Welcome to the annual Dysfunction Junction that is every parent’s yearly duty to attend with their children…otherwise known as the annual Fall Farm Visit…the place where you pick pumpkins, weave your wagons in and out of other parents with the same “I wish they spiked this cider” look that you have, spend countless dollars to feed pea brain goat cups of corn only to perpetuate the animal cruelty issue that we all stifle and stuff down so our kids can learn about fall on the farm.
We pulled it off early and decided to go yesterday, and while Cooper was shooting corn out of cannons, Dave’s son and I took a walk….we weaved passed people packed in line for face paint, two or three toddlers doing the Jellyfish-Back-Arching- Too-Much-Carmel-on- the-Apple-Tantrum-Dance, and found our solace down a quiet gravel back road that ran along a line of fresh picked corn. Although we could still hear the fan fair in the background, the sound of wind through the dry fields took over….we walked quietly away and got a back alley view of fall creeping into the corners.
His green eyes against the burnt color of corn, the yellows from the leaves that rippled like schools of fish as our feet shuffled down the gravel road, the deep orange and dark greens of tilled soybean fields has inspired the first fall comfort dish of the year. Yes, I will get to Chili, I even snuck in a Shepherds pie last week, but today as I am writing, I have a big fat cut up chicken simmering in cilantro, lemon peel, ginger, clove, paprika, garlic, and shallot….the colors of fall in a dish that is Moroccan in Origin….a country that’s colors match the view from my window. Burnt Orange dutch oven, Deep Red rubbed chicken, Canary Yellow lemons, Crisp cool cilantro, Creamy garlic, and peeled Purple shallot….in a few hours this will be comfort on a plate for my clients…and perhaps a dish to warm your family after a long day picking at the pumpkin patch.
You have looked me square in the Shoulders ever since I was a patent leather -shoed princess dancing under dinosaur bones at your famed museums.
I have eaten at Ed’s….cruised your waters, watched my mother grace your stages, bleacher bummed my way through high school, blasted through the 20 mile marathon wall in Chinatown, interviewed with the snivelling Matthew Pritzker on the 96th floor, danced my way through your underground, and came out to sunlight over your lake, drank in your dives, been blown away at Blackbird, salted my way out of several grease fires on your prominent rooftops….overlooking that lake that has remained the constant through the years of change.
I have weaved my way through meat markets where pigs spindle down from the ceiling, frolicked in your fish markets, toppled out tipsy from your wine and cheese purveyors, found the meaning of fresh at your farmers markets….and like a long lost friend from days gone by… and no matter how long I have been hauling myself down here for one reason another, you always seem to show me another side of yourself every time we meet…I wonder what you have for me today.
Once upon a time in Boulder Colorado there was a college dropout who lived with five other girls up on the hill on a house appropriately named “The Moontower” and if you knew her and her friends; there was no other place she (or they for that matter) should have resided. She dropped out of college to chef with fools and friends to make ends meet…to keep her up in the mountains on weekends and powder days. She learned recipes handed down from the hippie owners who trusted her to run their Organic Establishment up on the Hill next to the University where she was once an English major.
On hot days her and her friends would drive up to Fourth of July Pass, put their beers in plastic bags tied to trees that ran along the glacial creeks to keep them cool….sleep under the stars and oftentimes hitch hike back to work groggy and smelling of campfire…. They spent early mornings shredding chicken, pulsing hummus, baking banana bread to the Grateful Dead and wondering what path exactly they were on. She learned how to make stock, bake round the clock, and use ingredients like Soy and Spelt before they were a sparkle in Gywnth Paltrow’s eye.
She never knew that those early mornings coming down from the mountains to bake big batches of blueberry muffins, pillowy pumpkin squares (which remain the legendary recipe unicorn to any of us who ever tried them), stirring simmering soups, and feeding the Republic of Boulder would ever tie back into her dream of being a writer…years later, cooking in much more sophisticated circumstances but still surrounded by a beautiful band of merry fools; the worlds have collided and there is a happy ending…and todays recipes are a tribute to the early days working, playing, and cooking alongside many of the minds that inspire the recipes you see here every day.
Audition Update: And so after a long night that ended up with us horking down hot dogs on the lake, me knee deep in water (what else is new?)….waking up to Pink Sky and calm water….quietly prepping my Pig Pizza with shaky hands and a slight headache….Doorman eyeing me on the way out and running down Randolph in a Bright Red Dress and Gladiator Sandals with a forty pound Cooler in tow., cutting boards and all…being greeted by blaring music at Centered Chef Studios, standing in line with Chefs from Michigan, Ohio, and the City with the Greatest Skyline on Earth; networking our butts off, exchanging recipes, cards, websites, stories, and nerves during the five hour wait for our 15 minutes to shine….Plating my Twisted Piggy Pizza in the fastest three minutes of my life (Hands Off Chopped Style) Being judged By Big Bellied Producers….packing up and having a picnic outside with my competitors who made some damn good food….shaking hands and hauling ass back down Randolph to the Station to enjoy one of the best beers I’ve had in a long while…back home to be greeted by three kids and a Giant Rugby Player out in the back yard…checking my tomatoes, kissing Cooper, and diving back into regular life: I am proud to report I did not get a call back for the show, but the experience was worth every minute and you can bet your bottle of Siracha that I’ll be doing it again, for the experience alone, and the fact that after years on a winding trail that lead me to right here, where life is very very good –I have no intention on letting my dreams remain dreams. Thank you for your love and your support, more adventures to come…and next time I see you, dinner is on me.
Rub your flatbread or pizza crust with a little olive oil and throw on the grill until you see grill marks (about 1 minute per side on a hot grill). Remove and let cool. Sauté your ground pork and chopped bacon with the shallot and salt and pepper until cooked through, drain off the fat and let cool. Smash the avocado with the cilantro, thai chili, garlic, 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil, and sprinkle of siracha if you have it. Spread your avocado sauce on the flatbread and top with ground pork, shaved daikon, roasted red pepper, and sliced cucumber. Sprinkle the pork rinds on top and add a few splashes of siracha on top for a new twisted spin on pizza!
The flood of memories from Spring Hill Farm inspired me to introduce you to Fred. I don’t know his last name,(and he has since passed on) my parents cannot remember either. But he was the inspiration for many of your memories,…and he was Deaf. He was tall and thin and my memories consist of him in faded Levis…working in the stable with sunlight tossing up pieces of hay over the saddles and bridles that lined a small room to the right of the barn entrance. Even though he could not hear, or speak, he played the radio; which even as a child I thought interesting.
One day Fred approached my father with a piece of paper telling him that there was “water under the ground, and to dig for it”. According to the most dramatic story teller I know who happens to be my mother their was a lot of hand flailing and gesticulating but who knows…. I can imagine my practical father holding the paper, looking up and to the side and making the mistake of presenting it to my ever hopeful and magical mother; Who then with a nine year old boy on her hip insisted that they dig, until they hit water….which became the basis for so many of our memories. Weeks later my mother was watching back hoes dig deep into the rich soil, turning over Arrowheads and other Indian artifacts that now line her China Cabinet. And just as Fred said…gentle springs of water began to flow from the sides of the dark clay and fill up what today we recall as the magical place we spent our days. That pond was where I caught my first fish, learned to ice skate, and learned that if you shine a flashlight into a frog’s eye it freezes him long enough to swipe him with a net and make it your pet.
The moral of the story (that is dedicated to my mother who made all these memories) is three parts. First; sometimes the best ideas come from the most silent of places. Secondly; if you dig deep enough it is inevitable that you are going to strike some sort of treasure that lies below the surface. Thirdly; finding faith in the absurd and sharing it with those you love and who believe in you despite stacked odds creates memories and a bond that ripples out like water into how you create your own future.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, Line the 4 chicken breasts up in a Casserole dish and top each with a slice of cheese, dump your sautéed mushrooms and onions on top, dump your can of mushroom soup over that, sprinkle your stuffing all over the top, dump one stick of butter over your breading…bake for 45 minutes until gooey and golden brown.
Blazed through the Chicago Farmers Market in search of this Port Pear Pork Duck Sausage Concoction that I had the pleasure of Grilling for Old Money on my first Lake Shore Rooftop and I wanted to broil them today for New Money.
Couldn’t find it,…Cabbed it to the Aon Center, the radio tuned to a Nigerian Sermon on Having Faith in the Present and Hope for the Future… close enough to work but closer to CVS because I needed a pack of 15 dollar Camel Lights…I bounced down Steps made for Giants; the Skyline sinking behind the Big Buildings as I bobbled quickly down to the soundtrack of “Ole Ole Ole” being shot through an Alley straight at me from Grant Park….Maybe.
I weaved through pots of Banana Plants, Bright Pink Roses, and Indian Paintbrush…past fancy fountains and through the revolving door where the impermeable-eyed doorman looked at me softer today…handed me the keys and proceeded to ask me for a cigarette…(I knew he was up to something)…Now I’m up here over the lake about to get cooking and get prepping for the Pride Parade….enjoying the Present…and hoping for the future.
Heat your oven to 415 degrees and broil your sausages until skin is golden brown and sizzling. While they are cooking toss all of your other ingredients in a bowl and set to the side. Once your sausages are finished and cooled, slice them and toss with your quinoa. Toss your squash in olive oil and salt and pepper and grill until soft, or roast at 415 until soft but firm enough to keep shape. Place the squash on a plate and spoon your sausage and quinoa mixture into the hole of the Acorn Squash flower. Top with a soft boiled egg, or a bit of fig jelly for a refined taste.
I am doing the “best I can”….but what the Hell does that mean? Target just spit me out with bags of Minion Shirts and Minecraft socks in hopes that you may meet a friend with similar interests, packages of Pringles and Scooby Snacks because Lord knows that those Organical lunch boxes on the cover of Parenting magazine have become a distant dream; not only because you would not touch it with a ten foot pole…but because there is hardly enough time to get the hairs on your head (or mine) in order in the morning.
You are going to be blasted by the eight o’clock bed time that is coming your way in two days, you will not be happy that I am finally putting my Apps back on my phone that I have deleted to make room for your Star Wars everything, I know the little area in the dining room I have arranged for your homework time is not going to blow your mind…but these little things are be done as my best effort to start you off right…to assuage my guilt that I cannot be there for every moment…to give you a sense of security as you grow into another year….you will hardly notice.
I hardly noticed how big my parents love was until I had you. So with that truth in my mind and your back pocket, along with your Star Wars lunchbox, a new pair of shoes, the experience of one solid summer behind us, and a bright beautiful future ahead of us, and the fact that everything I do is because you are mine, I send you out…and that is the best I can do.
So somewhere between dropping out of college to begin what was unknown to me then as my Culinary Career that included early mornings working next to a man named Jose at a crazy café in Boulder where I met many of you ….gave you free coffee, drank microbrews before they were cool with on the rooftop. Hired you, fired you….became your best friend. And between when Cooper came along, I lived some lost time here. The parent’s of the woman who built this farm had perished in a plane accident, she took the insurance money; went to Nepal and studied sustainable living…came to Crested Butte, built a farm and taught us how to LIVE. The home was solar powered, and inside that there greenhouse was a wood fired hot tub that brought moisture to the biggest baddest veggies you will ever see. She had chickens, one day she suggested I stay our late (which was not a problem…still isn’t) because the neighbor was coming over to turn the chickens….into well….chicken meat. She said I might want be gone as it was sad to see Feathers and Clucky meet their demise…When I came home tired and tipsy after snowboarding my ginger behind off and rewarding myself afterward…the home smelled of every memory that your mother makes when she serves you the glistening bowl of goodness on a snowy day when you are sick at home. There pot was full of the deep greens and burnt oranges of the greenhouse, along with Clucky and Feathers cooked to perfection…it was the best soup I ever had. I am going to try to recreate it today, though I bought my bounty at the local Organic Superstore….I am going to put that memory and energy into the pot…bring some home for someone special, and hope to one day- create that very paradise for my own family.
Back in Baby Cooper years I had a long haired hippie friend who would bring Big Bags of Bright Green Beans to our door….Cooper would pop them like popcorn…his chubby cheeks dripping with green juice….We would take trips to the Farmer’s Markets…Meek Mannered Real Deal Farmers who looked like the sun had made them wise would hand us frosty blueberries, sweaty tomatoes, fresh cool cheeses…Cooper seemed to endear himself well into the Organical Community.
Now I can hardly get him to touch anything that grows from the ground…I was thinking about those days today because Outside a finally open window at work I can hear Sea Gulls, I see a few teeny tiny tulip buds….and although I am still staring at a frozen lake-I am holding on to the hope that the winter that may have mimicked things of a more personal nature is about to crack open…and all this water that we were so mad at has no where to go but down….to build stronger roots, bring richer color, and taste to a summer I do not think any of us will take for granted. I am ready for it, I am signing off from setting of smoke alarms, I am ditching the Dutch Oven, I don’t want to see a Butternut Squash until August…So on this teaser of what’s to come….I am going out to Grill.