Recipe: blackened salmon sandwich
My head bobbled about fighting sleep as the car raced through the desert night. I jolted awake with each giant bug that appeared as a flash in the headlights before smearing across the windshield with a loud thwack. It had been a long day of driving (western states are big), then waiting, then shooting the eclipse, then driving some more. Jeremy was equally tired, but he knew the road to Socorro like the back of his hand. I remembered what Jeremy had asked me when we first started dating back in the day, “Are you a mountain goat or a desert rat?” I was a mountain goat. I didn’t actually know because I had spent little, if any, time in either. But I liked goats more than I liked rats. Turns out, I *am* a mountain goat – a happy happy mountain goat. Desert rat, I am not. I’m reminded of that every time I go to the desert.
cactus in bloom
In the morning, Jeremy left for his meeting and asked me to please be careful. I’m always careful. I’m a firm believer in self-preservation. I wear my big girl pants all the time. All of my visits to New Mexico have been spent hanging out with Jeremy’s family, my aunt’s family, and noodling about the northern part of the state. We have visited Carlsbad Caverns (caves and bats – AWESOME!!) and the Bosque del Apache (birds like you wouldn’t believe), but that was pretty much it for the southern half. The desert is not a destination of choice for me, but since I was practically there, I thought it was high time I went to see White Sands National Monument.
sprawling thunderheads on the drive south
White Sands is nestled in the Tularosa Basin of southern New Mexico, at the northern tip of the sprawling Chihuahuan Desert. It is the largest white sand dunefield in the world – white because the sand is derived from gypsum. This is the first park I’ve ever visited where I had to check for missile testing schedules (which close certain roads). It was stifling hot (mid 90s), humid, and windy when I arrived. Afternoon thunderheads boomed above me and sunshowers rained down periodically. I thought it best to retreat from the dunes. Sitting in the shade of a small picnic shelter, I watched half of my lunch (salad) blow away before it could reach my mouth. The clouds had made way for the blazing sun and sand pelted me from the southwest. I walked the dunes, scoping out the best places to shoot, hoping the winds would go away by sundown.
the winds let up a little
heavy haze in the basin
A half hour before sunset, the character of the place changed. A no longer oppressive sun bathed the white dunes in soft gold light and blue shadows. It was still windy (that makes photography hard due to the blowing sand – if you care at all about your gear), but less ferocious. In the distance, I could see a handful of other visitors dotting the crests of high dunes, all witnessing the same magic.
the haze in the basin began to glow
I debated whether or not to shoot in the morning at all since the park doesn’t allow entry until an hour after sunrise. But this wasn’t vacation, this was work. I watched the sun rise in my rear view mirror on my drive over, spectacularly red and glowing as it rose above the Sacramento Mountains. Even an hour or more after sunrise, the sand felt nice and cool. The winds had not yet picked up and erased the tracks of the resident wildlife. It didn’t last long, but it was appreciated.
you could pretend that it is snow
a sea of white
Time spent in the desert always brings a new level of respect for this harsh environment, for the massive views, for the weather, the light, and how they play. I’m still a mountain goat. Imagine the delight when I woke up at home this morning to see our valley dusted in snow – a good half inch on my deck.
As promised, there is a recipe – a good and easy recipe for summer! When I received that comped shipment of wild Alaskan seafood from the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, there were some lovely frozen sockeye salmon filets in the box. My typical lazy way to grill salmon is with olive oil, lemon slices, fresh dill, and salt and pepper. I wanted another recipe that was equally delicious and equally lazy.
salmon, butter, paprika, thyme, creole seasoning
arugula, aioli, sandwich bread
**Jump for more butter**