. Neva still requires an enormous amount of training and she’ll probably never be a normal dog, but she seems more relaxed, happy, and furry than this time last year. I’m fairly certain that’s not because of Yuki – ha!

And while we’ve noticed incremental improvement in Neva, the same could be said for our home. The replacement of some major appliances forced us to do a serious scrub down of the kitchen last fall. We have since been slowly and methodically cleaning up different parts of the house. Tackling it all at once would leave the household cranky (me), disoriented (us), feeling hopeless (Jeremy), and confused (the pups). Breaking this behemoth endeavor down into several smaller manageable tasks increases the likelihood of success. My process involves organizing everything into categories of keepers, donations, re-purposing, recycling, and as a last resort – trash. Jeremy is a reluctant participant to my madness. It’s a bit like pulling teeth at times, but we are getting there and I try to minimize his involvement to only when necessary. I don’t think of it as the konmari method so much as making my crap easy to live with while I’m alive and easier to deal with should I die. If you’ve ever had to clean out someone’s belongings after they’ve passed on, you will understand what I’m talking about.

Don’t worry, I don’t plan on dying anytime soon. I simply like to get things in order, including fixing recipes that weren’t quite right. While I loved my friend’s interpretation of dynamo shrimp, it wasn’t what I had in mind. I spent a little time researching, tapping into my taste memory, and studying some photos I had taken of the original “dynamo shrimp” from Lil’s Sushi Bar and Grill and came up with a very close version. It’s pretty straightforward to make if you are okay with frying (pan fry or deep fry – either works). Jeremy gushes over it so much that I practically have to eat in another room.


sriracha mayo, unagi sauce, thai sweet chili sauce, raw shrimp, ginger, soy sauce, mirin, potato starch



I learned in my research that karaage and tatsuta-age (or tatsutaage) both refer to fried foods, but technically tatsuta-age is marinated before frying. It seems most people play fast and loose with the terms and rarely make the distinction between the two. I decided to go the tatsuta-age route with these shrimp because I couldn’t resist the idea of shrimp flavored with ginger, mirin, and soy sauce. Gluten-free? Good news! You can easily convert this recipe to gluten-free by subbing tamari for soy sauce in the marinade as well as in the unagi sauce (which you will need to make from scratch – but it’s easy). The coating is already potato starch, which I prefer to wheat flour for a superior fry texture.

tail-on peeled shrimp, grated ginger, soy sauce, mirin

mix the soy sauce, mirin, and ginger together

gently toss the shrimp with the marinade and sit for 5 minutes



**Jump for more butter**

homebody

Tuesday, March 5th, 2019

Recipe: futomaki

Last week we went on a vacation. Of sorts. We brought Neva and Yuki along with us to Steamboat Springs for a ski trip. Sadly, most of what we previously loved about Steamboat were absent: 1) fresh powder and 2) our favorite sushi bar in town (Yama has closed indefinitely). We did ski the mountain and took the pups skijoring on dog-friendly trails at a couple of the Nordic centers near town. Yuki’s endurance continues to improve and Neva is really becoming a well-behaved pup on the trails as long as she can run her brains out.


jeremy with neva and yuki at haymaker nordic center

this is what yuki does when she doesn’t want to go



Steamboat is great and all, but after our third day we were over it. A big winter storm was about to blast its way through the state (big winter storm = powder) and we were slated to check out and drive home in the thick of it. Instead, we left a day early before the storm and drove home – not east to Nederland – but south to Crested Butte. It was the right decision. We arrived just as the snow began to fall, and proceeded to ski amazing powder, celebrate our 22nd wedding anniversary, and meet our friend’s new puppy, Moke (Moe-kee).

the road south

the snow piles up in crested butte

jeremy drops into a foot of fresh powder and free refills

enjoying our anniversary dinner

yuki playing with her new pal, moke



On our drive from Steamboat Springs to Crested Butte, we stopped at the Whole Foods in Frisco to grab salads for lunch and ran into my friend who lives in Breckenridge. We chatted and at some point in the conversation I apologized that we hadn’t seen one another in a while. He dismissed it with a wave, “Oh, you don’t have to explain it. You know me,” he chuckled, “I’m a homebody.” Back on the road, I mentioned to Jeremy that I didn’t think of Graham as a homebody – he spends a good deal of time outside running, biking, hiking, skiing. Jeremy was silent for a moment, then, “Most people think of homebodies as people who stay indoors, but I think Graham meant he doesn’t want to be away from home. Sort of like what we’re doing now by going to Crested Butte.”

It’s true. I am becoming more of a Graham homebody every day. Jeremy has always been one. This might also explain why I try to replicate my favorite restaurant dishes at home, to avoid the headache of driving into town and interacting with people. The futomaki sushi roll has eluded me for over a decade because I didn’t know that the sweet pink powdery ingredient, which is dried shredded sweetened cod, was called sakura denbu. Once I learned the proper name, I couldn’t find it anywhere. Last year, I ventured into Denver’s Pacific Mercantile Company on a little Japanese grocery safari with my pal, Ellen, and there it was in the refrigerated section. It was the final piece to my futomaki puzzle!


some of the less common ingredients for a home cook: unagi (grilled eel), sakura denbu, makizushi no moto (seasoned gourd strips with mushrooms)



I had always assumed there was a set recipe for making futomaki because most of the sushi bars I frequented made it the same way. It turns out you can make futomaki with whatever ingredients float your boat, so please feel free to customize! The version I make here follows the recipe from Just One Cookbook because this is how I like it AND I could either purchase or make the ingredients myself. I can easily find the unagi (grilled eel) and seasoned gourd and mushrooms at most Asian grocers, but I have only ever seen the sakura denbu in a Japanese grocery store. You can also purchase the tamago (egg omelette) at an Asian grocery store, but I find making tamagoyaki at home to be far tastier.

fillings: spinach, cucumber, tamago, unagi, kanpyo (gourd strips), mushrooms, sakura denbu



**Jump for more butter**