shrimp and vegetable tempura posole huckleberry panna cotta chanterelle toast

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the spicy side of life

Sunday, October 9th, 2016

Recipe: posole

Autumn in the mountains is a love affair with Indian Summer and early season winter snow storms. The trajectory of the sun across the sky incorporates a more horizontal component in the fall rather than shooting straight up high by 6 am in summer, which makes for cool morning trail runs that don’t require sunblock. Chilly nights mean we welcome Neva snuggling between us on the bed, but daytime temperatures remain pleasant enough that windows and deck doors let mountain air flow gently through the house. If we’re lucky, precipitation comes in frozen form. We were lucky this week.

we measured three inches at home

it got up to 6 inches in the backcountry

On our hike, Neva bounded and pounced in the snow for quite some time. I wonder what that little puppy brain remembers from last winter. She loves the snow so much, but does she understand that this happens each year or is every day a surprise for her? I suspect the latter. We saw a moose at one of the lakes, running away from us or the crazy windy horizontal snow, or both. Neva lost her mind, but she was leashed (this is why we keep her on a leash!), so she lost her mind in a 6 foot radius around Jeremy. She gets really excited when she sees horses, moose, elk, deer, cattle, people, grass blowing in the wind… pretty much anything. You can see the short video on my Instagram and hear Neva crying like a nut at the end.

But within 24 hours, the sun was back and the snow in town had melted away. Our local trails are crunchy underfoot with brown and yellow leaves that used to adorn the aspen trees above. The smell of autumn hangs on the air – musty and a little sweet. It smells wise to me, like it knows something that we don’t. Now is a good time to process photos from the fall shoot, because the majesty of autumn in the mountains is so fleeting that I sometimes forget what I saw.

sunset on the beckwith mountains

aspen leaves light up in the sun

I recently went through our chest freezer to take inventory of what has been lurking deep in the corners all year. I didn’t roast any green chiles at the end of this summer because I knew I had several bags adrift in the freezer sea as well as a new shipment of several pounds of gorgeous roasted red and green chiles from The Hatch Chile Store in New Mexico. Well, let’s just say we are going to be having a lot of green chile dishes this winter, which is perfect because one of my favorites is posole.

a pound of diced green chiles (skinned and seeded)

hominy, limes, garlic, green chiles, pork shoulder, dried new mexico red chiles, salt, oregano

This recipe, which I believe my mother-in-law gave me years ago, was posted way back in the day such that I felt it needed an update – especially since I now use my pressure cooker! I’ve doubled the recipe in the photos here, but the written recipe below is for a single batch. If you love posole, you’ll want to double it, for sure. I list instructions for both conventional stove top cooking and pressure cooker (you can also use a crock pot/slow cooker). If you don’t concern yourself with steps like de-fatting the broth or starting with dried hominy, this is relatively quick and easy to make. I include those steps, too – but they are all optional. While I had planned (and prefer) to make posole from dried hominy, I couldn’t find it in the three grocery stores I checked in Boulder – so ultimately I had to go with canned.

There are several bags of dried New Mexico red chiles in my pantry. Much like the state of my chest freezer, the chiles have not been properly labeled or organized. I grabbed the best looking whole chiles and discovered later that these were from the bag of HOT chiles. Use what heat level suits your tastes. I typically work with medium chiles because hot can be a bit too spicy for Jeremy and I find mild to be boring. A quick rinse with water renders the chile pods pliable so that you can lop off the stems and scrape out the seeds.

scraping the seeds from the chile pods

mincing garlic

**Jump for more butter**

you plucky huck

Sunday, October 2nd, 2016

Recipe: huckleberry panna cotta

We returned home to the Front Range this evening after winterizing and buttoning up the house in Crested Butte. The next time we return will be with multiple pairs of skis! Between now and then, there is plenty of work to get done. I haven’t had a chance to really sift through my photos from the fall shoot, but here are some quick ones I’ve been sharing.

the castles with fresh snowfall

west beckwith mountain

the slopes on snodgrass

just another gorgeous aspen-lined road

last minute surprise sunset colors

In addition to shooting fall colors around Crested Butte, I spent time working with Neva on her leash skills on the nice paths in our neighborhood. She’s already amped up as it is, but there are fewer distractions on these paths than on hiking trails, so she’s slightly (ever so slightly) more responsive to commands, corrections, and praise. In the backcountry, Neva acts like a drug addict, losing her mind over every sound, smell, and movement – she even refuses her favorite treats. I should revoke her lab license! But each day she made a little improvement such that after a week away, Jeremy said Neva was better on our hike Saturday. I’ve also noticed that she is becoming more cuddly. At 18 months, I hope that Neva will outgrow her adolescent stage and become a dog we can enjoy rather than remain a ridiculous amount of work any time we choose to do anything.

neva likes down comforters and human beds

hiking in the west elk wilderness

neva tries to creep away because she doesn’t like posing for pictures

Earlier last week, I went to shoot sunrise only to wind up with a cloudless fizzle. Instead of wrapping things up and heading back home I decided to scout out a trail that had been good for huckleberries at the start of September. Most of the good patches were bare now, but the patches that didn’t have fruit before were loaded with blue orbs that had frozen solid overnight. But mountain huckleberries are tough little berries, surviving the frosts and snows of early autumn above 10,000 feet. I picked about a half cup while examining The State of the Huckleberry along the trail. I found some chanterelles, too, but they don’t weather a frost nearly as well as their huckleberry neighbors do, so I let them be. The frozen hucks tasted like deliciously slushy purple huckleberries – slurpleberries.

slurpleberries (frozen huckleberries)

There are plenty of things you can make with frozen huckleberries, which is a good thing since most folks will only ever get their paws on frozen huckleberries (you can buy them online) as the season for fresh hucks is relatively short. I recently had a craving for panna cotta (translates to cooked cream), because I love the silky smooth texture without all of the work of say, crème brûlée or flan. And everyone knows that berries and cream are a match made in heaven. Use blueberries if you don’t have huckleberries, but promise me that one day… ONE DAY you will try a huckleberry.

huckleberries, almond extract, vanilla paste, milk, cream, sugar, gelatin, water (not pictured: pinch of salt)

sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let soften

bring the milk, cream, sugar, and salt to a boil

**Jump for more butter**

practice makes better

Sunday, September 18th, 2016

Recipe: peach pie

For the past couple of years I’ve sent an email in August to a local organic farm in Boulder asking them to alert me when they have tomato seconds ready for sale. The email comes some time in September depending on the weather and the tomato crop. Each year, I pick up more poundage because I am so in love with home-canned tomatoes, I want to be sure we don’t run out. I use them to make pizza sauce, pasta sauce, stews, soups, chili. Last week, I received the email to come and get the tomatoes. I got 100 pounds and spent three days coring, scoring, blanching, peeling, dicing, simmering, and canning tomatoes. When I closed my eyes for my 5 hours of sleep at night, all I saw were tomatoes. 48 pints later and I have 20 pounds remaining for a different method because I ran out of Weck jars.

48 pints of the best tomatoes

Meanwhile, Neva is finding out that the start of the school year means no more daily excursions onto the trails or lakes. She still gets out every day, but we’re getting her used to being at home because when winter comes (and by winter, I mean the winds), there will be days when home is better than going outside. Plus, we’re finally able to leave her alone for up to 8 hours. Now that she’s nearly 18 months old, we’re noticing just how different she is from Kaweah. Kaweah was not a bright girl, but Neva is an even dimmer bulb. Based on our only other data point, Neva is slower to pick up just about everything. But that’s okay, we work with her a lot and she remains a happy, ridiculous, sweet little pup.

just as happy on a local hike as she is on a big mountain hike

caught lounging on the people bed

The fall colors are moving in around here. Our aspen trees are still more green than gold, but I think some areas will flip that balance in a week or less. I didn’t shoot much of the fall colors last year because of the puppy, but I wasn’t sure I was feeling it this year. These days I’m more likely to snap a photo on my phone (most pictures here are coming off the iPhone) or if I’m lugging it around, maybe my smaller dSLR. Of course, as soon as I stood under the canopy of a small stand of golden aspens this morning, I felt that mojo return. The worry was that I was rusty, but the ideas and creative thought process came back as soon as I looked up.

getting low to shoot this brilliant shrub from below

classic sunburst + aspens + colorado bluebird sky

golden canopy

I’m a firm believer in practicing to get better at something and that applies to pies! My friend recently commented that I don’t make pies very often. I laughed because she actually keeps track of the sweets and treats that come out of my kitchen… and because she’s correct. I don’t make many pies. Pie crusts drive me crazy and removing a slice of fruit pie practically ruins the whole pie. But I like pie. I like pie a lot. I decided that I needed to tackle some recipes until I found one or a couple of reliable and excellent pie crusts. With peach season drawing to a close in Colorado, I felt I needed to get some practice on a basic peach pie.

flour, ice water, cider vinegar, more flour, sugar, salt, more sugar, nutmeg, egg, lemon, butter, peaches

It’s really all about the pie crust. Pie crust should be flaky and tender and baked golden brown. I find that my pie crust dough is almost always too dry and crumbly. But when I add enough water to make it comfortably workable (i.e. not crumbling apart) it’s too wet or it’s overworked and the crust becomes more of a cardboard texture. So I was extra mindful of not adding more liquid than the recipe requires.

place the butter, flour, and salt in a food processor

pulse until the butter resembles little pebbles

beat the egg yolk, vinegar, and ice water together

drizzle the liquid into the dry ingredients

**Jump for more butter**