roasted cherry bourbon swirl ice cream morel bourbon cream sauce fried morel mushrooms black olive tapenade


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archive for appetizers

you knew it was coming

Monday, June 6th, 2016

Recipe: fried morel mushrooms

Two weeks away from the technical start of summer and the mountains are just beginning to sport their spring green. But what a lovely spring green it is – so brief and yet dazzling like little jewels under the intense spotlight of the high sun. After reading about all manner of “indicators” for black morels in the mountains, I’ve come to the conclusion that it basically means “when spring arrives and things start growing”. Makes sense. I’m seeing tiny pink calypso orchids, pasque flowers (still!), aspen leaves, oregon grape in bloom, false morels (toxic) and on and on and on. It’s wonderful in part because it isn’t terribly hot yet, which means foraging is more bearable when I’m crawling through forest debris. Come chanterelle and porcini seasons, I get a little cranky when the mercury rises.


refreshingly green and blue

pretty little things

a prize find



Back here on the Front Range, the morels in my area are taking their time. I’ve found a few early bolters, but that’s about it. I’ll probably miss the start of the proper flush, but I’m sharing my trail observations with my shroom buddy, Erin, because I want to know how the areas progress while I’m in Crested Butte and because I want her to get some black morels! Meanwhile, Neva is getting lots of running and playtime not associated with foraging morels. She makes it infinitely harder to concentrate on finding mushrooms and then when we do find them, she (like most dogs) will invariably and unwittingly step on at least a couple of them. I think we’re all quite happy to see the progression into spring because we know that summer will arrive like the flick of a switch. Good things happen in the mountains when the days are warm.

neva, orange tennis ball, and a big field of dandelions

sleeping (on the couch) with her tongue out

jeremy admires the view at sunset



I brought about half of my morel haul home to Nederland for recipe testing. The rest of the morels were either consumed in Crested Butte or given to devoted mushroom foragers who had never tasted black morels before. Oddly enough, when I was passing through my local Costco down on the flats, I found black morels for $8 per half pound. That is quite a good deal. I picked up two boxes out of curiosity and to supplement my supply for a morel recipe testing fest over the weekend. The store-bought morels were picked wild in the Pacific Northwest and they had good flavor, but they also came with plenty of small worms who apparently also appreciate the flavor of morels. I hate mushroom worms. Thankfully, my own foraged black morels were worm free and really clean. I used the small ones for this classic recipe of fried morels. Also, I made a half recipe (the recipe below is the full recipe) to conserve my limited supply of morels.

flour, black pepper, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, milk, egg, morels



There is a wide swath of this country that insists the only way to eat morels is fried. I think morels can be enjoyed in a variety of preparations, but I’m not going to turn my nose up at a fried morel! So I went in search of a good recipe. When it comes to wild mushrooms, I find that Hank Shaw’s blog, Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, is a great resource for solid information and reliable recipes.

i leave the small ones whole

you can see they are hollow inside

a large morel gets the chop chop

hollow inside – this is how you know it’s a morel and not a toxic look alike



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the mountains’ good tidings

Monday, May 30th, 2016

Recipe: black olive tapenade

Amidst the bustle of de-winterizing our house, we realized last week that it had been one year since we brought Neva home (May 23). The day she entered our lives isn’t as big a deal to us as the fact that she’s made so much progress in the past year. Neva is still a lot of work, but the past year’s training is definitely paying off. Most important of all, our girl is a sweet and happy dog.


i made a last minute celebratory snack of beef, egg yolk, and a strawberry

waiting for her release word

it was gone in 2 seconds



De-winterizing actually involves both homes since they are both in the mountains. En route to Crested Butte, we encountered a good bit of snow falling on two of three mountain passes and wondered aloud if we were mistaken in bringing the SUPs (stand up paddle boards) rather than our skis? But alas, winter is ever so slowly passing the baton to spring. I know this because I’ve been watching the signs of spring around the mountains where we live. And I’ve been watching for those signs because I set my mind to finding the elusive black morel mushroom this year – less for the eating and more for the hunt and the mushroom photography.

a black morel



Well, my homework paid off. We took Neva for a short hike to get her beans out and wound up spending 5 hours foraging for black morels after I spotted the first one off the trail. I left plenty behind and still managed a good hundred or so. These are by far the hardest to see compared to porcini or chanterelles. Every dang dead leaf or pine cone looks just like a black morel – and under dappled sunlight it can be even harder to find them. But they are so pretty and alien and magical and weird. It meant a crash course that evening in learning to store, clean, and cook fresh black morels. Cook them thoroughly. Never eat them raw because they will make you sick. Following the advice of several sources, we tasted a few that I had sautéed in butter and waited for any ill effects to follow as some folks react poorly to black morels. The good news is that we are okay eating them. So you might expect to see a few morel recipes in the near future. [I should note that it is important to know how to properly identify a morel and how to tell it apart from several kinds of false morels – which are toxic.]

found you!

little lanterns of the forest

a nice foursome

morels are synonymous with spring

two-fer

my morning haul



Now that I have mushroom fever a few months earlier than usual, I’m going to share a quick and easy recipe for black olive tapenade. That way I have more time to resume planning the next trails to scout out those honeycombed wonders. Until recently, I had only ever had olive tapenade in restaurants when we dined with other friends because Jeremy is not a fan of olives. But he doesn’t like kimchi either and I have a whole jar of that in our refrigerator… It was high time I made some olive tapenade of my own. It’s ridiculous how easy it is to make – like bzzzzzt! and you’re done.

olives, olive oil, lemon (juice), anchovies, garlic, capers, thyme



Since this is a black olive tapenade, use black olives – like Niçoise or Kalamata. Make sure they are pitted or else their trip around the food processor will be a short one (olive pits and food processors are not friends). If you want to add green olives to the mix, be my guest, but then you’ll have to call it an olive tapenade. Chop the herbs and garlic, juice half the lemon and you’re more than halfway there.
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a bear walks into a (sushi) bar

Sunday, May 15th, 2016

Recipe: salmon poke

We rounded a corner this past week – hiking and running more days than skiing. I washed the late season mud off our nordic ski boots and packed up all but our backcountry telemark boots to store in the basement until October. Instead of four ski bins in the great room, we now have four bins for hiking, trail running, mountain biking, plus one holdout for backcountry skiing – at least for another week! Spring is dawdling. Rain and snow flirt in the high country and we expect another week of cool, wet weather around here, which means a few more days before I can swap out our flannel sheets for something cooler. Chilly mornings still require snuggy sheets.


morning reflections

scoping out the trails without skis *sniffle*

dashing through icy cold snowmelt streams



I used to regard shoulder season as a time of outdoor exercise limbo, but this season I’m embracing the coolish weather, squishy mud, and sporadic snow patches on the trails. It’s a good time for me to build up to higher mileage in what I consider comfortable temperatures. This way, I also scope out plants in bloom around my neck of the woods. To start trail running for the season when it’s already hot means there are two hurdles to deal with: the heat and trail running.

sunny and cool trail runs are just fine by me

so many pasque flowers in bloom!

neva perfects her jump-catch



Winter is good for me, I think, because it allows me to focus on snow and being a somewhat normal person. Summer is officially Crazy Time because so many wonderful mushrooms grow where I run or hike or bike – one can’t help but notice them and maybe forage a few and probably obsess over finding more because that’s the addictive property of wild mushrooms. But you all know that my true love is the tiny purple huckleberry. Erin and I have spent a few lazy winter days pondering where a good patch might be based on satellite imagery and our knowledge of the mountain trails and what our local huckleberries like. As the mountains shed their snowy mantles, we make note of healthy huckleberry plants and when they flower and when those flowers become green peas that will hopefully emerge as ripe huckleberries.

I make tons of sweet recipes with huckleberries – that’s easy to do as they play nicely with sugar, butter, flour, cream, and eggs. I’m exploring more savory recipes now that I have enough huckleberries in my freezer and I’m feeling comfortable with what the berry can and cannot do in a dish. Earlier this month I decided to make salmon poke, the salmon version of the more popular and ubiquitous tuna poke, but I didn’t want it to taste like tuna poke with salmon swapped in for the tuna. What I eventually came up with blends a little bit of Japanese cuisine with Hawaiian cuisine with the Pacific Northwest: salmon poke with huckleberries.


avocado, green onions, soy sauce, furikake, rice vinegar, vegetable oil, huckleberries, tempura crunch, salmon, sesame seeds, lemons



Think the combination of salmon and huckleberries will taste odd? Let me point out that salmon run where the huckleberries grow in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, and that both foods are favorites of the locals – the bears. (If I were a bear, I would eat salmon and huckleberries and huckleberries and salmon all dang day.) When choosing a dressing for my poke recipe, I didn’t want the typical sesame oil in the mix because I feel it can and does overpower both the salmon and the huckleberries. Instead, I opted for ponzu sauce – a combination of soy sauce, lemon juice, and rice vinegar. I like that the lemon works especially well with the salmon and the hucks. You can purchase ponzu sauce from an Asian grocery store, but I find it’s pretty easy and tastier to make your own at home. If you are gluten-free, then definitely make your own ponzu sauce at home – just use tamari instead of soy sauce.

pouring rice vinegar and lemon juice into the soy sauce



A note about the salmon. You really do need to use sashimi-grade salmon in this recipe. Sashimi-grade means that the fish has been frozen down to -20°C/-4°F for at least seven days to kill off any parasites that might exist in the fish flesh. Salmon is particularly prone to parasites. While I always purchase wild salmon, in this instance my fish monger only had farmed Norwegian sashimi-grade salmon, so that’s what I bought. Creamy avocado is a no brainer for salmon poke, but I keep it separate from the actual poke because it puts a green film on everything when mixed in with the other ingredients. If you don’t care, then by all means, mix it in. My preference is to serve the poke on a bed of the avocado to preserve the aesthetics.

dice the salmon

avocado at the ready



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