If my walls could talk, their words would be sad. Last Saturday a 21-year old man lost his life while climbing nearby Capitol Peak. Among Colorado’s 58 fourteeners, peaks that rise more than 14,000 feet above sea level, Capitol, at 14,130 feet, is acknowledged as the most difficult.
Devastating as one hiking death can be for our community, six days previously a young Aspen couple met the same fate in the same area on Capitol. That area, called the “Knife Edge” is an 1800’ ridge which includes a razor sharp 100-foot section with abrupt drops on both sides. There is one route, one route only across the “Knife Edge”. The three victims had taken what appeared to be an easier path. It is not.
Earlier this summer, two others died while climbing Capitol Peak. Combining those tragedies with the devastating flooding in Houston and also Nepal, Bangladesh, India and Niger, leaves me thinking of people in need, grieving and dying. Writing about our Cook-the-Book-Fridays recipe choice, a Tian of Baked Provencal Vegetables or a scrumptious Peach Crisp, Iowa Style, seems kinda inappropriate.
Like you, I have Texas friends dealing with this tragedy. Every summer my birding buddy, Susan Brisbois Foster, and her husband spend eight weeks in Aspen. Two weeks ago they returned to their home in Rockport which became ground zero for Hurricane Harvey. They evacuated to Laredo. While most of Rockport is devastated, without power or running water, their home is still standing. The last I heard from Susan, they were loading up on critically-needed supplies for first responders and returning home briefly to view the destruction firsthand. Because of the curfew, they have to leave by 7pm.
It’s gratifying to watch generosity and kindness rise up as volunteerism in every worthy form. Our fire station is drop-off central for essential supplies, to be hauled to Houston by transport. A local Valley businessman is already headed south with 4 flat-bottom duck boats, outboard motors and an experienced crew to “stay down there as long as we need to,” he says.
Houston has caused me to re-think my community, the effort and safety nets put forth to keep our Valley safe. Have you thought about that at all? Although Aspen has a population of only 6,900 people and the Roaring Fork Valley, 32,200 residents, we are a resort destination with a responsibility to the thousands of visitors who come here every year. What I now realize, even more, is how we rely on the volunteer efforts of those who live here to keep this Valley’s motor running (powered by 100% renewable energy, of course).
Our White River National Forest is the most visited national forest in the nation encompassing 2.3 million acres. It’s an overwhelming responsibility for the understaffed USFS personnel already dealing with dramatic budget cuts. Last summer we wilderness ranger volunteers who monitor our trail system contributed 9,000 service hours, an in-kind donation valued at $233,730.
Without question, Aspen Mountain Rescue, 50 volunteers with no paid staff and on duty 24/7, is the most valuable asset we have for backcountry search-and-rescues. Our Valley has the utmost respect, almost a reverence, for this organization. These are men and women with day jobs and families who spend countless hours training, preparing and then heading out on dangerous rescue missions. They are our friends and neighbors and often put themselves in harm’s way to pull others out of harm. This year they’ve already answered 47 calls and will likely respond to more than the 66 missions in 2016. For them, it’s been a rough week.
While our thoughts will be with Houston and Texas for the many perilous months ahead, just a reminder to remember those who are minding the store in our own backyards. And, aren’t we lucky?
This week’s recipes are delicious and self-explanatory, dishes for you to enjoy during the holiday weekend. Happy Labor Day, Everyone. Be safe.
PEACH CRISP by Liz Berg, That Skinny Chick Can Bake
8-10 fresh ripe peaches, peeled and sliced
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
A few grates of fresh nutmeg (optional)
1 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup (one stick or 4 ounces) cold butter, cut into cubes
1. Preheat oven to 350º.
2. Mix peaches with sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and place into a 9 x 9-inch baking dish or something of similar size and shape.
3.In a medium bowl, mix together topping ingredients using pastry blender or fingers until butter is incorporated. Crumble topping over peaches.
4. Place baking dish on sheet pan. Bake for about 35 minutes OR till topping is golden and filling is bubbling.
Serve with vanilla ice cream if desired.
TIAN of BAKED PROVENCAL VEGETABLES by David Leibovitz, My Paris Kitchen
Serves 6 to 8 as a side
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
3 tsp minced fresh thyme
2 Japanese eggplants or 1 globe (12 ounces)
1 zucchini (8 ounces)
2 firm tomatoes (12 ounces)
Sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, Comté or Emmental
Special equipment: a 3-4 quart shallow baking dish
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. And the sliced onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes or until they start to wilt. Add the minced garlic and 1 teaspoon minced thyme, Season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook until the onion is soft and translucent, about 3 minutes more.
3. Spread the onion mixture in a shallow baking dish.
4. Trim away the ends of the zucchini and eggplant and cut them into 1/4” slices. Cut out the stems of the tomatoes and slice them thinly also. (If you are comfortable with a mandoline slicer, use it to slice the vegetables.)
5. Arrange the sliced vegetables in a overlapping, circular, concentric pattern, alternating the sliced vegetables and fitting them tightly into the dish.
6. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the vegetables and and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tsp of thyme. Season with salt and pepper.
7. Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 35-45 minutes.
8. Remove the foil, strew the cheese over the top and bake uncovered for 20 to 25 more minutes until the veggies are completely cooked through.
9. Serve warm or at room temperature the same day you make it. If reheating the leftovers, stick in a 325 degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes.