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archive for May 2012

in the land of whoa

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

Recipe: chocolate gingerbread cookies

This post is coming to you from sunny (and hot) California. More specifically, you could call it sunny, hot, gorgeous, delightful, mouth-watering, seductive Sonoma County (and a little Napa too). It’s been looking like this:


wine tastings


dinner at redd (those are scallops – bloody awesome scallops)

lovely grounds at wineries

the most brilliant lunch EVER

otoro sushi

Before I head into the sticks for a few days, I wanted to wish all of the wonderful moms out there a very happy Mother’s Day! The world would come to a halt without your love and dedication, so thank you for all you do. Of course, I have to give special shout outs to my two favorite moms: Mom (my mother-in-law) and Mom (my mom).

It seems fitting that today’s recipe should be something sweet, like those magical hugs that only moms can give. I recently tested a batch of these chocolate gingerbread cookies and I think they may be the new crack – but LEGAL!

butter, molasses, flour, dark brown sugar, ginger, chocolate, candied ginger, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda, spices, fresh grated ginger, sugar

sift the flour, cocoa, salt, and spices together

beat the butter and fresh ginger together

add the brown sugar

**Jump for more butter**

before this gets away from me

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Recipe: roast pork belly on pea purée

The ground is greening up with grasses and the leaves of familiar wildflowers around my house. I spy new bright green tips dotting the conifers on my trail runs and dog walks. It smells good – mountain spring. From my office window, I can see a not-too-distant ridge, white with snow thanks to that recent storm. Neighbors covered their planted flowers with buckets because pretty domesticated plants can’t take the abuse of mountain spring. Our native plants (read: weeds) are tough. They can survive the harsh and fickle changes in weather. Yay for natural (read: lazy) landscaping!

always a welcome sight

some elk noodling around

By the time we melted out last spring, it was summer. I live in the mountains, but shop for groceries down on the flats. So when I though it was finally springtime, most of the spring produce had come and gone and I had missed out. Not so this year, and I was quick to pounce on English peas when I found them. They are so green, so spring.


round food is really appealing to me

I’ve never been a huge fan of peas. Snow peas and sugar snap peas, sure, but not English peas unless they were cooked to death in soup. Over the past few years they’ve grown on me as I’ve had them prepared in ways that emphasize the freshness and the sweetness. Also, I like shelling them more than anything else – something mindless to do while lost in thought. My intent was to make a pea purée that I had bookmarked on my friend, Chris Cina‘s blog. But I wanted to pair it with something different.

pork belleh(!!!), kosher salt, and sugar

trimming the skin off

Pork belly is the starting point for precious bacon, but pork belly itself is pretty wonderful noshing. You (we) see it on restaurant menus all the time around here, so I wanted to roast some pork belly at home, to gauge if it was something worth putting on our menu for dinner guests. I had a straightforward recipe bookmarked (it’s been on my mind for a while) and stripped it down to just a salt and sugar curing mostly because I didn’t have the other ingredients on hand.

cover the pork belly in the salt and sugar

place in a small dish, cover, and refrigerate overnight

**Jump for more butter**

shoot the moon

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

People often ask how I shoot things like lightning, meteor showers, the moon. To be honest, it took a lot of attempts and screw ups and reading for me to manage any level of competency and I’m *still* screwing up and I’m *still* learning. But after the recent supermoon event, I thought it might be helpful to document a little of my process. The moon, unlike lightning, is something you can plan for well in advance (thank you, SCIENCE!). And unlike meteor showers, you can know exactly where it is going to be. It’s also pretty big, which makes locating it less of a mystery.

ye olde supermoon rising

When I first took interest in photographing the moon, I would see it outside, grab my camera and take some photos. I usually got bupkis, or something close to it. My moon was a teeny white dot on a sea of black night sky, usually void of any details. The nice thing about the moon is that it makes a regular appearance in the sky and the great advantage of digital is that I could burn tons of crappy images and learn from my countless mistakes relatively quickly.

here is the setup i used on the supermoon

Right now, I’m gunning for a big moon, because I have never nailed that to my satisfaction. I don’t do enough serious telephoto photography to justify dropping $8,000+ on a single lens and I don’t know that I ever will. However, I do have the option to rent these very expensive, very wonderful, very powerful telephoto lenses from my friends at Pro Photo Rental in Boulder (they ship US and Canada). You can, of course, do remarkable work with landscape captures of the moon. My mentor and friend, Michael Frye, achieves this routinely (and beautifully). The lens I used was the AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f4G ED VR, slapped onto my Nikon D3X (full frame, 24.5 MP). I wanted as many pixels as I could get to resolve detail on the surface of the moon. As it was, capturing the supermoon with the 500mm on my D3X yielded a moon that was only 2.3% the area of the image. Small, huh? Crop city.

the lens weighs over 8 pounds

i always swap out the foot

It’s important to note that just because you get a hold of a lens, like let’s say, a 500mm lens for a day, don’t expect that you’re going to know how to use it the first time you try it out. There’s an adjustment going from your typical 50mm to a 500mm (or even to a 300mm). It’s a different beast altogether. Practice well before “go time”. Take a look at your images and figure out what you’re doing. Do your homework. How many people have purchased new gear right before going on a big trip? I’ve done that. Missing a great shot because you didn’t figure out the technical details when you should have is sad. Been there.

I currently use the Really Right Stuff (RRS) system of quick-release clamps, L-plates, and lens feet. So I invested in the RRS lens feet for the Nikkor 200mm-400mm telephoto zoom and the Nikkor 500mm pictured above for the couple times a year that I do use those lenses. This ensures that the lenses are mounted rock solid to my tripod and ballhead (Acratech) setup. Speaking of tripods…

gitzo gt3531 series 3 carbon 6x tripod

**Jump for more butter**