build your own cheeseboard chocolate almond macarons (sucre cuit method) roasted chanterelle mushrooms huckleberry pistachio chocolate bar


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cheeseboarding

Sunday, November 19th, 2017

Recipe: build your own cheeseboard

My parents did a lot of entertaining when I was growing up. It was something I was vaguely aware of as a little kid. Kris and I would belly flop onto my parents’ bed and watch television until we heard the adults move to the dining room for dinner. At that point, Kris would nudge me and say, “Come on, let’s go downstairs.” We’d sneak into the kitchen unseen by the guests (but always seen by Dad, who would flash us one of his goofy smiles as we tiptoed down the stairs) and nosh on whatever was left of the appetizers: smoked oysters, cheese, crackers, olives, caviar. Party food.

Mom and Dad still entertain to this day, so I found it amusing when Dad texted me last year asking what goes on a cheeseboard. He wanted ideas since I had plated a few during various dinner parties they had attended. I grabbed some photos from my archives as well as a handful off of Pinterest to give him some inspiration. When I threw Dad’s belated birthday party at our place last weekend, I made sure to kick it off with a nice cheeseboard because I know my Dad loves a cheeseboard packed with ALL of the goodies.

The holidays are upon us and that means party season is in full swing. Cheeseboards are a lovely way to get a dinner party started or to act as the workhorse for a cocktail party or to keep family and friends occupied as you rush to cook Thanksgiving dinner. If you are looking for ideas to spark your own cheeseboard artistry, I list and show some of my favorites here. There is enormous flexibility in cheeseboards, including not having any cheese!


neva wants to become an olympic cheeseboarder [note: grapes are toxic for dogs]



Let’s start with the actual board. The board can be a plate (porcelain, glass, etc.), slate, wood, whatever you like! Plates are the easiest to clean – especially if you serve things that are oily or messy directly on the board. And slate is great for writing the names of cheeses with chalk. I am partial to wood boards because of the beautiful natural colors and grain, which is why I have a lot of them. Some are gifts from my friend, Jamie, who is an incredibly talented woodworking artist. Occasionally, I use my largest Boos cutting blocks (24×18-inch walnut and 20×15-inch maple) because they give me the greatest surface area.

If you do have something oily like hot smoked salmon, and you don’t want the oils to soak into your nice wood boards (because let’s face it, once the board is out, it doesn’t get cleaned up until after the last guest leaves), you can slap a small plate underneath it to keep the fishy smells out of the wood. And remember, cheeseboards don’t have to be these gigantic cornucopias that can feed the whole neighborhood. Small cheeseboards for two are romantic. Medium cheeseboards for a cozy gathering of close friends work very well without being overwhelming. So don’t go crazy, but… you can go a little crazy.


you can serve on plates or slate

wood boards: an array of shapes, sizes, and designs



The fun part of cheeseboarding is picking out what to serve on your cheeseboard. It’s whatever you want it to be. I personally like the cheeseboards that don’t have much if any cheese because I don’t dig on eating cheese straight up. But I know the majority of my guests love cheese, so there is always at least one soft, one semi-soft, and one hard cheese. I also have friends who have Celiac disease, so I can either omit all gluten items (mostly crackers and breads) or plate those separately to avoid contamination of the gluten-free items.

Another nice thing about cheeseboards is that they can be as labor intensive as you like – or not! Just about everything can be purchased, but sometimes it’s nice to add your own personal touch. I always make my own crostini and I usually make those prohibitively expensive fruit, nut, and seed crisps unless I am slammed for time. Grissini happen to be quite easy to make at home, too.

I find fruit and fruity things pair well with various cheeses or act as a nice palate cleanser between nibbles. I don’t make my own fruit, but I do make my own fig and brandy jam every summer to serve with brie throughout the year. I have made membrillo, a delectable quince paste in the past to pair with manchego, but it requires a lot of work at my elevation, so I have resorted to purchasing it now that more stores carry it. In late summer, I love it when I can find good fresh figs. Lots of folks like figs with blue cheese and honey, but I tend eat them straight or with a little slice of prosciutto. Another crowd pleaser is baked brie with fresh cranberry sauce or fig jam or tomato jam. Goat cheese and jam is also a hit.


cheeses: aged cheddar, smoked gouda, brie, boursin, manchego

some gluten options: croccantini, brioche toasts, grissini, crostini, fruit and nut crisps, sliced baguette

fruity things: pomegranate, fig brandy jam, grapes, apple, membrillo



**Jump for more butter**

and now, chocolate

Sunday, October 29th, 2017

Recipe: huckleberry pistachio chocolate bar

When the weather cools down for the season, we tend to witness strings of amazing sunrises and sunsets. It means I can take Neva for a fetch session and she doesn’t get too hot in the autumn air. Autumn’s atmospheric volatility is also accompanied by winds, which can make getting outside a little dangerous (tree fall is real, folks) or miserable at best when dirt and small rocks fly at your face and get in your teeth and ears and eyes. But when the winds die down, it’s important to take advantage and maybe hike into the woods for some target practice.


one of many impressive sunsets last week

my happy little girl, ready to go home after playing fetch

jeremy practicing with his air rifle

packed up and ready to hike out



I’m not sure I’ll get much in the way of a grouse season this year because there were matsutake mushrooms to be found, huckleberries to pick, things got busy, and I was late getting my air rifle and learning to use it. But I’m okay with that. I think foraging and living in the mountains has taught me long-term planning and patience. Stuff doesn’t necessarily happen when you want it to – especially if you are waiting on something that may or may not grow from year to year.

precious precious huckleberries



I began toying with the idea of dried huckleberries a few years ago, but had to wait until I had a season good enough to spare a quart or so of berries to dry. That (amazing) season happened this year. After Erin and Jay were done dehydrating their gigantic haul of matsutake mushrooms, they kindly dehydrated a few cups of my fresh huckleberries for me (120°F for 60 hours!). I knew exactly what I was going to do with those dried huckleberries. I had known for over a year.

Cooler weather around the house means chocolate emerges from its summer hiatus in my kitchen. This is the time I start to bake and ship cookies to friends around the country – when I can be mostly certain that the chocolate won’t melt in transit. This is also when I start to play with ideas for holiday gifts – like chocolate bars. Except I was going to make the ultimate chocolate bar using my dried huckleberries.


pistachios, dried huckleberries, flake sea salt, dark chocolate



Our fresh huckleberries are small to begin with, but dried, they are like dried currants… small ones. Pop one in your mouth and the flavor is subtle at first, until you get to the chewy center and the concentrated berry essence grows into something wonderful. Huckleberries pair exceptionally well with chocolate. While I enjoy working with chocolate, I am not a fan of eating chocolate – except when huckleberries are involved.

teeny tiny delicious dried huckleberries



Making a chocolate bar is quite straightforward. Melt or temper your chocolate: dark, milk, or white, but really – dark chocolate is the best; mix in your goodies like nuts, dried fruit, crisped rice, candy, etc.; pour into molds and let set. That’s it. But for anyone who has been reading my blog, you know and I know that tempering chocolate is the right way to do this. And please use a good quality chocolate, especially if you are going to honor the great and mighty huckleberry.

melt the chocolate over a water bath

seed the melted chocolate



**Jump for more butter**

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



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