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archive for July 2013

the art of keeping cool

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

Recipe: grass jelly and ai-yu jelly

I love the idea of summer. It’s when everything is happening. It’s a visual overload in the mountains. The thing I have trouble with is the heat, and by trouble, I mean I hate the heat. I have sworn enemies in this world and the heat is one of them. It makes me cranky and sad and angry all at once. Jeremy and I both recognize this, so there are things we do to minimize the crankiness like hiking, biking, or trail running early in the morning when the air is cool, the sun is low, and the mosquitoes are still slow. It also means we have the trails mostly to ourselves, which is awesome.

wildflowers greet the mountains

flowers fill an alpine meadow

the view from the trail

If we are lucky, the monsoons bring moisture into Colorado from the south and we get a daily cycle of glorious and dramatic thunderstorms and rain every afternoon like clockwork. Our bluebird skies turn into menacing, roiling clouds over the mountains. Cool winds and heavy rains seem to wash away the dreaded heat, even if only for an evening. It’s wonderful.

storm building over crested butte

But sometimes the storms fizzle and there is no relief. Times like these require taking matters into your own hands. We don’t have the benefit of air conditioning because we rarely need it. I try cooling off with ice cold drinks, sorbets, frozen treats, and one of my childhood favorites: grass jelly. I know it sounds odd, but it is really wonderful stuff. It’s like an herbal tea gelatin. Another similar jelly that I preferred when I was younger (probably because it was sweeter) is ai-yu jelly, made from the gel of a seed of a variety of fig.

grass jelly and ai-yu jelly

you just need the jelly, lemons, and sugar

**Jump for more butter**

return of the king

Sunday, July 14th, 2013

Recipe: porcini mushroom gruyère burgers

My good friend, Erin, is a native of Colorado, and yet she had never been to Crested Butte before. So we invited her out to spend the weekend with us hiking, eating, and even meeting some of my entertaining nature photog pals (who were here for the wildflowers). It’s the height of the wildflower bloom, so the hikes were especially beautiful this time of year.

erin jumping for joy on beckwith pass

erin for scale next to a green gentian stalk

close up of the green gentian flowers

a windy evening at the mountain

On Sunday, we did a 13-mile hike up to the high country. The pattern of summer monsoon storms has started in the last week and we’ve been getting some really productive rainstorms in the last few days each afternoon. At a trail junction around 11,000 ft. we paused to let a trail runner pass us. She chatted with us briefly about the trails and continued on. Just then, I spotted something familiar at the base of a tree… It was a mushroom, but not any mushroom – it was a Boletus edulis or King bolete or porcini. Wendy and I have been discussing when our local porcinis would flush this season for the past two months. I had no idea I’d find one in the wilderness outside of Crested Butte! [Note: DO NOT forage for mushrooms unless you are with or ARE a trained expert. Eating the wrong mushrooms can make you very ill or even kill you.]

erin models the porcini on the trail

How timely to find my first porcini of the season because I have a recipe I’ve been waiting to post since last year’s porcini season ended. Most of the year, if you are eating porcini, it has been dried and rehydrated. But during this magical period in summer when the rains come and the mushrooms flush, you can enjoy fresh porcinis. I had them with burgers.

little bouchons

butter, white wine, gruyere, porcinis, ground beef, brioche buns

**Jump for more butter**

do your job

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

Recipe: blueberry scones

Right now, part of my work involves getting up early and hiking to alpine basins to assess the state of the wildflowers. You don’t always hit pay dirt, but I like that it gets me outside into the backcountry and that I’m not sitting on my bum all day. And in summer, you’re almost always guaranteed to be greeted by many familiar friends in the high country. I saw several favorites up high in marshy alpine meadows.

mountain bluebells

magenta paintbrush

I paid the price for those flowers too… in blood, so to speak. I wake up each morning with new mosquito bites despite my efforts to don pants and long-sleeves when I’m hiking and photographing. I have two requests for enterprising individuals: 1) please make a sunblock that I can take in pill form and 2) please make a mosquito repellant that I can take in pill form. I would pay good money for those things. And some mornings I want to see things a little faster than the pace of a hike, or even a trail run.

mountain biking makes it harder for the mosquitoes to get you

and then you ride to the local coffeehouse and wait in line with a random cute dog

Another part of my job is knowing when certain slopes or basins are reaching peak bloom and what time of day or which conditions are ideal for the images I want to capture. It starts to feel a little frenetic if you cover a wide area, especially if it takes half the day to reach some of these places. And by evening, when the mosquitoes are in their swarming frenzies, my mind often wanders to questions like, “Why haven’t more creatures evolved to hunt and eat mosquitoes?” Why, indeed.

tall larkspur

iphone behind the scenes (courtesy of jeremy)

Jobs have been on my mind lately because I recently sent a package of baked goods to my friend, Jamie, to thank her for the beautiful cutting boards she made. I sent it USPS priority and they said it was delivered two days later – except she never received it. She inquired after the package and with a little digging, I think the USPS realized that THEY SOMEHOW LIED ABOUT THE DELIVERY because they found the package and gave it to her 11 days after it was supposed to have been delivered. WTH?! More like USPOS. Of course, the baked goods were dead on arrival, because they were blueberry scones made with fresh organic blueberries. Smooth move, USPS. At least I had sense enough to send the second package via UPS (and those guys wear cute brown shorts). So let’s make some blueberry scones and have sense enough not to entrust them to the US Postal Service EVER AGAIN.

you’ll need: blueberries, flour, butter, lemon, eggs, sanding sugar, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt, cream, and vanilla

whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together

cut the butter into the flour

grate lemon zest into the dry mixture

**Jump for more butter**