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archive for September 2011

seeing red

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Recipe: tonkatsu (japanese pork cutlet)

The fall shoot is yellow-overload for me. I tend to go where the aspens are and that means gold against dark pine green here in Colorado. It took some getting used to since I grew up on the East Coast and spent many a graduate school year in the northeast where maples are ablazing in glorious reds, oranges, yellows. That’s not to say that we don’t have our share of the reds here. We do! Those plants that gave us glorious wildflowers in summer do double duty and provide striking splashes of red in the backcountry as evidenced on a recent hike.

sticky geranium leaves turning red

more sticky geranium

columbine leaves growing in a rock crevice


king’s (or rose?) crown

September has always been my favorite month because it is my birthday month and my birthday usually coincided with the first day of fall. The first day of fall is an abstract concept in places like southern Virginia. But in Colorado’s high country, fall plays for reals and I love it. Jeremy and I got to the trailhead in the dark and hiked via headlamps for the first hour in sub-freezing temperatures. When the sun made her intentions known, we shut off the lamps and admired sunrise from a high vantage point. We continued on and marveled at the frost that encrusted the ground, the plants, even the tiny late season wildflowers. Alpine plants are tough. Coming around a bend in the trail, I looked up and gasped, silently grabbing Jeremy’s arm as he walked up behind me. In the bluish light of dawn under the forest canopy stood an enormous bull moose. He was massive and towered above us even 20 feet away. At once, the moose reared its head up and back, the entirety of its enormous body flowing fluidly behind the head and diving into the woods, silently and effortlessly.

sunrise on the valley

the frost

jeremy walks ahead of the sun

We heard bull elk bugling in the distance and saw a handful of mule deer feeding in the meadows. It’s a busy time of year for everyone. While we are secretly doing our snow dances every day, this is our favorite weather for hiking when you can see your breath on the air into mid-morning and the sun is regarded as a welcome friend rather than an oppressive tyrant.

a few of the early aspens

a few snowfields linger in the chutes

After a hike, we’re always hungry because we rarely eat much for breakfast (it’s hard to stomach much food at 4am) and we typically graze infrequently on the trail. The temptation to make a beeline straight from the trailhead to a burger joint or the pizza shack is high, but we try to avoid it by having good leftovers at home to heat up and dig into immediately. In this case, I had tonkatsu – Japanese pork cutlet – in the refrigerator. I like to make extra because Jeremy loves it for lunch. It’s a dish I’ve seen on just about every menu in a sushi bar, but I never ordered it because I’m such a nut about sushi and sashimi. After seeing Marc post about it, I bookmarked the recipe and didn’t look at my bookmarks again until a few months ago.

start by slicing cabbage

and soaking it in water

A traditional accompaniment is sliced cabbage and since you soak it in water for about an hour, it’s advised that you start with that step first. Once you get the cabbage soaking, break out the pork loin! Well, I used pork loin chops. You just need pork loin chops, salt, pepper, an egg, flour, and panko (flaky Japanese bread crumbs – flaky as in texture, not in terms of reliability). And oil for frying.

pork, egg, panko

trim any fat or silverskin from the pork

**Jump for more butter**

change of plans

Sunday, September 18th, 2011

Recipe: chocolate pots de crème

This was supposed to be a rip-roaring weekend at the House of Butter (or rather, outside of the House of Butter, but you know what I mean). Unfortunately I dashed those plans on the Rocky Shores of Disappointment because I got an infection. Nothing that antibiotics won’t take care of, but it’s a bummer nonetheless. Since I am not supposed to be exposed to direct sunlight during the course of my meds, I worked through the weekend as best I could and managed to discover the surface of my desk. Whoa! That’s a good feeling, especially when I had resigned myself to living with Mount Disaster until mid-November. Jeremy kept me company and worked on his research (and even did some massive internal maintenance on this blog). Kaweah was bored out of her gourd.

le sigh

We have had a few spates of fall-like bordering on wintry weather around here. New snowfall in the high country has painted the high peaks with a light coat of white. Per Colorado’s typical cycle, the next day was sunshine and blue skies – you know, to make the snowy peaks even prettier. Fall around here is less of fall and more of a tug-of-war between the last vestiges of summer and the raucous arrival of winter with some beautiful golden aspen littered throughout the mountains. Fall is also when I can tolerate chocolate again. I can’t deal with chocolate in summer. Don’t want to work with it, don’t want to eat it. But as soon as the weather cools down, my thoughts around chocolate become less hostile… more friendly like.

chocolate, milk, eggs, vanilla bean, sugar, cocoa powder

split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds out

pouring milk into a saucepan with the vanilla bean and seeds

When I was making these chocolate pots de crème, Jeremy asked what it was. I replied they are chocolate custards.

jeremy: Like crème brûlée?
me: No, there is no burnt sugar on top.
jeremy: Like flan?
me: There is no burnt sugar on the bottom.
jeremy: So it’s like crème brûlée without the burnt sugar?
me: Uh, sure.

two eggs, one yolk

whisk sugar into the eggs and egg yolk

temper the hot, steeped milk into the eggs

**Jump for more butter**

things to be excited about

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Recipe: charred savoy cabbage salad

[Thank you for all of the wonderful comments and birthday wishes you left for Jeremy! He was totally flummoxed, but in the good way. You guys are so sweet. xo]

At certain times of the year my schedule is completely dictated by the life cycle of plants. Plants. In spring it is the wildflowers in the Southwest. Come summer, it’s the wildflowers of the Colorado Rockies. In autumn – I chase fall colors. That’s probably the toughest season because the leaves are most fragile, early snowstorms can blow in, windstorms kick up and strip the aspens. Wildfire season can turn our lovely Colorado air into something reminiscent of California’s Inland Empire. The autumn shoot is fast approaching and I’m making my plans which is to say, I’m leaving the next several weeks wide open because you have to be ready to go when the leaves say so. I have that luxury in Colorado. But sometimes you just hedge your bets and plan a more distant trip based on the maximum likelihood that the leaves will have something good to show while you’re there. You buy your plane tickets and tell yourself that even if the colors aren’t spectacular, it doesn’t matter… because you’re in Yosemite.

valley view

I’ve learned over the years as a nature photographer and a general lover of the outdoors that Nature is completely out of your control. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared though. Arming yourself with good information can be the difference between a successful shoot and coming home with mediocre snaps. So when I was in Yosemite last February to shoot Horsetail Fall during that magical, but fleeting window when the setting sun illuminates the trickle of water coming down from El Capitan, I had some of the best information available to me. Michael Frye, a well-known Yosemite photographer of 25 years and my mentor, had asked me to beta test The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite app on my iPhone.

horsetail fall

I stood in the snow with a dozen other photographers, waiting to see if the clearing storm would allow the sun to hit the falls. There were at least a hundred photogs milling about between the parking lot and other spots nearby. Some people had no idea where to fix their lens – because it’s hard to know unless you’ve seen it before. I pulled up the app on the iPhone and showed them Michael’s gorgeous capture so they could puzzle out where to train their eyes. Even though I was just beta testing, it was so incredibly handy to have. Alas, the setting sun hinted, but never spilled out enough for the shot. All of the other days I was there, we were socked in with clouds and snow.



The app is essentially Michael’s book and then some! It guides photographers through Yosemite to the numerous attractions throughout the national park. There are detailed descriptions of locations, how to get there, where to go for the best views, the best times of year and day to shoot, several of Michael’s beautiful photographs, plus relevant photography advice from a master. If you’re not completely familiar with the park, no worries – there are nice maps provided too. I’m all about the maps.

half dome at sunset

misty meadow

Or if you want to know what your best bets are based on your visit, you can filter your search by entering the time of year and time of day. It helped me plan the logistics of my trip such that I wasn’t wasting precious time driving from one side of the valley to the other. The good news is that Michael’s Yosemite App is out of beta and available for purchase! You can purchase it here on iTunes. I think anyone visiting Yosemite might want this app on their iPhone. Even if you aren’t planning to make any photos, the guide will put you in the right place at the right time to experience the grandeur and the majesty of Yosemite at her best. Congratulations on the release, Michael! Read Michael’s post on the release.

el cap from gates of the valley

As is typical of where I live (in the mountains), we have snow in the forecast for these last days of summer. We had snow on the first day of summer too. This makes for all kinds of happy over here at the House of Butter. Cooler weather means 1) getting my ski on and 2) getting my cooking mojo back. It’s back! I first had this fantastic salad in Seattle at Delancey last spring. It was surprisingly good. I really should never doubt the magic of cabbage. I love cabbage.

pretty, ruffly savoy cabbage


I was with Shauna, Danny, and Lu. Danny and I tasted the salad and looked at one another as we analyzed it. Danny said it was pretty straightforward. Of course, Danny is a chef. I went home, tried to replicate it and my salad was woefully NOT DELANCEY’S SALAD. And then the other day I got a hankering for the salad again and asked Brandon if I could have the recipe because I’m such a loser that I couldn’t figure it out myself. Brandon – the guy who runs Delancey – is a gem of a fellow and a great cook. He sent me his instructions. When I asked if it was alright to post it, he said sure! Brandon is swell.

char the cabbage on the grill if you don’t have a wood-fired oven

chop the quarters up into bite-size pieces

**Jump for more butter**