porcini tacos chinese buddha's hand melon (chayote) salad fifty-one fig vodka infusion and fig blossom cocktail


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archive for foraging

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**

all the love

Sunday, July 16th, 2017

Recipe: huckleberry cheesecake ice cream

I’ve noticed something changing over the past couple of months. It’s been gradual, and yet it feels as if my life has become… better. I found myself telling Neva, “I love you” as I played with her in the living room, or when I gave her a squeeze after finding her snoozing on the couch, or just walking past her while I was in the middle of a shoot. I’m not one to withhold saying “I love you” when I actually love an individual, but I didn’t say it very much in Neva’s early years because she made me absolutely insane and because I wasn’t sure that I really loved her. Now, I’m saying it many many times each day because she has gone from a sweet, but crazy girl to a sweet, crazy, but good girl. It’s been a slow process. This kind of behavior modification doesn’t happen overnight. But after getting Neva back from dog training camp four months ago, and working with her on the things Claire recommended, we are seeing such amazing progress now. Neva is definitely a happier pup when we give her instruction and she has learned to focus on us instead of spiraling out of control becoming a frenzy of anxiety and excitement. Best of all, on our most recent road trip from Crested Butte to Nederland, Neva didn’t drool a drop and she was even relaxed enough to chill out just watching traffic and scenery (she used to drool like a spigot and turn circles in her bed for 5 hours).


wildflowers going gangbusters in crested butte

our regularly scheduled evening rainbow in crested butte – no big deal

a paddle with jeremy on the taylor park reservoir

cinquefoil in bloom

the car is moving and neva isn’t upset about it



We returned to the Front Range in time to overlap with the tail end of my aunts’ visit with my parents in Boulder. I had not seen my dad’s younger sister in almost 30 years and it’s been over a decade since I met with my dad’s older sister. It made me so happy to see them both looking healthy and well. The next day, Jeremy left for the airport at 6 am to fly to the East Coast and I took Neva on a hike. Hiking with Neva has always been an ordeal because she gets so amped up in the high country that she pulls and cries and acts like a nut. It’s hard to manage that kind of behavior while hiking above 10,000 feet, so Jeremy (my high altitude mountain goat) typically wrangles Neva while I just hike and help as needed.

I took Neva by myself, resigned to deal with whatever happened. Of course, within the first ten minutes, we encountered three bull moose on the trail. Neva LOVES moose, so was very excited to see and smell them. I made her sit and wait as we gave them an opportunity to cross the trail without feeling threatened by our presence. Instead of pulling against her leash and baying loudly as she has done in the past, Neva sat, her tail wagging furiously, and cried softly as she watched the moose feed. But she remained by my side! WHO IS THIS DOG?!?!?! We eventually continued on the trail past the moose because they decided to hunker down and enjoy some willows for breakfast, and Neva was so damn good! It wasn’t a perfect hike, but Neva was the best she’s ever been with me on a solo hike. I couldn’t be happier.


dinner with my folks and my aunts

two of the three moose we encountered on the trail

neva takes in the smells while i take in the views

selfie on the ridge with my happy pup

dog as wildflower

dim sum with my folks



Whenever we go to Boulder to have dinner at my parents’ place, I almost always bring dessert because I like to make it and they like to eat it. For dinner with my aunts, Mom texted me that I shouldn’t bother making anything and to simply purchase something at the store since we just got home. But I had already planned on bringing ice cream – two flavors. The first was a lovely roasted strawberry ice cream that I had made a few weeks ago and the second was a recipe I had tested in February and decided it was too good not to make and share this time: huckleberry cheesecake ice cream. The huckleberry cheesecake ice cream is actually a very straightforward and easy recipe compared to my usual custard-based ice creams. Seeing as today is National Ice Cream Day, this is the perfect summery treat to share.

the berry swirl: huckleberries, lemon juice, water, salt, cornstarch, sugar

the crust: melted butter, graham cracker crumbs, sugar, cinnamon (not shown: pinch of salt)

the base: cream cheese, milk, cream, bourbon, salt, sugar



I know huckleberries can be hard to get if you don’t live in a place where they grow or don’t know how to find them. You can order them online (frozen) from places in Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and other blessed states that have wild mountain huckleberries. Or, you can substitute its cousin, the blueberry, which was the fruit used in the original version of this recipe. I’m just saying if you can get huckleberries, they are a billion times better than blueberries – and I love me some blueberries.

Start with the berry swirl, because it needs time to cool before you can incorporate it into the ice cream. It takes all of five minutes to simmer before you get a syrupy berry sauce that smells (and tastes) like the best thing you’ve ever had. Because huckleberries are smallish, I tend to only smash about a third of the berries because I like whole hucks in my ice cream. If you are using blueberries and they are large, then you may want to smoosh a larger fraction of the berries. Just use the back of a spoon and gently press the berries against the side of the pan. Let that cool while you mix the graham cracker crust. Use graham cracker crumbs like I have here, or you can crush your own graham crackers to retain a chunkier texture.


mix the huckleberries, cornstarch, sugar, salt, water, and lemon juice

berrylicious

combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and melted butter



**Jump for more butter**

this land

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

Recipe: spruce tip syrup and the muir cocktail

It’s a long holiday weekend here in the States! Summer is in full swing and the mountains no longer require skis to access the high country. I have been itching to get more trail time, both hiking and trail running, without the distraction of mushroom foraging. It’s mostly past morel season and too soon for the other mushrooms I forage in my neck(s) of the woods. Soon, but not this day. Now is the time to get outside and admire the hillsides that are under snow for much of the year because that snow has given way to the most spectacular wildflowers. This is a special time in the high country – that short window of summer when life explodes with color and activity and those precious things that are so easy to overlook and take for granted.


take a hike!!

mountain bluebells and buttercups

moss campion

silky phacelia

jeremy and neva hiking the continental divide

neva waits for a snack after swimming in the lake



Hiking for us means hiking for Neva, too. We are seeing incremental improvements with her behavior on trail and especially around distractions like other dogs and hikers. But the most amazing thing has been the new car, or rather, how Neva feels about it. Neva’s cool with the Forester! We’re not entirely sure what made the difference, but she now voluntarily jumps into the back with gusto. Her enthusiasm for our destinations means we have traded nervous drooling for excited crying. I’ll take it. And since we arrived in Crested Butte last Thursday, she has been running into the garage to wait for us to open the back of the car. She used to be afraid of the garage because it had The Car, but I suppose it was really The Other Car. Who is this dog?!? Neva has also been getting more time on the water, learning to swim back to us on the SUPs (stand up paddleboards) instead of heading toward shore. Now if only we could teach her not to be afraid of the fireworks that will inevitably go off tomorrow (there are some being set off as I type and Neva is cowering under my desk at my feet).

a jewel-colored stormy sunset in crested butte

the lupine are at peak

neva rides along as we raft our paddleboards together

a happy dog on a happy hike

running down after climbing up

blue columbines lined parts of the trail

scarlet gilia being all red and racy!



A couple of weeks ago when Erin and I were hiking in to forage morel mushrooms, I pointed to the spruce trees lining the side of the trail. Just a few days earlier, Hank Shaw of Hunter Angler Gardener Cook linked to his post on spruce tip syrup and I made a mental note to try it. The branches are typically covered in sturdy dark green needles, but in late spring, our conifers send out new growth like everything else in the mountains. The tender tips of the branches emerge a lighter green and smell of evergreens with a touch of citrus. If left alone, they will mature and darken to match the rest of the tree. But during this period, you can pluck some of the tips to make spruce tip syrup or fir tip or pine tip syrup – whatever you have got – just don’t pick yew because it’s toxic. I grabbed a ziploc bag (I always carry extra bags because you never know what you’re going to collect in the mountains) and began selecting delicate tips, taking care not to pick the tops of baby trees or pulling too many from the same branch or tree.

new growth on a spruce tree

spruce tips

spruce tips, water, sugar, and lemon (optional)



**Jump for more butter**