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