shrimp and vegetable tempura posole huckleberry panna cotta chanterelle toast

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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**

the huckleberry hound

Monday, September 5th, 2016

Recipe: huckleberry buckle

The academic year has begun, my parents have flown back to Virginia, and the huckleberries are in season. I have spent a good bit of my waking hours preparing my quads for telemark skiing. Squatting on steep slopes for hours at a time, pivoting and balancing to reach that one perfect ripe, dark snurple huckleberry. How convenient that huck season should precede ski season, right? The sad part is that the huckleberry season isn’t very good this year on the Front Range. Even worse than last year. Checking trail after trail with few berries in sight, you get both exercise and depressed.

took erin hiking and SUPing and looking for huckleberries on her visit

the rains came too little too late for the hucks

Jeremy and I spent Labor Day holiday weekend in Crested Butte where stormy weather reluctantly gave way to sunshine and blue skies. We met up with friends from out of town so Neva and their pup could play together at the lake and what do you know? My friend, Teresa, showed up with her two pups – one of which is actually a puppy! I am convinced that the best puppies are your friends’ puppies. They are so cute and cuddly and fun, but without the sleep-deprivation, the potty training, or the sharp little toofies! Poncho is 14 weeks old and he is so so so sweet and mellow and good. He was particularly fond of chewing on Neva’s collar or leash or face or toys. It was the first time Neva played with a puppy since she’s become an adult (I use the term loosely) and she did quite well, mostly ignoring or tolerating Poncho’s antics.

a passing storm over crested butte (that we got caught in)

poncho liked carrying neva’s leash and harness around

poncho chewing on neva’s chuckit

poncho chewing on neva’s leash with neva attached

The next day, Jeremy and I took Neva for a short hike. Having scouted out the trail that delivered so many beautiful chanterelles last year and finding almost nothing, we resigned ourselves to simply enjoying hiking, running, and biking – stuff you do in the mountains. We went to a different trail and found… huckleberries and chanterelles and porcini. Neva’s short hike turned into an all day forage. We don’t usually forage with Neva because she has two gears: Go and Go Faster. The whole “stopping to look or forage” doesn’t suit her, but I found she would sit nicely for a huckleberry or wild strawberry. By the end of the day, when we stopped at a huckleberry patch, Neva would lie down and eat the berries off the plants. When I open my tupperware of berries in the kitchen, Neva comes running and sits like a good girl at my feet with that “I’m here for my huckleberries!” look. Hard to say who the huckleberry hound is – Neva or me?

a pretty pretty porcini (king)

jeremy’s find

and lots of chanterelles (with a huckleberry!)

some of the huckleberry plants were already turning red

our haul from the day

I don’t think I’ll ever run out of huckleberry recipes to try. The limiting factor is the fruit. Even though I have frozen hucks throughout the year, the fresh hucks are only around for a couple of weeks if I’m lucky. This buckle can be made with fresh or frozen berries and you can use huckleberries or other juicy berries (like blueberries) if you don’t have hucks. The only drawback to the substitution is that you can’t call it huckle buckle.

water, flour, sugar (twice), huckleberries, butter (twice), salt, vanilla, milk, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg

cream the butter and sugar together

combine the dry ingredients

**Jump for more butter**