Pretty sure the question was, “Where did the summer go?”
What hasn’t yet left the building is this year’s bountiful crop of tomatoes. As long as we can still slice and salt a ripe, juicy tomato, pile it between two slices of white bread slathered with butter or mayo, it’s still summer.
Here’s another thought. If you bake Dorie’s recipe for her Simple Tomato Tart and tweak it to your liking, you’ve got a friend forever. Simple is the key word here. What cranks this tart up a notch is the two-mustard/honey mixture spread over the crust before adding the sliced tomatoes. This works served warm, room temp or cold for any meal or with drinks.
Labor Day week-end is when I pull together my winter game plan. As many of you know, I leave Aspen for the 4-month ski season. The business woman side of me kicks in when I turn my keys over to The Gant for winter rentals. Since many of you have asked, yes, it’s a pain to re-organize my condo for renters.
It’s also given me the ability to not only live at The Gant but also winter in places like Maui, San Miguel de Allende and Paris. That’s why the scale tips heavily to letting strangers sleep in my bed!
This year I’m sitting tight in a (yet unchosen) tiny, beach cottage on the southern coast of California. During the Summer of 1963 while attending summer school at the U of Iowa, I drove over to nearby West Branch to visit the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library which had just opened. I was blown away by that library. On that day I promised myself I would visit every presidential library in the country. There were three others.
Unfortunately/fortunately, Life got in the way of that dream. When I found myself alone ten years ago, there were thirteen libraries! Beginning in 2013, I began to fulfill that promise . I completed my journey on November 16, 2018, during a raging snow storm in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which is why perhaps at last count only 99 other people have done this.
I planned to write about this phenomenal adventure when I became unable to travel independently anymore. However, now is the time. I have no end game nor know where I’m going with this. It’s not for profit, just for my personal pleasure. I enjoy a wonderful life but it’s impossible to find quiet blocks of time when I’m gone all winter and have a busy summer /fall in Aspen.
“Presidential Libraries are home to hundreds of thousands of artifacts. They’re storehouses of billions of records. They preserve legacies, offer insights (and opinions) on history and are a testament to the incredible power of the office of president of the United States.” Author Kathleen McCleary
A SIMPLE TOMATO TART adapted from Dorie Greenspan, Baking with Dorie
3-5 medium and large tomatoes, depending on size of tart pan
1 Tablespoon of Dijon Mustard and 2 Tablespoons of Grainy Mustard
1-2 Tablespoons of Honey, to taste
1/2 Cup of grated cheese such as Gruyère; Comté or cheddar
Olive Oil for drizzling
Fine Sea salt and freshly ground Pepper
Variety of herbs (optional), basil leaves, thyme or rosemary springs, finely chopped parsley, basil or cilantro
1. Mix together your favorite 8-x-11 inch pastry/tart dough or use store-bought pie dough. Partially bake (Blind Bake) per the recipe/package instructions, cool and set aside on your tart pan of choice.
2. Slice your tomatoes fairly thickly (1/2-inch thick slices). Place a double thickness of paper towels on a large plate or cutting board and sprinkle with salt. Cover with a double layer of paper towel. (I did this twice.) Allow to drain for at least 20 minutes or you can also do ahead and store in the fridge overnight.
3. Center a rack in the oven and preheat t0 400 degrees. Place the partially baked crust on a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a baking mat.
4. Whisk together the mustards and honey in a small bowl, adjust to your taste and spread the mixture over the BOTTOM of the crust. Tear and spread basil over the mustard mixture. Top with 1/4 of a cup of grated cheese. Layer the tomatoes in a single layer over the mustard. Season with pepper and drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil.
5. Bake to tart, depending on size, for 20-30 minutes or until tomatoes can be easily pierced with a knife. At that point sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top and heat for another 2-3 minutes before removing from oven..
6. Scatter finely chopped herbs of your choice over the top. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.
Every summer from late June to early Fall, I pick up addictively delicious Palisade peaches (and plums, apricots, pears and sweet corn) at a fruit stand pitched near the gas tanks at Roaring Fork Valley Coop in nearby Carbondale. The Coop is my year-round go-t0 for fresh eggs, their gas is a bargain and the bathroom wins my Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. (Remember how important that became when Covid hit?) There’s not much this Iowa farm girl can’t find at a Coop.
With my recent cache of peaches, I pulled together Dorie Greenspan’s divine Drop-biscuit Peach-Blueberry Cobbler. Her cobbler begs for David Lebovitz’ Peach Ice Cream so I’m answering the call this weekend and will post both recipes in my next blog.
AN INTERVIEW with EMMA
Last week my granddaughter made her annual visit to Aspen. Emma was born two months after 9/11 and turned 21 during the Covid pandemic. She first voted for president in 2020 and started to be politically and current events-conscious during President Obama’s terms. Emma is GenerationZ (15-25).
During the recent Aspen Institute Ideas Festival, I attended a session called “Looking Forward with GenZ.” The premise was “Lots of people are talking ABOUT GenZ. Far fewer are talking TO GenZ. That has to change.” The data in the report is eye-opening. It’s as if we live on different planets?
Prior to Emma’s arrival, I emailed a number of people, some I knew, others I didn’t. What I asked was “If you could ask a 21-year-old GenZ’er one question, what would it be?” My responses, representing every decade from teenager to folks in their 90’s, was diverse and of every political persuasion. Emma bought into my idea of a week-long casual conversation . Over the years we’ve done this before. She takes these interviews very seriously. (As do I.) Below are very abbreviated answers to some of those questions.
If you could ask a 21-year-old GenZ’er one question, what would it be?
Q: What gives you the most joy and what makes you the most afraid?
A: Being an individual who’s still a part of something. Feeling in control. Seizing opportunity as it presents itself. I’m not afraid of anything. If I start to be scared, I just ask myself, “What part of this can I control?”
Q: What three things would you need to feel secure and confident about your personal future? What would a happy life look like for you?
A: Education, a plan. Passion and a calling. Resources + tools to get there, nothing fancy or crazy, just enough.
A happy life? GenZ is wayyyyyy less interested in money than previous generations. Financial stability is a plus for sure, but more so, what can life offer beyond that. I want to strike a balance with work, play, joy, and where the opportunity to learn is always present.
Q: What is the definition of success for you? How are you prepared to handle it if it doesn’t materialize as you envision?
A: It’s not so much about achievement but your mental attitude as you do achieve. I love goals of course but I really do my best to keep my mindset focused, intentional, kind and open as I work towards them. We GenZ’ers are extremely flexible, adaptable, and innovative when it comes to change. We’ve had to be.
(Gramma Memo: Emma is a senior at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. Her major is Child and Adolescent Development. She has minors in Spanish and Pre-therapeutic Psychology.)
Q: With so much current negative news, what are you most concerned about as you move into your 20s? What are the three biggest issues facing GenZ? What makes you excited and energized about the future?
A:Misinformation and polarization. Non response to environmental issues, choosing to believe since “they” are not impacted, GenZ will not be impacted. Racial and Mental Health ignorance.
We recognize what the generations above us contributed to society, both pros and cons. My generation vows to work together to create a more balanced, fair and inclusive society.
Q:How would you address the fact that solely due to age, GenerationZ is continually discredited during important conversations when it will be our responsibility to clean up the mess we are left with? (asked by a Zoomer)
A: I have no doubt we will successfully be at the table, sooner rather than later. We’ve got desire. Right now we can participate in the process by voting in numbers that influence elections. I will admit that it would be nice to sometimes be acknowledged.
Q: White privilege?
A:I understand I’m privileged. But realizing we’re stronger together, our generation celebrates diverse voices and accepts all stories and experiences. I have an obligation to participate in society as myself while also responding to the needs of that diversity.
Q: As a member of GenZ, what do you consider the most important differences from those of older generations?
A: I think older generations operate in survival mode. Instead of our taking that as a “This is how it is, has been and will be,” we ask “Why can we not change it and How?”
Q: What are YOU willing to give up to slow global warming?
A: I’d also like to ask that question to our older generations. As for me personally, I subscribe to multiple, helpful podcasts/blogs. I recycle and reuse. I carpool. I thrift everything I own and encourage others to join me. Eat mostly vegetarian. Volunteer. Ask ?s.
Q: Do you believe it is worth your time to counter climate change and the wave of nationalistic authoritarian politics? Or live in indifference?
A:Of course I think it is worth my time. To be indifferent about topics and politics that affect or alter my life and the lives of many others is not productive. We are not okay with our freedoms being taken away. We are too progressive. It’s a matter of time but change will come. GenerationZ has Grit.
Q:How can we engage GenZ in activism?
A: Although we have little power in the Congress/Supreme Court many of us already are engaged and pushing back. We’re more aggressive about finding opportunities. An example, this month Olivia Julianna turned being body-shamed by a congressman into raising within a week $2.2 million for 50 abortion rights organizations via social media. She’s 19 years old.
A: Uh, YAH! I believe in our generation. We have challenges but we have fire. I am beyond excited each day to learn, go to school, participate, and work hard. When I was at California Girl’s State, I learned how important it is to be active and engage in our government on a county, state, and national level. Hope is inspired by drive. And we have a lot of drive. At least I know I do.
Q: Is there any politician that currently inspires you to action? Who? Why? What?
A: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, AOC, the U.S. representative for New York’s 14th congressional district since 2019.
She’s a badass. Not afraid to call out wrongdoings. She’s honest. Good. Young. And intense about subjects we ALL care about.
Q: What does your generation stand for vs. what they are known for?
A: Basically we stand for change, forward motion and progress. What are we known for? I don’t know. You will have ask others.
Q: How do we get GenerationZ to vote.
A: We do vote. The 2020 election showed that. Most of us have been too young to participate in the past and voting is more restrictive in many states for us (and, everyone.) Right now we’d also like to hear from older generations that our voices matter.
16. Q: How best can we communicate with Zoomers?
A: Text, call, FaceTime. I do not not use social media. I flow between phone, text, photos and face-to-face.
Q: What role does discipline play in your life?
A:Some of the best GenZers I know practice discipline and balance in their life. For me it’s an essential practice. Aside from taking 6 classes, I am president of Phi Upsilon Omicron, the family/consumer sciences honors society, RA for an on-campus apartment complex, an aide at the Early Childhood Learning Center on campus, an intern at Kids on the Point Occupational Therapy and a virtual tutor for high school-aged students. So, I am busy and discipline is second nature to me.
“When the sun is shining I can do anything; no mountain is too high, no trouble too difficult to overcome.” Wilma Rudolph
Realizing there are some mountains too high for me and some troubles beyond my control, the sun is still shining so…
BRING ON SUMMER
Mushroom season. It’s a thing. Having grown up in Iowa I know April showers translate to fungi foragers being on the prowl. Every serious forager has his secret place so don’t expect to tag along for the hunt. The more I learned about mushrooms, the more I resolved to never eat a mushroom I picked. Only in grocery stores or farmers markets in fungi I trust.
Surprisingly I never met a portobello mushroom until I ordered the widely-acclaimed veggie sandwich called a “Shroom Burger” at Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack in Las Vegas. It’s a breaded and deep-fried cheese-stuffed portobello mushroom patty (or, 2, if preferred) in a brioche bun and topped with lettuce, tomato and the chain’s special sauce.
While Shake Shack’s burger was a bit too, too for me, I loved the meaty, earthy taste of the portobello. Last week I found some beautiful portobellos in the market so mushrooms were on my menu. I wasn’t disappointed by my tasty efforts. (Recipes are below.)
JUNE: SLIDING INTO SUMMER
One of the joys of my adult life has been spending my summers in Aspen. While the cultural options are enormous, it’s the recreational opportunities that Michael first introduced to me in 1988 when we moved here. After he died, which incidentally was ten years ago this month, nothing was more healing than getting back to Aspen and into the mountains. And so it continues…..
MY SUMMER JOB – As the season begins, I thought you’d like a glimpse of my “office,” where I work and what I do.
Grilled Portobello Mushrooms with Fontina on Toast
Adapted from recipe developers Fatima Khawaja, Saveur magazine and Laura Rege @Kitchn
NOTE: I used the additional portobellos for a quiche, portobello burger, cream of mushroom soup and a main course. Laura Rege suggests adding cucumber yogurt sauce, chimichurri pesto or your favorite toppings to a burger or portobello slices for added flavor
Yield: 2 toasts
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 tbsp. balsamic or sherry vinegar
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 tbsp. salted butter, softened, divided
2 medium garlic clove, finely chopped (2 tsp.)
1 shallot, finely chopped (3 Tbsp.)
3 tbsp. finely chopped chives
Freshly ground black pepper
3-4 Portobellos (1½ cups lightly packed is needed for the toasts)
2 thick country bread slices
2 oz. thinly sliced Fontina cheese (no substitute allowed!)
Flaky sea salt, to taste
Finely chop 1 garlic clove and place in a 9×13-inch baking dish. Add 3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar and 2 Tbsp. olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper. Whisk to combine.
Wash, dry and remove the stems from 3-4 portobello mushrooms. Add to the baking dish and marinate at room temperature until almost all of the marinade is absorbed (at least 10 and up to 30 minutes), flipping halfway through.
Place the mushrooms side by side, on the grill or in the grill pan. Cover and grill until tender and lightly charred, 4 to 5 minutes per side. 4.
While grilling the mushrooms, melt the butter in a small skillet set over medium heat. When the foam subsides, add the garlic and shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3–4 minutes. Add the chives and cook for another minute. Season with freshly ground black pepper and remove from the heat.
Transfer the grilled portobellos to a cutting board and coarsely chop the mushrooms. Add them to the butter mixture and toss to coat.
Drizzle a little olive oil over both sides of the bread slices, then grill, turning once, until there are grill marks on both sides, about 4 minutes. Turn off the heat. Top the slices evenly with thin fontina slices, cover (tinfoil works well) and heat until the cheese is melted, 60-90 seconds more.
Transfer the toasts to a serving plate, top with the buttered morels. Sprinkle with the flaky salt and serve hot. These toasts are very rich and filling.
Last Tuesday a friend who lives in Mountain Valley, an East Aspen area that shares its space with wildlife habitat, called, “Hey Mary,” she said, “Can you come pick me up? There’s a moose in my front yard and I can’t get to my car.”
Honestly, Readers, this is a call every volunteer USFS Ranger can only dream about. Telling her I’d be there in ten minutes, I explained to my “new knee” we needed to ‘pick it up a notch’ for a rescue mission.
I drove up the mountain to her house, slowly pulling into her lengthy driveway. Yup, that sure looked like a moose. Although Luky had already called the police earlier in the day and they had scooted it away, it had come calling again. The police woman had claimed to know this moose. “It’s a two-to-three year old whose Mom was killed last year,” she said, “It usually hangs around with another orphan but is alone today.” (Sympathy Font kicks in.)
I wedged my car between the moose, who was only casually interested in me, and the house. Luky dashed down her steps and jumped into the car. Although the moose had moved closer, it was more curious than threatening and returned to chomping on Luky’s trees as we left.
It’s late Springtime in Aspen when wildlife emerges to roam the empty streets and meander through our neighborhoods scouting out unlocked bins! Another Mountain Valley friend watched a baby bear take down her bird feeder, rip open a bag of dirt and eat her flowers. Obviously the little guy hadn’t received the memo that bears don’t eat flowers.
It’s been a glorious week of moose, deer, bears, beavers, butterflies and chickadees feathering their nests.
LING! LING! LING!ROASTED LINGCOD WITH RED PEPPER & OLIVE RELISH
Recently Cathy O’Connell, a good friend who knows her way around the kitchen, shared a package of Ling (frozen) from bounty gifted to her by fishing buddies. She had several packages of it, was unfamiliar with Ling and suggested since she was going to Paris for 3 months, I might give it a go. (No comment on her flying to France and leaving me with fish!)
But I was intrigued by its name and determined to do justice to this generosity. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries, Ling is a member of the Cod family and flourishes along the Pacific coast. It is closely regulated, sustainably managed and responsibly harvested, making it a smart seafood choice.
Lingcod is a fleshy white fish, doesn’t fall apart and is full of flavor, thanks in part to the knockout relish slathered on top. Other cod or halibut would work as well. With ingredients on hand, you could be eating dinner in 30 minutes.
The glittery star of this dish is its refreshingly light relish, a reminder that condiments have ‘superhero abilities when it comes to turning everyday dishes into taste sensations.’ Keep this relish recipe in your back pocket to add a flavor burst to many-a-meal.
In fact the next day I toasted a brioche bun, piled on sliced onion and lettuce with the leftovers for a tasty lunch I was proud to serve (myself). Be creative and punch up your sides and sandwiches with this relish, store-bought condiments or mix together your own concoctions.
ROASTED LINGCOD WITH RED PEPPER & OLIVE RELISH adapted from The Original Dish blog by Kayla
4 (6 oz) skinless cod or halibut fillets
freshly cracked black pepper
2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
¾ cup diced Mezzetta roasted red peppers
½ cup halved Kalamata, Castelvetrano or your favorite olives
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp honey
½ tsp crushed red pepper
flaky sea salt
1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Place the Ling into a 9×13” baking dish. Drizzle generously with olive oil and rub to coat both sides. Season with salt and black pepper. Arrange the thinly sliced garlic over top. Roast for 8 minutes.
2. Meanwhile add the diced roasted red peppers, halved olives, lemon zest, lemon juice, parsley, honey, and crushed red pepper to a small mixing bowl. Toss well to combine.
3. Remove the baking dish from the oven. Spoon the red pepper mixture over the fish. Transfer back to the oven and continue to roast for 2-3 more minutes, or until the fish is cooked through and the relish is heated.
4. Top with a pinch of flaky sea salt and any extra parsley leaves.
My daughter, Melissa, has always said the best thing we do together is laugh.
That premise was to be truly tested after I finally scheduled Total Knee Replacement surgery for mid-April. When I called to tell her, she replied, “ So I’ll come for two weeks to take care of you.”
Whoa… As she already knew, I don’t accept help graciously. But even this Mama Bear knows that Independent, Solo and Alone don’t cut it when someone else is doing the cutting. Instead, I thanked her. We were on.
This surgery revelation is not surprising. I had Knee Arthroscopy, a minimally invasive procedure, thirty-five years ago. It was a short-term fix. Eventually my left knee started talking back again. Like so many other people, I chose to ignore and endure it.
Two years ago I realized it was affecting my lifestyle. There were activities I avoided and mountain tops no longer within my reach. Last fall I cancelled my upcoming winter trip to France. Paris is a walkable city but not if you can’t walk. That same day I made an appointment with a surgeon relatively new to Aspen. His assistant said to stop by later that same afternoon. I liked and trusted the doctor who seemed to like and understand me. Together we nailed down a surgery date six months hence.
Before leaving Aspen for the winter, I stopped by the hospital to be measured by a machine affectionately called “the doughnut.” For the new knee, my doctor, Jared Lee, the Medical Director of Aspen’s Steadman Clinic uses Conformis, a company which applies a CT scan to design a customized knee replacement to my size and shape. This was going to happen.
Fast forward to surgery time. Melissa arrived two days before my April 19th surgery and immediately turned my condo upside down. She and The Gant’s housekeeping staff rolled up my oriental rugs, moved furniture and brought in piles of the sheets, towels and pillows I needed for a sterile environment. She picked up a walker, crutches, cane, etc., from a recent veteran of replacement surgery who gifted us with her largesse. As for me, think ‘deer caught in headlights.’
Unlike most patients, I was not interested in knowing about the intricacies of my upcoming surgery. To my mind, that was the doctor’s responsibility. Because Melissa’s business evolved around providing care and healing, that was her lane. As for me, I would commit to months of post-op rehabilitation without complaint.
What I’d mostly heard about this surgery is it’s painful. Melissa followed the agreed upon Pain Protocol religiously and managed to stay ahead of my pain. She was up 3-4 times each night to give me pills. Everyone has their own threshold for pain. I was lucky to need only one Oxi. Let’s just admit when my nerve block wore off, I was rethinking Life itself.
Admittedly, there were moments. In the hospital the night following surgery, I wanted to turn my phone off. Although my room was dark I spotted the bright red button on my phone and pushed it. 911 answered. It seems we had a conversation. (Actually I called them twice!) Finally a nurse stopped by, I told her my problem and she shut it off. By the next day the discussion that I was confused and probably should not be discharged yet had picked up steam. When the doctors came to check on me, my soft-spoken daughter stepped up. “Listen,” she said, “My mother is sharp as a tack. She is NOT confused. She does stuff like this all the time.”
I was discharged.
I began PT the day after surgery, three times a week with my therapist Nicole. I hit the jackpot with Nicole. She always coaxed more out of me than I thought I could give. On other days I did the 18 short exercises she had suggested by myself.
After coming home and in anticipation of my living alone, every morning Missy and I grabbed our coffee and spent an hour discussing what’s working, what wasn’t and what questions we had to ask. By the time she left last Saturday we both were confident I’d be fine. Before leaving she filled my larder, did all the household chores. and stuck cards/post-its everywhere reminding me to do or not do this/that. The oriental rugs are still rolled up, I can no longer remember what is shoved under beds, chairs which serve as exercise stations are still in place and food that was inaccessible is sitting on my counter. I am forbidden to climb on a foot stool — like, well, forever.
Following my two-week post-op with Dr. Lee this week, I’m off crutches, the walker and use a cane only if needed. I can drive. Nothing hurts. To my mind, Dr. Lee and his crew can now just stand back and accept my gratitude. As for Melissa who is back in California, Mom-Mission accomplished. Now it’s on me. This is the “do the work” part of the story. The spotlight’s on me and I’m here for it.
On this Mother’s Day, this Mother would like to pass on her roses to her daughter. For everything you did for me and to me and with me and even, in spite of me, thank you, Melissa. I still think the best thing we do together is laugh.