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recharging

Sunday, October 5th, 2014

Recipe: thai fried squid

Sucker holes are those enticing blue spots that occasionally make an appearance through stormy or overcast skies. I learned that terminology from Jeremy a couple of decades ago. Sucker holes. It’s what we’d identify while backpacking or hiking the high country, indicating a thinning of clouds, perhaps even clearing skies. But the reason they are called sucker holes is because they give you hope for better weather. The nomenclature seems particularly apt for nature photographers. Clouds sloshing about in the turbulent atmosphere open and close the windows to the blue skies above. We chase them in the hopes of capturing something magical.


dark stormy mammatocumulus clouds over a rainbow



The storm system that swept over Colorado delivered a nice infusion of snow to our mountains. Many of the ski resorts reported several inches as they began snow-making operations for the season. Forecasts all pointed to sunny and clear weather for about a week after the system passed. That’s good news for people who like that kind of weather, but rather dull news for photographers. I packed up and shipped out, driving back to Crested Butte via back roads.

a nice dump of snow for early october

my version of church

standing under aspens as leaves rain down

freshly fallen leaves on freshly fallen snow at my feet



Fall photography benefits tremendously from flexibility in one’s schedule, because the leaves, the atmosphere, and all of the other ingredients are going to chug along at their own pace. I emailed Jeremy that I was tired and wrapping up for the season. He drove out from Boulder to Crested Butte for the weekend to help me pack up and get our place ready for winter. It just so happened that my friend and mentor, Michael Frye, emailed me from the road that he and Claudia were Colorado-bound to chase some aspens and did I have any aspen reports. I convinced them to swing through Crested Butte and spend a night with us so we could talk fall colors and show them around the area, but also because they are such a delightful and fun couple.

a little color over crested butte at sunset

jeremy was craving secret stash pizza

a much needed trail run with happy cattle to boot

aspens winding down



Jeremy is always bummed to leave Crested Butte, because it is his Very Happy Place. I’m sad to leave, too, but I am quite happy to go home to Nederland. Our favorite neighbors will be returning from their summer season in Canada, there are projects planned with various friends, I look forward to seasonal produce at my favorite markets in Boulder, and I can cook out of my #1 kitchen once more! So while I’m on the road home, you can consider this recipe for Thai fried squid (calamari). It’s my parents’ go-to appetizer when we dine out at the local Vietnamese restaurant in Boulder.

squid tubes and tentacles, egg white, salt, pepper, cornstarch



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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



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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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