In my last post I discussed my summer responsibilities as a volunteer USFS wilderness ranger in Colorado’s White River National Forest. “With full-on fire restrictions already in place,” I wrote, “we’ll be on the lookout [for fire].”
Of major concern were lightening strikes, tossed cigarette butts or campground mishaps caused by uninformed tourists. We never considered a fire being kindled by two local 22/23 years-old residents getting their kicks late Tuesday afternoon by shooting illegal tracer rounds (a burning bullet) at a shooting range located a mile from Basalt. Sulfur bullets are illegal. Always.
Their mischief sparked what is now a 5,263 acre fire, with 0% containment, threatening the small communities nearby. Most of my good friends live down valley in that area. Several have been evacuated with no return date promised. More than 300 firefighters, using the most advanced equipment available, are fighting this fire but three homes have already been lost.
Last night, Thursday, I answered an appeal from my church and volunteered to help serve dinner to the firefighters at the Salvation Army’s Mobile Canteen in El Jebel. The meal was catered by Whole Foods, one of the businesses threatened the night before by an erratic wind change. I asked my friend, Jane Carey, a caterer who knows her way around a food truck, to join me. In a helpless situation where one can just step back as the firefighters tackle a monster fire, it was good for our psych to do something helpful. For me, this fire is personal.
By 5pm, along with two volunteers from Vail, we began chopping, slicing and mixing together enough salad for 300 ravenous firefighters. At 6:30pm, Whole Foods delivered our meal – beef, pork, mac and cheese, meat and cheese lasagnas, pinto and black beans, rolls and cake – all sealed in small bags and packed into portable warming ovens. Joined by two others volunteers, Jane got our stations organized and a well-honed serving system established with the 6 of us jammed into the mobile canteen. We were good to go with a hot, delicious dinner as these heroic firemen came down off the mountain.
Between 7:30pm and 9:30pm, when the last crew checked in, we fed 302 hungry, tired and sooty, men/women. They were polite and grateful. I’ve never been “thank-you-ed” so much in my life. Of course, keep in mind, I was the Mac-and-Cheese Lady! I think there could be a Food Truck in my future.
With Aspen’s nearby communities in pain and so many friends feeling fearful, I hesitated about blogging this week? But I decided to tell my story in this week’s post and also share our Cook-the-Book-Fridays recipe, Baba Ganoush (better than hummus) and add some happy local news. I will ask, however, that you find a little space to hold everyone dealing with this catastrophe in your hearts.
SPOTLIGHT HEALTH AND ASPEN IDEAS FESTIVAL
The Aspen Ideas and Spotlight Health Festival which just concluded is, using the Aspen Institute’s words, “the nation’s premier, public gathering place for leaders from around the globe and across many disciplines to engage in deep and inquisitive discussion of the ideas and issues that shape our lives and challenge our times. Some 450 presenters, 400 sessions, and 3,000 attendees comprised the 2018 annual ten-day Festival.”
Launched in 2005, I’ve attended nearly all of them and have always considered it the most important thing I do for myself every summer. For the last 3 years I’ve volunteered for the event. That, surprisingly, has become an even better learning experience. This year three of the eight program tracks especially interested me: The Genius of Animals; Leadership in a Time of Change; and Freedom of Speech and the Marketplace of Ideas. . What was particularly impressive during the ten days was hearing from an assortment of creative, breathtakingly brilliant and diverse group of young presenters prepared to put right again the world they are inheriting. Get ready for it, folks.
Our recipe this week is David Lebovitz’s delicious Baba Ganoush, which is similar to and served like hummus. Instead of chickpeas, it has mashed eggplant (grilled or roasted) which is mixed into tahini, olive oil, and various seasonings.
BABA GANOUSH (MOUTABAL) by David Lebovitz, My Paris Kitchen
2 globe eggplants (21/2pounds )
1/2 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt
3 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or smoked chile powder
1/8 teaspoon of cumin
1 tablespoon olive oil plus more for drizzling
2 tablespoons finely-chopped parsley
coarsely chopped fresh herbs or seeds for garnish
1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, brush it with olive oil and sprinkle it with salt.
2. Use a sharp knife to prick each eggplant a few times. Char the outside of the eggplants on a grill or by placing them directly on the flame of a gas burner. As the skin chars, turn them until the eggplants are uniformly-charred on the outside, about 5-10 minutes. (If you don’t have a gas stove or grill, you can char them under the broiler.)
3. When cool enough to handle, trim the stems off and split the eggplants lengthwise. Place the eggplants cut-side down on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes until they’re completely soft. You should be able to easily poke a paring knife into them and meet no resistance.
4. Remove from oven and let cool.
5. Scrape out the pulpit the bowl of a food processor and puree the pulp with all the other ingredients added until smooth. (You may also mash the eggplants with a fork in a large bowl with the other ingredients.)
6. Taste, and season with additional salt and lemon juice, if necessary.
7. Serve in a shallow bowl, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with herbs or seeds. Serve at room temperature or chilled with crackers, sliced baguette, or toasted pita chips.
Storage: Baba Ganoush can be made and refrigerated for up to three days prior to serving.