Burrata Caprese with Peaches, Apricots Tomato, & Basil

Hey Summer 2017, just slow down. Memorial Day. Check. June, those 30 days. Whoosh. Independence Day. Over. School doors open in late August. Labor Day’s in sight. Only 169 days until Christmas.

The Aspen Institute’s Ideas Festival 2017

Here’s a thought. Despite the 24-hour news cycle, try to own your last 8 weeks of summer. Jot down what you most want to do. Make priorities. That’s what I promised myself this summer. Grateful to be healthy, able and surrounded by friends who laugh, every day needs to count.

This beautifully designed (and, battered) wasp nest is being recycled as nesting materials for this year’s migrating birds.

How can I do that? Knowing that my Life rolls better with 8-9 hours of sleep each night, it takes more No’s than Yes. It works to block out time to cook, write and actually do the assignments for the music class I enrolled in recently. Twicky but doable. Busy, but so far, so good. Here’s a glimpse at the past two weeks. How is your summer going?

The Aspen Institute’s campus and venue for IDEAS 2017


Blanca O’LEARY & I attended our 13th Aspen Ideas Festival at the Aspen Institute together. This is an NPR Podcast Live Taping “In the Thick” with Maria Hinojosa, the award-winning anchor and executive producer of NPR’s Latino USA.

In the words of the Aspen Institute folks, The Aspen Ideas Festival is ‘the nation’s premier, public gathering place for leaders from around the globe and across many disciplines to engage in deep and inquisitive discussion of the ideas and issues that shape our lives and challenge our times.’

Every passholder received this bag that is made of repurposed military surplus material and made in USA plants partially staffed by Vets with 10% of profits going to Vet organizations. In the bag was a copy of the Constitution which thrilled Gold Star father, Khizr Khan, who I heard speak on Culture & Civil Liberties.

Created in 2005 by well-known author, president and CEO of the AI, Walter Isaacson, and brilliantly managed by vice president Kitty Boone, the Ideas Festival has been the highpoint of my summers for the past 13 years. This year was no exception.

Walter Isaacson is leaving the Institute at the end of the year, returning to his home town of New Orleans to continue writing and also teaching at Tulane University. The Preservation Hall Band interrupted a conversation with Andrea Mitchell and Samantha Powers (on stage) to lead him out of the tent to a farewell party.

At IDEALS there were recognizable all-stars such as Thomas Friedman, Andrea Mitchell, Fareed Zakaria, musician Jon Batiste as well as governors and cabinet members. I was more interested, however, in the many lesser known names such as the very impressive Rebecca Onie, a MacArthur Genius and public health entrepreneur. I won’t forget my new best friend, Dr. David Rapoport, the Director of Research in Integrative Sleep Medicine at Mount Sinai who stressed the importance of sleep. He suggested we all need at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Yesssss. A Win for Mary. I tried to hear presidential historian and author Jon Meecham at every opportunity. And, no, I didn’t tell him I’d visited all the presidential libraries but Ford’s. Restraint is my middle name.

Headed to the Party. Kathy & Walter Isaacson are just behind the band.


Last week I received an emergency e-mail from a young executive here at The Gant. (Her name will remain anonymous.) Her husband’s birthday was in a week. To celebrate at a Bar-B-Que, a friend was making limoncello ice cream. She was baking the birthday cake, wanted it to be lemon, and asked for suggestions.

I e-mailed her two suggestions with recipes and photos. She chose Maida Heatter’s classic East 62nd Street Lemon Cake, which, according to many bakers, is the best lemon cake ever. She is a good cook but admitted to not being a baker. At high altitude, baking successfully is difficult. I gave her my bundt pan, a spray can of Pam’s happy Baker’s and some tips. Then, I prayed.

The beautiful end result of the birthday cake. “When life gives you lemon cake,” she says, “you disguise it with amaretto cookies.”


Like many first-time attempts, the cake didn’t behave. (I once made three coffee cakes, all failures, before I cried.) But, her fix was ingenious. (BTW, she is also ingenious at her very challenging job.) “It was actually quite funny,” she said, “and it was one of those days where absolutely nothing went right.  But in the end the cake was delicious and I’ll definitely try to make it again.”

Yes, we will.


For the past 41 years, a cannon located at Smuggler Mine has blasted off at 6am to usher in the start of Aspen’s July 4th activities. Our Golden Retriever, Belle, when hearing the roar every year, would leap onto our bed (forbidden territory) and shake for the next hour or so. Aspen Daily News, Rising Sun Photography

I knew this day would come…We have known Cavanaugh O’Leary since he moved to our Aspen neighborhood with his parents when he was 4. We often helped him celebrate his 4th of July birthday. He just finished his 2nd year at Cal Poly at San Luis Obispo so I’ve been nearby in the winter in Cambria. Now 21, it’s obvious I’ve been replaced by Gabrielle Scapa, also a Cal Poly student.


Our farmer’s market is always late out of the gate because of cooler temperatures. The stalls are now loaded so Wendy Weaver, the earliest customer at the market every Saturday, picked up peaches and apricots so I could make this gorgeous Burrata Caprese with Peaches, Tomatoes, Apricots and Basil. It’s another delicious recipe from Melissa Clark’s Dinner, Changing the Game cookbook.

BURRATA with PEACHES, APRICOTS, TOMATO & BASIL, Dinner, Changing the Game by Melissa Clark

Serves 4


3 tablespoons pine nuts
1/3 cup packed fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
1 whole Burrata cheese (usually about 6 ounces) OR, mozzarella di bufala
2 large peaches and 4 apricots (or nectarines or plums)
1 pound cherry tomatoes, halved and left whole, combo
Flaky sea salt (I use Maldon Sea Salt Flakes)


1. In a small skillet over medium heat toast the pine nuts, shaking the skillet occasionally until they are golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside.

2.In a blender or food processor, combine the chopped basil, lemon juice, fine sea salt and 1/4 cup olive oil. Puree until a chunky dressing forms. You do not want a smooth dressing.

3. Place the Burrata in the center of a large platter and arrange the fruit and tomatoes around it. Spoon the dressing over the cheese, leaving some for the fruits. Drizzle with additional olive oil. Top with the toasted pine nuts and a sprinkling of flaky sea salts.


1. I served it with French or rustic country bread as my dinner. Clark suggests that paper-thin prosciutto, sliced salami or smoked salmon alongside is a nice salty contrast.

2. You may also serve this to guests by slicing wedges of burrata and spooning fruit onto a small salad plate. Or they can serve themselves if you divide the burrata into wedges.

Can We Prevent a North Korea Crisis? with (LtoR) Evan Osnos, The New Yorker; Elizabeth Economy, Council of Foreign Relations; Thomas Friedman, New York Times and Fareed Zakaria, CNN.



Tarte Crumble aux Cerises, this week's CooktheBookFridays recipe.

Tarte Crumble aux Cerises, this week’s CooktheBookFridays recipe.

“Is this a sharable story?” I’ve been asking myself. “Can I blog about this to inspire or bring a smile?”

If something really nice happens, I wondered, can I flip it into a Pay It Forward challenge for you readers as it was for me ?

Coin flip. Heads, yes. Tails, yes. (It was Heads.)


There’s dessert, also. For CooktheBookFridays, this week’s recipe is Tarte Crumble aux Cerises. Cherry Tart in English. Tarta de la Cereza in Spanish. Fabulous in any language.

Gorgeous butterflies visit Colorado's High Country.  Hunter Creek Valley, Aspen

Gorgeous butterflies visit Colorado’s High Country. Hunter Creek Valley, Aspen

Before counting calories, let’s talk. Cheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s CEO and author of Lean In, lost her 47-year old husband last year. She’s tough but grief is grief. It can be masked but, to my thinking, hunkers down like a boulder in your heart. Cheryl’s now writing her second book, about resilience, calling it Option B. “I have learned,” she once wrote, “that resilience can be learned.”

Long before Cheryl lost her husband, I was living the 8-year process of losing mine. As strong and tenacious as I consider myself now, during those years I was not. “If Plan A doesn’t work, Mom,” my daughter, Melissa, would counsel during a crisis, “we’ll go to Plan B or even C.”

Most Saturdays I can be found at the Maroon Bells, monitoring the trail up to Crater Lake.  This is my week-end office. It's tough duty.

Most Saturdays I can be found at the Maroon Bells, monitoring the trail up to Crater Lake. This is my week-end office. It’s tough duty.

After Michael died and I returned to Aspen, my challenge was not only to heal but be content and useful. Realizing this was a high bar, I considered it a deserved goal. This blog, as you know, revolves around my doing that.

About twenty years ago I joined a ragtag group of ten Aspen locals who were helping the “real” and understaffed USFS Rangers monitor our trails. We raided their warehouse for cast-off uniforms, buckled on backpacks and lived the outdoor dream.

During my eight year absence, this dream job morphed into the Forest Conservancy, a razor-sharp, volunteer organization of officially-sanctioned USForest Service ranger representatives. When I returned to Aspen in 2013, the FC, now 100-plus strong, became my Safe Haven. After jumping through a few hoops, taking classes and actually memorizing a rule book, I received not one but two spanking new uniforms. Welcome home, Mary.

Remember the Cooper's Hawk babies?

Remember the Cooper’s Hawk babies?

They grew up to be big boys. One of three.

They grew up to be big boys. One of three.

At that time many FC colleagues had undertaken the rigorous journey to become Master Naturalists, the FC’s educational arm. I balked at joining their ranks. Too much responsibility. Too much commitment. And, honestly, I didn’t have the wisdom.

Being supportive, however, I always join them on Maroon Bells’ Discovery Day Saturdays when, loaded with exhibits, they man individual booths, talking with tourists about flowers, trees, moose, bears, geology and more. I’d hike the trails, interacting with 400 to 600 visitors each DD. But, being a Master Naturalist, No is No.

7:30AM, Maroon Bells - I came upon this young man, a carefully set blanket with champagne on ice nearby, on his knee proposing to his girlfriend. A few  early visitors stood quietly, watching. "What if she says No," one whispered.  (She didn't.) It was an officially-sanctioned proposal, the happy couple decided.

7:30AM, Maroon Bells – I came upon this young man, a carefully set blanket with champagne on ice nearby, on his knee proposing to his girlfriend. A few early visitors stood quietly, watching. “What if she says No,” one whispered. (She didn’t.) It was an officially-sanctioned proposal, the happy couple decided.

Two weeks ago, our Mama Bear who oversees the MN program, called a short meeting after DD’s end. I abhor meetings, they tend to ramble, but at days end I joined my other hot, weary colleagues at the Bell’s tiny amphitheater.You know where this is going, don’t you? There was food, drink and chocolate cake. Uh-oh. Before I could execute a quick exit, I became a MN.


Surprisingly, I found myself unbelievably pleased (see poem below). It’s not the distinction, (so much more to learn), but their planning and effort. It’s friendship and a forgotten word in today’s world, NICE. Playing nice is a cheap Pay it Forward option whatever the alphabet letter. I’m calling it my Option N.

“For twenty years Mary Hirsch has been a volunteer ranger,
Hiking the trails, helping folks out of danger.

She has a sparkling personality and sure gift of gab
And in her uniform, she looks simply fab.

Since she has done the time and taken the classes,
We hope she joins the rest of us who work off our asses.

The birders have told us you’d be a great Master Naturalist
So we hope you will join us, in fact we iNSIST!

As the great Teddy said, “It is done, I do declare it.”
Here is your pin and now you MUST wear it.”


To celebrate my joy I adapted this sweet cherry tart from David Lebovitz’s Tarte Crumble aux Apricots because I could not find Colorado apricots yet. Whatever the fresh fruit, use between 1 3/4-2 pounds. The lip-smacker in this recipe is the Crumble Topping which can be used with other baked fruit pastries. I used a 9-inch springform pan but will move up to 10-inches next time.

Use a springform pan for this tart.

Use a springform pan for this tart.

TARTE CRUMBLE aux CERISES (Sweet Cherry Crumble Tart) Adapted from My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz.

Serves 8-10

6 tablespoons (3 ounces/85g)
unsalted butter, chilled
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg yolks, room-temperature
11/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt

3/4 cup whole almonds
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (Being heavy-handed with my spices, I used 1 TBS.)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cubed

2 pounds ripe, fresh apricots, pitted and quartered (or, sweet cherries)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (I used 1/2tsp.)

Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, to serve


1. TO MAKE THE DOUGH, remove butter from the refrigerator 10 minutes before using it and to let it soften slightly in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the sugar and beat on medium speed just until no visible lumps of butter remain. Add the egg yolks, flour and salt. Mix until the dough comes together. (You can also make the dough in a bowl using a spatula and a little moxie.)

2. Coat the bottom and sides of a 9- to 10-inch springform pan with nonstick spray. Use the heel of your hand to press the dough over the bottom of the pan, and a little less than halfway up the sides. Try to get the bottom as even as possible, not because anyone will see it, but so it bakes evenly. Put the pan in freezer for 30 minutes.

The crumble topping should look like this before you pop it in the fridge to chill.

The crumble topping should look like this before you pop it in the fridge to chill.

3. MAKE THE CUMBLE TOPPING by pulsing the almonds, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a food processor until the almonds are broken up into very small pieces. Add the butter and pulse the food processor. After a few moments, the mixture will look sandy. As you continue to pulse, pieces will just start clumping together. Stop pulsing at that point and chill the crumble topping. (If you don’t have a food processor, you can make the crumble topping by chopping the almonds finely and mixing the topping with a pastry blender or by hand.)

4. Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC).

5. Line the springform pan with aluminum foil and a single layer of pie weights (or dried beans). Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and pie weights and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the tart shell is browned.

6. After the tart shell comes out of the oven, make the filling. In a bowl, mix the fruit with the sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla. Do not make the filling too far in advance because the fruit may become too juicy.
Transfer the fruit to the tart shell and even them out. Strew the crumble topping evenly over the fruit.

7. Bake the tart for 50 minutes, until the crumble topping is nicely browned. (I baked my tart exactly 50 minutes.)

8. Let cool on a wire rack for a few minutes, then run a knife around the outside of the tart to separate it from pan, in case any juices ran over. Let rest for 30 minutes, then remove the sides of the springform and let the tart cool. The edges may look rather dark, but should taste fine, not burnt.

Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or ice cream.

COOKtheBOOKFRIDAYS is an international virtual cooking group making their way through David Lebovitz’s outstanding newest cookbook, My Paris Kitchen. To see what my colleagues baked this week, go here.





My end-of-month post is often a favorite since I’m meeting unique recipes and buying ingredients that have never graced my pantry. Michael was a meat and potatoes, Oreo cookies, chocolate marshmallow pinwheels and Häagen-Dazs guy. If there was a bag of Snickers around, hip, hip hooray. He did love spinach, if it was creamed, but other veggies, not so much. And, pass on those salads.

Hundreds of Black-Necked Stilts find the food plentiful at the Merced Wildlife Refuge , part of the San Luis Refuge Complex.

Hundreds of Black-Necked Stilts find the food plentiful at the Merced Wildlife Refuge , part of the San Luis Refuge Complex.

It was food blogger Andrea Mohr, The Kitchen Lioness, who suggested I look at Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg. Hugh’s cookbook contains 200 inspired vegetable recipes simple enough for beginners but sophisticated in their flavoring and spices. I’ve been cooking this book with Andrea’s monthly group, Cottage Cooking Club, for almost two years.

Moroccan-spiced Couscous

Moroccan-spiced Couscous

This week’s CCC recipes include Chickpeas and Spinach served over Spaghetti Squash. Cumin and chile (fresh or dried), provide the kick. Using Cumin again, I added coriander and cinnamon to pull together Moroccan-spiced Couscous. Dried fruits, toasted nuts and chickpeas mixed into couscous is a delightful lunch or lovely side. Spaghetti squash, to me, may be the Jim Carey of the squash world. It’s hilarious and we’ll return to it later.

It's always thrilling to spot  Bald Eagles.  Morro Bay  Marina, 1/15/16

It’s always thrilling to spot Bald Eagles. Morro Bay Marina, 1/15/16

Over the Martin Luther King holiday week-end I attended the 20th annual Morro Bay Bird Festival. Although rain dampened some field trips, this is a wonderful year for Central Coast birds. Thank you, El Niño. With a predicted two-day sunshine break, I jumped in the car last Wednesday and headed for the San Joaquin Valley, the state’s top agricultural producing region. It’s also where the San Luis Wildlife Refuge complex, 45,000 acres of wetlands, grasslands and riparian habitats, as well as over 90,000 acres of private conservation easements for the protection and benefit of wildlife, is located.

The Tule Elk, a non-migratory elk found only in California, went almost extinct in the early Seventies. Today a herd is protected, lives at the San Luis Wildlife Refuge and is thriving.

The Tule Elk, a non-migratory elk found only in California, went almost extinct in the early Seventies. Today a herd is protected, lives at the San Luis Wildlife Refuge and is thriving.

Thousands of Snow Geese and the smaller Ross's Geese winter in the San Joaquin Valley

Thousands of Snow Geese and the smaller Ross’s Geese winter in the San Joaquin Valley

Not knowing what to expect, I was unprepared for this natural world theatrical extravaganza, The Refuges play host for 6 months to more than 20,000 lesser Sandhill cranes, 60,000 arctic-nesting geese and swans who migrate along the great Pacific Flyway to mingle with thousands of other visiting waterfowl and shorebirds. My, it’s noisy! I stayed in nearby rural Los Banos and, surprisingly, enjoyed some of the best lasagna I’ve ever tasted at M&M Restaurant owned by the six Munoz brothers.


Sprinkled throughout my Central California coast driving adventure last week were thousands of stacked and nondescript white boxes which are visible from the highway. They contain honey bees.Though not image inspiring, I found their story to be incredibly inspiring. The bee hive boxes are trucked here to spend a warm winter before almond pollination begins. In total, 1,800,000 hives are estimated to be in California (54 billion bees) now. These beekeepers allowed me to take pictures and ask questions. Since bees were swarming outside the boxes also, I didn’t linger.


Hopefully you will not only enjoy these recipes but also some photos from my last two weeks’ adventures.

A Trumpeter Swan. The "rock" in the background is a juvenile swan eating.

A Trumpeter Swan. The “rock” in the background is a juvenile swan eating.



Aren’t you surprised that spaghetti squash isn’t more popular? Yes, it’s difficult to entice kids to willingly try different vegetables but sometimes we raise their expectations. At first bite, peas aren’t delicious. They’re mushy and stick to the roof of your mouth. It’s not really necessary to ever like cooked carrots if you prefer raw. And, spaghetti squash is not pasta although it looks like pasta. Throw Marinara sauce and a juicy meatball on top and it still tastes like squash. Start slowly, with butter, salt, pepper, a squirt or two of lemon…..

It may be magic but it's still squash!

It may be magic but it’s
still squash!


1.Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Put the whole spaghetti squash into the oven.
3. Bake for 40-45 minutes. When it is easily pierced with a fork, remove, and let cool enough for handling
4. Cut in half, diagonally.
5. Using a spoon, remove the seeds. Then, with a fork, scrape the flesh under the seeds

CHICKPEAS AND SPINACH served over SPAGHETTI SQUASH, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, River Cottage Veg

Chickpeas and Spinach served over Spaghetti Squash

Chickpeas and Spinach served over Spaghetti Squash

MOROCCAN-SPICED COUSCOUS, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, River Cottage Veg

Moroccan-spiced Couscous

Moroccan-spiced Couscous

If you want either of Hugh’s recipes, let me know. MH

You Asked the Question. I Responded.

You Asked the Question. I Responded.



The most often asked question about my Blog is, “With all the food you make, how do you stay so thin, not gain weight?” Now, Readers, when I think about Me, I certainly don’t think thin. In Aspen, where body image is everything, I’m a heavyweight.



The truth is I’ve always waged a bulge battle. As a kid I was chubby and remained about 15 to 20 pounds overweight my entire life. My nickname in junior high was Tank. Not a confidence builder. What I weighed eroded my ego and overshadowed the good things in life. Always. I applaud and envy women who are comfortable in their own skin, content with themselves. Unfortunately, I couldn’t pull that off.

“NOBODY EVER MENTIONED I’D HAVE TO FIND MY OWN FOOD.”  This juvenile Great Blue Heron, who flew into this lake, obviously was hungry, unsure of himself. We watched him 30 minutes and he never came close to nabbing anything.

“NOBODY EVER MENTIONED I’D HAVE TO FIND MY OWN FOOD.” This juvenile Great Blue Heron, who flew into this lake, obviously was hungry, unsure of himself. We watched him 30 minutes and he never came close to nabbing anything.

It was not until Michael’s sickness that I lost those unwanted 20. My doctor had cautioned me to rein in my stress, done only by exercise. Since our Henderson housing complex had a gym, most mornings, at 5am, I was in Spinning class or exercising. Every evening I would charge around our 3-mile loop with my best friend. While this didn’t keep stress at bay, it was conducive to weight loss.



Quesadilla & Wrap

Quesadilla & Wrap

To my mind it’s because of my food blog rather than in spite of it that I haven’t regained those pounds. My pantry is loaded, my freezer is full and my cupboards, never bare. For me, it’s about choices, changing it up and menu variety. This week’s recipes, Yogurt Parfaits, a Weekend Apple Pancake and Mashed Avocado Tortillas are an example of that. Nothing earthshaking here but just reminders of what’s easy and possible.

This gorgeous Question Mark butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis) is eating sap from the "sap well" that was drilled by a sapsucker. Ajax Trail, Aspen Mountain

This gorgeous Question Mark butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis) is eating sap from the “sap well” that was drilled by a sapsucker. Ajax Trail, Aspen Mountain

A recent Harvard study suggests that we front-load our eating to the early part of the day, taking in most of our calories before the sun goes down. It’s ludicrous to believe that culturally we could make that shift. However, that’s how I manage my day. Because I live alone and organize my own schedule, I can.

Cook the Weekend Apple Pancake until the filling is set firmly.

Cook the Weekend Apple Pancake until the filling is set firmly.

Just so you don’t think I’ve gone all sanctimonious on you, here’s my fail. I was determined to lose 5 pounds this Summer. My goal. Summer ended today. Didn’t lose an ounce!

Despite that, having food on hand to make quickly is the secret. My simplistic recipes and their adaptability represent just that.



Starved? Famished? Need a quick breakfast, lunch, snack or dinner?


TORTILLA with AVOCADO MASH a favorite of Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton, The Canal House

1. Pull out a whole-wheat tortilla and toast, heat or roast it.
2. Choose a filling. Make a wrap or quesadilla. You can’t do better than mashed avocado with lime juice and coarse salt. I even made a tasty wrap from last week’s leftover Roasted Butternut Squash Salad mixture.

Eggs, meat, legumes or veggies pulled together with spices, salt and pepper, make delicious mixtures.


If you always keep a carton of rich, creamy Greek yogurt (WITH the fat) in your fridge, magic can happen. Try Jody Williams’ roasted nuts/honey/yogurt concoction for breakfast or a snack. For a change of pace use fruit (canned or fresh), coconut, granola or syrup as a topping. Because the roasted nuts/honey mixture will keep for weeks toss it on ice cream, pound cake or, even better, cheese.

YOGURT PARFAITS by Jody Williams, Buvette


1 cup nuts (I used pine nuts, pistachios, almonds and walnuts.)
1/3 cup honey
Pinch of coarse salt
2 Cups (16 ounces) plain Greek Yogurt


1. Stir together the nuts, honey and salt.
2. Layer the nut-honey mixture with a yogurt mixture, using 1 inch of yogurt to 1/2 inch of the nut-honey mixture.

TIP: This is rich so two layers of each with a dash of nuts on the top is enough. Use wide-mouthed containers, jam jars or brandy snifters, for example.

The Weekend Apple Pancake, always love this. Who can resist its dramatic puff or lament the quick fall.


WEEKEND APPLE PANCAKE adapted from Faith Durand, The Kitchn


3 apples, use different kinds like Granny Smith, Fugi and Gala
4 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
6 TBS unsalted butter
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 large eggs

Powdered or cinnamon sugar, to serve


1. Heat the oven to 400°F.

2. Peel, core, and quarter the apples. Cut them into medium slices (1/4-inch thick or less). Cut the slices in halves or thirds. You should have about 3 cups of chopped apples.

3.In a small bowl, mix 3 tablespoons of sugar with the cinnamon and ginger and set aside.

4. Cut the butter into chunks and place them in a 10” deep cast iron skillet or 8×8-inch baking dish. Put the skillet or baking dish in the oven for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the butter is melted. Take the pan out of the oven and sprinkle the 1/3 cup brown sugar over the melted butter. Carefully spread the apples on top of the brown sugar and sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar mixture over the apples. Put the pan back in the oven to caramelize the apples and sugar.

5. Whisk the flour with the remaining tablespoon of sugar, salt, and nutmeg. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly with a large wire whisk to beat out any lumps. When the flour is smoothly incorporated into the milk, beat in the vanilla and the eggs, one by one. Beat by hand for 2 minutes, or until foamy. Let the batter rest for 5 minutes. By now the sugar should be bubbling around the apples.

6. Take the pan out of the oven and pour the batter over the apples. Bake for about 30 to 40 more minutes, or until center is set and sides are lightly browned. The pancake will puff up dramatically but fall after a few minutes after you take it out of the oven.

If you want, serve with powdered sugar or more cinnamon sugar but it is not necessary.



IMG_2948 (1)

For years I’ve yearned to visit the Galápagos Islands, that archipelago of isolation that sits 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador. These are the islands where Charles Darwin landed in 1835. While the Galápagos Islands are recognized for the theories they launched, today they are more famous for the inhabitants.

Unfortunately, life has always nudged a Galápagos trip to the back of the bus. While I don’t often give into it, aging and the hesitancy to travel alone have begun to rear their ugly heads. Perhaps the endangered Galápagos tortoises and I would never meet. It just wasn’t happening.

Peach Ice Cream by David Lebovitz, The Perfect Scoop

Peach Ice Cream by David Lebovitz, The Perfect Scoop

A month ago, the stars aligned. I was asked to join 15 others for an 11-day December Origins of the Species Adventure to the Galápagos. We’d be traveling aboard an 144’ vessel called the Integrity. Within a week I’d agreed, booked a flight to Quito, Ecuador, and dusted off my passport.

However, there is one huge hiccup about this trip which we need to discuss.

Miss Colorado Peach 2015

Miss Colorado Peach 2015

First, let’s talk peaches. Since the prime season for our Colorado peaches is short, I’m greedy and, each week, buy big. I think this week’s show-stoppers are worth sharing. This week-end, why not try Brown Butter-Peach Tourte by Dorie Greenspan or David Lebovitz’s Peach Ice Cream.

Dorie’s tourte is peaches, butter and crust. C’est tout. There’s little sugar or flour and only a dab of vanilla and lemon juice. The delish is a result of the butter which simmers until it turns ‘fragrant and is golden browned to a caramel flavor.’ When your cut-up peach chunks swim in this, it’s heavenly.

IMG_2945 (1)

Because of the butter, the top crust, sprinkled with sugar, gets browner, melting as it bakes. Here’s where you can be creative, simplify the process or bake to your taste. Since the magic of this dessert is the filling, the crust is your choice. Choose a sweet tart dough, pie dough (no shame in store-bought) or a strudel concoction. This delight is in the filling.

Memories were made from lazy summer days when we helped make hand-cranked peach ice cream. Magic, right? Lebovitz created the simplest stone fruit ice cream recipe I could find. It’s delicious. I know that because I enjoyed most of it myself. After making the mixture and refrigerating it to cool overnight, I found I needed unexpected oral surgery. (I will spare you the 2-day play-by play.) When I returned home, there was very little I could eat. I remembered Lebovitz mentioning this peach ice cream ‘is indeed best when spooned right out of the machine, just moments after it’s been churned.’

IMG_2943 (1)

I followed David’s advice and poured the chilled mixture into my ice cream maker. Thirty minutes later I was standing at my kitchen counter, drowning my sorrows with this delicious ice cream. For the past two days it’s been my comfort food. With 2/3 of the quart gone, I’m definitely on the mend.

And, that’s important, because I need to be in top form to deal with the hurdle in my upcoming Galápagos trip. From the Brochure’s Itinerary: 11:00 am Snorkeling: The group usually snorkels once every day. You may be out for 30 minutes to an hour, and may even have two opportunities to snorkel in one day.


Snorkeling and swimming are an important part of this journey. The problem is, I don’t. While I can probably dog paddle and keep myself afloat, I don’t swim. My face in the water, nooooo. Twenty years ago Michael paid major money for my private snorkeling lesson in Hawaii. I was doing fine, being attentive and preparing to walk into the Pacific when my instructor said, “And, if you begin to hyperventilate, here’s what you do.”

Alarmed, I immediately laid my equipment on the sandy beach and left, leaving my husband a bit perturbed. (There were times that man was a saint.) Please understand, I am not proud of this and am determined to jump into those waters and swim with whoever wants to join me, whether marine iguana, sea lion or turtle. I am (a brave) woman!



To that end, I am reading this book, will buy my snorkeling equipment next week and have the availability of The Gant’s two pools. My sweet friend, Carol Kurt, my naturalist colleague in all things who has just returned from Galápagos, has offered to “learn me.” She is confident and determined. As am I. I have four months. The clock is ticking.

As for now, I’m off to polish off the peach ice cream while I “Learn How To Swim and Snorkel Even if you are Afraid of the Water.”

BROWN BUTTER-PEACH TOURTE by Dorie Greenspan, Baking Chez Moi


2 pounds ripe but firm peaches (about 5)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Tiny pinch of fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract (or a drop of pure almond extract)
Juice of ¼ lemon

1 partially baked 9- to 9½-inch sweet tart dough crust, cooled
1 12-inch sweet tart dough circle, refrigerated

Sugar, for dusting (I used Turbinado natural cane sugar)


1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

2. Using your favorite method for peeling and dicing peaches, cut each peach into one-inch chunks. Put the peaches in a strainer, over a bowl, to catch extra juice.

3. Place the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat and allow it to melt and bubble. When it reaches a light caramel color, pull the pan from the heat. If you spot small dark brown spots on the bottom of the pan, that’s fine. You’ll also catch the whiff of warm nuts. After a minute or two, pour the butter over the strained peaches. Add the sugar, flour, salt and vanilla. Gently stir together. Finish with the lemon juice.

4. To assemble the tourte, ut the tart pan on the lined baking sheet. Give the filling another stir and scrape it into the tart shell, smoothing the top. You should have just enough filling to come level with the edges of the crust. Remove the circle of dough from the refrigerator while it’s resting a minute or so, brush the edges of the tart shell with water. Position the circle of dough over the crust. Press the rim with your fingers to glue the two pieces together, pressing on the rim as you go.

5. Use a knife to remove a circle of dough from the center. Brush the surface lightly with cold water and sprinkle generously with sugar.

6. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the crust is deeply golden brown and the butter is bubbling. Transfer the tourte, still on its baking sheet, to a rack and allow it to cool until it’s only just warm or at room temperature before serving. As it cools, the buttery syrup will be reabsorbed by the peaches, which is just what you want—so don’t be impatient.

Storing: You can partially bake the bottom crust up to 8 hours ahead and you can have the top crust rolled out and ready to go ahead of time, but the filling shouldn’t be prepared ahead. Best served the same day but if you’ve got leftovers, refrigerate them. The crust will lose its delicateness, but the dessert will still be satisfying.

by David Lebovitz, The Perfect Scoop

Yield: 1 quart


1 ½ pounds ripe peaches [about four large peaches]
½ cup water
1/4 cup sugar
½ cup sour cream
1 cup heavy cream
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
A few drops freshly squeezed lemon juice


1. Peel the peaches, slice them in half, and remove the pits. Cut the peaches into chunks and cook them with water in a nonreactive saucepan over medium heat, covered, stirring once or twice, until soft and cooked through, about 10 minutes.

2. Remove from heat, stir in the sugar, then cool to room temperature.

3. Purée the cooked peaches and any liquid in a blender or food processor with the sour cream, heavy cream, vanilla, and lemon juice until almost smooth but slightly chunky.

4. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator and freeze in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.



Couscous Salad, this week's recipe choice

Couscous Salad, this week’s recipe choice

During the three years of cooking-the-book, Around My French Table, I’ve been forced into the grain business. We corn-fed Iowa girls know a thing or two about grains. Yes, corn is a grain. The Quaker Oats factory in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, near my home town, is still the biggest cereal mill in the world. Our neighboring states, Kansas and North Dakota, are considered the Wheat Belt to Iowa’s Corn Belt. And, in Manchester, even as kids, we had a slight understanding of the soft Commodities Market.

Mise en Place, the ingredients needed for the salad

Mise en Place, the ingredients needed for the salad

Dorie, however, has forced me to keep ingredients such as barley, bulgar, farro, quinoa and wheat berries in the pantry next to my rice bags and Quaker Oats box. While I’m no stranger to couscous, it’s not a grain I use often. This week’s French Friday’s recipe, Dorie’s Couscous Salad, reminded me again that salads do not always have to include lettuce.

The broth, the spices, dried fruit and couscous - ready to blend together

The broth, the spices, dried fruit and couscous – ready to blend together

Couscous is a staple in North African cuisine. Geographically, think of Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco, former French protectorates. It’s their day-to-day spices, a combo of ginger, turmeric, cinnamon and cumin, that make this salad so special. The couscous is cooked in spice-laden chicken or vegetable broth but once it’s cooked, the fruit and vegetable choices are yours. What’s in your fridge or fruit bowl today? Couscous salad is calling. If made a day ahead, cover tightly and refrigerate.

I raised the lid to say, hello. Still cooking.

I raised the lid to say, hello. Still cooking.

Since Dorie’s recipe is already in cyberspace, I am printing it below. Here are my additional tips:
1.This recipe makes beaucoup de couscous, ten healthy portions. Besides my lunch, I fed the entire front office staff. (That’s why they love me.)
2. I needed more chicken broth while cooking the couscous. Make extra dressing for taste if served immediately and, definitely, if you’re refrigerating overnight.
3. I substituted dried, tart Montmorency cherries for the raisins and omitted the cilantro. The toasted chopped almonds are a crunchy touch.


Served with a smashed avocado and feta cheese sandwich on whole wheat toast, this was a delicious and filling lunch.

Quite a lunch - Couscous Salad and Stuff-on-Toast

Quite a lunch – Couscous Salad and Stuff-on-Toast

Couscous Salad, Dorie Greenspan, Around My French Table


2 cups chicken broth
2 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T ground ginger
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cumin
1 10-oz box quick-cooking couscous (or 8 0z of larger couscous and let it sit about 20 minutes to cook)
1/2 cup raisins (dark or golden)
1 small cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, an cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 red pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 carrot, trimmed, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and thinly sliced
1 cup thinly sliced sugar snap peas
1 can chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and patted dry
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup toasted chopped almonds

Bring the broth, 1 T olive oil, garlic, 1 tsp salt and other spices to a boil in a medium saucepan. Whisk the broth just to make sure the spices have dissolved, then stir in the couscous and turn off the heat. Scatter the raisins over the couscous, cover the pan and let sit for 10 minutes.

Fluff the couscous with a fork and turn into a large bowl. Stir in the vegetables, chickpeas, and lemon zest.

Combine the lemon juice, another tsp of salt, and the remaining 1 T olive oil, whisk. Pour over the couscous and toss well. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool. Add cilantro and almonds at serving time.

Member of the Clean Plate Club

Member of the Clean Plate Club

If you would like to know more about grains, here’s the Whole Grains Council website. Besides Dorie’s interesting grain recipes, Deborah Madison also includes unique dishes in her Vegetable Literacy cookbook. Find my colleagues’ take on couscous on our French Fridays link. As I mention each week, we are an international cooking group having a wonderful time working our way through Dorie Greenspan’s Around my French Table.