barbecue rib baked beans double apple bundt cake grilled matsutake pheasant chanterelle pot pie


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i know a lot of good apples

Sunday, October 15th, 2017

Recipe: double apple bundt cake

When I first began foraging mushrooms several years ago, I got an idea in my head that it would be cool to dry a perfect slice of porcini mushroom to send to my friend, Sumner of Spotted Dog Farm in Asheville, North Carolina, to make a pendant or bracelet. I’m not a jewelry person, but I do love Sumner’s beautiful botanical resin work, and she said she thought it was a neat custom project to try. For some reason, the porcini in cross section just didn’t appeal to me enough to pursue it. But this past spring, I had collected enough black morels to set aside the cutest and tiniest of my haul to dry. The first two that I dried in our arid Colorado mountain air were lying on their sides, on a plate. I think the sides that were touching the plate dried at a different rate and resulted in somewhat lopsided specimens. The next four I set atop toothpicks a la Game of Thrones so they could dry as symmetrically as possible. I shipped these 6 morels to Sumner, identifying the lopsided ones as “test subjects” and the other four as potential keepers. Over the summer, she made them one by one, perfecting her technique (the morel surface is covered with tiny pits which can create air bubbles in the resin) and last week, she sent me the results!


four little morels set aside to dry

dried (and much smaller)

a morel pendant (with maidenhair fern)

es perfecto!



We weren’t sure how many would turn out in the end, if any at all. But Sumner had two that she thought were the best. I purchased those from her – one for me, one for my foraging pal, Erin. And I told Sumner to keep at least one of the others for herself to wear since she was digging on the mushroom jewelry. It’s just a nerdy little thing, but I love it because it is a permanent tangible record of my mushroom adventures that I can hold in my hand. And it connects me with two mountain women whom I love and admire. I was able to let Erin choose which pendant she wanted over the weekend when we hosted a dinner party for our fellow mountain dwellers. My dinner parties always serve multiple purposes: 1) to cook for and feed my friends 2) to spend time with friends and 3) to introduce my friends to one another. I guess we can also add 4) to get Neva used to behaving around other people.

cheeseboard to start the party

sitting down to start dinner

a partied out neva still tired the next day



By the end of the evening when everyone had gone home, Neva was snoring in her doggy bed, and Jeremy washed dishes while I cleared the tables and put the leftovers away, I smiled to myself and told Jeremy that we know some really great people. We call them good apples and I’m glad they’re in my life.

Seeing as apples are in season, it’s time to pull out the baking pans, the cinnamon, the butter, and those apples. I love apple cakes that involve mixing everything together, pouring the batter into a pan, baking it, then eating it. That’s gateway baking – easy baking. These are the cakes that hook you into the more complicated recipes as we march ahead into winter. This is the kind of recipe that comes together quickly and easily for those potlucks, office gatherings, school functions, whatever it is you do that requires you to bring a cake. And it comes from Dorie Greenspan. You will want to make this double apple bundt cake.


dorie’s double apple bundt cake

walnuts, flour, sugar, butter, raisins, apple butter, apples, powdered sugar, eggs, lemon, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, baing soda, salt, baking powder

whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger together

cream the sugar and butter, then beat in the eggs



**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**

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**