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one huck of a season

Sunday, September 17th, 2017

Recipe: cold seafood platter

I always thought that my foraging seasons ended because there wasn’t anything left to forage, but this year has been quite different. I stopped looking for porcini, matsutake, and now huckleberries, because I found so many, ran out of space in my refrigerator to store them, was sick of cleaning them, and felt pretty exhausted.


neva knows what i’m talking about



Last weekend, Erin, Erica, Banjo, and I went huckleberry picking at ML1 – Mother Lode 1. It was better than the last two years (which totally sucked), but not nearly as good as 2014 (which was crazy good). After two not-so-great huckleberry years, I was determined to expand our foraging territory based on satellite imagery, terrain, and familiarity with our mountains. On Monday morning, Jeremy and I went to scout out a potential huck patch and hit pay dirt. We named it ML2b and I renamed ML2 as ML2a. Then Wednesday morning I went solo cross country, took a wrong turn, chatted with a couple of really nice moose hunters, got back on track, then found a different huckleberry patch that was loaded with ripe berries. That’s ML2c. Thursday morning, Jeremy accompanied me to explore an unmarked local trail which led us to an enormous huckleberry patch in the most beautiful setting, which I have dubbed ML3. Oh, and the aspens were looking gorgeous in the high country.

orange top aspens

cool mornings under golden light

colorado painted blue and gold

some huckleberry plants are showing off the reds

jeremy at lovely ml3



The weather went from downright scorching hot on Monday to snow by Saturday morning. Fall is in flirt-mode now, so it’s best to pack layers and hats and gloves when you’re going to be in the high country all day. But I really love this time of year when the temperature is hovering right at freezing as you trudge up the mountain, your trail runners and pant legs knocking the light layer of snow off the brush with each step. The sun actually feels GOOD instead of oppressive when the weather cools down. Erin and I went to pick at two of the three new locations (ran out of time to hit the third one – too many berries to pick) and spent several hours gathering enormous, ripe huckleberries while discussing our solutions to the world’s problems and giving Banjo treats, ear rubs, and butt scratches between his naps in the shade (he’s fluffy, he was plenty warm).

rainbow from my deck saturday morning (our huck patches were at the other end of it!)

snow in the high country

snow melts off the huckleberry plants

erin and banjo surrounded by hucks



It was Jeremy’s birthday this past week, so between all of the huckleberry scouting and picking and shuffling about in the refrigerator, I managed to make him noodles on his actual birthday. It’s a Chinese tradition to eat noodles on your birthday for long life, but instead of Chinese noodles, we went with linguine and clams. It’s legit. I checked with grandma years ago and she said, “Yeah, any noodles will do as long as you don’t break them.” But when the weekend rolled around, I prepared the REAL birthday surprise – a cold seafood platter – because Jeremy loves loves loves sea critters.

ready to celebrate!



The inspiration for this cold seafood platter came from all of those beautiful cheeseboards I see on Instagram. Gaby Dalkin is totally to blame for her cheesy gorgeousness. Thing is, I am not a cheese person… but I DO like seafood. If you replace all the cheeses with shellfish and crustaceans and the crackers with sauces, it’s almost the same thing. Okay, not really. Actually, I think it’s better. What’s lovely about platters is that you put whatever you darn well please on them. I also included an array of dipping sauces. Because the seafood is served cold, I omitted melted butter and opted for lighter, more summery dippers like chimichurri, garlic lemon aioli, cocktail sauce, mignonette sauce (for the oysters), and ponzu for the scallop crudo. Since the chimichurri and mignonette need a few hours for the flavors to meld, you should make those first.

parsley, red wine vinegar, black pepper, oregano, salt, red pepper flakes, garlic, olive oil

chopped garlic and parsley

mix it all together

let stand at room temperature for a few hours

mignonette: shallots, sugar, salt, white pepper, unseasoned rice vinegar, white vinegar

mix together

let sit for 4 hours in the refrigerator



**Jump for more butter**

with intention

Sunday, September 3rd, 2017

Recipe: matsutake tempura

I’m delighted to finally flip my calendar to September! Even though it typically gets hotter over Labor Day weekend before the mountains give it up to the autumn chill (and this year was no exception), I welcome September with open arms. Here in the high country, we run late getting around to spring and summer, but are rather punctual when it comes to autumn, and even early on winter – thank goodness! That’s definitely why I feel my summers are crammed full of activities, because true summer is short in the mountains and it’s when everything seems to happen.


neva is more cuddly when she gets lots of exercise

a field of pearly everlasting as the sun drops



A few weeks ago I took a mountain biking class in Boulder, because I wanted to reduce my chances of crashing into things. Something the instructors said over and over was, “…with intention – as in life, as with everything.” They wanted our actions on the bike to be intentional – to ride the bike instead of letting the bike take us for a ride. But I really liked the non-bike part of that, too: WITH INTENTION. It really does apply to everything. Take mushrooms for example.

I’m not the type of person who feels a compulsion to put every single mushroom I find in my mouth. You may laugh, but so many new people on mycological forums seem hellbent on not doing their homework and getting themselves into the hospital or even the grave. I’m selective about the mushrooms I forage and I’m careful about the ones I drop in my bag. Jeremy and I have established a rule that unless you are 100% certain of the mushroom you are inspecting, it does not go into the bag (and potentially into someone’s gut). Just about every variety I forage has an imposter that could make you sick or kill you. I first learned to hunt porcini with an incredibly knowledgeable and careful forager. From there, I have happily stumbled across chanterelles and morels and oyster mushrooms on my many hours spent hiking the mountain forests. But for the first time ever, I set out to find a mushroom I had never seen before, did my homework, went straight to a place that seemed like the ideal environment, and found that mushroom. We found a lot of them. Right place. Right time. Right on. With intention.


hello, you shy beautiful mushroom

behold the matsutake



The name matsutake means pine mushroom (matsu = pine, take = mushroom) and yeah, the name is Japanese. This underground wonder smells strongly of spicy cinnamon (red hots candies, to be specific), with a helping of pine resin and funk, and is highly coveted in Japan. Theirs is a brown matsutake which grows in Asia. Ours is a white matsutake, also called American matsutake. They are delicious cousins. Matsutake differ from all of the other mushrooms I forage because they grow underground, only popping above the forest floor when they are relatively mature. But looking for subtle mounds in the forest duff (we call them shrumps = shroom + humps) can reveal matsutake or a whole host of other mushroom species, some toxic. You have to look at the identifying characteristics and give it a good whiff. Erin and I pulled an itty bitty mushroom that looked just like a matsutake, but had no odor. NOT a matsutake and hence, does not go into the bag. Rules.

it’s a party!

a girl gets her matsutake

as they get bigger, the veil breaks, revealing the gills



There’s a lot that happens in my brain the moment I find a new edible mushroom. There is pure joy over the “proof of existence” and that huge adrenaline rush at having found it. Then I start to wonder if there are more or if this was a sort of fluke single occurrence. You always want to find more, not simply because cooking a lonely single mushroom is a bit of a sad thing, but to see the different stages and forms that this specific mushroom takes as well as the varying environments it can inhabit. If there are a lot of them, you learn which ones are more desirable (clean and worm-free are desirable to me) and which ones to leave alone to do their mushroom jobs. And then there is the question of how to cook the mushrooms. Most of the others are no-brainers: mushroom meet butter and skillet. But the matsutake is not like most other mushrooms. The last thing you want to do is mask the delicate cinnamony-piney flavor. So I went with the other no-brainer for mushrooms: tempura. Japanese cooking technique with a Japanese mushroom? Sounds about right.

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

wipe the tops clean with a damp cloth

gently peel the outer layer of the stipe

slice



**Jump for more butter**

cooking with mom

Sunday, August 6th, 2017

Recipe: chinese buddha’s hand melon (chayote) salad

Is there anyone else out there who feels they can’t leave on a trip without first cleaning the house? Because I’m one of those people. In the past, we would clean the house when we had guests coming over or when we left on a trip. Now, because we split our time between Nederland and Crested Butte – I find myself cleaning both houses more than I ever wanted. I just hate coming home to a mess, so this is present me doing future me a favor. But last week after spending the whole weekend in hunter education and then coming home to do laundry, clean house, and pack for Crested Butte – it was a miracle that we were able to leave at all. In fact, I didn’t think we were ever going to get out of our neighborhood because we went back to the house three times for four different things we had forgotten, but remembered just as we headed down the street.


we made it to crested butte and we were greeted by this

found some lovely porcini

still quite early, but a few chanterelle patches were popping up

and lots of amanitas (poisonous, but beautiful) are a good sign



On our latest trail run, I decided to get a little more climbing in and ran the same route as Jeremy – just slower and not as far. My goal was to reach the first basin and turn around, but because Jeremy and I have different ideas of what a stream crossing is, I ran up out of the basin thinking the NEXT basin was my target until I met Jeremy as he was running down. Well, I’m glad I did because I saw a black bear on my climb! We only ever catch glimpses of black bears, mainly because they don’t want any trouble and are quick to avoid people. In addition to the bear sighting, I heard a couple of grouse, ate some wild raspberries and wild strawberries (so good!), and stopped to admire the wildflowers and views.

this is why i trail run



Foraging and trail running are two things we generally try to avoid doing with Neva. On those days, we’ll take her for a fetch session or a bike ride – something high energy and fun, but quick. And then days like today, we’ll take a rest morning and make it all about Neva. She got to fetch and swim at the lake, go for a hike, fetch and swim some more, go paddling – which involves more swim-fetch, and then a few more fetches while Jeremy packed up the paddle boards. You don’t think she’s spoiled, do you?

on our hike

diving off the paddle board to get her ball



Two weeks ago, I had my parents come up to my house to make and shoot a couple of their recipes with me. A week prior, I had tasked them with writing up the recipes and emailing them to me so I could review the recipes and plan the shopping list. As some of you may recall, my parents don’t use “recipes”. Mom is far more obliging than Dad and will give it her best effort when translating a dish into writing. Dad is practically a lost cause because he’ll write down a recipe, all the while declaring that he doesn’t NEED a recipe, and then proceed to change it twenty different ways *while* you are cooking according to said recipe. I know this is payback for my teenage years.

shopping with mom for buddha’s hand melons (chayote)



Today’s recipe is a crunchy, refreshing salad that my mom likes to make in summer. I am totally hooked on it and when the days are hot, I could eat a whole batch in one sitting for dinner. Buddha’s hand melon, also known as chayote, is a vegetable that you can eat raw or cooked. I’ve always seen them in the Asian markets, but never knew what to do with them. Mom’s preparation involves salting the sliced melon, and then tossing it with a sweet and sour dressing. Simple.

buddha’s hand melons, fresh ginger, sugar, salt, vinegar, chili garlic paste (not pictured: sesame oil)



First, you’ll need to peel the outer skin off the melons. You can use a sharp knife or a potato peeler. They can get slippery, so do watch your fingers! Don’t worry about peeling the bottoms as you’ll trim those after you slice the melons in half. The core of the melon is tougher than the meat of the melon, so we slice the melon around the core.

peel the skin

cut away any remaining skin from the ends

begin slicing the melon flesh around the core

discard the core



**Jump for more butter**