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the in between

Sunday, November 26th, 2017

Recipe: shabu shabu (japanese hot pot)

I hope all of my friends who celebrate Thanksgiving had a lovely holiday last week. The university combines Fall Break and Thanksgiving to give a week off from classes, which means Jeremy can work from home. But which home? Well, it always depends on who has better snow come early season – the Front Range or Crested Butte? Both resorts and Nordic centers were looking pretty bleak, so we opted for Crested Butte in the hopes that the backcountry would have some cover.

We were able to ski tour and uphill ski, but we didn’t bother skate skiing as the snow was rather thin in town. For the most part we skied, worked, did some house maintenance, and kept our holiday low key. Crested Butte was especially quiet with more than half of the restaurants closed or on reduced hours for shoulder season until December. With so many locals off to visit families over the week, I stepped in to help someone with meals and dog care. I mean, that’s part of Thanksgiving – the giving.


enjoying lovely trails right after crested butte nordic had groomed

top of the climb on donation day

a 3 month old puppy runs up to say hi

feeling much gratitude for this life with this guy



Instead of turkey, I made sous vide pork chops (an hour in the sous vide and four minutes finished with a pan sear). The only thing that resembled a turkey was Neva’s Thanksgiving meal, which was made of raw beef, cheese, carrot, a strip of ham for the wattle, and two nonpareils sprinkles for the eyes.

neva’s thanksgiving “turkey”

eyes on jeremy as she waits for her release word



You can watch Neva eat her Thanksgiving plate on Instagram, because who doesn’t love to watch a dog eat an animal made of other foods?

Now that Thanksgiving is over, the clock is ticking ever louder as The Holidays approach. I basically have three weeks to figure out how I will turn butter, chocolate, flour, eggs, and sugar into a mess of gifts for Jeremy’s administrative staff, our local service folk, my oncology department, and friends. I don’t celebrate Christmas, but I do think the start of winter is a fine time to let people know how much they are appreciated. The trick is to get that and everything else on my to do list done!

While I would prefer more consistently cold weather and some (actually, a lot) of snow, it’s cool enough that we have been enjoying hot soups, stews, multi-hour simmered sauces, and hot pot. I grew up eating Chinese hot pot on chilly evenings, but it wasn’t until I went out with a girlfriend to a shabu shabu restaurant that I realized shabu shabu was another form of hot pot – Japanese hot pot. There are a lot of similarities in the ingredients, although I must admit the Japanese version is so much cuter. I wasn’t able to source all of the ingredients in the original recipe, but hot pot is more like a set of guidelines, so I went with what I could find and what I had on hand.


tofu, flank steak, enoki and matsutake mushrooms, scallions, napa cabbage, carrot, kombu (dried kelp)

soak the kombu in water



The broth starts with a piece of kombu soaking in water in your hot pot vessel (I use an electric wok here). It needs to soak for at least 30 minutes, so you may as well do that first and then make your sauce and prep your ingredients. There are actually two dipping sauces you can serve with your shabu shabu: a sesame sauce and ponzu. I made the sesame sauce, and it’s as simple as measuring out the ingredients, grating a clove of garlic, and stirring everything together. Nice.

mirin, rice vinegar, sake, sesame oil, canola oil, ponzu, tahini, miso, sugar, garlic

grate the garlic

stir everything together

smooth sesame sauce



**Jump for more butter**

the end of madness

Sunday, September 10th, 2017

Recipe: peach fritters

On Labor Day, we rose well before the sun and packed ourselves and Neva into the car to beat the holiday mass exodus from the mountains east to the Front Range. We were home before noon and able to meet with our friends to check a new area that we suspected would be ideal for matsutakes. We were correct. We found a lot of them. When I still have mushrooms in my refrigerator from the past few forays waiting to be cleaned, I become more selective of the mushrooms I’m willing to take home. Many folks look at the mushrooms on the ground and think “more”, but at that point I was looking at the mushrooms on the ground and thinking “more work”. I have loads of mushrooms squirreled away in my freezer and in my cupboards. The forests had been very good to us this year. I was ready to call it a season, because I was tired.


sunrise out of gunnison

jeremy cleans a matsutake

there were so many mushrooms, it made your brain hurt



The haze from far away wildland fires obscured our views of nearby mountains and the smell of smoke hung heavily on the thick, still air around us. By evening as we hiked out from our successful mushroom hunt, the optical depth of the smoke-laden air had increased to LA riot levels and the sun cast an eerie orange glow on the world. It would be several days of keeping ourselves and Neva from participating in our usual outdoor exertions, but the air – while less than ideal – is considerably better now. At some point this past week, I decided that I was ready to move on from mushrooms to my one true love… huckleberries. Huckleberries are a great way to end my foraging season because they don’t have worms, they are easy to process and freeze, and picking them in a squat or crouch for hours on end is getting my body ready for ski season. Win-win-win!

wildfire sunset

improving air quality and loads of wildflowers in the high country

neva would like some huckleberries, please

sunrise through lingering haze



I know in late summer, my posts go heavy on the foraged mushrooms and huckleberries. And while wild mushrooms and huckleberries infiltrate my dreams on a nightly basis (last night’s dream: I was unearthing a matsutake to give to Jon Snow – go figure), I’m aware of the other treasures Colorado has to offer as the aspen leaves start to turn. Olathe sweet corn has been gracing our dinner table for the past several weeks, and don’t forget those Western Slope peaches. When I get my grubby little hands on some Colorado peaches, I first eat them straight up – because it’s been a year. After my craving has been satisfied, I’ll cook up a batch of jam and start thinking of other ways to prepare them. An easy one is peach fritters.

vanilla, bourbon, powdered sugar, salt, baking powder, sugar, flour, cinnamon, butter, peaches, eggs, buttermilk

dice the peaches

mix the dry ingredients

whisk the butter, eggs, and buttermilk together



**Jump for more butter**

of the rain, sun, and earth

Sunday, July 30th, 2017

Recipe: fig vodka infusion and fig blossom cocktail

Right as rain. That phrase used to puzzle me until I started living in the western U.S. Blessed rain is a relief, a cleanser, a gift. It’s like a reset button on all of that heat, the dust, the pollution, the wilted plants, the beleaguered creatures. I can’t tell you how many rainbows I’ve been sighting in the early mornings this past week. Some persist for several minutes and others appear, glow, and diminish in the span of 30 seconds – faster than I can grab my gear. In those instances, I don’t get upset like I used to. I do kick myself a little for missing a great opportunity, but I’ve learned to stop and simply take it in. Those magic moments when Jeremy is still asleep and Neva is sitting politely facing the dog food (her way of asking to eat dinner, which is breakfast or any meal) and there is no other conscious human around with whom to share the beauty… I’ve learned.


managed to capture this one



Jeremy and I planned on a big mileage trail run for a morning that had been forecasted to have overcast skies. By that morning, the forecast had changed to sun and heat and yuck. We scrapped our plans for a run, Neva jumped into the car, and we set off for a hike so everyone could get a little exercise. What was supposed to be a quick two-hour hike turned into a 6-hour forage. Some huckleberry patches were full on ripe, which was a surprise since the last two years totally sucked for huckleberries. I picked a few and offered one to Neva, who knows to actually chew a huckleberry (she doesn’t seem to chew much else, though). The instant she tasted it, she turned to the huckleberry bushes and began to eat them off the plants!

beautiful precious wonderful beloved huckleberries



Erin and I haven’t been able to coordinate a hike yet this summer, but we dutifully exchange trail reports to maximize our coverage and knowledge of The State of the Mushrooms (and huckleberries, but hucks are a separate matter for us). Our neck of the woods has been a late bloomer compared to other parts of the state who have been receiving their monsoonal blessings earlier and more than we have. As Jeremy and I hiked and Neva practically propelled herself up the trail by happily wagging her tail, I thought to myself that it would be nice to find one king – to find my first porcini of the season. Well, I found about eighty and harvested less than half. Talk about a flush. In a week, we went from seeing a few random mushrooms that nobody wants to the kings and queens of the forest fungi. I even found three beautiful patches of chanterelles which I’ve never found on the Front Range before this season (we typically forage them in the Central Mountains).

my beautiful little friend

another perfect bouchon

a party of five (one in the distant upper left and the fifth off camera)

chanterelles emerging

strawberries and cream (not edible, but a favorite for its crazy weirdness and awesome name)

kings and queens: porcini and chanterelles



That was just my share. I gave Erin and Jay the other half of the porcini because they love them and know how to process them, and because I simply didn’t have the time to deal with that many. Foraging has a way of sending summer into a frenzy, especially when you spend the entire weekend in Hunter Education, which we (Jeremy and I) did.

neva is intrigued



Foraging is one of those activities that demands your time up front. You don’t forage when you feel like it, you forage when the mushrooms flush or when the berries are ripe. And you don’t dump them in your refrigerator to rot over the next week or two, you deal with them within a day lest the worms you didn’t dispatch when you field dressed your mushrooms eat through the rest of your prize. It’s irresponsible and unethical to take these treasures from the land and waste them. I suppose I have a similar mindset when I am at Costco. Sometimes Costco carries something special and rare and if you go back the following week, it might be all gone. So you grab one or two packages of those fresh figs in mid summer when you didn’t expect to see them for another month and then you wrack your brain on the drive home thinking of all the fig recipes you had written on your to do list and then you remember the easiest one of all: fig vodka infusion.

fresh figs

figs and vodka (that’s all you need)



**Jump for more butter**