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porcini pup

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

Recipe: butter-seared porcini-crusted salmon

Wow, it’s good to be home in Nederland. While I know Jeremy prefers to be in Crested Butte (and I love it there, too), there is something extra special about this time of year in the Front Range. The pine pollen has gone away, the high country is melted out and bursting with wildflowers, and the moose happily munch away in the meadows. Neva continues hiking longer distances and steeper climbs. Her little body grows stronger, more nimble, and bigger each day, yet she is still my affectionate little pup who comes running when I call her and curls herself against my legs like I am home base. Just the other day we walked past Kaweah’s favorite rock outcrop. I directed Neva to the top, wondering if I was being silly to hope that she might recognize how special this hunk of weathered granite was to Kaweah and in turn, how special Kaweah was to me. Dogs are not deep thinkers… at least the two shallow-thinking dogs I’ve had aren’t, but Neva did oblige me and it tickled my heart.

queen of the hill

she is finally fetching

moose sighting after our hike the other day

here’s a closeup of that good-looking boy

One of the reasons I’m so jazzed to be home is that the porcini are flushing. Okay, they are flushing in Crested Butte as well. I know this because we found some on our hikes last week. We even trained Neva to sniff them out without eating them and she did a great job. But for me, the part I love most is foraging porcini (and then huckleberries) with my fellow mountain pal, Erin. Erin and I share a special knowledge and love of these local mountains and this is an especially beautiful time of year. But we don’t just visit when mushrooms flush or hucks ripen – we walk or ski this land throughout the year. This is our home. We joke that we understand one another because we’re WAMPs (weird-ass mountain people – a term coined by my other WAMP friend, Andrew).

We’ve been out a few times with Neva and found some nice porcini specimens that she completely ignored. Turns out that once we climb into marmot territory, Neva turns her nose off to mushrooms and on to marmots. It’s just as well, though. There’s quite a thrill when you find your own king bolete (porcini). While gathering several perfect kings and laughing with Erin and Jeremy over Neva’s dismal performance, I demoted Neva from Porcini Pup back to Silly Little Pup and all was well with the world.

such a beauty

neva learns the scent of a porcini

the look she gave me when i asked why i found them before she did

I did not seriously expect Neva to become a porcini-sniffing pup, but she did show some promise at the start. Jeremy and I are merely having fun training her to do all sorts of things because she’s so willing to oblige. So far, we have not fed her ANY human food. That’s intentional, because we don’t want it to detract from her training for the first year. It’s important that she thinks her dog treats and kibble are the yummiest things in the world. I’ve witnessed a woman feed her dog scraps from the dinner table only to wonder aloud to the rest of us why the dog won’t eat its dog food – that made my head hurt. Neva’s kibble and some of her treats are salmon, which made me wonder how she would react when I prepared some fresh Coho salmon the other day. Her nose shot straight into the air when I unwrapped the fillets, but then she resumed happily defuzzing a tennis ball. Good girl.

Salmon is in season and so are porcini, but even if you can’t get your hands on fresh porcini, you can make this delightful recipe because it uses dried porcini powder. You can get porcini powder from specialty spice shops (check out Savory Spice Shop) or dried porcini from Whole Foods or other gourmet stores if you don’t dry your own. The recipe is short on time and big on flavor – isn’t that how summer meals should be?

salmon, salt, pepper, dried porcini, chardonnay, butter

put the dried porcini slices in a spice grinder and blitz

porcini powder

**Jump for more butter**

let the summer of puppy commence

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

Recipe: tuna melt

Oh man. Summer is REAL, people. The furnace blast arrived with a vengeance last week and like the true heat wimps that we are – we retreated to higher elevations and sunrise/sunset activities. Neva is now almost 20 pounds and has been with us for a month. Recalling the first 24 hours with her (and wondering what we had gotten ourselves into), she has come a long way in her training and development – and so have we! Part of her progress is simply growing up and gaining more coordination, strength, and speed. She no longer has to sniff and put every new plant, rock, stick, pine cone, or speck of dirt in her mouth. Neva is learning silly tricks now on top of the important commands. She let’s us know when she needs to go out to potty, she’s really good in her crate, and she is sleeping through the night (HALLELUJAH!). That last one was a serious game changer for the humans.

tossing her toy in the air and (sort of) catching it

moar swimming in icy cold lakes!!

neva gets at least one hike a day

she’s so mellow she sometimes falls asleep like this

running down the stairs with a toy

Neva is becoming a free range puppy, by which I mean, she roams parts of the house while we’re around and we don’t have to chase after her for fear of accidents or drive-by chewings on inappropriate things (like furniture, power cords, the compost bucket). She overcame her fear of the stairs in a matter of days – up was easy, down took a little coaxing. I can trim and file her nails while she sleeps (amazing!). We have her hiking up to 3 miles now and just this morning she did the rockiest, steepest hike yet – all on leash and behaving like a good dog should. Best of all, she likes to lie nearby while we are working and just nap or happily chew her toys. We still have plenty of work to do, but the stage of feeling hopeless was quite short-lived for us. I think Neva is becoming a Good Dog.

thimbleberry blossoms

the rare neva bloom amidst a potpourri of wildflowers

that’s my pack

shooting stars in a sea of summer green

Neva’s hiking progress has been of particular interest to me because I’d like to bring her with us when Erin, Banjo, and I hike and forage huckleberries. All signs point to Neva becoming a strong hiker and I think with some good long hikes together, she’ll learn to be a good companion to Banjo instead of a total pill (she seems to jump on his head less these days – that’s improvement).

As you can imagine, with all of the effort we’re putting into puppy training, I haven’t cooked anything elaborate in a while. In fact, I lost 8 pounds in the first 2 weeks of getting Neva because I was too tired to eat, let alone cook. We’ve been keeping things pretty simple out of necessity – mostly salads and sandwiches with the occasional ghetto pizza bread. One of those sandwiches is a tuna melt, which Jeremy loves and I like to pair with a bowl of tomato soup. I think of the tuna melt as an upgraded version of a tuna fish sandwich. If you really want to get 1970s throwback with it, stuff some jalapeƱo potato chips into the sandwich before eating (mmmm – so good!).

tuna fish, bread, lemon, mayonnaise, butter, pickles, salt, cheese, celery (not pictured: black pepper)

chop the pickles and celery

ready to roll

**Jump for more butter**

pup prep

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

Recipe: gin oysters

“We need to get a puppy collar and a puppy leash,” I informed Jeremy.
“What happened to Kaweah’s old puppy collar?” he asked sifting through the pile of dog towels.
“She ate it.”
“What happened to her old leash?”
“Um, she ate that, too.”

Even though Kaweah was not a large dog as labs go, all of her beds and toys and blankets look huge compared to the little puppy we visited two weeks ago. We don’t want to buy too many puppy-sized things because they won’t be needed after a month or two. So we’ve been re-engineering the crates and beds to create nice and cozy smaller spaces for puppy. I sifted through our basket of Kaweah’s toys this week and pulled out three plush fish – a pink one, a blue one, and a green one. They were otherwise identical in every way including the hole at the top of each of their heads where Kaweah had systematically pulled out the squeakers and chewed them to bits.

“Do you think puppy will be a destructo-dog like Kaweah?” I wondered aloud while sorting the salvageable toys from the heavily loved ones. To be fair, Kaweah only destroyed her toys and left everything else in the house alone. She was a good bad dog. I’m in the process of sewing up the old plushies for puppy’s crate so she can hopefully feel comforted by the smell of Kaweah and the contact with other soft bodies to mimic her littermates. But we still picked up some new puppy-appropriate toys.

for play, for teething, for mental stimulation

It looks as if this cold weather pattern will hold for another week or two. I’m ecstatic! Not just for the skiing, but because we’ll be able to introduce the pup to skis. One might think it’s no big deal, but most of the dogs I know have interesting reactions to skis. Back in the day, Kaweah didn’t realize that they were attached to our feet, and thought it was a really fun game to pounce on the tips as they protruded through the snow. Other dogs think ski poles are totally awesome “sticks” to grab hold of. When the snow is deep, Banjo likes to walk on the back ends of Erin’s skis for extra floatation and to stay close. Thankfully, most dogs figure it out eventually. Of course, puppy won’t be able to travel far at the start, so we got out into the backcountry to get our pre-puppy ski fix.

cloudy, foggy, sunny, snowy – we got it all in one afternoon

jeremy does a quick rip of the skins

getting a few laps in before heading out

But not everything around here is all puppy all the time. Not yet, anyway! Jeremy finally kicked his Man Cold this week. I decided we should celebrate with some appetizers and dinner while watching the season finale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I made the appetizers for Jeremy more than for myself, because they were made of a few of his favorite things.

barcat oysters, wasabi tobiko (flying fish roe), a local gin, and lime

**Jump for more butter**