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archive for appetizers

it’s a feeling

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

Recipe: vietnamese fried spring rolls (cha gio)

All signs point to “Back to School”. Crested Butte seemed to be emptying out this past weekend and our trail run Monday morning was particularly devoid of the usual summer gamut of hikers, runners, and bikers. We are now back home in the Front Range, navigating around freshmen and their parents as they arrive at the university. Folks are wrapping up their summer vacations and the commuter buses will be running at capacity once again. We spied a single aspen that had gone gold amidst a sea of green on our drive from Crested Butte to Nederland. Someone always jumps the gun, but fall is not far off for the mountains where splashes of red and yellow are already dotting the understory like little jewels. Speaking of little jewels, we’re seeing many wild berries ripening in the high country, too!


raspberries

my favorites: huckleberries

wild strawberries



The berries I find in the mountains are precious to me. No one tends to these plants. No one waters them. No one protects them from pests. No one throws blankets over them when there is an overnight freeze. And yet these wild and hardy plants produce the most intensely flavored little fruits. Treasures. When you explore the mountains year-round, you gain an appreciation for the struggles that all mountain life endures – especially when you pop a perfectly sweet and tart sun-warmed berry into your mouth. It is a short-lived berry season. The approach of fall looms large as my mind turns back to the kitchen, where it is starting to feel comfortable enough to cook. Let’s make some Vietnamese spring rolls or cha gio.

ground pork, shrimp, carrot, bean thread (cellophane) noodles, salt, pepper, egg, garlic, shallot, fish sauce, rice paper



While I love fresh Vietnamese spring rolls, I am a huge sucker for crisp fried things. That’s probably part of my motivation to keep active! The first time I had the fried Vietnamese spring rolls, was when our Vietnamese server misunderstood my order for grilled pork bun (rice noodle vermicelli) and brought me the grilled pork and egg roll combo bun instead. SO GOOD! I didn’t know such a thing existed.

chop the cellophane noodles with scissors

the filling: chopped cellophane noodles, minced shallots, shredded carrot, ground pork, chopped shrimp, fish sauce, beaten egg, salt, pepper, minced garlic

place all of the filling ingredients in a bowl

mix it together



**Jump for more butter**

keep on rolling

Sunday, August 10th, 2014

Recipe: tamagoyaki (rolled omelette) and chirashi bowl

The overnight low temperature read 33°F on our deck in Crested Butte on Saturday night. That’s just ONE degree above freezing. I am overjoyed. As we said our good-byes this evening at our annual neighborhood picnic, I noticed everyone had donned their fleece or down jackets. Despite warm (70s) temperatures in Crested Butte during the day, it is deliciously cool when the sun drops low in the sky. You can feel it – the turn that summer takes in the high country when it’s no longer hot from day to night, but hot and cool. A subtle change, but you feel the presence and some of us get a little giddy.


our lovely view on our hike

a carpet of huckleberry plants



Going from Nederland to Crested Butte has me shifting gears. There is a whole different set of trails to run, hike, or forage. Weather patterns are different. And instead of photographing towering moose who could charge me and my camera equipment in an instant, I am stalking adorable beavers swimming recreational laps in their lakes who pose zero threat to anyone who isn’t a tree.

two beavers paddling about like it’s adult swim

moseying along the shoreline



Shortly after we got our place in Crested Butte last year, our favorite sushi bar in town shut its doors for good. Jeremy was pretty heartbroken, but living in Colorado mountain towns, you get used to either doing without or doing it yourself. If it’s food-related, I generally go for the latter. As sushi goes, some recipes come down to whether or not you can source an ingredient. However, there are items you can make from pretty basic ingredients. One of my favorites is tamagoyaki, a Japanese rolled egg omelette.

you will need eggs, mirin, sugar, salt, and dashi (or instant dashi granules)



You can purchase tamagoyaki frozen from some Asian grocery stores, but I have yet to find one that tastes good. My local sushi bar in Boulder makes it in house and it is excellent. There are different levels of effort for producing these omelettes from a plain old egg sheet to a rolled omelette to a fancy one with fish. I decided to try my hand at the basic rolled omelette. For dashi, you can make your own (beyond the scope of this post), use liquid dashi concentrate, or use hondashi instant dashi granules. (I add one teaspoon of granules to a cup of boiling water to yield one cup.)

pour the dashi into the salt and sugar

add the mirin

beat the eggs in a medium bowl

beat in the dashi mixture



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always learning

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Recipe: chinese chive turnovers (he zi)

Ahhhhh, finally finally finally, the much awaited cool down arrived. It was no longer sheer misery to run or hike or even stand outside. To celebrate, I put my trail runners on and headed out early Monday morning. I never take a cool weather day for granted! The wildflowers are still going strong, but they are different flowers from a month ago. Asters, fireweed, harebells, and columbine are all out in force now. I spotted another moose too, this time a female (cow), but she was but a speck in the distance by the time I got my iphone out. On my non-run days, I hike the trails to stretch my legs and check on my huckleberries. I say “my” huckleberries because I feel like we’re all good friends by now. And I’m still naming the porcini I find because there are so very few… well, thus far there have been all of two.


me in a field of noxious weeds (ox-eye daisies?)

the single ripe huckleberry, which i ate

a lone, handsome porcini named claudio



A large storm system has been sitting over us for a couple of days, delivering a lot of rain and much cooler temperatures. That’s both good (we need it) and bad (we don’t need it all at once, please!). So far there hasn’t been any major flooding – whew! I rather love the dreary, rainy days. It takes the edge off of summer for me and makes me feel like cooking again. Last week, I had asked my parents about a Chinese snack my Grandma used to make and they immediately rattled off how to make them. I translated their instructions into recipe form. It’s one thing to know how to make something, it’s something else entirely to communicate how to make it to someone who may or may not know how to cook. They called me the next day and excitedly informed me that when I came to see them later, they would demo how to make the snacks. It was really cute.

team effort

“daddy will show you how to do this right”



These are known as Chinese chive turnovers or jiu cai he zi. Chinese chives (or Chinese leeks) have a wonderfully garlicky flavor to them. They are some of my favorite Chinese greens. You can find them in Asian grocery stores that have well-stocked produce sections. Since my parents didn’t have any on hand, they used Napa cabbage and pork for the filling, but I got the gist of it. The pastry is made from a hot water dough similar to the kind you use for Chinese dumplings. Traditionally, the turnovers are made with Chinese chives, egg, and sometimes pork and sometimes glass noodles (mung bean thread noodles). They don’t have to be turnovers either. My parents demoed the pancake style, which is equally delicious. I’ll show you how to make both.

chinese chives, full of garlicky goodness

chinese chives, salt, ground pork, flour, sesame oil, soy sauce, vegetable oil (for frying)



**Jump for more butter**