What screams 4th of July more than hamburgers, hot dogs, crispy fried chicken, old-fashioned potato salad, peach or cherry pie and if luck’s with you, home-made ice cream. Stir in family, friends, a corny parade down Main Street and an evening concert of John Philip Sousa courtesy of the high school band. That’s my memory of summer celebrations in Manchester, Iowa. (So you know, I was a drummer girl in that band.)


Those memories came alive when our country’s celebration was turned inside out by the Pandemic. Even more so because next week I had hoped to join 4 other high school friends in Manchester for a long-planned mini-reunion with short stops in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids to visit others. Coordinating dates with conflicting summer schedules? What a chore. Booking flights from San Diego, Aspen, Colorado Springs, Rochelle and Sioux City, even more so. Manchester is not destination-friendly. As for now, and I suspect as for all of you, these vacation adventures are on hold.  

The Aeshnidae (also called Darners) is a family of dragonflies. The family includes the largest dragonflies found in North America and Europe and among the largest dragonflies on the planet.


In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.

A baby Violet Green Swallow waiting for a meal.
The Food Delivery Service!

The USFS has sidelined the Forest Conservancy this summer. Playing it safe, protecting its volunteer corp, we Rangers are grateful for that. With apologies to author Maurice Sendak, this furlough has given me the time and opportunity to explore and discover Where (more of) the Wild Things Are in this Valley.

Fireweed is a tall showy wildflower that tends to love disturbed places. It’s a beautiful and welcomed presence on Basalt Mountain.
This week I hiked the Ditch Trail on Basalt Mountain in the Burn area. The Lake Christine wildfire started on July 3, 2018 and burned over 12,500 acres.
Butterflies are free and they are in abundance this summer. This beautiful creature is a Weidemeyers’s Admiral


Am putting my July books aside to join our summer Community Read choice, “The Beekeeper of Aleppo,” a novel by Christy Lefteri. “A House in the Mountains, The Women Who Liberated Italy from Fascism,” by Caroline Moorehead is our library’s Nonfiction Book Club July pick. If you’re a nature lover, prone to the wild side, you’ll love “WRITING WILD, Women Poets, Ramblers and Mavericks Who Shape How We See the World.” It’s by Kathryn Aalto. Just published and fabulous.


Today’s recipe, LOWER EAST SIDE BRUNCH TART, a creamy custard tart filled with smoked salmon, capers, onions and tomatoes, is dedicated to the memory of the talented Ro DiDomenico, a beloved member of French Fridays with Dorie, who recently passed away.

For the past ten years I’ve cooked virtually with Ro and her daughter, Tricia, through several of Dorie Greenspan’s cookbooks. Crowned our group’s matriarch, Ro started her blogging career at 78, doing the cooking, computer coding and photography herself. This Tart was one of her favorites. We miss you, Ro.

When Dorie was the keynote speaker at the 2013 International Food Bloggers Conference in Seattle, many of us attended to support Dorie and meet each other. Here’s Ro with her daughter, Tricia and Dorie.

LOWER EAST SIDE BRUNCH TART by Dorie Greenspan, Everyday Dorie, The Way I Cook
Serves: 6-8

Mise en Place


One 9-91/2 inch tart shell made with your favorite tart/pie dough or short circuit this step by purchasing your favorite tart/pie dough.


1½ oz cream cheese, cut into small chunks
3 oz smoked salmon, chopped
¼ cup thinly sliced red onion
3 tbsp capers, drained
1 tbsp chopped chives or dill
¾ cup heavy cream
2 large eggs
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
12-15 cherry tomatoes, halved


  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Line a 9-inch tart pan with the dough (I first butter my tart pan), prick all over with a fork. Partially bake for 10-12 minutes until barely browned. Cool.
  3. Drop the temperature to 350 degrees F.
  4. Place the partially-baked and cooled tart shell on parchment-lined baking sheet. Drop the cream cheese chunks over the bottom of the pie crust. Top with the salmon, onion, capers, and herbs.
  5. Whisk together the heavy cream and eggs with the salt and the pepper until smooth. Pour carefully into the crust over the other ingredients stopping when you’re just below the rim. Top with the halved tomatoes.
  6. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until it is set and cooked through. The center of the tart should have risen as much as the sides.
  7. Allow to rest for at least 15 minutes before serving. Serve just warm or at room temperature with a small green salad (I like strictly arugula greens with this.)

TIP: If there are leftovers, wrap tightly and refrigerate. Reheat in oven to serve.

  • John Muir was America’s most famous, influential naturalist and conservationist.