Thousands of Leaf Peepers flooded into Colorado’s High Country the past two weeks to enjoy Mother Nature’s dazzling performance. Watching our quaking Aspen leaves transform their green into golden yellow is a magical time here. From the moment we spot the first yellow leaves until they begin to turn crispy brown, it’s an ongoing conversation.
FOR WHOM THE MAROON BELLS TOLL
“Have you driven to the [Independence] Pass. It’s gorgeous now?”
“The Crystal River Valley is phenomenal. Don’t forget to stop for BBQ at Slow Groovin’ in Marble.”
“Be sure to visit the [Maroon] Bells now. Go early and go often.”
For the Break-Fast Celebration following Yom Kippur, I was asked to share a cheese board.
In 30 years of watching these leaves change, I’ve never seen it more beautiful. Then again, it might be that after a summer of drought and a devastating fire, it’s a relief to know Mother Nature can right herself with this extraordinary display of color.
More Break-Fast fare, Donna’s Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese frittatas
We’re now pivoting into our two-month off-season of Mad Dashes. Contractors with their construction teams dash into town to do what can’t be done during the tourist season. While the downtown area is being “refreshed,” at The Gant complex we’re installing a new AC/Heating system. It’s complicated! Crews are busy with road, bridge and trail repairs, all anticipating the upcoming ski season.
This is also a time, as you see in my pictures, when we dash here and there to break bread with friends we don’t often see during the busy summer. Weary locals take time from work for mad dashes to Moab, Santa Fe or Denver. Some plan longer adventures. When my friends leave for several weeks, I often keep an eye on their houses, watering plants, picking up mail, doing an occasional walkabout.
I made Lady Hélène’s Apple Cake especially for Philip Salet’s 90th birthday dinner. He’s quite a guy with memorable experiences to share. We were good listeners.
Meredith (R) contributed her Atlanta-version of Red Beans & Rice. Jessica Salet (L). As a little boy, Philip was interned at the Santo Tomas Internment Camp in Manilla so his story started there.
Unfortunately September is also the time our local black bears turn frisky, wandering down from the mountains to hunt for food. Needing to put on weight to prepare for hibernation, they eat (acorns, berries, insects, small creatures) and drink constantly, 12 hours a day. Unlike Grizzlies, black bears are harmless unless challenged.
Last Tuesday I woke up before sunrise and headed for the Maroon Bells. Brrrr It was dark and cold. I wanted to see the beautiful Bells wrapped in full-on color just one more time but without being surrounded by crowds. About 100 photographers who had staked their claim long before I woke up were patiently waiting for sunrise. So much for solitude.
Twice recently I’ve encountered a bear, maybe a two or three-year-old, 100-150 pounds, who has claimed the trail behind The Gant that I hike frequently. It’s a quiet secluded trail and yesterday we actually startled each other. Bear meets Me. He quickly scampered away and after waiting 5 minutes I scampered down the trail myself. I am sufficiently wary enough (and, scared) to deed the territory, for now, to this hungry wild animal.
Last month my son-in-law, Stephen, was appointed by Gov. Brown to be a Superior Court judge in California. He was sworn in on September 12th. Although separated by 850 miles, that evening Linda and David Stein, who actually know Stephen, celebrated this proud family moment with me.
There’s more. Yesterday, following my bear encounter I received a call from my friend whose house I am watching. “Hey Mare,” she said. “A bear broke into the house. He tore apart the framing and came in the smaller dining room window. My yard guy found it this morning.”
I had just been there the day before. There’s a sophisticated alarm system on the windows/doors that was installed last year after a bear break-in. I just knew I’d set the alarm properly. It should have gone off and scared the heck out of the bear.
This abandoned and forlorn-looking bird nest evokes memories of a summer well spent.
“Oh the alarm was on when my guy went into the house,” she said. “You set it. It just didn’t go off when the bear climbed in the window. It didn’t work. ”
There was nothing to attract the bear, no food on the counters. Bears have good memories/instincts. The same bear? He made a mess, dented the Sub-Zero and caused considerable damage. If caught he’ll be relocated or, even worse, euthanized.
All of us who live here realize we’re in bear habitat, a Fed Bear is a Dead Bear. We’re actually educated and very diligent so these encounters won’t happen. So I’ll hike other trails this fall and, after a call to the alarm company, I’m hoping next time that window will be wired properly.
Such is Life in a mountain community and pretty common throughout the West.
In anticipation of the upcoming holidays I put together a dessert board that looks and tastes like Autumn. Maple Syrup. Apples – cake, turnovers and dried. Caramel, as in chocolate brownies. And, a holiday bundt cake that can turn into small loaves, mini-bundts and cupcakes.
MARIE-HÉLÈNE’S APPLE CAKE by Dorie Greenspan, Around my French Table
A favorite recipe for many bakers, I make it several times each fall. It is also featured in FOOD52’s Genius Recipes, 100 Recipes That Will Change The Way to Cook cookbook, page 220-1
ALL-IN-ONE HOLIDAY BUNDT CAKE by Dorie Greenspan, Baking from My Home to Yours cookbook
This is a tried-and-true recipe and can be used for smaller-sized individual bundt cakes, small loaves or cupcakes. (See my pictured Sweet Board.)
1 ¼ sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 ½ teaspoons grated fresh ginger (or 1 teaspoon ginger powder)
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups canned unsweetened pumpkin purée
1 large apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
1 cup cranberries, halved or coarsely chopped
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
6 TBS confectioners’ sugar
2 TBS Maple Syrup
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center. Butter or spray a 9- to 10-inch (12-cup) Bundt pan.
2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and ginger powder, if you’re using it instead of the grated ginger.
3. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat together the butter and both sugars at medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 or 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, and beat for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.
4. Reduce the speed to low and add the pumpkin, apple and grated ginger, if using it. Don’t be concerned if the batter looks curdled.
5. Add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated. With a rubber spatula, stir in the cranberries and pecans. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top.
6. Bake directly on the oven rack for 60 to 70 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
7. Transfer to a rack and cool for 10 minutes before unmolding. Cool to room temperature on a rack with wax paper underneath.
8. For maple icing, sift 6 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar into a bowl. Stir in 2 tablespoons maple syrup, little by little, until you have an icing that runs nicely off the tip of the spoon. Let the icing set for 3-4 minutes after dripping it onto the cakes.
9. If you wish, sprinkle more pecans on top before the frosting sets. Or, just sprinkle cake with confectionary sugar.
TIPS: Feel free to substitute with dried and chopped raisins or apricots.
Wrapped well, the cake will keep at room temperature for up to 3 days, at which point it’s good for toasting; or freeze for up to 2 months. As always, it’s best when served the same day.
Stuffed Eggplant Parm – Turn either Globe, Italian, Graffiti, or White eggplants into boats and stuff them full of crispy, cheesy, tomato and eggplant goodness.
Not long ago, when walking to a music concert with my friend Wendy, she asked, “Do you miss your garden?”
That question, out of the blue, had nothing to do with our ongoing chatter and was rather innocuous. “Yes,” I answered. “Yes I do.”
Although we quickly moved on to more important topics – her upcoming trip to Papua New Guinea, my Emma’s college visits and where to get the best haircut – that question gave me pause.
Le Grande Aioli with Crudités Board for Two
A big chunk of Michael’s and my springtime/summer revolved around gardening – planning, preparing, planting and harvesting. From the moment the rhubarb tips poked through the lingering spring snow until the frost polished off my herbs, we tended our “crops,” sharing the wealth with neighbors. Admittedly, after picking the last of our raspberries and digging up the potatoes in the fall, we were farmered-out, ready to put it to bed.
Apple Crumble – In anticipation of Rosh Hashanah, I participated in another cooking class, A Taste of Honey, at the Jewish Community Center – Chabad of Aspen. We also made Honey Cake which I had never made before.
As you readers know, determined to bloom where I’m planted, I don’t often dwell on the past. I can’t bring back what was and I’ve pretty much depleted my well of sadness. What I do know is those were joyful moments despite the ruined manicures, my outrage at a deer nibbling the edible buds off my only (ever) brussels sprout stalk or Michael’s constant tracking dirt onto our white carpeting. (That white carpeting drove me bonkers.)
Treat Time as if it is precious because it is.
Since we’re talking about farming !?! Donna Chase and I encountered this herd of goats while walking recently on the Rio Grande Trail. They are on-the-move throughout the county, munching, on the weeds.
While I may no longer reap the fruits of our labor, many friends, who still garden, are graciously sharing their bounty. They know their food gifts to me aren’t wasted (I send photos.) In fact Wendy, who maintains a huge garden, is now in New Guinea for three weeks and has left me her key.
HAPPY NEW YEAR to those of you who are celebrating Rosh Hashanah on Sunday evening. And, thank you to Leiba and the Women’s Inner Circle at the Jewish Community Center at the Chabad of Aspen for sharing your Rosh Hashanah memories while we baked our sweet desserts.
This week’s recipes spotlight the veggies gathered from local gardens and our farmer’s market.
1.Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400°F.
2.Cut each eggplant in half lengthwise. Leaving a 1/2-inch border, use a paring knife to cut around the insides of each half, then scoop out the flesh with a spoon, creating boats out of the shells. Coarsely chop the flesh and set aside.
3.Brush or rub the insides of the hollowed eggplant shells with 1 tablespoon of the oil and season with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper.
4.Place the shells cut-side up in a 13×9-inch baking dish. Roast until tender (there should be no resistance when pierced with the tip of a paring knife), about 20 to 30 minutes depending on the size of the eggplant. Set aside.
5.Meanwhile, combine the breadcrumbs, 1 teaspoon of the oil, and a pinch of salt in a small bowl; set aside. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium until shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the chopped eggplant flesh, garlic, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
6. Cook, stirring frequently, until the eggplant is tender, 7 to 9 minutes.
7. Stir in 1 cup of the marinara and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the 1 cup of the mozzarella, and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan and stir to combine.
7. Heat the broiler to high. Remove the baking dish from the oven. Transfer the eggplant shells to a work surface. Pour the remaining 1 cup of marinara sauce into the baking dish and spread into an even layer.
8. Return the eggplant shells to the baking dish. Spoon the filling evenly into the shells. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella, 1/4 cup Parmesan, and reserved breadcrumb mixture.
9. Broil until the cheese is melted and bubbling and the breadcrumbs are browned, 2 to 4 minutes. To serve, top the eggplant shells with marinara sauce from the baking dish.
Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
Use any raw vegetables you wish. Be creative. Jicama? Beets? Cherry Tomatoes? Blanch the green beans in salted water for 2 – 4 minutes and cook the small potatoes for 10-12 minutes. Cook the beets also if you are using them.
LE GRANDE AIOLI (Garlic Mayonnaise)
IN THE SPIRIT OF FULL DISCLOSURE: This vegetable platter and dips are this week’s Cook the Book Friday’s recipe from David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen Cookbook. Unfortunately David’s recipe did not work for any of us. There was an error in the ingredients list, I believe, causing us to pour in 1 extra cup of oil. (Page 146 of the book.) The recipe below is easy and delicious. If you don’t like garlic, leave it out.
Makes about 1 cup
3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 teaspoon (or more) coarse kosher salt
3/4 cup mayonnaise
21/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Mix mayonnaise, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.
As a kid growing up in Iowa, I knew three cheeses: Velveeta, Maytag blue and Swiss. My Mom always kept a 16-ounce block of Kraft’s processed cheese in the fridge. In Newton, located 140 miles from my home town of Manchester, Maytag Dairy Farms with its herd of prize-winning Holstein cows was producing a phenomenal blue cheese. And, my Great Aunt Iva and Uncle Jesse who lived in Belmont, Wisconsin, used to send us a wheel of locally-made Swiss cheese every Christmas.
While I cannot remember when I last purchased Kraft’s “Liquid Gold,” many Americans still do. Think Macaroni & Cheese. In any given 12-week period, approximately one-third of us eat it. Not surprisingly, half are children. Remember in the 70’s when Velveeta and RO*TEL linked up? The result: Queso Dip. Link to the recipe from Food Network.
Called a Spritz Veneziano (Aperol Spritz), this Italian cocktail and a decked-out cheese board belong together. Recipe at end of the post.
Maytag’s “Lonely Repairman” left Newton in 2007 when the Whirlpool company bought their appliance business. Although the farm still produces its iconic cheese, since leaving Iowa and for no good reason, I don’t buy Maytag’s Blue. And sadly, after my Aunt Iva and Uncle Jesse died, so did my desire for a 2# wheel of Swiss.
In anticipation of National Voter Registration Day on September 25th, I’m just making sure these shoes are made for canvassing. For the last year my friend, Donna Grauer, has been involved in voter registration efforts in our 3-county area. She is also a USFS volunteer ranger, a Master Naturalist specializing in geology and a mentor with the Roaring Fork pre-collegiate program. (In truth, she is a crazy person!)
When I was in Paris last winter I lived a few doors away from cheesemonger Laurent Dubois’ flagship location. Dubois holds the prestigious and hard-won designation Meilleur Ouvrier (Best Craftsman) de France for his talent. Until I took a food tour through my arrondissement, the historic Marais district, I wasn’t brave enough to step through the door. Distinguished for his Comtés, small production chèvres and Pyrenées bribes, he also ages cheeses in caves below his shop and offers outrageous in-house specialties. After visiting Dubois during the tour I occasionally stopped by. Still, it was overwhelming in variety and intimidating to choose.
Hard at work in the French Cheese Tasting Workshop which I took last winter, offered by Paris by Mouth.
That’s why I enrolled in a French Cheese Tasting Workshop offered by Paris by Mouth to learn about cheeses, taste 10 varieties, and wash them down with 5 different wines and a never-ending bounty of baguettes. Of the many tours, walks, and workshops I did in Paris, my day with Jennifer, the Big Cheese, and seven classmates was the best.
To build the cheese board pictured above, I first started with the cheeses: Marin French Cheese, Brie Triple Crème (top); Point Reyes Toma Cheese (left); and, Rogue Creamery Organic Smokey Oregon Blue, with honey. All three were 2018 award winners at the American Cheese Society’s competition this year.
However, it was what she said to we 5 Americans after class that made the biggest impression. “You know,” she said,“they are making very good artisan cheeses in America now. Really good.”
I decided to find out.
#fromagefriday, Cheese Board for One
After choosing your cheeses, just begin building the board. More is better!
Sometimes when you know what you like and like what you know, it becomes a rut. When selecting cheese, I’m a bore. More days than not, I eat solo. And, while that’s never boring to me, I’m always eager to add a spark, to make meal time grater!
Why not, every so often, put together a cheese board for myself featuring 1-2 unfamiliar but well-considered cheeses – firm, semisoft, soft, fresh or blue-veined. And give that board a boost by adding fresh or dried fruit, cured meats, nuts, seeds, spreads, pickled and marinated foods, breads, crackers, a chocolate or two. Even better, pull out and include leftovers, odds and ends shoved to the back of your fridge and pantry.
The board on the Left is a perfect size for one or two people. With the board on the right, just go wild.
To my mind, food should be celebrated and eating it, an occasion. The process of building this board was as delightful as eating it. Whether a cheese board for one or teatime spread for 6 or holiday sugar treats for 25, the possibilities are endless. Choose your base, pick a theme, create a feast and make pretty. Need ideas? Look for Platters and Boards, Beautiful Casual Spreads for Every Occasion at your local library. The authors Shelley Westerhausen and Wyatt Worcel move the creative entertainment bar up a notch or two.
APEROL SPRITZ RECIPE:
Main alcohol: Prosecco
Ingredients: 2 oz Prosecco, 1 1/4 oz Aperol, Splash of Soda water
Preparation: Build into glass over ice, garnish and serve.
Served: On the rocks; poured over ice
Standard garnish: Orange Wedge
Drink ware: Old Fashioned glass
This Slab Pie is a peach-perfect choice for the many end-of-summer potlucks you’ll be attending. This easily made Peach Crumble Slab Pie received rave reviews. Be creative and use any fruit combo of the summer’s fresh bounty.
As an amateur photographer, using a point-and-shoot Canon PowerShot which isn’t even manufactured anymore, I have one rule: Never let the picture get in front of the experience.
Happiness is baking Challah with Lieba Mintz at the Jewish Community Center.
That’s why I missed a magnificent opportunity to photograph the illusive Sharp-shinned Hawk during a recent birding field trip. We were studying the astonishing number of Violet-green Swallows feasting on the insects at Hallam Lake when suddenly they all rose up with a terrifying kik-kik-kik call and flew off. That translates to “approaching danger,” and, sure enough, in swooped a hawk.
Someone yelled, “I think it’s a Sharpie.”
Rather than bake off my bread at the Center, I brought mine home to proof in the fridge overnight. In the morning it was ready to bake.
Deb, Jane (the redhead) and I joined 25 other women at the Jewish Center to bake challah.
I won’t even attempt to explain this!
Since 90% of this hawk’s diet is songbirds it had discovered the motherlode. This was a win, however, for the swallows and the Sharpie, coming up short, flew into a bare tree to strategize. I had never seen a good visual of this bird so, for the short minute he was perched before taking off, I took a looong look. Missed the shot, got my eye on the bird.
Food & Friendship – Wendy Weaver made a pie with these gorgeous red currants and gifted me with what was left.
I made cornbread.
It was delicious.
I also opted for experience last summer with the unexpected entrance to the music tent of the Notorious RGB. With intermission just ending, most of the 2,000 people in the tent were returning to their seats for a performance by American opera singer Renée Fleming. I was seated in an aisle seat, heard commotion and turned to see Justice Ginsberg painstakingly making her way down the steps. As her surprise arrival rippled through the crowd, a wave of people began to stand up, clap and appreciate her as she found her seat. I absorbed the experience, missed the good shot.
There’s a fine line between being a visual storyteller while still being capable of re-telling the story. It’s just one of the many minor choices in a lifetime of them for me, for us all.
For me personally this has been a summer of all kinds of choices. The good news is Aspen being an amazing place to live during the summer. That’s also the bad news. It’s impossible to do all the “amazings.”
Melissa closed her office for a week and flew to Aspen to spend some time with her Mom. Pure Joy.
Although practically at my back door in nearby Grand Junction, I had never been to the Colorado National Monument before. It’s an amazing 23,000 acres of canyons, plateaus, massive towers of naturally sculpted monoliths and red rock landscapes.
While I was reading an historic trail sign this Desert Big Horn Sheep wandered near. I don’t recommend being this close to wildlife but my only option was to stand still. He was not threatening and eventually sauntered off when cars began to stop for a look.
“The biggest, trickiest lesson,” explains author Elizabeth Gilbert,“is learning how to say No to things you do want to do – stuff that matters – so that you can successfully do a handful of things that really matter. Our only hope of beating “Overwhelm” may be to limit, radically, what we’re willing to get “Whelmed” by in the first place.”
This summer I’ve tried to take Gilbert’s advice, knocking out the “Over,” settling for just the “Whelm’s.” That’s even why I’ve taken a month-long break from this blog – can we call it a sabbatical? And, no, it’s not an aging thing, why would you even think that?
Recent research has shown that ‘most of us spend nearly 47 percent of our waking hours each day thinking about something other than what we’re doing.’ *
Although I’m thrilled to be blogging again, I’m sad that Summer is waning. So, loyal Readers, I raise this Toast to you: Here’s to relishing joy in the moment, savoring that which is fleeting and focusing on the present experience.
Food & Friendship: My Gant neighbor, Meredith Bell, who lives in Atlanta, brought me a bag of her favorite, mild Shishito Peppers.
…and then we simply tossed with olive oil before heating and blistering them over high heat. Sprinkle with salt. Voila! No utensils needed.
PEACH CRUMBLE SLAB PIE – adapted from New York Times food writer Melissa Clark, the Pillsbury Doughboy and Jane Hutchison (my Mom)
If you want to make a memorable impression with a dazzling dessert for a large summer gathering, bake a slab pie. Enlist help from our available bounty of berries or stone fruit. This dessert, which generously serves 16-18, is the busy baker’s answer to quick, simple and delicious.
First, let’s talk about pie crust. In this recipe I rely on the Doughboy. Here’s why. The stars of this pie are Colorado’s Palisade peaches and the to-die-for crumble. The bottom pie crust (use both pouches in the box) is just the foundation. We need the crust to do its job so the tasty ingredients can shine. Now if you wish to make your own crust, hooray, but I’m making three slab pies next week so ready-made crusts are my friend.
As a time-saver, choose your favorite pre-made pie crust dough. Use both pouches from a box of ready-made pie crust stacked together.
12 ripe large peaches or nectarines or a mix, peeled or not, pitted and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
1 cup packed light brown sugar
⅓ cup instant tapioca
zest of 3 small or 2 large lemons
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 ½ teaspoons nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon/ fine sea salt
3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups of Quaker oats (quick or old-fashioned)
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 ½ sticks unsalted, COLD butter, cubed
1. Remove pie crusts from pouches. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, unroll and stack crusts one on top of the other and gently roll the two stacked discs to an 11-x-15-inch rectangle, lightly dusting with flour if dough is sticking. Fold dough in half and transfer to a 9-x-13-inch baking dish. Carefully press crust into the bottom of the dish and completely up the edges so its flush with the top (no need to crimp the dough.) Refrigerate while preparing the filling and crumble.
2. Make the filling. In a large bowl, toss together peaches, sugar, tapioca, lemon zest and juice, nutmeg, vanilla and salt. Let stand 20 to 30 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, heat oven to 425 degrees. Arrange one oven rack on the lowest position and a second rack in the center position. Place baking sheet on lowest rack while oven is preheating.
4. Make the crumble topping. Whisk together flour, oats, sugar, cinnamon, ginger and salt. Mix in cold butter with your fingertips until mixture is uniformly moist and comes together in large clumps.
5. Assemble the pie. Remove up to one cup of liquid from the filling if it seems too soupy. (Use it in a smoothie.) Spoon filling into crust and top with crumble.
6. Place pie on pre-heated baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes at 425 degrees. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees. Move baking sheet with pie to the center rack. Continue baking until pie is golden brown and filling is bubbling, about 1 hour. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.
TIP: This dessert does not need to be refrigerated for a day or so. Just cover loosely with a kitchen towel or wax paper. If not eaten by then (and, I’m betting that won’t happen), cover it with Saran Wrap and place in fridge.
*research project of Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T Gilbert
Food & Friendship: This chard was almost too beautiful to cook. From the Overeynder Community Garden Plot
Call me crazy, but I’m wondering if the 24-hour day has declined into 21- sixty minute cycles. The world’s in a twirl, spinning a bit faster, can’t you tell? If Jupiter can claim ten more moons, bringing its number to 79, I can suggest each day seemingly three hours shorter.
Almond, Blueberry with Berry Sauce Dutch Baby
Now this isn’t a whine nor am I complaining. Summer has been kind to me. I’m grateful for every moment, relish the opportunities I’m offered and grateful for the many friends who share my passions. While I don’t know all you readers personally, I have to believe and hope your hearts beat with that same gladness. However, there’s no harm in wishing each day was a bit more elastic, stretching to fit our needs, plans and desires.
This week’s blog not only features photos fueled by those passions but also gives you a terrific you-can-absolutely-not-fail recipe. It’s fun to bake, and can adjust to any scenario – breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack or just because. You’ll recognize the “framework” as a Dutch Baby, an American creation of a batter-driven cross between a pancake and a popover.
the Dutch Baby “framework”
Although I’ve made Dutch Babies before, they’ve always been a bubble off – not enough pouf, too much puff, soggy bottom. For whatever reason, the recipe for this Baby responds to those risks and provides a structure to build your flavor. The recipe is below.
We moved to the tiny town of Aspen more than thirty years ago and I’ve been fortunate to collect a wonderful group of friends. Last week Dale Hollinger and I took lunch out to one of my “first” friend’s, Frances Ginsberg, who is finally on the road to healthy. It took years of Frances’ grit and determination coupled with medicine’s miracles to get there. Those smiles are genuine.
Spending the afternoon at Frances (seated) and Bob’s lovely Woody Creek home by the river is a treat.
For 27 of the past 30 years that Linda and David Stein have summered in Aspen, the “Delta Girls” have been spending a week here each summer. Linda and all these women, who now are scattered throughout the country, worked for Delta Airlines. For many of those years, Luky Seymour, the first person we met after moving to Aspen, and I have been invited to spend an evening with the Delta Girls.
Manee (L) made a delicious Thai-inspired dinner for us. Linda & David (the couple), Luky (middle). The Delta girls – Joanie, Janice, Darnell & Claudette
My favorite dish of Manee’s was this Tom Yum Seafood soup.
The Aspen Insitute, an international nonprofit think tank founded in 1949, is a nonpartisan forum for values-based leadership and the exchange of ideas. This week has been the Aspen Security Forum, an annual affair convened to discuss the key security issues of the day. In the past these forums have been quiet affairs. This year with Dan Coats, director of National Intelligence, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray on the docket, it was not. After listening to these men it’s my opinion that they are pretty straight shooters who believe in the rule of law and keeping Americans safe. Very reassuring.
FBI Director Christopher Wray and NBC New Commentator Lester Holt are ready to take the stage for a Conversation at the Aspen Security Forum.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein: “Exposing schemes to the public is an important way to neutralize them. The American people have a right to know if foreign governments are targeting them with propaganda.”
Although we do get some smoke from the fires here in Aspen, our birds seems to be flourishing.
a Cooper’s Hawk chick who has not yet fledged
Mallard Ducks, early morning at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies
This Ruby-crowned Kinglet is trying to hide but his rising red crest is giving him away.
FIRE UPDATE: While all the evacuees of the 6,283-acre Lake Christine fire which was 43% contained returned to their homes, they were cautioned to ‘keep their bags packed.’ As I write this the fire has flared again in a particularly northern steep section of the backcountry to 8315 acres and forced pre-evacuation notices to down valley residents.
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You can just sprinkle almonds and powdered sugar on your Dutch baby or you can add any combo of fruit and sauce and even ice cream to the shell.
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole milk
1 tsp almond extract
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup of toasted or roasted sliced almonds
Compote: (using blueberries)
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1 tbsp lemon juice
2-3 tbsp blueberry “juice”
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1.Preheat oven to 450°.
2. While oven is heating, combine all dutch baby ingredients EXCEPT the butter in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
3. Once oven is heated, add the butter to a 10″ cast iron or oven-proof skillet and place the skillet in the oven. As soon as the butter has melted, remove the skillet from the oven, brush butter evenly all over the skillet including the sides, then pour the batter into the skillet.
4, Bake dutch baby for approximately 20 minutes, or until it has puffed up and is golden brown on the edges/top.
5. While dutch baby is baking, make the compote and glaze/saucesauce. Heat blueberries (of, fruit of your choice) and lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium heat, using a wooden spoon to break down the blueberries. Simmer on low for 5-10 minutes, then pour mixture through a fine mesh strainer, removing any blueberry chunks. You should be left with just the liquid.
5. For the glaze/sauce, add 2 Tbsp blueberry juice and powdered sugar to a bowl and whisk. If you prefer it to be thinner, add an additional 1 Tbsp blueberry, and if you want it thicker, add 1/4 cup powdered sugar.
6. After taking the dutch baby out of the oven and letting it cool a bit, sprinkle on powdered sugar and sliced, toasted almonds before adding fruit and glaze/sauce.
Since it was Emma’s 17th birthday yesterday, I added whipped cream, sprinkles and a candle to my morning Dutch Baby snack. Happy Birthday, sweet Emma.
BABA GANOUSH, this week’s Cook-the-Book-Fridays recipe. Delicious.
In my last post I discussed my summer responsibilities as a volunteer USFS wilderness ranger in Colorado’s White River National Forest. “With full-on fire restrictions already in place,” I wrote, “we’ll be on the lookout [for fire].”
Of major concern were lightening strikes, tossed cigarette butts or campground mishaps caused by uninformed tourists. We never considered a fire being kindled by two local 22/23 years-old residents getting their kicks late Tuesday afternoon by shooting illegal tracer rounds (a burning bullet) at a shooting range located a mile from Basalt. Sulfur bullets are illegal. Always.
Wednesday night, 4th of July, Willits Town Center with Whole Foods in the center. Katie Baum Hueth Eagle County Sheriff’s Office
Their mischief sparked what is now a 5,263 acre fire, with 0% containment, threatening the small communities nearby. Most of my good friends live down valley in that area. Several have been evacuated with no return date promised. More than 300 firefighters, using the most advanced equipment available, are fighting this fire but three homes have already been lost.
Jane Carey and I are preparing to feed some hungry men and women.
Last night, Thursday, I answered an appeal from my church and volunteered to help serve dinner to the firefighters at the Salvation Army’s Mobile Canteen in El Jebel. The meal was catered by Whole Foods, one of the businesses threatened the night before by an erratic wind change. I asked my friend, Jane Carey, a caterer who knows her way around a food truck, to join me. In a helpless situation where one can just step back as the firefighters tackle a monster fire, it was good for our psych to do something helpful. For me, this fire is personal.
Grabbing drinks before picking up their plates – at one point we had 50 firefighters lined up and patiently waiting their turn.
By 5pm, along with two volunteers from Vail, we began chopping, slicing and mixing together enough salad for 300 ravenous firefighters. At 6:30pm, Whole Foods delivered our meal – beef, pork, mac and cheese, meat and cheese lasagnas, pinto and black beans, rolls and cake – all sealed in small bags and packed into portable warming ovens. Joined by two others volunteers, Jane got our stations organized and a well-honed serving system established with the 6 of us jammed into the mobile canteen. We were good to go with a hot, delicious dinner as these heroic firemen came down off the mountain.
Between 7:30pm and 9:30pm, when the last crew checked in, we fed 302 hungry, tired and sooty, men/women. They were polite and grateful. I’ve never been “thank-you-ed” so much in my life. Of course, keep in mind, I was the Mac-and-Cheese Lady! I think there could be a Food Truck in my future.
With Aspen’s nearby communities in pain and so many friends feeling fearful, I hesitated about blogging this week? But I decided to tell my story in this week’s post and also share our Cook-the-Book-Fridays recipe, Baba Ganoush (better than hummus) and add some happy local news. I will ask, however, that you find a little space to hold everyone dealing with this catastrophe in your hearts.
It will be a long time before I can look at another plate of macaroni and cheese.
SPOTLIGHT HEALTH AND ASPEN IDEAS FESTIVAL
The Aspen Ideas and Spotlight Health Festival which just concluded is, using the Aspen Institute’s words, “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. Some 450 presenters, 400 sessions, and 3,000 attendees comprised the 2018 annual ten-day Festival.”
Team Doerr-Hosier: During Spotlight and Ideas, I volunteered at the Doerr-Hosier Center located on the Aspen Institute’s campus. I was very fortunate to take my orders from these capable young women. L to R: Margot, me, Azalea, Annie and Christian.
Launched in 2005, I’ve attended nearly all of them and have always considered it the most important thing I do for myself every summer. For the last 3 years I’ve volunteered for the event. That, surprisingly, has become an even better learning experience. This year three of the eight program tracks especially interested me: The Genius of Animals; Leadership in a Time of Change; and Freedom of Speech and the Marketplace of Ideas. . What was particularly impressive during the ten days was hearing from an assortment of creative, breathtakingly brilliant and diverse group of young presenters prepared to put right again the world they are inheriting. Get ready for it, folks.
4th of July Parade
Our recipe this week is David Lebovitz’s delicious Baba Ganoush, which is similar to and served like hummus. Instead of chickpeas, it has mashed eggplant (grilled or roasted) which is mixed into tahini, olive oil, and various seasonings.
BABA GANOUSH (MOUTABAL) by David Lebovitz, My Paris Kitchen
2 globe eggplants (21/2pounds )
1/2 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt
3 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or smoked chile powder
1/8 teaspoon of cumin
1 tablespoon olive oil plus more for drizzling
2 tablespoons finely-chopped parsley
coarsely chopped fresh herbs or seeds for garnish
1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, brush it with olive oil and sprinkle it with salt.
2. Use a sharp knife to prick each eggplant a few times. Char the outside of the eggplants on a grill or by placing them directly on the flame of a gas burner. As the skin chars, turn them until the eggplants are uniformly-charred on the outside, about 5-10 minutes. (If you don’t have a gas stove or grill, you can char them under the broiler.)
3. When cool enough to handle, trim the stems off and split the eggplants lengthwise. Place the eggplants cut-side down on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes until they’re completely soft. You should be able to easily poke a paring knife into them and meet no resistance.
4. Remove from oven and let cool.
5. Scrape out the pulpit the bowl of a food processor and puree the pulp with all the other ingredients added until smooth. (You may also mash the eggplants with a fork in a large bowl with the other ingredients.)
6. Taste, and season with additional salt and lemon juice, if necessary.
7. Serve in a shallow bowl, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with herbs or seeds. Serve at room temperature or chilled with crackers, sliced baguette, or toasted pita chips.
Storage: Baba Ganoush can be made and refrigerated for up to three days prior to serving.