Let’s talk FRIENDSHIP. Yours. Theirs. Mine. Ours. It’s September. Time to do that.
THE ONLY STOP DURING THE TRIP BACK TO ASPEN WAS FOR FRANNIE TO PERUSE THE MOOSE RACK SELECTION FOR OUR NATURALIST EXHIBITS.
Last week-end my nature-loving colleagues and I spent three days in Rocky Mountain National Park taking field workshops. For me, it was a rigorous three days. By 5:30pm on Friday night, when we were ready to make the 185-mile trip back to Aspen, I was pooped. There was no drive left in me, either for up another mountain or behind the wheel. Having anticipated this, Francine and Carol climbed in the front seat of my car while I folded my wings, crawling in the back.
Four hours later as we crossed the line into Pitkin County, Francine said, “You know, Mary, we love you. We all love you.”
Not to be outdone, Carol chimed in, “You have a great support system here, Mary. Everyone loves you. They do.”
CORNBREAD WITH CARAMELIZED APPLES, ONIONS & THYME
There was more of this chatter, I responded with gratefulness, dropped my friends off and finally drove into The Gant around 10pm. After unpacking, bathing and checking for ticks (a hazard in the High Country), I fell into bed at Midnight, four hours past my norm. But not before thinking about those remarks. What brought that on, I’ll never know. I was weary, yes, but euphoric about a perfect trip. I wasn’t feeling needy, lonely, or abandoned. No propping up necessary. Shall we simply chalk it up to Friendship?
SINCE RETURNING TO ASPEN OUR SILVERKING DRIVE NEIGHBOR, BLANCA O’LEARY (middle), HAS ALWAYS INCLUDED ME IN NEIGHBORHOOD FUNCTIONS & HOLIDAYS. SHE NEVER FORGETS ME. HERE WE’RE CELEBRATING VAIL’S LITERACY PROJECT’S 25TH ANNIVERSARY AT A LOVELY LUNCHEON HOSTED BY OUR VAIL FRIEND, JANE LOWERY.
As we all celebrate the long Labor Day week-end why not open the window wider to this opportunity to value our friends more. Let’s be better, try harder and remind them they’re appreciated. Although Frannie and Carol have now probably forgotten those remarks, I have not. Besides wishing you Happy Labor Day Week-end with the following cast iron menu, I’m sharing snapshots of my local supporters who have enriched my 2015 summer. Hopefully these photos will encourage you to acknowledge your own.
CAULIFLOWER PARMESAN, OVEN READY
Some women in the following photo have been friends since 1988. This is the only time I was with this gang all summer!?! And, that took 40 e-mails, determination and a surprise 60th birthday party to make happen. Some gals work and many, like me, are dedicated volunteers for this and that. The activities we did together ten years ago, Saturday biking adventures and Sunday hikes up Aspen Mountain, I’m no longer strong enough to do. However, after obviously too much vino, I agreed to a winter bike training program put together by Californian Terry Durham, far right, to bring me up to speed by Summer 2016. I’ll gear up if they’ll slow down.
LONGTIME ASPEN FRIENDS. LET S NOT COUNT THE YEARS.
Since It only takes one small spark, there’s no balcony grilling allowed at The Gant. For whatever reason, cast iron cooking makes me feel all outdoorsy. What I know for sure is my three cast iron skillets conduct heat superbly, can travel from stovetop to oven without talking back and will last my lifetime. I’ve linked to recipes and include John’s at the end of this post.
DAY-IN AND DAY-OUT MY FOREST CONSERVANCY FRIENDS (AND, SMOKEY) PROVIDE ENCOURAGEMENT AND SUPPORT.
GOD BLESS CAROL KURT? MY IOWA FRIEND, MARY BERGLUND, SENT ME INFO ON SNORKELING GEAR. I ORDERED IT AND IT ARRIVED LAST WEEK. AS PROMISED CAROL STARTED MY LESSONS AT THE GANT POOL. I NOW CAN PUT MY HEAD IN THE WATER AND BREATHE CORRECTLY. NOT TOO WILLING TO VENTURE INTO THE DEEP END YET ( 6 FEET). SOON. GALAPAGOS, HERE I COME. AND, YES, THE KIDS HERE AT THE GANT ARE LOVING THIS. MY OWN CHEERLEADING SECTION.
I would be remiss if I didn’t honor the friendship of you supporters of my blog. Whether you visit my posts for recipes, stories or just to see the photos, I’m just thrilled you’re here. Thank you.
I hope you are relentless in your enjoyment of this weekend. It’s a good one and we’re lucky to be breathing in it. Joy the Baker adaption
HERE’S THE BEEF.
FILET MIGNON by John Lester, Create Amazing Meals, Susan & John Lester
• 2 8-ounce Filets
• Salt and Pepper, to taste
• Vegetable Oil
1. Remove steaks from the refrigerator 1 hour before cooking and sprinkle with salt & pepper on both sides.
2. Coat the inside of a cast iron skillet with vegetable oil.
3. Place pan on the stove over medium-high heat.
4. When oil begins to smoke, sear steaks on both sides, about 3 minutes a side.
5. Place a baking rack over a sheet of foil and place steaks on the rack.
6. Allow to rest at room temperature for ½ hour.
7. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
8. Place steaks back in cast iron skillet.
9. Place skillet in oven for 5 – 12 minutes, depending upon the thickness of the steak and the way you like them.
10. Remove pan from oven and allow steaks to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
If, as someone once remarked, August is the Sunday of summer, it’s a sure bet your Sunday was fast and furious. Remember Nat King Cole’s lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer? Here in the West, we’ve had crazy hazy days because of our 76 forest fires (latest figure). Last Wednesday, on the way to Rocky Mountain National Park, I drove through Colorado’s Byers Canyon 568-acre fire. A surreal moment. The canyon was open but with fires burning and smoke spouting while helicopters dumped water on hot spots. Instructed not to stop, I slowly passed through this charred 8 mile-gorge on the upper Colorado River.
My take-away from this experience? Every time you encounter firefighters, thank them profusely.
STUFFED PEPPERS WITH NEW POTATOES, FETA, AND PESTO
The month’s ending translates not only to re-visiting Mother Nature but also to my monthly Cottage Cooking Club post when we share vegetarian recipes from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg cookbook. This month I made a delicious Green Lentil & Honey-roasted Cherry Tomato Salad, a unique (to me, at least) Stuffed Pepper with New Potatoes, Feta & Pesto and, for our cool mountain evenings, Cannellini, Spinach & Porcini Soup.
IN THE WILLOWS AT ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK, MAMA AND BABY MOOSE
In addition, I spent the end of August in Rocky Mountain National Park taking classes offered by the Rocky Mountain Conservancy Field Institute. Three of my Forest Conservancy colleagues who are Master Naturalists joined me to take Birds of the Kewuneeche Valley and The Life & Times of Moose. Yep, we love this stuff. Enjoy these pictures from our latest adventure.
MOM MOOSE – SHE CAN WEIGH BETWEEN 1100 TO 1200 POUNDS.
Now, to some tasty vegetarian fare. In a word, French green lentils (preferably Le Puy lentils). “These lovely, speckled green lentils are an absolute mainstay of my cooking,” Hugh writes. “They get their distinctive earthy flavor from the volcanic soils around Puy in the Auvergne region of France. Their firm, nutty texture makes them great for adding to salads or jumbling up with all manner of companions.”
BABY MOOSE – THIS GUY IS REALLY A JUVENILE BUT WILL HANG OUT WITH MOM UNTIL SHE HAS ANOTHER CALF.
I chose to toss my warm lentils with honey-roasted cherry tomatoes and a handful of arugula topped with Parmesan shavings (Not sure that extra flavoring and calories of cheese is needed.) For the honey-roasted tomatoes, if you remember from a recent post, just halve cherry tomatoes and place them snugly, cut side up, in a lightly oiled dish. Crush 2 garlic cloves, 1 TBS honey with 3 TBS olive oil and mash together. Salt and pepper to taste. Pour over tomatoes and roast at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. I also tried this same recipe the next day using leftover cold lentils. Very tasty.
BIRDING BREAK. DONNA, FRANCINE, AND CAROL (L to R) THOSE SPINACH ARTICHOKE CHIPS ARE DELICIOUS. (I SHARED.)
Once you become enamored with French green lentils, you’ll want to dive deeper into Lentil Land, a healthy place to spend your time. Besides Hugh, many other cooks tout this legume and have wonderful lentil recipes to share: Visit Ina, Dorie, David and Martha.
Like me, you probably have stuffed peppers before. My question, did your filling include new potatoes, feta and pesto? In this recipe you get the smoky taste of roasted peppers without the messy peeling. The yummy filling is, well, yummy and filling. Substantial. And, for pesto, I visited my local market. Serve these with a green salad and artisan bread. May I suggest this dish begs for a nice glass of crisp wine?
THESE JUVENILE OSPREY WERE CHATTERING LOUDLY. ALTHOUGH WE THINK THEY HAVE FLEDGED AND CAN FLY, THEY CLEARLY DID NOT WANT TO TAKE OFF. MOM AND DAD ARE GONE, WE THINK.
Since I’m quite sure most of you readers are not lusting for soup right now, I’ll save my lovely Cannellini, Spinach & Porcini Soupwith all its variations for a later Post.
LOOKING FOR MOOSE WITH OUR LEADER, KEVIN COOK OF THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN CONSERVANCY FIELD INSTITUTE.
AU REVOIR, AUGUST
THE USFS RANGERS HEADED INTO THE WILDERNESS TO WORK – JUST DOIN’ THEIR JOB IN THEIR BEAUTIFUL OFFICE.
STUFFED PEPPERS with NEW POTATOES, FETA AND PESTO
by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, River Cottage Veg
7 ounces small new potatoes
4 peppers, multi-colored
1 Tbsp olive oil
7 ounces feta cheese
1/4 cup of pesto (I used less)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bring a pan filled with salted water to to boil, add the new potatoes and boil for 8-12 minutes, until just tender. Drain and cool slightly.
2. Halve the peppers lengthways, removing the seeds and pith but leaving the stem. Brush the outsides with olive oil and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment.
3. Halve or quarter the new potatoes and place in a bowl. Cut the feta into 1/2 inch cubes and add to the potatoes. Toss both with the pesto until well combined. Salt and pepper to taste.
4. Spoon the filling into the halved peppers and bake for 40-45 minutes until browned on top. Scatter shredded basil over the peppers just before serving, if desired.
Glancing through cookbooks penned by some favorite chefs, Ina, Julia, Martha and Jacques, I found recipes for Tomatoes Provençal. While admittedly it’s a French classic, have you ever visited a 4th of July buffet table that didn’t include this tomato dish? Think of it as our appreciative tip of Uncle Sam’s hat to the Marquis de Lafayette and French support during the Revolutionary War.
Fifteen minutes to throw together and less than an hour in the oven. How good does that sound?
This week’s French Fridays recipe, an appropriate flag-waving choice, is Dorie Greenspan’s take on Tomatoes Provençal. In her own words, “Every French cook who makes oven-roasted herb-topped tomatoes has his or her own recipe, but the fact is it needs no recipe at all.
A weekend adventure to Rocky Mountain National Park and the Continental Divide.
There are a few givens,” Dorie explains. “The tomatoes, to be sure, olive oil to moisten them and make a little basting sauce; herbs to top them, and garlic to set your culinary compass to the South of France – but which herbs you use, how you cut your tomatoes, whether you roast them until they’re almost melted or leave them a little firmer are all up to you.”
DonnaC and Francine are unable to explain why an overnight trip with four women requires all this luggage.(So, they smiled instead.)
What’s intriguing about Dorie’s is what she doesn’t do. She doesn’t remove the seeds after halving the tomatoes. And, she doesn’t include breadcrumbs in her topping. It’s all about the tomatoes (juicy), herbs and garlic (fresh) and olive oil (top-quality). Think simple, rustic and toothsome. (If the juices run down your chin, grab a napkin or use your sleeve.)
Forget anything? DonnaC, our in-house dental professional, gifted us with a dental kit.
TP can stand alone or be an accompaniment to any dish, eggs, salads, fish or meats. It’s delicious hot, cold or presented at room temp. It was my lunch (with a salad), then, breakfast, with eggs, and, finally, dinner, with lamb chops.
DonnaG (r), is having a “geologic moment” to explain 300 million years of recent geologic history. (Well done, friend).
In the spirit of the 4th of July, to honor our country’s Independence, I am sharing through pictures one of America’s great treasures and strengths – our National Park system. As a kid growing up in Iowa, my parents took my brother and me on many vacations. Etched forever in my memory bank, however, are our trips to Yosemite and The Great Smokey Mountains National Parks. With my own family, I visited many more, also introducing my Iowa girls to skiing, hiking and the grandeur of the American West.
The well-earned 6p.m. cocktail hour after a full day in the Park.
After moving to the Colorado mountains in 1988, it’s no surprise that I morphed into a total tree-hugger, would rather be outside than in and since becoming a volunteer forest ranger, strut around in my uniform as if I’m John Muir incarnate! My Melissa married an outdoor-sorta-guy and is raising my two granddaughters in a small town in the Sierra Nevada’s. It’s a good life with weekends of hiking or skiing, camping and exploring. Our family Thanksgiving’s are always spent in Death Valley, my favorite Park.
The evening’s entertainment, Bird Bingo, complete with prizes. Light’s out at 9p.m. (We never claimed to be hell-raisers.)
These federally protected outdoor spaces have helped mold me, delight me, and sustain me. That’s why I joined my like-minded friends, all volunteer rangers and belonging to our nature study group, for last weekend’s trip to Rocky Mountain National Park. Located 200 miles northeast of Aspen, RMNP is 265,873 acres of magnificence. We all registered for a one-day field seminar entitled “Wildflowers of the High Country: Tundra in Bloom”, an outdoor class taught above 11,000 feet. The question: Would our brains even work above 11,000 feet?
Our Sunday day-long Alpine Wildflower class, above 11,000′ complete with 30 MPH winds. Not kidding. Our instructor found a small hideaway where we could eat lunch and review our morning’s work.
To give ourselves every opportunity to succeed, we booked condos, planned a menu of home-cooked nutritious meals, chose appropriate brain-stimulating wines and put together our itinerary. Using each of our strengths: DonnaC and Francine, wildflowers; DonnaG, geology; and, me, birds, we parceled out our own teaching assignments. One day to see the park. One day of class. A perfect weekend of friendship, scholarship and beauty. More memories for my bank.
This is the highest we climbed. Think Base Camp at Mt. Everest. Long’s Peak, 14,259′ (4,346M) is in the background. We’re with our instructor who thinks this is fun!
Inspired to visit a park? To see where America’s 58 national parks are located, go here. To see today’s recipe, go here. Note that the only difference to Dorie’s original recipe is the cooking time. I baked mine 30 minutes and then another 20, as Dorie originally suggests.French Fridays with Dorie is an international cooking group working its way through Dorie Greenspan’s Around my French Table. To see how my colleagues enjoyed TP, go here.
Meet Mr. Yellow-bellied Marmot who enjoys the tundra more than I do.
This handsome bull elk likes his own space. We saw hundreds of elk – Moms, Dads and babies as well as two beautiful moose.