FRENCH APPLE CAKE. IT’S GENIUS.

FRENCH APPLE CAKE. IT’S GENIUS.

YEAR 2013

Years ago I flew to the Food Blogger Conference in Seattle to join twenty other French Friday with Dorie members to support Dorie Greenspan, the keynote speaker. We were part of a virtual group cooking through her latest award-winning book, “Around My French Table.”

Rosh Hashanah Dinner 2022 – French Apple Cake, Plum Cake, Mixed Fruit

At that time, it had been 30-some years since my being in a plane crash. After trying everything from pills to hypnosis to single malt scotch, I was still terrified to fly. Usually flying alone, I never chatted with seat-mates, watched no movies, didn’t catch a wink and if I’d spot a plane nearby, I’d alert the stewardess.

On the Seattle flight, shortly after taking off, my seat mate who I later discovered was a psychiatrist, psychologist or something, said, “You look like you’re a worrier.”

At that time, dealing with several issues including grief and wanting to close down the conversation, I responded, “Ya think?”

Without losing a beat, he began, “I can help you with that.”

Elaine Grossman baked this gorgeous loaf of Challah bread. It was as delicious to eat as it was to see. Baking any bread at high-altitude successfully is quite an accomplishment.

In short he correctly reminded me that worrying is not productive. “Do this,” he suggested. “Every time you begin to worry about something, write it down, park it someplace and do not think about it. Then pick a day. I would say for you it’s every Wednesday at 3pm. When you check out your Worry List every week at 3pm, I predict most of those worries would have already solved themselves and some now just seem silly.”

Readers, you just heard the short version but you get it. He finished his remarks just as we were landing in Seattle. Ironically, I sorta liked that idea although my family thought it was bonkers and my friends scoffed. Still, I tried it for a time, it seemed to work but like every How-To idea or diet, I forgot about it.

The last of our Colorado peaches. This O’Henry peach is a very large, yellow, freestone peach with red skin, firm flesh and superb flavor. My favorite.

YEAR 2022

In September I decided to dust off and tweak that old idea which had worked so well. In the past three years, since the Pandemic began, I felt I’d lost my Joy and despite what I considered ‘Herculean’ efforts, I couldn’t find it. Like each of you, I’ve been knocked down a time….or four or five, but I’ve always bounced back quickly. For the Life I’m now privileged to live, this lack of feeling Joy, if you will, is disappointing to me, embarrassing to write about and even disgusting. But what I’ve found from ten years of writing this blog, when I voice a concern or sadness or muddle and ask myself, “Should I write this?” there are always a few readers who have similar feelings but not a vehicle to share it or a confidante to tell it. 

SweeTango (L) apples were introduced in 2009 when horticulturists from the UofMinnesota bred a Honey Crisp with a Zestar. In 1999 the UofMinnesota horticulturists had introduced the early season, hardy apple, the Zestar (L Back) that’s juicy with a light and crisp texture. The two Honeycrisps (R) were also developed in Minnesota and have become among the most popular apple in the world. Note: I may have my apples labeled incorrectly!!!
Sam, pictured here at the Senior Center and who works for Pitkin County, delivers fresh vegetables to us every week and helps us set up the displays for our veggie market. He’s a great guy and has made this year’s program even better. Sam’s from Minnesota where his family still lives and works. Returning from vacation, he brought back sacks of Minnesota apples fresh from the farm to share. I used them in my apples cakes this fall.

In the past month while thinking about this post, I’ve wondered what Joy really looks like in Year 2022. Each day I’m trying to come up with and jot down what I call “Joy Juice.” (Well, it’s better than drinking it.). Even finding $50 in my jean’s back pocket recently counts! 

OUR BEARS AT PLAY

“Mama, It’s going to be a long winter. I’m hungry,” says the little black bear.
Our bears are e-v-e-r-y–w-h-e-r-e on the hunt for food. During the fall they eat and drink nearly nonstop, needing to put on weight to prepare for winter and hibernation. This process is called hyperphagia.

DORIE’S FRENCH APPLE CAKE, A GENIUS RECIPE

I first baked Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake on December 8, 2012 when I was a member of French Fridays with Dorie. Every week we would make a group recipe choice, bake it and write up a post about it on our blogs. Every since then I’ve baked at least 10 of these cakes each year. This apple cake was my favorite recipe in the book and the favorite of many “Dorista’s.” 

Later it was celebrated in the first of the Food52 genius cookbooks, Genius Recipes: 100 Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook.  At the time, one of its editors wrote, ‘know that apples cobbled together with gently boozed up, custardy cake are going to be well received.’

MARIE-HELENE’S (Dorie’s good friend) FRENCH APPLE CAKE

INGREDIENTS

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 tsp. baking powder

Pinch of salt

4 large apples (If you can, choose 4 different kinds)

2 large eggs

3/4 cup sugar

3 Tbs. dark rum

1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

8 Tbs. (1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled)

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter an 8-inch springform pan and put it on a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper and put the springform on it. If you use a larger pan, it will lose some of its height.

2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in small bowl.

3. Peel the apples, cut them in half and remove the cores. Cut the apples into 1- to 2-inch chunks. If possible, use 4 different apples of any kind.

4. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk until they’re foamy. Pour in the sugar and whisk for a minute or so to blend. Whisk in the rum and vanilla. Whisk in half the flour and when it is incorporated, add half the melted butter, followed by the rest of the flour and the remaining butter, mixing gently after each addition so that you have a smooth, rather thick batter. Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in the apples, turning the fruit so that it’s coated with batter. Scrape the mix into the pan and poke it around a little with the spatula so that it’s evenish. Bang the pan on the counter 2-3 times to remove air bubbles.

5. Slide the pan into the oven and bake for 50 to 60 to 70 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean. The cake may pull away from the sides of the pan. Transfer to a cooling rack and let rest for 5 minutes.

6. Carefully run a blunt knife around the edges of the cake and remove the sides of the springform pan. (Open the springform slowly, and before it’s fully opened, make sure there aren’t any apples stuck to it.) Allow the cake to cool until it is just slightly warm or at room temperature. If you want to remove the cake from the bottom of the springform pan, wait until the cake is almost cooled, then run a long spatula between the cake and the pan, cover the top of the cake with a piece of parchment or wax paper, and invert it onto a rack. Carefully remove the bottom of the pan and turn the cake over onto a serving dish.

SERVING: The cake can be served warm or at room temperature, with or without a little softly whipped, barely sweetened heavy cream or a spoonful of ice cream. Marie-Hélène’s served her cake with cinnamon ice cream and it was a terrific combination.

Another.

STORING: The cake will keep for about 2 days at room temperature. It’s best not to cover it tightly because it’s too moist. Leave the cake on its plate and just press a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper against the cut surfaces.

OUR BEARS AT WORK 

Although our bears are tenacious and clever, more often it’s the homeowner/business owner who is careless. A fed bear is a dead bear.
summer joy, TOMATOES & WHAT’S AHEAD

summer joy, TOMATOES & WHAT’S AHEAD

If the answer is, “Don’t know.” 

Pretty sure the question was, “Where did the summer go?”

#Summer Highlights
Facade of Aspen Art Museum

What hasn’t yet left the building is this year’s bountiful crop of tomatoes.  As long as we can still slice and salt a ripe, juicy tomato, pile it between two slices of white bread slathered with butter or mayo, it’s still summer.

Here’s another thought. If you bake Dorie’s recipe for her Simple Tomato Tart and tweak it to your liking, you’ve got a friend forever. Simple is the key word here. What cranks this tart up a notch is the two-mustard/honey mixture spread over the crust before adding the sliced tomatoes. This works served warm, room temp or cold for any meal or with drinks. 

TRAVEL TIME 

Labor Day week-end is when I pull together my winter game plan.  As many of you know,  I leave Aspen for the 4-month ski season. The business woman side of me kicks in when I turn my keys over to The Gant for winter rentals. Since many of you have asked, yes, it’s a pain to re-organize my condo for renters. 

It’s also given me the ability to not only live at The Gant but also winter in places like Maui, San Miguel de Allende and Paris. That’s why the scale tips heavily to letting strangers sleep in my bed!

#Summer Highlights – This is what I love about living in Aspen. We all moved here in different eras. John Cooley, (R) was instrumental in planning/developing Snowmass which opened in December 1967. In the early Seventies I learned to ski at Snowmass. Michael and I moved here in 1988. Although Bill Mason (L) and his wife, Sue, lived in Seattle, and visited Aspen often, they just moved and bought a home here last year. The three of us had stories to share. Gracie Oliphant photo

This year I’m sitting tight in a (yet unchosen) tiny, beach cottage on the southern coast of California. During the Summer of 1963 while attending summer school at the U of Iowa, I drove over to nearby West Branch to visit the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library which had just opened. I was blown away by that library. On that day I promised myself I would visit every presidential library in the country. There were three others. 

#Summer Highlights – My hiking partner, Deb Overeynder and I “at work.”

Unfortunately/fortunately, Life got in the way of that dream. When I found myself alone ten years ago, there were thirteen libraries! Beginning in 2013, I began to fulfill that promise . I completed my journey on November 16, 2018, during a raging snow storm in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which is why perhaps at last count only 99 other people have done this.

#Summer HIghlights – One evening my dinner party partner, Gracie Oliphant, and I watched this little guy, covered with pollen, savoring the bounty of our floral centerpiece. The next day I received this photo from Gracie. Love it.

I planned to write about this phenomenal adventure when I became unable to travel independently anymore. However, now is the time.  I have no end game nor know where I’m going with this. It’s not for profit, just for my personal pleasure.  I enjoy a wonderful life but it’s impossible to find quiet blocks of time when I’m gone all winter and have a busy summer /fall in Aspen.

When you visit a library, they “stamp” your Passport with the name of the President and the date you were there.

“Presidential Libraries are home to hundreds of thousands of artifacts. They’re storehouses of billions of records. They preserve legacies, offer insights (and opinions) on history and are a testament to the incredible power of the office of president of the United States.” Author Kathleen McCleary

#Summer Highlights – This was a summer of celebrations to make up for all we missed during the previous two Covid summers. Ruth Frey, the birthday girl and Donna Grauer

A SIMPLE TOMATO TART adapted from Dorie Greenspan, Baking with Dorie

INGREDIENTS:

3-5 medium and large tomatoes, depending on size of tart pan

1 Tablespoon of Dijon Mustard and 2 Tablespoons of Grainy Mustard

1-2 Tablespoons of Honey, to taste

1/2 Cup of grated cheese such as Gruyère; Comté or cheddar 

Olive Oil for drizzling

Fine Sea salt and freshly ground Pepper 

Variety of herbs (optional), basil leaves, thyme or rosemary springs, finely chopped parsley, basil or cilantro

DIRECTIONS:

1. Mix together your favorite 8-x-11 inch pastry/tart dough or use store-bought pie dough. Partially bake (Blind Bake) per the recipe/package instructions, cool and set aside on your tart pan of choice. 

2. Slice your tomatoes fairly thickly (1/2-inch thick slices). Place a double thickness of paper towels on a large plate or cutting board and  sprinkle with salt. Cover with a double layer of paper towel. (I did this twice.) Allow to drain for at least 20 minutes or you can also do ahead and store in the fridge overnight.

Spread the mustard/honey mixture on top of the crust.

3. Center a rack in the oven and preheat t0 400 degrees. Place the partially baked crust on a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a baking mat.

4. Whisk together the mustards and honey in a small bowl, adjust to your taste and spread the mixture over the BOTTOM of the crust. Tear and spread basil over the mustard mixture. Top with 1/4 of a cup of grated cheese. Layer the tomatoes in a single layer over the mustard. Season with pepper and drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil. 

The tart is ready for the oven. Roast for 20-30 minutes.

5. Bake to tart, depending on size, for 20-30 minutes or until tomatoes can be easily pierced with a knife. At that point sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top and heat for another 2-3 minutes before removing from oven.. 

6. Scatter finely chopped herbs of your choice over the top. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

#Summer Highlights – The fruits and vegetables have been beautiful and delicious this year.
WHAT’S UP with GEN Z? Let’s listen.

WHAT’S UP with GEN Z? Let’s listen.

Every summer from late June to early Fall, I pick up addictively delicious Palisade peaches (and plums, apricots, pears and sweet corn) at a fruit stand pitched near the gas tanks at Roaring Fork Valley Coop in nearby Carbondale. The Coop is my year-round go-t0 for fresh eggs, their gas is a bargain and the bathroom wins my Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. (Remember how important that became when Covid hit?) There’s not much this Iowa farm girl can’t find at a Coop.

With my recent cache of peaches, I pulled together Dorie Greenspan’s divine Drop-biscuit Peach-Blueberry Cobbler. Her cobbler begs for David Lebovitz’ Peach Ice Cream so I’m answering the call this weekend and will post both recipes in my next blog.

AN INTERVIEW with EMMA

Last week my granddaughter made her annual visit to Aspen. Emma was born two months after 9/11 and turned 21 during the Covid pandemic. She first voted for president in 2020 and started to be politically and current events-conscious during President Obama’s terms. Emma is GenerationZ (15-25).

During the recent Aspen Institute Ideas Festival, I attended a session called “Looking Forward with GenZ.” The premise was “Lots of people are talking ABOUT GenZ. Far fewer are talking TO GenZ. That has to change.” The data in the report is eye-opening. It’s as if we live on different planets?

Prior to Emma’s arrival, I emailed a number of people, some I knew, others I didn’t. What I asked was “If you could ask a 21-year-old GenZ’er one question, what would it be?” My responses, representing every decade from teenager to folks in their 90’s, was diverse and of every political persuasion. Emma bought into my idea of a week-long casual conversation . Over the years we’ve done this before. She takes these interviews very seriously. (As do I.) Below are very abbreviated answers to some of those questions.

Hiking with Emma.

If you could ask a 21-year-old GenZ’er one question, what would it be?

  1. Q: What gives you the most joy and what makes you the most afraid?

A: Being an individual who’s still a part of something. Feeling in control. Seizing opportunity as it presents itself. I’m not afraid of anything. If I start to be scared, I just ask myself, “What part of this can I control?”

  1. Q: What three things would you need to feel secure and confident about your personal future? What would a happy life look like for you?

A:  Education, a plan. Passion and a calling. Resources + tools to get there, nothing fancy or crazy, just enough. 

A happy life? GenZ is wayyyyyy less interested in money than previous generations. Financial stability is a plus for sure, but more so, what can life offer beyond that. I want to strike a balance with work, play, joy, and where the opportunity to learn is always present.

Over the years I’ve collected Starbuck mugs wherever my travels take me. Since my “collections” have outlived my ability to store them, it’s time to do some editing. That’s why my mugs live on my mantle this summer one last time, making my morning coffee and memories even more special.
  1. Q: What is the definition of success for you? How are you prepared to handle it if it doesn’t materialize as you envision?

A: It’s not so much about achievement but your mental attitude as you do achieve. I love goals of course but I really do my best to keep my mindset focused, intentional, kind and open as I work towards them. We GenZ’ers are extremely flexible, adaptable, and innovative when it comes to change. We’ve had to be.

(Gramma Memo: Emma is a senior at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. Her major is Child and Adolescent Development. She has minors in Spanish and Pre-therapeutic Psychology.)

  1. Q: With so much current negative news, what are you most concerned about as you move into your 20s? What are the three biggest issues facing GenZ? What makes you excited and energized about the future?

A: Misinformation and polarization. Non response to environmental issues, choosing to believe since “they” are not impacted, GenZ will not be impacted. Racial and Mental Health ignorance.

We recognize what the generations above us contributed to society, both pros and cons. My generation vows to work together to create a more balanced, fair and inclusive society.

Up early for coffee and conversation. Today we’re in Madrid and the Czech Republic.
  1. Q: How would you address the fact that solely due to age, GenerationZ is continually discredited during important conversations when it will be our responsibility to clean up the mess we are left with? (asked by a Zoomer)

A: I have no doubt we will successfully be at the table, sooner rather than later. We’ve got desire. Right now we can participate in the process by voting in numbers that influence elections. I will admit that it would be nice to sometimes be acknowledged.

  1. Q: White privilege?

A: I understand I’m privileged. But realizing we’re stronger together, our generation celebrates diverse voices and accepts all stories and experiences. I have an obligation to participate in society as myself while also responding to the needs of that diversity.

If it’s Thursday, it must be Kraków and San Miguel de Allende.
  1. Q: As a member of GenZ, what do you consider the most important differences from those of older generations?

A: I think older generations operate in survival mode. Instead of our taking that as a “This is how it is, has been and will be,” we ask “Why can we not change it and How?”

  1. Q: What are YOU willing to give up to slow global warming?

A: I’d also like to ask that question to our older generations. As for me personally, I subscribe to multiple, helpful podcasts/blogs. I recycle and reuse. I carpool. I thrift everything I own and encourage others to join me. Eat mostly vegetarian. Volunteer. Ask ?s.

Chicago and Turkey
  1. Q: Do you believe it is worth your time to counter climate change and the wave of nationalistic authoritarian politics? Or live in indifference?

A: Of course I think it is worth my time. To be indifferent about topics and politics that affect or alter my life and the lives of many others is not productive. We are not okay with our freedoms being taken away. We are too progressive. It’s a matter of time but change will come. GenerationZ has Grit.

  1. Q: How can we engage GenZ in activism?

A: Although we have little power in the Congress/Supreme Court many of us already are engaged and pushing back. We’re more aggressive about finding opportunities. An example, this month Olivia Julianna turned being body-shamed by a congressman into raising within a week $2.2 million for 50 abortion rights organizations via social media. She’s 19 years old.

Today it’s Maui, Paris and “Grandma, if you don’t finish your coffee and take this picture, I’m going to miss my plane!”
  1. Q: Describe yourself in 5 years.

A: Healthy, Joyful, Inspired, Brave, Confident, Educated, Experienced, Creative, Passionate, Intuitive

  1. Q: Are you hopeful, why?

A: Uh, YAH! I believe in our generation. We have challenges but we have fire. I am beyond excited each day to learn, go to school, participate, and work hard. When I was at California Girl’s State, I learned how important it is to be active and engage in our government on a county, state, and national level. Hope is inspired by drive. And we have a lot of drive. At least I know I do.

When Emma was one year old and visiting us in Aspen, her Mom, Wendy and I decided to climb up Buttermilk Mountain. Not long after beginning Melissa (Emma’s Mom), sleep-deprived and hiking at high altitude, just couldn’t carry Emma. I wasn’t strong enough. Rather than quit, Wendy said, “I’ll take her.” And, off they went. As I recall, when Missy and I finally got to the top, a bit of a huff for us, Emma and Wendy were patiently waiting!
  1. Q: Is there any politician that currently inspires you to action? Who? Why? What?

A: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, AOC, the U.S. representative for New York’s 14th congressional district since 2019.

She’s a badass. Not afraid to call out wrongdoings. She’s honest. Good. Young. And intense about subjects we ALL care about.

  1. Q: What does your generation stand for vs. what they are known for? 

A: Basically we stand for change, forward motion and progress. What are we known for? I don’t know. You will have ask others.

Summer Reading – If you’re already an Isabel Allende fan, you’ll relish “Violeta.” “That Wild Country” is author Mark Kenyon’s personal homage to our treasured public lands. “The North American beaver is a keystone species, a unique organism that supports the entire biological community.” After reading “Beaversprite” and “Eager Beavers Matter,” I’m in love. Just getting started with “The Ghosts of Paris.”
  1. Q: How do we get GenerationZ to vote.

A: We do vote. The 2020 election showed that. Most of us have been too young to participate in the past and voting is more restrictive in many states for us (and, everyone.) Right now we’d also like to hear from older generations that our voices matter.

16. Q: How best can we communicate with Zoomers?

A: Text, call, FaceTime. I do not not use social media. I flow between phone, text, photos and face-to-face.

We brake for bighorn sheep.
  1. Q: What role does discipline play in your life?

A: Some of the best GenZers I know practice discipline and balance in their life. For me it’s an essential practice. Aside from taking 6 classes, I am president of Phi Upsilon Omicron, the family/consumer sciences honors society, RA for an on-campus apartment complex, an aide at the Early Childhood Learning Center on campus, an intern at Kids on the Point Occupational Therapy and a virtual tutor for high school-aged students. So, I am busy and discipline is second nature to me.

It was a beautiful week in Colorado.
june: AN ASPEN JOURNAL

june: AN ASPEN JOURNAL

“When the sun is shining I can do anything; no mountain is too high, no trouble too difficult to overcome.”  Wilma Rudolph

Realizing there are some mountains too high for me and some troubles beyond my control, the sun is still shining so…

BRING ON SUMMER

Grilled Marinated Portobello Mushrooms

Mushroom season. It’s a thing. Having grown up in Iowa I know April showers translate to fungi foragers being on the prowl. Every serious forager has his secret place so don’t expect to tag along for the hunt. The more I learned about mushrooms, the more I resolved to never eat a mushroom I picked. Only in grocery stores or farmers markets in fungi I trust.

Using a pre-made pie crust and pulling together dinner leftovers, including several marinated portobello slices, I baked Dorie Greenspan’s Asparagus-Lemon Quiche. It took me about 20 minutes . The mushrooms bring additional flavor to many kinds of quiches .

Surprisingly I never met a portobello mushroom until I ordered the widely-acclaimed veggie sandwich called a “Shroom Burger” at Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack in Las Vegas. It’s a breaded and deep-fried cheese-stuffed portobello mushroom patty (or, 2, if preferred) in a brioche bun and topped with lettuce, tomato and the chain’s special sauce.

Starting with a box of Imagine Creamy Portobello Mushroom Soup,I sautéed onions and garlic, chopped up a leftover baked potato and marinated mushrooms and mixed together.

While Shake Shack’s burger was a bit too, too for me, I loved the meaty, earthy taste of the portobello. Last week I found some beautiful portobellos in the market so mushrooms were on my menu. I wasn’t disappointed by my tasty efforts. (Recipes are below.)

Well, it was worth a try. My hummingbirds were not impressed with this Hairy Woodpecker.

JUNE: SLIDING INTO SUMMER

One of the joys of my adult life has been spending my summers in Aspen.  While the cultural options are enormous, it’s the recreational opportunities that Michael first introduced to me in 1988 when we moved here. After he died, which incidentally was ten years ago this month, nothing was more healing than getting back to Aspen and into the mountains. And so it continues…..

Summer began when one of my Forest Conservancy sisters transformed from forest ranger to mother-of-the-bride. We all dusted off our high heels, ordered new friends-of-the-mother-of-the-bride dresses and celebrated this lady’s joy.
Tomorrow, Ladies, it’s back on the trail!
This week we began our third year of sharing fresh vegetables from Two Roots Farm with our community’s seniors.
If it’s Thursday, I’ll be hanging out under the tent with Judy (L), and Shana (R) ,at the Pitkin County Senior Services center in Aspen.

MY SUMMER JOB – As the season begins, I thought you’d like a glimpse of my “office,” where I work and what I do.

My first patrol of the season was the Difficult Creek Trail. Checking back on my report to the Forest Conservancy/USFS, I encountered 13 day hikers, 4 dogs-on-leash and 2 off-leash, fallen logs on trail, larkspur and serviceberry in full bloom, ambitious beaver activity, 4 moose (thus, the leash requirement) and 1 Trumpeter Swan!!! The reports get more complicated as the trails get busier.
Although this photo was taken last Saturday and not on my patrol, this is one of the moose I saw at Difficult Creek. In this photo he has a buddy who is “relaxing” behind him and not pictured. There are a number of moose in the area, here, there and everywhere. With a fence between us, I took this photo quickly, and with a zoom.
For my next patrol I hiked up Cooper Creek Trail to the Lindley Hut which is located at the foot of Star Peak in the Ashcroft Valley. You think you’re at the top of the world until you look around and realize you aren’t.
Someone used to live here. My last and most gorgeous patrol of the week, busy with hikers and bikers, was in the Hunter Creek Valley. Although there are some preserved structures  dating to the 1890s, many are in disrepair. Besides keeping people and wildlife safe, we are always on the lookout for smoke/fires. 

Grilled Portobello Mushrooms with Fontina on Toast

Adapted from recipe developers Fatima Khawaja, Saveur magazine and Laura Rege @Kitchn

Marinate the mushrooms for 30 minutes.

NOTE: I used the additional portobellos for a quiche, portobello burger, cream of mushroom soup and a main course. Laura Rege suggests adding cucumber yogurt sauce, chimichurri pesto or your favorite toppings to a burger or portobello slices for added flavor  

Yield: 2 toasts

INGREDIENTS

Marinade

2 Tbsp. olive oil

3 tbsp. balsamic or sherry vinegar

1-2 cloves garlic, chopped

Mixture

4 tbsp. salted butter, softened, divided

2 medium garlic clove, finely chopped (2 tsp.)

1 shallot, finely chopped (3 Tbsp.)

3 tbsp. finely chopped chives

Freshly ground black pepper

3-4 Portobellos (1½ cups lightly packed is needed for the toasts)

2 thick country bread slices

2 oz. thinly sliced Fontina cheese (no substitute allowed!)

Flaky sea salt, to taste

After toasting the bread on both sides, lay thin slices of Fontina cheese on the toast and turn off the heat. Cover with tinfoil and let the cheese melt 60-90 seconds before piling on the mushroom mixture.

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Finely chop 1 garlic clove and place in a 9×13-inch baking dish. Add 3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar and 2 Tbsp. olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper.  Whisk to combine. 
  2. Wash, dry and remove the stems from 3-4 portobello mushrooms. Add to the baking dish and marinate at room temperature until almost all of the marinade is absorbed (at least 10 and up to 30 minutes), flipping halfway through.
  3. Place the mushrooms side by side, on the grill or in the grill pan. Cover and grill until tender and lightly charred, 4 to 5 minutes per side. 4.
  4. While grilling the mushrooms, melt the butter in a small skillet set over medium heat. When the foam subsides, add the garlic and shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3–4 minutes. Add the chives and cook for another minute. Season with freshly ground black pepper and remove from the heat.
  5. Transfer the grilled portobellos to a cutting board and coarsely chop the mushrooms. Add them to the butter mixture and toss to coat.
  6. Drizzle a little olive oil over both sides of the bread slices, then grill, turning once, until there are grill marks on both sides, about 4 minutes. Turn off the heat. Top the slices evenly with thin fontina slices, cover (tinfoil works well) and heat until the cheese is melted, 60-90 seconds more. 
  7. Transfer the toasts to a serving plate, top with the buttered morels. Sprinkle with the flaky salt and serve hot. These toasts are very rich and filling. 
By Unknown Author
A WORD ABOUT FISH, RELISH & WILDLIFE

A WORD ABOUT FISH, RELISH & WILDLIFE

Last Tuesday a friend who lives in Mountain Valley, an East Aspen area that shares its space with wildlife habitat, called, “Hey Mary,” she said, “Can you come pick me up? There’s a moose in my front yard and I can’t get to my car.”

Honestly, Readers, this is a call every volunteer USFS Ranger can only dream about. Telling her I’d be there in ten minutes, I explained to my “new knee” we needed to ‘pick it up a notch’ for a rescue mission.

I drove up the mountain to her house, slowly pulling into her lengthy driveway. Yup, that sure looked like a moose. Although Luky had already called the police earlier in the day and they had scooted it away, it had come calling again. The police woman had claimed to know this moose. “It’s a two-to-three year old whose Mom was killed last year,” she said, “It usually hangs around with another orphan but is alone today.” (Sympathy Font kicks in.)

ROASTED LINGCOD WITH RED PEPPER & OLIVE RELISH, SLICED ONIONS & LETTUCE SANDWICH

I wedged my car between the moose, who was only casually interested in me, and the house. Luky dashed down her steps and jumped into the car. Although the moose had moved closer, it was more curious than threatening and returned to chomping on Luky’s trees as we left.

I KNOW. RIGHT? TALK ABOUT EAGER BEAVERS. EVERY YEAR BEAVERS RETURN TO ASPEN’S DIFFICULT CAMPGROUND AND GO CRAZY. THEY ARE VORACIOUS.
Mourning Cloak butterflies are beautifully colored with a deep rich burgundy and adorned with creamy yellow and royal blue. These butterflies feed on the sap flowing from Aspen trees recently cut down by Beavers. They hang out together every spring!

It’s late Springtime in Aspen when wildlife emerges to roam the empty streets and meander through our neighborhoods scouting out unlocked bins! Another Mountain Valley friend watched a baby bear take down her bird feeder, rip open a bag of dirt and eat her flowers. Obviously the little guy hadn’t received the memo that bears don’t eat flowers. 

ON MOST MORNINGS A MAMA DOE AND HER TWO FAWNS WANDER THROUGH THE GANT COMPLEX.

It’s been a glorious week of moose, deer, bears, beavers, butterflies and chickadees feathering their nests. 

LING! LING! LING! ROASTED LINGCOD WITH RED PEPPER & OLIVE RELISH 

Recently Cathy O’Connell, a good friend who knows her way around the kitchen, shared a package of Ling (frozen) from bounty gifted to her by fishing buddies. She had several packages of it, was unfamiliar with Ling and suggested since she was going to Paris for 3 months, I might give it a go. (No comment on her flying to France and leaving me with fish!)

But I was intrigued by its name and determined to do justice to this generosity. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries, Ling is a member of the Cod family and flourishes along the Pacific coast. It is closely regulated, sustainably managed and responsibly harvested, making it a smart seafood choice. 

Lingcod is a fleshy white fish, doesn’t fall apart and is full of flavor, thanks in part to the knockout relish slathered on top. Other cod or halibut would work as well. With ingredients on hand, you could be eating dinner in 30 minutes.

Mezzetta is a California food processor that packs olives, pickled peppers and other pickled vegetables to help you mix together relishes. There are many other excellent brands as well.

The glittery star of this dish is its refreshingly light relish, a reminder that condiments have ‘superhero abilities when it comes to turning everyday dishes into taste sensations.’ Keep this relish recipe in your back pocket to add a flavor burst to many-a-meal. 

In fact the next day I toasted a brioche bun, piled on sliced onion and lettuce with the leftovers for a tasty lunch I was proud to serve (myself). Be creative and punch up your sides and sandwiches with this relish, store-bought condiments or mix together your own concoctions. 

ROASTED LINGCOD WITH RED PEPPER & OLIVE RELISH  adapted from The Original Dish blog by Kayla

INGREDIENTS

4 (6 oz) skinless cod or halibut fillets

olive oil

kosher salt

freshly cracked black pepper

2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced

RELISH

¾ cup diced Mezzetta roasted red peppers

½ cup halved Kalamata, Castelvetrano or your favorite olives 

1 tsp lemon zest

2 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

1 tbsp honey

½ tsp crushed red pepper

flaky sea salt

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Place the Ling into a 9×13” baking dish. Drizzle generously with olive oil and rub to coat both sides. Season with salt and black pepper. Arrange the thinly sliced garlic over top. Roast for 8 minutes.

2. Meanwhile add the diced roasted red peppers, halved olives, lemon zest, lemon juice, parsley, honey, and crushed red pepper to a small mixing bowl. Toss well to combine.

3. Remove the baking dish from the oven. Spoon the red pepper mixture over the fish. Transfer back to the oven and continue to roast for 2-3 more minutes, or until the fish is cooked through and the relish is heated.

4. Top with a pinch of flaky sea salt and any extra parsley leaves.

MY KNEE & ME: A JOURNEY

MY KNEE & ME: A JOURNEY

My daughter, Melissa, has always said the best thing we do together is laugh.

That premise was to be truly tested after I finally scheduled Total Knee Replacement surgery for mid-April. When I called to tell her, she replied, “ So I’ll come for two weeks to take care of you.”

Whoa… As she already knew, I don’t accept help graciously. But even this Mama Bear knows that Independent, Solo and Alone don’t cut it when someone else is doing the cutting. Instead, I thanked her. We were on.

Melissa (L) and Nicole

This surgery revelation is not surprising. I had Knee Arthroscopy, a minimally invasive procedure, thirty-five years ago. It was a short-term fix. Eventually my left knee started talking back again. Like so many other people, I chose to ignore and endure it.

Two years ago I realized it was affecting my lifestyle. There were activities I avoided and mountain tops no longer within my reach. Last fall I cancelled my upcoming winter trip to France. Paris is a walkable city but not if you can’t walk. That same day I made an appointment with a surgeon relatively new to Aspen. His assistant said to stop by later that same afternoon. I liked and trusted the doctor who seemed to like and understand me. Together we nailed down a surgery date six months hence.

Before leaving Aspen for the winter, I stopped by the hospital to be measured by a machine affectionately called “the doughnut.” For the new knee, my doctor, Jared Lee, the Medical Director of Aspen’s Steadman Clinic uses Conformis, a company which applies a CT scan to design a customized knee replacement to my size and shape. This was going to happen.

This past winter I spent 8 weeks in Hawaii and instead of Paris, I went back to Boulder for 6 weeks. Before Knee Replacement you can’t have dental work done 6 weeks before nor 3 months after. Luckily my Boulder dentist was able to take care of some issues within the time parameter. Plus, I always had a parking place.

Fast forward to surgery time. Melissa arrived two days before my April 19th surgery and immediately turned my condo upside down. She and The Gant’s housekeeping staff rolled up my oriental rugs, moved furniture and brought in piles of the sheets, towels and pillows I needed for a sterile environment. She picked up a walker, crutches, cane, etc., from a recent veteran of replacement surgery who gifted us with her largesse. As for me, think ‘deer caught in headlights.’

I went to the library. Picked up some books. Melissa visited the library and brought me a tower (11) of ‘more relaxing’ books (her words not mine). I’ve already read half of them. Krueger’s book, a book club choice, was very good. Haskell, a bit too involved for me. Davis’ book is so delicious I ordered my own copy.

Unlike most patients, I was not interested in knowing about the intricacies of my upcoming surgery. To my mind, that was the doctor’s responsibility. Because Melissa’s business evolved around providing care and healing, that was her lane. As for me, I would commit to months of post-op rehabilitation without complaint.

What I’d mostly heard about this surgery is it’s painful. Melissa followed the agreed upon Pain Protocol religiously and managed to stay ahead of my pain. She was up 3-4 times each night to give me pills. Everyone has their own threshold for pain. I was lucky to need only one Oxi. Let’s just admit when my nerve block wore off, I was rethinking Life itself.

I didn’t realize how involved and complex my Pain Protocol and 24/7 care schedule was until Melissa left these notes and papers for me after she left. I could never have pulled this off.

Admittedly, there were moments. In the hospital the night following surgery, I wanted to turn my phone off. Although my room was dark I spotted the bright red button on my phone and pushed it. 911 answered. It seems we had a conversation. (Actually I called them twice!) Finally a nurse stopped by, I told her my problem and she shut it off. By the next day the discussion that I was confused and probably should not be discharged yet had picked up steam. When the doctors came to check on me, my soft-spoken daughter stepped up. “Listen,” she said, “My mother is sharp as a tack. She is NOT confused. She does stuff like this all the time.”

Mic drop.

I was discharged.

I began PT the day after surgery, three times a week with my therapist Nicole. I hit the jackpot with Nicole. She always coaxed more out of me than I thought I could give. On other days I did the 18 short exercises she had suggested by myself.

Realizing this is elementary and simplistic, it works for me. To keep track of my at-home exercises, I put them up on my white board. Each day I do all of them and check them off or move them around as I do. Because I can now walk outside, hopefully getting stronger, I’m listing the hikes , making a mountain, that will fit my simple to harder ability over the summer

After coming home and in anticipation of my living alone, every morning Missy and I grabbed our coffee and spent an hour discussing what’s working, what wasn’t and what questions we had to ask. By the time she left last Saturday we both were confident I’d be fine. Before leaving she filled my larder, did all the household chores. and stuck cards/post-its everywhere reminding me to do or not do this/that. The oriental rugs are still rolled up, I can no longer remember what is shoved under beds, chairs which serve as exercise stations are still in place and food that was inaccessible is sitting on my counter. I am forbidden to climb on a foot stool — like, well, forever.

Day 4, Still Smiling

Following my two-week post-op with Dr. Lee this week, I’m off crutches, the walker and use a cane only if needed. I can drive. Nothing hurts. To my mind, Dr. Lee and his crew can now just stand back and accept my gratitude. As for Melissa who is back in California, Mom-Mission accomplished. Now it’s on me. This is the “do the work” part of the story. The spotlight’s on me and I’m here for it.

I CAN DRIVE!

On this Mother’s Day, this Mother would like to pass on her roses to her daughter. For everything you did for me and to me and with me and even, in spite of me, thank you, Melissa. I still think the best thing we do together is laugh.

Poster adapted from Rudyard Kipling