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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**

i’m just getting started

Sunday, August 27th, 2017

Recipe: porcini elk sausage tortellini in beef porcini brodo

After the eclipse, Jeremy and I gathered Neva and her snacks and drove out to Crested Butte once more before the semester gets underway this week. It’s nice to travel lonely mountain roads again. Most of the summer vacationers are done exploring Colorado’s mountainous western half, leaving it to locals and retirees and full-time nomads. The town of Crested Butte has quieted down, too, such that there is parking along Elk Avenue (the main drag) and nary a hiker on the trails. But there is plenty going on with or without visitors. Lower elevation wildflowers are looking tired and haggard now – the result of showing off for so many weeks, but the high country still holds stunning pockets of wildflowers in late August thanks to regular summer rains. And our summer storms continue to flirt with the sun and create dramatic skies and stunning rainbows. Crested Butte is Rainbowtown.


jeremy and neva above copper lake

the array of wildflowers at 11,700 feet

full double rainbow next to crested butte mountain

a rainbow and sunset lit virga from our deck (where we were grilling dinner)



Handfuls of yellow and red aspen leaves litter the starts of our hikes as if some carefree party goer dropped their celebratory confetti on their tipsy walk home. I’m not posting any photos just yet (although I did shoot some) because I don’t want you summer lovers to start freaking out… But winter is totally coming! Despite the warm sunny days, our mountain evenings have grown nice and cool with morning frost on the neighbors’ rooftops and cars. I sleep with the window open at night and wake in the morning, pulling the covers up around my face and wrapping an arm around Neva as she snuggles cozily between me and Jeremy instead of petitioning for breakfast. I feel as if the ragged pace of summer is coming to an end.

And yet the mushrooms keep happening and I can’t help but look for them. I think Colorado is experiencing an epic king (porcini) season – a very long, widespread, and good flush. Other varieties are doing well, too. I mistakenly expected the chanterelles to go big this month, but I think my previous two seasons were anomalies (the first was very early and the second was really crappy except for one amazing location). They have been all around, but I’m starting to see them come up in earnest now.


hello, my pretties

still on the small side, but looking good

porcini going strong



Summer is my season to slack off from cooking, but all of these mushrooms make me want to get back into the kitchen to try some new recipes. Considering the quantity of porcini I’ve collected, I have loaded up on frozen sautéed slices and dried slices, and still had fresh ones to address. The worst thing you could do as a forager is pluck choice wild mushrooms and allow them to languish in the refrigerator. I fell asleep at night rolling recipe ideas over in my brain that infiltrated my dreams. That’s nothing new, I always dream about food. I had fresh porcini, dried porcini, and elk Italian sausage (a gift from two of my favorite neighbors in Crested Butte, one of whom hunts!) – that screamed pasta to me. Tortellini. Porcini elk Italian sausage tortellini in beef porcini brodo (broth) to be precise. I mean, if you’re going to incorporate some hard-to-come-by ingredients, why not make a pasta you’ve never made before? I’ll tell you now, so you don’t have to wonder, it was a complete hit and I served it to my mom for her home-cooked birthday dinner.

When you cook food from scratch, there is an enormous amount of flexibility in the ingredients and flavors you can incorporate. You also have the option of taking shortcuts if you simply don’t have the time or ability to make every component yourself. I say it is all good. The first step is to make the beef stock. It takes a little effort to prep and roast the ingredients, and a lot of time to cook the stock – about 6 hours at barely a simmer. If you cook your own beef stock, start the day before. I was tempted to speed up the process by chucking everything into my pressure cooker, but I wanted to try and make a clear stock this time for aesthetics. Boiling, which is what the pressure cooker does at higher pressure, turns it cloudy. Maybe in the future I’ll go the pressure cooker way, and it is also completely okay to simply purchase beef stock, just get a good quality one.


olive oil, beef chuck, beef marrow bones, carrot, celery tops, onion, garlic, peppercorns, bay leaf

prepped

toss the carrots, onions, and beef with olive oil

roast the bones, meat, carrots, and onions



**Jump for more butter**

all mushrooms all the time

Monday, August 14th, 2017

Recipe: porcini tacos

It’s getting to be ridiculous – all of these mushrooms popping up in the mountains! What I mean is that this summer’s mushroom flush is simultaneously wonderful and crazy. As a resident of the mountains, a good mushroom flush means we’ve been getting a nice helping of summer rains. Summer rains keep the wildfires at bay and instead of hearing “crunch crunch crackle” when you walk through the woods, it’s a softer sound underfoot indicative of the previous day’s afternoon showers. We are seeing so many varieties of mushrooms popping up that it’s hard not to marvel at the diversity of life. Diversity in a natural setting makes for a healthier whole. Diversity is important and holds greater value than our short-sighted human brains can possibly imagine. I don’t want just ONE kind of mushroom growing in my mountains. I don’t want ONE kind of corn to be grown on our farms. I don’t want ONE kind of dog to be raised in our society. And I definitely don’t think one race or gender or sexuality or religion should reign supreme in my country. As my favorite guy commented, “…a monoculture in any setting is weak, boring, sad, and lonely.” Diversity matters.


my favorite guy finding some chanterelles

a beautifully squat and solid porcini

a party of amanitas (bezerkers) which are gorgeous and poisonous



So far, it’s been a banner year for porcini and chanterelles and the season isn’t even close to being done! Last year was so dry and depressing that I was happy to observe any kind of mushroom popping out of the ground this summer. Sure, I am always snapping trophy shots of those mushrooms we covet (those choice edibles), but they are ALL beautiful and fascinating to me. I know a dozen edible mushrooms and a handful of poisonous or deadly mushrooms and then a few more species that fall somewhere in between (sort of tasty, not so tasty, taste terrible, can make you sick), but it’s quite amazing to happen upon a small patch of forest floor that is erupting in mushrooms, no matter the type. It’s good to see life flourish and thrive. Everybody plays a part, whether they (or we) know it or not.

not bad for a morning’s effort

teensy delicate fairy inkcaps growing out of the moss on a boulder

our ruddy rocky mountain porcini are boletus rubriceps

i named this one arturo

neva inspects a perfect little bouchon



Summer is the season I recommend most of our friends come to visit us, because it’s the “nicest” weather and easiest passage in the mountains. But I’ve come to the conclusion that I should modify “summer” with “summer, except when the mushrooms flush”. I know most people think mushroom season means you go for a leisurely hike, find some perfect mushrooms, skip back home, and cook up a gourmet feast to eat. I think that’s the dilettante’s way of mushroom foraging. No, we are a little more serious than that. We watch rain history, check old patches, recon on and off trail – and that’s all BEFORE the flush. Once the mushrooms go, it’s a bit of frenzy to cover a lot of terrain, collect responsibly, field dress (clean and cut out any wormy bits and worms), process the mushrooms at home (true cleaning and dealing with all the worms you didn’t get in the field), preserve (dry or cook/freeze), and in my case – test and shoot recipes. It feels like my life for the past three weeks has been all mushrooms, all the time. But it’s worth it when I pull a bag of chanterelles out of the freezer in February.

But today’s recipe is best made with fresh mushrooms. I’m using fresh porcini here. You can use any mushroom you fancy. We’re going to beer-batter thick slices of porcini, deep fry them, and serve the slices in a taco. You could use milk instead of beer, but I really prefer beer in the batter – it makes for a tastier fry. Ready?


beer (or use milk, but really… beer), flour, salt, baking powder, and a mushroom

slicing the mushroom and removing the yellow pores from the cap (a little wormy and can be bitter)

whisk the flour, salt, and baking powder together



**Jump for more butter**