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archive for August 2013

so hucking good

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

Recipe: huckleberry ice cream

Last summer, my friend and expert wild foods forager, Wendy, introduced me to foraging. It was the inevitable marriage of two of my loves: the backcountry and food. Make that THREE of my loves: the backcountry, food, and plants. I’m a little bit of a plant geek, although nothing close to Wendy’s level of knowledge and geekdom. Truth be told, eating the food is probably the least favorite aspect of foraging for me. I really love the outdoors, the thrill of the hunt (I tell Wendy that I think porcini hunting would be far more exciting if the mushrooms could run… and scream), and learning the native plants. Familiarity with the plants and their various medicinal or culinary uses makes me cherish these mountains even more than I already do.

So when Wendy told me she was going to show me huckleberries last summer, she said, “You’re gonna kick yourself when you realize what they are.” And she was correct. The plant is a low-growing ground cover over a good portion of our mountains. It is EVERYWHERE and I’ve always admired it as a pretty understory on the forested slopes. It’s been there this whole time and I never knew they were huckleberry plants! The plants seem to thrive above 9000 feet, but peter out near treeline (somewhere around 10,800 or 11,000 feet). The berries are small here in the Rockies and quite well hidden, especially if you don’t know to look for them.

huckleberry plant

the berries are underneath

Of course, as with all things, please don’t go randomly picking berries that you aren’t familiar with and popping them into your mouth. That’s just bad form… and it’s dumb. The first time I tasted a fresh huckleberry, I was blown away by the intensity of it. Huckleberries have the perfect balance of tartness, sweetness, and a big flavor for such a tiny berry. Wendy described it perfectly, “Huckleberries are what blueberries aspire to be.” It’s so true. I had a hunch that the huckleberries were nearing peak a few weeks ago, but I was so busy with out-of-town visitors and work that I didn’t get out to pick any until last week. Most of the patches were bare, but a few choice locations had some dark purple berries. I managed half of what I needed for a batch of ice cream. My fear was that I would have to augment the huckleberries with store-bought blueberries and wind up with bluckleberry ice cream. I tried another trail the following morning and was able to squeak out enough for the recipe. These were a little less ripe, but still so full of flavor that some sugar would brighten them up easily enough.

my end-of-season haul

make a compote: huckleberries, water, lemon, sugar

**Jump for more butter**

sleep gets the fuzzy end of the lollipop

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

Recipe: porcini mushroom quiche

I’m running on fumes here, logging a handful of hours of sleep a night. I think summer is Crazy Time, because there is Just.Too.Much going on. Oh, it’s all good stuff, but it never lets up… until autumn. Early morning is our favorite time to get outside for hiking, biking, trail running. The sun is low and the air is nice and cool (or cold if we’re lucky) and very few people are out and about in the mountains. It’s a great time to see wildlife too, because they tend to be morning types.

cross a lovely mountain stream

visit a nice, cold alpine lake

spot some pretty rose crown (or queen’s crown) blooming in the high country

Afternoons of late have been solely dedicated to food. Some of it is shooting food and most of it is processing the gems of summer for Future Me to cook with and enjoy from October through June.

15 pounds of tomatoes: sauced and diced

You’d think I’d catch a break at night, but that’s the time to catch up on emails, photo processing, computer stuff and other work. But wait! We’ve had a string of awesome nighttime lightning storms marching overhead, dumping rain, and lighting up our skies. Jeremy and I were admiring one such storm Monday night from our deck door (because it’s fun to watch when danger of death is low). I had my camera running on timed, long exposures and caught a few nice strikes.

i just love the squigglies

As the strikes became more frequent and drew closer, I pointed the camera at our local ridge. A few more lightning bolts fired out of my field of view and I questioned my decision to move the camera. Then a giant column of blinding light struck repeatedly for several seconds on the ridge in front of us. It caused us to jump and we both involuntarily closed our eyes because it was so bloody bright! We heard cracking and popping in addition to multiple thunderous booms. I couldn’t see for several seconds, but when I blinked, I could see the negative image of the bolt across my field of view. It saturated my exposure, so I had to crank the processing to tease it out. It was really effing cool.

mother nature, you win

As tired as I am, I’m sad to report that my early mornings spent foraging in the mountains are coming to an end until next summer (I think). I’ll be grateful for the sleep, but will surely miss those treasure hunts with my pal Wendy.

especially when we find beauties like this

So let’s do one last fresh porcini mushroom recipe, shall we? I’ve been wanting to make a quiche with fresh porcinis ever since last summer. The delicate flavor of a fresh porcini profiles nicely with cheeses, dairy, eggs, butter – always with the butter. The majority of you probably don’t have access to fresh porcini and that’s okay. Feel free to substitute another fresh mushroom here. Personally, I’d go for something more exciting than a white button mushroom if you can find it. Just don’t be picking random mushrooms from the ground without knowing 100% for sure 1) what it is and 2) that it is edible and non-poisonous. I’m serious – don’t be stupid or I’ll have to come over and slap you.

the filling: milk, cream, onion, eggs, mushrooms, gruyère, butter, flour, salt, prosciutto

let’s make the crust first: butter, ice water, flour, sugar, salt

**Jump for more butter**

peaches, cake, and love

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Recipe: blackberry peach coffee cake recipe

Jeremy and I love dining out in Boulder because there are so many great restaurants in town. But we can get restaurant burnout just like we do when we’re on travel. We cherish our home-cooked meals and quiet conversations together (and with Kaweah). Having visitors up to our mountain home isn’t terribly convenient though, so we usually meet in Boulder. It makes sense.

My aunt (Mom’s youngest sister) and uncle were in town at the end of last week which meant dinner with everyone Thursday and lunch the next day. Then Jeremy and I came to Boulder Saturday for dinner with my folks because they went home to Virginia Sunday morning. I used to feel that going out for dinner was an indulgence. With my parents spending summers in Boulder, we are always meeting up for meals – it’s the Chinese way. I’ve learned to pace myself and nibble at shared plates because even though eating together is so important, I think spending the time together is the most important.

jeremy’s cocktail at jax fish house: botany 101

tuna tartare with cucumber and summer melon

my seared escolar (walu)

I have always bonded with my parents over food. In the last couple of years, they have begun making “special” Chinese dishes that I never had growing up. Maybe it’s their desire to pass along some of their culture and heritage to their daughter who is more American than Chinese. Maybe it’s my increased interest in cooking. In turn, I share with them the foods that I’ve discovered and come to love. I think they enjoy it. Food and family time are so intricately intertwined.

When I saw my parents off at the bus station early Sunday morning, I felt that tiny pang in my heart. One of the reasons my summers are so busy is that I really try to make sure my parents have a good time while they are in Boulder. It’s partly that Good Chinese Daughter thing, partly because they’ve worked so hard all their lives, partly because they’ve been denied the joys of spending their retired years with Kris. I just want them to be happy. This is what we want most for those we love.

i love seeing my mom smile

Saturday evening, I handed my folks some coffee cake I had made. It was for their breakfast on Sunday before their flight home. I remember when I would wake up at puke-thirty in the morning to fly back to college and Mom would be up making breakfast and packing a lunch for me. It’s funny how we become our parents. And by funny I mean ha ha, I mean ridiculous, I mean crazy, I mean strange, but most of all, I mean awesome.

Speaking of awesome – we’ve had awesome rainbow action lately.

my house at the end of the rainbow

a pano of the whole thing from the edge of my neighborhood

So that coffee cake I gave my parents? That was some delightful coffee cake. I’m pretty meh about eating cakes, but add fruit and you’ve changed the whole equation. Right now, I’m obsessing over peaches – luscious, gorgeous, juicy, Palisade (Colorado) peaches. Toss in some blackberries and you’ve got a showstopper.

the streusel: butter, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, flour

beat the butter and sugars together

add the spices and flour

**Jump for more butter**