During the Thanksgiving holiday my friend Meredith explored Patagonia, a meandering territory in the southern tip of South America. This rugged area of spectacular national parks in the Andes mountain range is shared by Chile and Argentina. Forty years ago English author Bruce Chatwin wrote IN PATAGONIA, ‘a masterpiece of travel writing that revolutionized the genre’ and introduced that slice of South America to the world. Game on.
My Anthem Country Club friends and neighbors got together for dinner to welcome me back to Henderson. Laughter and happy memories, that’s for sure.
But, I digress….. As her vacation ended, beginning a lengthy 32-hour trek home, I asked that she check in when safely home in Atlanta. Here’s the text I received: “BUS: Natales to Arenas; PLANES: Arenas-Santiago-Dallas-Atlanta; TRAIN: Marta; WALK: Home. Travel is not for sissies. As you know!”
Our Clara is a math whiz which translates to precision and perfection. It’s a strength that Melissa, Emma and I don’t share. She’s the baker in the family and dished up a Cherry Pie and Pumpkin Cheesecake. Beyond tasty.
Clara bought fresh cherries, pitted them and stored them in the freezer until Thanksgiving. Her filling was delicious but my, oh my, her crust. The best ever. The cheesecake, her first try, was just so good.
When she walked through the door, Meredith later told me, she headed for the freezer to pull out a stash of her Red Beans and Rice, a Louisiana Creole cuisine classic. While it bubbled on the burner, she unpacked, threw a load of dirty laundry in the washer, probably changed into sweats, and voila……breakfast/lunch/dinner poured into one big bowl of comfort food.
To make Celery Root Soup with Horseradish Cream and Bacon Chips, you start at the source.
While my 1200-mile holiday adventures were not as exotic, my hunger pangs tilted toward comfort after spending Thanksgiving in California with my family. This week’s post highlights some easy eats of mine – a grilled cheese sandwich with a side of piping hot soup. Comfort medicine for the soul.
Full stop. Before leaving Colorado I paused to share the road with two young mountain sheep who’d lost their way. Their herd was a mile down the road.
I’m taking it up a notch but still keeping it simple with Everything Spice Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and CooktheBookFridays recipe, Soupe de Céleri-Rave à la Crème de Raifort et Chips de Jambon. Even after months of immersion study at the Institut de Français, that’s an American mouthful. Translated simply, celery soup, unique and darn tasty.
The American West. Beaver, Utah 11/18/17 (Day 1 of my journey. Love this photo. )
This marks the fourth year of my winter hiatus from Aspen. Surprisingly, my sad pangs tugged stronger this year. Although escaping the High Country’s hearty winters is a great option, it wasn’t until Green River, 250 miles out, that I’d again convinced myself of this. Maybe what feels so right and happy just gets harder to leave.
My last lunch with friends before leaving Aspen. Char McLain( L) and Donna Grauer (R). Their husbands were at work in the kitchen!
In the winter, when my life is more gypsy than residential, it’s pretty important that every day be comfort food, figuratively not literally. Silly as it sounds, when traveling alone my world spins better if surrounded by my comfort cache. A bag of tricks? A security blanket in disguise? If stranded on a desert island, I could amuse myself. Here’s what I pack…..
1. Books and Kindle Paperwhite. Current Favorite: Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson;
2. Four Boxes of Nabisco’s Honey Maid Graham Crackers;
3. Memberships in Hulu, Netflix, CBS Access, MHZ Choice and Acorn.
Current Favorites: Mannon and The Great British Baking Show;
4. Five Jigsaw Puzzles;
5.Lumosity, daily on-line brain games Membership;
6. Computer and iPhone – lifeline to family and friends;
7. 4 Spiral Notebooks, 3 Packages of Pens;
8. Educational Courses: Mythology, Spanish and French;
9. 2 Boxes of Nestle’s Coffee Nips;
10.Yoga Mat and Tapes.
This is the same Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake with Buttermilk Frosting that I baked for my previous post. By changing up the bundt pan and the frosting decoration, it showed off differently for Thanksgiving. (Recipe in my last post.)
Although parmesan and cheddar are the cheeses of choice, use whatever hard cheese you have available for the rest of the mixture.
4 slices thickly cut country bread (I prefer sourdough)
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
3/4 combo cup of shredded havarti, fontina cheese and/or gruyere
4 tablespoons salted butter, at room temperature
1/2-3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add enough butter to coat pan. Cook one sandwich at a time.
2. Spread the outside of each slice of bread with butter and arrange the grated cheeses on one inside slice of each sandwich. Sprinkle the spice over both buttered outsides of the bread, pressing the spice mix gently into the bread to adhere. Sprinkle half the parmesan on top of each sandwich’s outside slice as you grill the sandwich.
3. Place the sandwiches, one at a time, parmesan cheese side up, in the skillet. (When you flip it, sprinkle the remaining parmesan cheese on the top.) Cook until golden on each side, about 4-5 minutes per side.
TIPS: 1. Use any combination of available cheeses in your fridge for your filling mixture.
2. I am making these again but will mix my own bagel spice, eliminating the garlic.
EVERYTHING BAGEL SPICE
3 tablespoons toasted white or black sesame seeds
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
2 teaspoons dried onion
2 teaspoons dried garlic (Optional)
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more if needed
DIRECTIONS Combine everything in a small bowl or glass jar. Keep stored in a cool, dry place. If needed, season to taste with more salt.
CELERY ROOT SOUP with HORSERADISH CREAM and BACON CHIPS, My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz
If you’ve never used celery root before, make this soup. Think of it being a neglected vegetable giving goodness. Save some steps by purchasing the horseradish cream and using bacon chips (instead of ham chips). Or simply drizzle with olive or nut oil.
6 tablespoons salted or unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 large leeks, cleaned and chopped
21/2 teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt
11/2 pounds celery root, peeled and cubed
6 cups (750ml) water
1/2 teaspoons white pepper
1 bay leaf
6 sprigs of thyme
minced fresh chives for garnish
1. Place a large stock pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Add the leeks and a big pinch of salt. Saute for 7-10 minutes or until the leeks have started to turn translucent and a bit of color has started to develop on the bottom of the pot. Stir occasionally.
2. Add the cubed celery root to the pot along with the bay leaf, thyme and 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, covered, until the celery root is tender, about 30-40 minutes. (A sharp paring knife should easily pierce a cube.)
3. Pluck out the bay leaf and thyme and let the soup cool to tepid. Add the white pepper. Puree with an immersion blender or remove the pot from the heat and carefully transfer, in small batches, to a regular blender and puree until smooth. Always be careful pureeing hot liquids. If the consistency of the soup is too thick, add water, a little at a time, as needed. Add white pepper or salt, to taste.
4. To serve the soup, reheat the soup and ladle into serving bowls. Add a generous dollop of horseradish cream, available at your local market, and crumble crispy bacon over the top, finishing each bowl with a sprinkling of chives.
OR, drizzle hazelnut, walnut or plain olive oil in the soup for garnish. Finish each bowl with a pinch of fleur de sel, or smoked sea salt.
Drool-worthy. Potato, Feta and Basil Tortilla by David Lebovitz, Cook-the-Book-Fridays
Did I ever mention my appointment with a Des Moines, Iowa psychologist. In my mid-thirties, I was needing counseling and advice. After talking to me for 30 minutes he remarked that ‘I would hit my head incessantly against the wall to get something done.’
Heck, I smiled broadly, got all puffed up, considering that a compliment. NOT. What he meant, he patiently explained, was that I didn’t know when to ‘give it up.’
Fifty dollars for what I already knew. That fact was not a revelation. For better or worse, flaw or strength, it’s packed into my genotype. I proudly own it. ( Memo to female readers: I also recognize that trait in many of you. Send $50, please.) And at this moment in time, when catastrophe, chaos and disappointment reign, I’m determined, as best one can, to trade in “Normal Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” for “Hello Happy”. Head. Wall. Hit. There’s all kinds of Happy in this week’s post but also Life is Pain.
Make My Day – I met two snowy white Rocky Mountain goats on Crater Lake Trail.
JOY and DISTRESS
JOY – Although our season’s not over with Leaf Peepers soon arriving, we Rangers gathered at the East Maroon Portal for our annual potluck. Since we work various trails, we don’t often see each other. It’s also a once-a-year opportunity to dig into deep-fat fried chicken! Being part of the Forest Conservancy and these mountains we cherish have healed my heart. I love these people.
Our 2017 Forest Conservancy corp can hike and cook. Following our fried chicken potluck , we gathered for a group photo.
Old-timers. Judy Schramm told me we were the veterans, having become Rangers in the 1990s. In 2001, led by Judy’s efforts, the Forest Conservancy was established. Our group has grown and the USFS is quick to say they couldn’t do their job here without us.
DISTRESS – Late last Monday I texted my Atlanta friend, Meredith, to check in. Although Hurricane Irma was reduced to a Tropical Storm, losing her powerful punch, she still visited Georgia with a withering left jab. “House intact. No power. Downed trees,” my friend reported. “Oh, wait, just heard a loud noise. Gotta go.” The loud noise, she later texted was ‘a huge tree which landed 30’ from her house.’ To everyone affected by Irma, sadness.
JOY – Our Farmers Markets are in full glory with Colorado’s bounty coming from nearby North Fork Valley.
Dot MacArthur, also a friend and Forest Ranger, worked last Sunday at the Basalt Farmers Market “Register to Vote” booth. As always when we’re together, we had fun.
DISTRESS – Here in Aspen, my friend Luky woke up yesterday to spot a bear sitting in the cage trap located in her driveway. Luky’s neighborhood is Bear Central this year as these beautiful, wild creatures search for food before hibernating. Luky’s bear had come calling before, on her property and in her house.
Last night I grabbed a pizza and stopped by my friend Ann’s house to break bread (well, pizza and wine). Guess who (thought) he was coming to dinner?
JOY – Every semester I enroll in a course at Colorado Mountain College, a network of eleven college campuses in the state’s High Country. This past summer, Music Appreciation, now this fall, Greek Mythology. Many of us enjoy mixing it up with these smart, young students pursuing 4-year degrees. Our professor and Renaissance man, Dr. Thomas Buesch, is a phenomenal scholar. We kicked off the semester after class with a soup supper Chez Moi.
Following our first CMC Greek Mythology class, we kicked off the semester with supper.
To celebrate the publication of Alice Water’s memoir, “Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook,” I served Minestrone Soup from her “The Art of Simple Food” cookbook.
DISTRESS – In Rockport, Texas, ground zero for Harvey, my birder buddy Susan Foster and her husband were finally allowed to return home. Their house is intact but their property, totally destroyed, wiped clean, leaving only debris and dirt. “After being cocooned in a house with no damage,” she said, “it’s like a gut punch every time we go out into the city. I just came back from a morning walk and can’t even imagine how long it’s going to take to get back to normal.”
Mise en Place, gathering all your ingredients together, makes assembling a recipe easier.
JOY – It’s COOK-the-BOOK-FRIDAYS and David Lebovitz’s Tortilla de Pommes de Terre a La Feta et au Basilic is JOY, itself. Breakfast, brunch, lunch, snack or dinner. Work with it.
POTATO, FETA and BASIL TORTILLA by David Lebovitz, My Paris Kitchen
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes (I used Idaho)
1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt
6 scallions, white and tender green parts, thinly sliced
9 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon sweet or smoked paprika
4 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1 cup very coarsely crumbled feta cheese
1. Heat the oil in a 10-inch cast-iron or nonstick skillet over medium heat. (Make sure the pan has an over-proof handle.)
2. Add the potato cubes and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the potatoes are tender and cooked through, 15-18 minutes.
3. A few minutes before the potatoes are done, add the scallions and cook until they’re wilted.
4. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees or, if using a nonstick skillet, the highest temperature recommended for your particular pan, which is usually 375 degrees.
5. Mix the eggs in a bowl with 1/4 teaspoon salt and your spice of choice (I used smoked paprika). Stir the basil into the eggs and pour the mixture over the potatoes in the skillet.
6. Crumble the feta, not too finely over the potatoes and press the pieces down gently with a spoon. Cook the tortilla until the bottom is golden brown and well set, rotating the pan from time to time (like you do an omelette) as it cooks. Don’t check it too soon or you will break the crust.
7. When the crust is browned, slide the skillet into the oven and let it cook until the eggs are set, about 5 – 8 minutes.
When it’s cooked on top of the stove enough to form a fragile brown crust around its edges, slide into the oven for the final bake off.
8. Remove the skillet from the oven. Set a baking sheet or serving plate on top of the skillet then flip both the baking sheet and the skillet simultaneously, releasing the tortilla from the skillet.
9. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with greens and a glass of wine.
10. You can store your tortilla in the fridge for up to 2 days.
[OPTIONAL] For a more hearty tortilla, add 1 cup cubed Spanish chorizo or another cooked spiced sausage.
Today’s post will be my last one for the foreseeable future. Since I am turning off the lights for a time, this Iowa girl needs to talk corn and tomatoes.
Every year it happens. September barges in before I’m ready for summer’s farewell. Autumn has the upper hand and is clearly broadcasting its presence. Nights are cooler. Aspen leaves quake yellow. And, snow appears on our highest peaks. I get it.
September is still farmer’s market heaven. Snap up those luscious tomatoes. Savor every ear of corn you can grab. My Corn Soup (Two Ways) is magical. Corn cobs make the broth. Who knew? Doesn’t everyone have a favorite Gazpacho recipe? This week’s CooktheBookFridays group is stirring up David Lebovitz’s recipe. His secret ingredient is vodka.
September is also the month we volunteer USFS rangers step aside for hunters and Old Man Winter. It’s been an especially great year. Our visitors constantly remind us we have a dream job and a gorgeous office. (We know that.) There is not a day I don’t wake up thanking God and Michael Hirsch that I can live amidst these splendid mountains.
Summer ends, and Autumn comes, and he who would have it otherwise would have high tide always and a full moon every night. Hal Borland
As I said earlier, I am dimming my Lights and look forward to returning in a few months.
David Lebovitz’s GAZPACHO from My Paris Kitchen
3 pounds ripe tomatoes
1 slice firm, white country style bread, crusts removed
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely diced
1 red onion, peeled and finely diced
1/2 red, green or yellow bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons wine vinegar
2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt (more, if needed)
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika or chile powder
Freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon vodka
DIRECTIONS: (The gazpacho can be made 3 days in advance and refrigerated.)
1. Fill a large pot half full of water and bring it to a boil. Remove the cores of the tomatoes and cut an X in the bottom of each.
2. Plunge the tomatoes into the boiling water (work in batches if your pot won’t hold them all) and let the tomatoes blanch for 30 seconds or until the skins loosen. Transfer them to a strainer and rinse with cold water. Peel the tomatoes, discarding the skins.
3. Cut the tomatoes in half HORIZONTALLY. Remove as many seeds as possible. Set a coarse-mesh strainer over a bowl and squeeze the liquid and seeds out of the tomatoes; press the pulp through the strainer. Save the tomatoes and the tomato liquid. A few remaining seeds in the pulp will not matter.
4. In a small bowl, soak the bread in cold water for 1 minute, drain and squeeze the excess water out of the bread.
Working in batches, pulse the tomatoes and tomato liquid in the bowl of a food processor or blender with the bread, until they’re almost liquified, yet still have bits of tomato visible.
5. Mix the nearly pureed tomatoes in a large bowl with the cucumber, onion, pepper and garlic. Stir in the olive oil, vinegar, salt and spice. Season with pepper and add the vodka. Taste. Add additional salt if necessary.
5. Chill thoroughly before serving.
CORN SOUP (Two Ways), recipe by Faith from the KITCHN
8 medium fresh ears of corn, husks removed
7 cups water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium shallot, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
Truffle Salt and Chives
Smoked paprika, dash of Cayenne, fresh Cilantro, coarsely chopped, and lime juice
1. Cut the corn kernels off the cobs and set aside. Place the cobs in a stockpot or Dutch oven and add the water. Bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the corn kernels, a couple of big pinches of salt and a few grinds of pepper, and sauté for another 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
3. Remove the corn cobs from the stockpot and add the corn mixture to the broth. Bring to a boil, then cover again and simmer 25 minutes.
4. Purée the soup, working in batches if necessary, in a blender until completely smooth (alternatively, blend directly in the pot with an immersion blender). Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more salt and pepper as needed. (TIP: I used an immersion blender.)
5. Strain the soup through a fine-mesh strainer in a clean pot or large bowl, pressing on the solids to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids. Serve immediately, or refrigerate for a few hours or overnight to serve cold. Garnish each bowl with the topping of your choice.
TIP: Leftover keeps well, without the toppings added, for up to 5 days in the refrigerator. Rewarm or serve cold and garnish just before serving.
COOKtheBOOKFRIDAYS is an international food group cooking its way virtually through My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz. To see what my colleagues have stirred up this week or to join our group, go here.
Last summer a good friend returned to Aspen after a week of sifting through, sorting and discarding boxes she’d left behind in her mother’s attic. “I had so many dreams and hopes back then,” she told me rather regretfully, “that I’ve never fulfilled.”
WINTERY FRENCH LENTIL SOUP with BISON MEAT and CARROTS, spicy and hearty
Color me shocked. As she later acknowledged, her life is privileged and bountiful. And while those early dreams and hopes have been unrealized, I suggested they were just replaced. “Yes,” she replied, deciding she would buy into that.
Melissa’s friend, Linda, made this fantastic paper art typewriter for me. I actually used a typewriter once upon a time.
At Thanksgiving dinner my family returned to this same subject. Melissa and Stephen are turning 50 this year. This has brought them up short, of course, a pause for soul-searching. Like many of you readers, they are peddling overtime with businesses, raising two teenage daughters, countless responsibilities. But during our annual “I am thankful for” pre-dinner grace, they both made it abundantly clear there is no place they’d rather be. To their two girls, who do realize they are running their parents ragged, those were reassuring moments.
There something beautiful about fresh carrots just pulled from the earth.
While I’ve been somewhat haunted by my friend’s revelations, I hadn’t had time to run through my personal hopes and dreams checklist until recently. My recent 1,500-mile car trip equaled thinking time. I’ll not only share those thoughts but also showcase Wintery French Lentil Soup with bison beef, carrots and red wine. It’s a quick and hearty meal adapted from Lori Lynn Hirsch’s blog, Taste with the Eyes. For sweets, try my faux Chaussons aux Pommes made easily with homemade applesauce.
The Chaussons aux Pommes are ready for the oven.
Although Lori Lynn and I are not related, I was attracted to her blog because of name coincidence. I subscribed because she is a fantastic cook. Her French lentil soup hit all my buttons and provided a home for my fresh carrots. In trying to introduce more grains to my diet, the lentils, a grain legume, were perfect and, as Lori wrote, ‘eating lentils in the new year is said to bring luck and prosperity.’
The Garlic Bulb after it’s had a haircut and been coated with EVOO. Now, into the oven.
Another change I’m making in many recipes now is to roast my garlic instead of mincing/sautéing it. Liz Berg at This Skinny Chick Can Bake and Peggy Gilbey at Spiced Peach Blog persuaded me that soft, caramelized cloves are a sweeter, user-friendly addition to cooked food.
When the garlic cooled, I squeezed the caramelized cloves into the soup.
Chaussons aux Pommes are a gussied up apple turnovers. Using apples from my Talley Farms Fresh Harvest box, I made one-step, no fuss applesauce and, with puff pastry, baked some sweet nibbles for snacks, dessert and breakfast. The recipes are below.
When it’s low tide I usually walk down the stairs to the tidal pools. Not this week. Sometimes the Pacific gets unruly.
Now, back to hopes and dreams. In the past three years as I dismantled our home, I cornered the market on that walk down memory lane. While there’s been some wishing I’d have done things differently or made wiser choices (don’t we all), that’s all shoulda, woulda, coulda poppycock. I was a halfwit at 21 when Melissa was born. Now, 50 years later, I consider myself a candidate for Mensa!
Although I prefer the applesauce in my slow cooker to be chunky, I do mash it up for the turnovers.
Each twist and turn in Life, I guess, is a building block to realizing dreams and fulfilling hopes and handling those damn disappointments and regrets. Frankly, I threw so many hopes and dreams at the wall, the odds were that something was gonna stick.
If you don’t wish to sprinkle cinnamon/sugar on the pastry, that’s fine. I just found it more flavorful because I purposely don’t add sugar to the applesauce.
Today my only shock is that after a big bump or two, I was able to rebuild a happy life again. Perhaps I just put my dreams and hopes in different costumes. After Michael died, all I wanted was to return to my Aspen home and friends. To do that, there were compromises which I elected to make. Then I revisited my passions, writing and the nature gig, and morphed them into possibilities which now consume my daily life. And, what I do best, being a grandmother, is a glorious role I play seriously. That’s it. Presently, my hopes and dreams are reimagined in those pursuits.
This is a Surf Scoter. These ducks hang out at the San Simeon pier with their relatives, the Black Scoters.
I might suggest to my friend to be more gentle with herself. Success or failure cannot be measured by something packed in a cardboard box for 45 years. However, her one innocuous comment has given me pause and will also hopefully stimulate some conversation at your house this week.
the San Simeon pier located near the Hearst Castle
WINTERY FRENCH LENTIL SOUP
Adapted from Lori Lynn Hirsch, Taste for the Eyes
3 T. olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 roasted garlic bulb
3 carrots, thinly sliced
1 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. chile powder (or to taste)
4 to 5 c. beef stock
1/2 c. of red wine
1 lb. Bison ground meat, cooked and drained
12 oz. french lentils, steamed (I like Trader Joe’s pre-cooked)
salt and pepper
large handful of cilantro, rough chopped
1. Roast Garlic (directions below)
2. Heat Oil in Soup Pot. Add onion and cook until soft. (If you’d rather use 4 minced garlic cloves, add them after onions are softened and saute for a minute or two until lightly golden.)
3. Then add carrots, cumin, chile power, softened roasted garlic cloves and beef stock.
4. When carrots are al dente, add Bison meat, cooked lentils and red wine.
5. Simmer for 10-15 minutes
6. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
7. Place soup in warmed bowls. Dust with Parmesan and garnish with parsley or cilantro.
1 whole head of garlic
2 tsp. Extra-virgin Olive oil
1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Remove the papery layers off the garlic, keeping the bulb intact.
3. Trim the top off the garlic, as shown (1/4” to 1/3”).
4. Drizzle EVOO over garlic bulbs, rubbing your fingers lightly over the top so oil sinks through.
5. Wrap tightly in foil and bake for 45-55 minutes.
6. Let garlic cool before squeezing into the soup.
CHAUSSONS aux POMMES
1. Peel 12 Apples (more if you wish)
2. Add Cinnamon Sticks, if you wish.
3. Put in Slow Cooker and add 1/2 cup water.
4. Set at Low and Cook for 8 hours (or, overnight).
CHAUSSONS aux POMMES
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed per package directions.
1 C. of applesauce
Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water)
1. Heat oven to 400°F.
2. Line cookie sheet with cooking parchment paper.
3. Sprinkle work surface lightly with flour. Roll out thawed puff pastry into 15-inch square.
4. Using a coffee mug, small bowl or large round cookie cutter,
make cutouts with a paring knife.
5. Brush each square with egg wash. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon-sugar and spoon applesauce in the center as shown.
6. Fold each in half and press edges together tightly to seal.
7. Transfer to cookie sheet.
8. Use a sharp knife to make a few slices in the chaussons WITHOUT slicing completely through the puff pastry.
9. Bake between 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.
10.Sprinkle top with plain sugar.
TIP: Let cool. (Applesauce can burn your tongue.) They will de-pouf a small amount.
We’ve had intermittent snowfalls this week which translate to a wide community grin. Bring it on, El Niño. It’s cold enough – 28 degrees is the magic number – to crank up the snow makers. At night I can hear the guns shooting their white dust onto nearby Aspen Mountain. We host the women’s FIS Ski World Cup on Thanksgiving week-end. The ladies need snow.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH BREAD SOUP
’Tis the season for comfort food. For me, hearty, homemade soups spell satisfaction for those upcoming chilly November evenings. This week’s Panade de Butternut from David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen cookbook is not French despite its fancy name. This butternut squash bread soup (sounds better in French) has become one of my top five favorite dishes.
Before we cook, however, let’s have a bear chat:
The Scene: Late last Sunday, Very Dark NIght, The Gant, Aspen
The Scene #2: Off-season. No paying customers here. The front office is closed. The D-Building, except for me, is empty.
The Villain: A bear-proof trash container stuffed with take-out food containers and champagne bottles in violation of No Trash after 8pm Sign.
WHAT IS NOT TOTALLY CLEAR ABOUT THIS SIGN WHICH IS POSTED ON TOP OF THE TRASH LID? A FED BEAR IS A DEAD BEAR.
The Actors: A Black Bear and Me
The Plot: My Best Wildlife Moment
WHOOPS! THE BEAR REALIZES SOME CRAZY LADY IS UP THERE TAKING PICTURES WITH HER CAMERA.
Late Sunday night I heard the unmistakable sound, crash and banging of my trash can tipping over. There isn’t a bear in Pitkin County who can’t claw into Aspen’s bear-proof containers if they smell goodies. Since I’m on the second floor, I ran outside to see a delighted bear dumpster diving. I grabbed my camera and, with the first click, notified the bear I was upstairs.
You don’t yell at bears but I did scold and plead with him but, silly me, he wasn’t leaving until he’d devoured the mother lode. After all, for the 5-6 months he’s in hibernation there will be no pizza deliveries. At one point he lumbered into the parking lot and sat on his haunches before returning to finish his meal, ignoring me completely.
I AM OBVIOUSLY BUGGING THE BEAR. HE WALKS OUT TO THE PARKING LOT, SITS FOR A FEW MINUTES AND RETURNS. AS FAR AS THE BEAR IS CONCERNED, I DON’T EXIST.
After 20 minutes or so, he departed, leaving a huge mess which I was not brave enough to go down and clean up. The next morning, at 7am, one of our bellman did just that. (Thanks, Nic.) I did not call the police who would have bean-bagged the bear and fined The Gant. What was an exciting encounter for me was unfortunate for this bear who was just being, well, a bear.
MY BEAR, RETURNING TO FINISH UP HIS MEAL. HE IS NOT AT ALL INTIMIDATED BY ME. AFTER ALL, HE’S BIGGER.
For the rest of the off-season or until the bears go into hibernation, I’ve appointed myself the evening trash-monitor here. No more nibbles available on my watch.
PANADE de BUTTERNUT
MISE en PLACE, THE INGREDIENTS NEEDED FOR THE PANADE
“This panade is one of the few dishes I’ve eaten in my life that I’ve never forgotten,” Lebovitz writes.
Because I suffer with squash addiction every Fall, David’s endorsement piqued my interest. This is not a complicated recipe but I’ve been more thorough than usual with details, photos and directions. It’s a unique ‘baked casserole that’s served like soup but is hearty enough to be a full meal.’
For baking, a 4-quart baking dish is preferred, because the greater the width, the more crusty cheese topping you’ll have when the panade is finished. Whatever size you use, it should have sides that are at least 3 inches high. I used a 2-quart dish and halved the recipe for this post but will use my 4-quart rustic terra cotta dish next time.
ALTHOUGH I HALVED THE RECIPE, USING A 2-QUART DISH, THIS IS THE 4-QUART DISH WITH A 3-INCH LIP THAT I WOULD NORMALLY USE. IT’S PERFECT.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH BREAD SOUP (PANADE DE BUTTERNUT)
by Seen Lippert to David Lebovitz, My Paris Kitchen Cookbook
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 Tbsp olive oil
4 onions, peeled and sliced
4 cloves garlic, peeled; 2 thinly sliced, and 2 whole
2 Tbsp mixed chopped fresh thyme and sage
2-pound loaf firm-textured, dense sourdough bread, sliced into 1/4-1/2”
1/2 cup white wine
2-pound butternut squash or similar winter squash (such as Kabocha), peeled and sliced into 1/8-inch slices
sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups grated Comté, Gruyère, Jarlsberg, or fontina cheese (I used Gruyère)
2 quarts warm chicken stock, plus additional stock for serving
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. Melt the butter with the olive oil in a wide skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions, the 2 cloves of sliced garlic, and 1 teaspoon of the herbs. Cook for about 25- 35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are completely wilted and beginning to brown on the bottom and edges.
AFTER MELTING BUTTER WITH OLIVE OIL IN THIS PAN, I ADDED ONIONS, GARLIC AND HERBS TO COOK FOR 25-35 MINUTES.
2. While the onions are cooking, preheat the oven to 375 F. Put the slices of bread on baking sheets in a single layer and toast in the oven, turning the slices over midway, until both sides are dry, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and when cool enough to handle, rub both sides of the slices with the whole garlic cloves.
3. When the onions are done, pour in the wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen up any of the flavorful brown bits. Cook for a minute or two, so the wine is absorbed. Add 2 cups of the stock to the onions and cook until the stock is mostly absorbed, 10 to 15 minutes, and then add the rest of the stock and heat until the stock is hot. Remove from the heat.
THE ONIONS ARE COOKING WITH THE WINE AND THE STOCK WHICH I AM SLOWLY ADDING.
4. To assemble the panade, cover the bottom of a 3- to 4-quart baking dish with a layer of bread, breaking any pieces so they fit in a single layer, but keeping them as large as possible. Ladle about half of the onions and some of the stock over the bread, and then cover with half of the squash slices. Season lightly with salt, pepper, and half of the herbs. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the grated cheese.
THE SQUASH, THINLY SLICED
LAYER NUMBER ONE
5. Add a second layer of bread and ladle the rest of the onions and more stock over the bread. Cover with the remaining squash slices. Season the squash with salt and pepper, and then add the remaining herbs. Sprinkle another 1/2 cup of grated cheese over the squash layer. Cover the squash with a final layer of bread and then ladle the rest of the stock over the bread and press down on the ingredients to encourage them to meld together. Top with the remaining 1 cup of grated cheese, and the Parmesan.
THE BEGINNING OF THE TOP LAYER, NUMBER THREE
6. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and tighten it around the edges, but don’t press it down on the surface or some of the cheese may stick to it during baking. Set the baking dish on a foil-lined baking sheet to catch any spills. Bake for 45 minutes, uncover the panade, and bake for another 30 minutes, or until the panade is very well browned and crisp on top.
JUST GOING INTO THE OVEN-I COVERED WITH TINFOIL FIRST
JUST COMING OUT OF THE OVEN
7. Let cool for about 15 minutes and then spoon portions of the panade into soup bowls, making sure everyone gets a highly prized layer of the crusty topping. As you serve, ladle additional warm broth over each bowl if you wish and put extra on the table.
TIP: I sprayed the tinfoil with Pam so it would not stick to the top cheese crust.
Although I try to complete a jigsaw puzzle every month, why not try one yourself this winter? On a chilly winter evening what’s not to love about a leafy green salad, Panade de Butternut, a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon followed by putting together a puzzle. Delightful.
OCTOBERS JIGSAW PUZZLE: THE TREE OF LIFE BY CHARLEY HARPER (GUYLA, This is headed your way.)
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.