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archive for September 2014

nothing to get angry about

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

Recipe: angry edamame

Indian summer is here. Of course it is! It always arrives when I have a chocolate shoot to finish. I think I’m done foraging for huckleberries (are we ever REALLY done, though?) and instead I’ve been gathering breakfasts, lunches, and dinners to tide Jeremy over the next 3 weeks while I’m on the fall shoot. It is time. The colors are starting and I’m getting that itch to hit the road.

blue blue colorado skies and dynamic clouds

my local indicator aspen stand

Since I have yet to pack my gear in addition to the 114 other things on my to-do list (let’s call it a to-do novella), I’m just gonna dive into the recipe and its backstory. My friend, Kathryn, was visiting us from Norway last month when we got on the topic of food. Actually, we never stopped talking about food – this is why we are friends. She had an obsession with Kona Grill’s angry edamame. More specifically, she had an obsession with the angry butter. I’ve never eaten at Kona Grill, nor have I ever had angry edamame, but it sounded good. It’s really all about the angry butter. So I did a quick Google search and found a list of ingredients as a handrail.

edamame, butter, lime, kosher salt, sambal, garlic, red chile powder, cayenne powder

In essence, we are making a spicy, tangy, garlicky butter. How could this possibly be bad? I guess it’s bad that this is so darn easy and quick to slap together that you’ll want to slather it on corn, pan-seared scallops, roasted chicken, grilled asparagus, roasted Brussels sprouts… EVERYTHING.

add the sambal, chile powder, cayenne powder, and salt to the butter

grate the garlic

add lime juice to taste

**Jump for more butter**

the summer-autumn pendulum

Sunday, September 14th, 2014

Recipe: huckleberry syrup

Little pockets of mountain aspens are starting to light up around Colorado. I noticed this as we drove from Crested Butte back to the Front Range – brilliant sparks of gold or red in a sea of green. Every year without fail, some nature photographer will start spouting on about the colors being early and every year the colors are on time. Except last year – they were late and got walloped by early snows. I’ve got my eye on the local stands and once things start to move, it’s time for me to hit the road. In the meantime there has been plenty to do before the fall shoot commences.

in the hall of colors

autumn is my favorite season

So that freeze did come as predicted. It also brought our first snowfall of the season by morning. While it was nothing skiable, it was still gorgeous, wonderful snow. We had a backpacking permit for that morning and I could tell Jeremy was fretting over the weather. Driving up to the trailhead, we emerged out of the cold, grey, wintery world into blue skies, strong sunshine, and an inverted snowline! The snow ended above 10,000 feet (but there was also fresh snow on the high peaks above 12,500 feet). It was quite chilly, but we were feeling better about the trip.

first snowfall on our deck

inverted snowline: snow below, no snow above

lunch break with marmots, porcini (growing nearby), and a lovely view

From our lunch spot, we looked east, beyond the mountains where Boulder and Denver usually punctuate the distant landscape. That morning, the Great Plains had filled up with clouds like a sudsy bubble bath in a tub. We were in another world in the mountains. I love inversions. And while it was delightful to have such clear weather overhead, what the photos don’t tell you is how hellish the winds were above treeline. On the other side of Pawnee Pass, the trail drops steeply into the rocky headwall of a cirque. That wasn’t so bad except for slicks of ice and violent gusts up to 45 mph pushing us this way and that. The funnel-shape of that section seemed to focus all of the thermodynamic anger of the atmosphere.

pawnee pass

the descent toward pawnee lake in the distance

it was much nicer in the trees

finally in camp by sunset

After climbing 2100 feet to the pass, we dropped 3600 feet past beautiful Pawnee Lake through huckleberry-strewn hillslopes and forests. I’m happy to report that most of the huckleberries survived the freeze (but not all). Our route navigated big sunny meadows with giant boulders and downed trees scattered like spilled matchsticks from the previous winter’s avalanches. I found a place I dubbed Raspberry Central for all of the wild raspberry canes drooping with heavy, deep red, sweet berries. Once we passed the low point of the whole trip (8900 feet), we followed Buchanan Creek up-valley until we found a secluded site away from the trail, with good access to water, 11 miles from our start.

stuff we bring on no-cook trips

more waterfalls than you can shake a stick at on this trail

on buchanan pass in even worse wind conditions

taking a break to fuel up for the last climb

I used to have trouble sleeping for more than an hour at a time in the backcountry, but these days I can manage a good 4-6 hours straight. The key is to be so exhausted that you just sleep through anything. We shook the ice off our tent before dawn and pointed ourselves east toward Buchanan Pass in sub-freezing temperatures. When we reached Fox Park, the winds began to pick up. As we rose out of the beautiful basin and out of the protection of the trees, the winds unleashed their full fury the closer we got to the pass. The gusts were even stronger than the day before, forcing us to stumble like drunkards in 60 mph gusts that threw us right, left, forward, and backward. In contrast, the other side of the pass was calm, quiet, and warm. By trip’s end we had 26.2 miles under our feet and 6500 feet of climb/descent.

When we got home, we dutifully sorted our gear, set the tent up to dry, and put things away. I only had enough energy to shower and eat half my dinner before I bonked face-first onto the bed yelling, “I love my pillow!” In the morning, my stomach was grumbling on empty and my brain was already focused on what to make for breakfast – because it was Jeremy’s birthday! Bacon. He loves bacon. And eggs. He likes eggs. And pancakes with… huckleberry syrup. That’s what birthdays are all about – happy things.

sugar, water, huckleberries

**Jump for more butter**

before the freeze

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

Recipe: grilled brie porcini and caramelized onion sandwich

There is the possibility of a freeze and light snow down on the flats Thursday night. Everyone down there is freaking out at the potential for snow. That’s what they do. They freak out. I’m kind of excited about the snow. You knew that. But I also realize that up high in the mountains where my the huckleberries grow, it’s not only going to snow, but it’s going to be a hard freeze. Those little guys are tough, but everyone has their kryptonite. Ever since I got home this week, I’ve been squeezing hikes in to look for more huckleberries. The season wanes, but the high country still calls regardless of heavy rains, angry winds, and cold numb fingers that pluck at precious purple berries.

sun in the east and rain overhead

hiking into the wall of clouds

visiting with my high country neighbors (marmots)

Cool weather and loads of late summer rains have kept the mountain mushrooms chugging along well past their usual bedtime. I don’t go out of my way to find porcini these days because huckleberries are my priority. As my friend, Jay, said to Erin (regarding our obsession with huckleberries), “You two have a sickness.” But porcini and hucks tend to like some of the same environments and they even hang out together. When I find porcini cozily nestled among the lush huckleberry plants, it fries my brain – because there’s a porcini! But wait, are there huckleberries? But, a porcini! And I have to do a quick mental calculation as to how much time it takes to harvest and clean a porcini and then convert that to potential huckleberry volume. However, if the porcini are particularly perfect or the huckleberries are particularly absent, then I’ll pick the mushroom.

i love that signature color of our rocky mountain porcini

If I pick the mushroom, I have to be absolutely sure that I’m going to do something with it or give it to someone who is going to do something with it and who will also appreciate what they have received. So I did something with a few of the porcini – I made a grilled cheese sandwich. It’s a grilled brie, buttery pan-seared porcini, and caramelized onion sandwich. I think I went momentarily blind when I took a bite of it. Jeremy, who burns a thousand calories just checking his email, ate the rest of the sandwich with a glass of chardonnay and a big honking smile on his face. This is DECADENT comfort food.

fresh porcini, olive oil, butter, brie, bread, onions (not pictured: sea salt)

slice the onions

start sautéing the onions

**Jump for more butter**