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midlife huckleberry

Saturday, October 2nd, 2021

Recipe: huckleberry pie

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September sways between summer and autumn and occasionally dips a toe in faux-winter here in the mountains. The month began thick with greenery and hot sun, and ended draped in the golden leaves of autumn as the high country backdrops were accented in white from recent snowfall. I find it a refreshing reprieve from relentless awesome summer doings. Like much of the wildlife around us, we are tending to those responsibilities we shirked all summer in favor of foraging mushrooms and huckleberries.

Labor Day is an unofficial bookend of summer, which means we spent our birthdays in relative peace and quiet. Relative because… pups. Per Jeremy’s request, I prepared a multi-course seafood dinner for his birthday dinner and baked a hazelnut almond dacquoise with fresh berries and chocolate mousse for dessert. For my own birthday, my 50th, I made chicken porcini pot pie, had a scoop of non-dairy store bought ice cream, and defeated several armies of hostile alien forces. No midlife crisis, just midlife casual no-drama low-stress appreciation for the ordinary. We were in Crested Butte last weekend to winterize our place and do a little leaf peeping.


birthday boy and yuki side-eye

neva enjoying outside time (yuki did not want to climb onto the boulder)

everybody happy

aspen and spruce

this will never get old

walking through golden aspen stands

lovely views in every direction



It’s late in the season to be posting a huckleberry recipe, but I know people are still foraging them to the north and west of Colorado. We had a pretty good huck season locally. If you were diligent about picking and freezing these tiny flavor bombs this summer, you might have enough to make a pie. If (like me) you use your precious huckleberries sparingly, then a full-sized 9-inch pie might be too great a demand of your stash. A 4-inch pie requires a mere 1 1/2 cups. Thankfully, frozen huckleberries work just as well as fresh in this pie, so one could conceivably create a blast of late summer any time of year. And as always, if you don’t have huckleberries, you can substitute with wild blueberries or regular blueberries.

a tremendous season full of big little huckleberries



Truth be told, I’ve never made a life-size huckleberry pie. 6-8 cups is a full day of picking in the BEST of seasons in Colorado. So the recipe below is for a 9-inch pie, because apparently there are locales where the huckleberries are large and plentiful and you don’t have to crouch on the ground for hours on end to get them. The process I photographed here is the making of a 4-inch pie. I also ditched the pie dough in the Saveur recipe because Kenji’s pie dough is now my trusted go-to recipe.

flour, salt, sugar, butter, ice water

pulse sugar, salt, 2/3 of the flour, and cold butter together

cut in the remaining flour

drizzle with cold water

press and fold the dough together

holding shape and ready to chill



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emergence

Tuesday, May 25th, 2021

Recipe: venison with morel sauce

We received our second shots the day before the anniversary of Kris’ passing. Based on reports from several friends as well as the CDC, I assumed I’d be feeling pretty miserable within 24 hours of my second dose. I bought some flowers earlier in the hopes they would still be bright and perky on May 1.


sunny ranunculus for kris



Because my parents were in town for the past month, our emergence from pandemic isolation has been hastened by their desire to see us. There’s being fully vaccinated and then there is being mentally prepared for the increase in activity and engagement and noise and personalities and driving. And I have to admit that while seeing my parents again has been good, the chaos and stress of stepping back into “normal” life feels anything but normal. It’s not being out of practice so much as questioning if being social is what I enjoy or what society wants me to enjoy. Perhaps Brood X is on to something.

a strawberry mother’s day cake i baked for mom



Per our usually scheduled atmospheric programming, it snowed on Mother’s Day and it snowed some more after that. Any precipitation is welcome in our mountains as we are practically guaranteed a terrible wildfire season in the American West again. The snows and rains made for a cooler, wetter, moodier May, but that hopefully means more mushrooms, more wildflowers, and healthier wildlife here on the Front Range. The western half of Colorado hasn’t been nearly so lucky, but I remain hopeful that the summer monsoons that evaporated the last few years will reappear now that La Niña has officially ended. I love a good Colorado mountain summer rainstorm.

colorado sun and snow in may

signs of life in the mountains: a pasqueflower

deck lounging season has commenced



After taking my parents to the airport last week to catch their morning flight back to Virginia, Jeremy and I stopped to check a morel spot on the plains. We hadn’t paid much attention to the season and we weren’t expecting anything other than a few spears of feral asparagus. But if you don’t look, you’ll never find them. Foraging on the flats is my least favorite kind of foraging because of the ticks and poison ivy and heat and sun and bugs and so many more people, which might explain why I’m so half-heartedly half-assed about the whole endeavor. And to our great surprise, we found a handful of large blonde morels – including the biggest one I’ve ever seen in the flesh!

growing out of the ground like no big deal

approaching child-sized status



My inclination upon finding the first morels of every season is to batter fry them, but that can get a little strange with a morel the size of a guinea pig. The other three weren’t small by our standards, either. Sure, you can cut the big ones up, but half the fun is eating them whole. I flipped through Hank Shaw’s Buck, Buck, Moose cookbook, unearthed a couple of venison backstraps from our freezer (courtesy of our wonderful neighbors), and decided the fate of these precious fungi. The dish is straightforward, quick, and special.

morel mushrooms, venison backstraps, salt, flour, canola oil, butter, beef stock, pepper, port wine, onion



Venison with morel mushroom sauce in the cookbook is slightly different from Hank’s updated web version. The cookbook recipe (this one) works and I’m certain Hank’s newer recipe is just as good if not better, but I didn’t see it until just now. I used fresh morels, but if morels aren’t in season and you have dried morels, Hank has instructions in both recipes for how to use those instead. I suspect you could go with frozen morels, too (I sauté extra morels in butter then freeze them for later use). And if you don’t have access to venison backstrap or tenderloin, beef is a decent alternative.

salt the venison

chopped onion and morels



I seared the venison backstraps rare, measuring the internal temperature at the thickest end to about 120°F (rare is 125°F), knowing it would continue to rise some as the meat rested on a plate. You can shoot for medium rare (final temperature 130°F), but cooking more than that will ruin this lean, tender cut.

sear the meat

resting



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time for flower power

Tuesday, April 27th, 2021

Recipe: herb and floral pasta

Mom and Dad arrived in Colorado last week to take care of maintenance at their Boulder home that had been postponed due to the pandemic. They look fantastic and healthy (and are fully vaccinated), but since Jeremy and I are between our first and second vaccination shots, we’re all donning masks during our brief visits at their place. When we dropped off their houseplants I had been babysitting since November 2019, Mom handed me garlic and oranges which she had purchased in bulk, and Dad gave Jeremy a nice bottle of wine. It’s these little things that make them happy. I view our time together with more appreciation now.


so good to see my folks



April has graced us with deliciously snowy spring storms alternating with warm sunny days. Our local hill is now closed, but we grabbed one last powder day the Friday of closing weekend and have since enjoyed more powder days in the backcountry. Spring is magical.

waiting for the lifts to open

rewarding views in the backcountry as we approach treeline on our way up

neva is utterly thrilled to play in the snow, no matter the season

the pups played so hard they wiped themselves out (yay!)



Springtime snow is synonymous with increased wildlife traffic through our yard in both frequency and variety. Most notable are the moose. Mamas with their yearlings still in tow are foraging wild currant and young aspen tips. Our local mule deer visit multiple times a day. We catch glimpses of foxes, coyotes, raccoons, and other critters as they mince or trundle their way past our deck or our game camera or the watchful eyes of Neva and Yuki from their window benches. But I know our winter-flavored spring will flip the switch to summer-flavored spring soon, so I’ve been busy wrapping up my cold-weather cooking and sewing projects.

mule deer feeding where the snow has opened to the ground

yearling moose enjoying our driveway aspens

a big pot of chicken (dark meat) posole

happy rag quilts for kids



Whether it’s snow or sunshine falling on us, I am embracing the imminent arrival of colorful produce, flowers, leaves, grasses, birds. I may be getting ahead of my skis here since we’re expecting another foot of snow tonight, but I recently made a lovely herb and edible flower pasta and thought it would be perfect to share for Mother’s Day or a celebration or just because.

herbs and edible flowers, all-purpose flour, eggs, semolina flour



I basically used the pasta recipe from this handmade pappardelle. The dough can be made with a food processor or by hand, but you should definitely weigh the flours as volumes are inconsistent and can give you a pasta dough that is impossibly difficult to roll.

mix the flours together in a food processor (or bowl)

3 egg yolks and 3 whole eggs

pour the beaten eggs and yolks into the running food processor



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