quince jam shrimp and vegetable tempura posole huckleberry panna cotta

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Sunday, October 16th, 2016

Recipe: shrimp and vegetable tempura

I’m trying to make the most of shoulder season – that period between summer season activities and winter season activities. Autumn is glorious, but it can also be a little frustrating with the back and forth between hot weather and snow. It’s far too sketchy for any skiing that won’t result in massive gouges on the bottoms of our skis. Hiking and trail running up high is a bit sloppy with the diurnal melt and freeze. We’re making due with whatever exercise we can get right now, all in the hopes that we won’t be sucking wind when we finally slap those skis on. Plus, Neva doesn’t care WHAT the season is nor WHAT the weather is doing, she just loves to be outside.

squiggly aspens

jeremy and neva after an icy hike up to the lake

My parents are back in Colorado for a couple of weeks to sample a season other than summer. They are not fans of winter and snow, and I’ve warned them that crazy (i.e. snowy) weather can happen any time between October and May, but they took the chance. Luckily, the snow has stayed up here in the mountains. It happened to be Dad’s birthday last week and the plan was to have my folks up to our house for a celebratory dinner. But Dad’s back was acting up and I didn’t want him driving the canyon, so we prepped as much as we could and then brought dinner down to cook at my parents’ place in Boulder. When I entertain, I typically plan the menu and let Jeremy pick the wines to pair. But whenever I cook for my parents, Dad picks the wines he wants to serve and I create the menu around the wines.

happy birthday, dad!

As darkness encroaches on both ends of the day, we find Neva requesting dinner earlier and earlier in the evenings. The orbit of the Earth around the Sun is messing with her internal doggy clock pea-brain. I have no idea how she’s going to deal with Daylight Saving ending in November. It’s a bit of an adjustment for me, too. More so for Jeremy. It seems we also cue on the daylight for dinnertime – eating as late as 10 pm in the summer, which I don’t really like. One of the positives of the winter months is that I feel good about eating dinner at 7 pm and having a few hours after dinner to digest. We also find ourselves dining out less in the darker months. I think that’s partly because we’re getting older and partly because I can cook some meals better at home for less than it costs to go out to eat. Jeremy and I still love to go out for sushi since it’s hard to source that much variety in fresh sushi-grade fish at home, but I have given up on ordering tempura because I find it far easier to make my own using my favorite ingredients for the dish.

kabocha squash, enoki mushrooms, broccolini, lotus root, shrimp

ice water, baking soda, egg, flour, mirin, hondashi, sugar, soy sauce

**Jump for more butter**

so long, summer

Sunday, August 28th, 2016

Recipe: honey sriracha japanese fried chicken karaage

I know most of you are groaning about summer’s end. The good news is that the majority of you summer lovers are still enjoying summer where you live. The even better news is that summer is fast becoming a faded memory here in the mountains! The overnight temperatures have brought frosts to the rooftops in my neighborhood and fresh dustings of snow to the high country. A crisp chill on the morning air rejuvenates me from the stupor of summer’s seemingly relentless heat. Long-sleeves are no longer optional at night. Fall is my favorite season – so spectacular and yet so fleeting in our mountains. And then comes the long winter, which is never really long enough for folks who like to glide on snow. Autumn is full of activity and colors and anticipation and acceptance.

neva and jeremy pause in front of mount neva

ducks diving for food – tails up!

the majestic moose

a leaping pika with forage for its winter hay pile

another pika with a flower in its mouth

so cute, i can’t even!

Cooler weather puts a spring in my step. I start checking my ski gear even though actual skiing may be more than two months away. The big camera lenses get shipped out for maintenance before the fall shoot. Maps are strewn about the living room for backpacking plans. And of course, recipes that have been put on hold over the summer (because it was too hot to think let alone cook) are perused with renewed interest. Shortly after our awesome trip to Steamboat Springs in January, I made a note to myself to reproduce the JFC we enjoyed at Yama. JFC – Japanese fried chicken or chicken karaage – is delicate, crunchy, juicy, and tender with Asian flavors. What I liked about Yama’s version was how the fried chicken was tossed in a honey sriracha sauce which turned the whole thing into a flavor bomb in my mouth.

make the chicken karaage: soy sauce, sake, potato starch, sugar, ginger, garlic, chicken thighs

It’s a quick marinade to make and the chicken marinates for an hour or more. While the restaurant version brines the chicken in buttermilk and miso, I opted for a recipe that was ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and sake because that’s what I had in my cupboards. To make this gluten-free, substitute tamari for soy sauce. If you can’t find potato starch you can use corn starch, but it won’t result in the same crispness when fried. You will probably have better luck getting potato starch from an Asian market, but Bob’s Red Mill potato starch is available at stores like Whole Foods. (I use potato starch when making strawberry daifuku mochi.)

grate the ginger

mise en place

combine the ginger, garlic, sugar, sake, and soy sauce

add the chicken

marinate for at least an hour

**Jump for more butter**

racing the sun

Sunday, July 24th, 2016

Recipe: hamachi yellowtail crudo

We’ve lived in the mountains of Colorado for eleven years now. When we first arrived, a week of truly hot weather was about all one could expect of the summer months. Over the years, those temperatures are trending hotter and sticking around longer in summer. I should note that we are particularly observant of hot weather because WE HATE IT. So it was with great joy that we welcomed the return of the monsoon last week. That stupid high pressure cell that was sitting on top of us (and fanning the flames of that wildfire) shifted east so that moisture from the Gulf of Mexico (south of us) could deliver the goods in the form of rain and thunderstorms.

composite lightning strikes

lightning at sunset

rainbows, the marriage of sun and rain

Oddly, after a few good soaking rains, the clouds have been building up and then fizzling out. We can see rain over neighboring canyons and ridges, but there seems to be a giant sucker hole (blue hole in a sky of clouds) over our neighborhood at any given time. We don’t have air conditioning at our house, so we work hard to cool it at night and keep it as cool as possible during the sun’s march across the sky. Just today, Jeremy and I discussed the logistics of getting an evaporative cooler installed before next summer. It is most efficient in arid climates and it’s much cheaper to run than air conditioning.

For now, we are sucking it up and continuing with our summer schedule of trail runs, hikes, and paddles. The higher you climb, the cooler it is – at least if the atmosphere is adiabatic, which it kind of is (Jeremy says to disregard water vapor). The high country is beautiful right now. Lush, green carpets splattered with colorful wildflowers and lingering snowfields paint these rocky mountains above the dark mantles of conifer forests. We are running farther and climbing higher, racing against the season and racing ourselves. Actually, that’s only half true. Jeremy is racing against himself. I’m not racing anyone. I’m noodling along and stopping to look for mushrooms or checking on the progress of the huckleberries, snapping selfies and photos along the way, shouting hello to Mr. Rabbit so I don’t go startling Ms. Moose. This is why we run separately. But it’s nice when our two routes overlap and we can say hi.

after a steep climb, i wait for jeremy to arrive from the other side of the ridge

off days are meant for hikes with neva

jeremy refuels on the trail during his 17-miler

hiking with erin and banjo

paintbrush come in so many beautiful colors

lunch with a view at king lake

We still have two months of summer remaining, and yet it’s already impossible to do all the things we had hoped to accomplish before the next season moves in. I suppose you could say that just leaves more for next summer. Something I did manage to check off my list was making hamachi (yellowtail) crudo with finger lime pearls. I’ve been waiting until I could order some from Shanley Farms when the season started at the end of June and I finally got some!

radishes, orange oil, togarashi, vegetable oil, orange, flake sea salt, finger limes, hamachi (not pictured: ponzu sauce)

I first heard of finger limes when a friend in Australia asked if I had seen them here in the States. I hadn’t. These were originally discovered growing wild in Australia and have since slowly made their way to the U.S. To open the finger lime, I scored the rind around the middle and broke it open. Rolling the end of one half between my finger tips, the little pearls tumble out of their tight-packed quarters. It’s incredible, really. Each little pearl bursts with the tart juice of a lime when bitten. I figured these would be great with hamachi crudo because I wanted the acidity of the lime without the raw fish cooking on contact as it would with lime juice. Obviously, finger limes aren’t everywhere available (yet), so if you don’t have any, then just use a regular squeeze of lime juice just before serving.

score the rind around the middle and break the finger lime open

roll one end between your fingertips and watch the caviar fall out

completely empty!

pink pearls (sometimes they are other colors like green or yellow)

**Jump for more butter**