Monday, June 29, 2009

A patriotic put in

The author and his wife went on a little river trip on the Colorado river last week-end.
The photo reveals the US flag's salient dominance over the Indian canoe. A gentle reminder lest we forget where or who we are.


Two nights and two days worth of trash tucked into a used ice bag. It looks like mostly empty beer cans. But we did eat rather copiously. A cold roast chicken with a dandelion leaf salad one night. Steaming bowls of green chile with lamb, pinto beans, telame cheese and tortillas the next.
We also carry a "groover" or portable toilet but I neglected to take its picture. It's just a small black box to hold waste. Picture coming later.


We washed the chicken and the lamb down with a couple of bottles of $11.00 Tempranillo. The Bota is a perfect wine container for a canoe trip. You can plonk it in the river to chill and it makes cheap wine taste like affordable wine. This one's a traditional goat skin with a pine resin lining.

The Author's stove

A good stove is like a good woman— rounded, firm and supportive; yet, a delicate item all the same. For if not balanced upon level ground, it can flare up at any time becoming a tempest of flame and spark.
Oh it'll keep you warm at night and make your tea in the morning, but you can never put it away hot. Let her jets cool down slow and only then should you attempt to dismantle her.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

All quiet on the western front

The river west of Grand Junction, Ruby and Horse-thief Canyons, is one of my favorite spots in the state. On weekdays you can count on it to be pretty quiet. The week-end rafters have rafted on. There's not much traffic apart from a family of river otters swimming along the bank. You'll see an occasional Bald Eagle perched high in the cottonwoods. Swallows dart to and fro from their little mud made huts. Ducks and chicks skate along the river surface escaping our presence. Hawk rises in late afternoon and soars above the canyon wall, scouring the river below for prey.

In camp a slithering bull snake crosses our path. The morning brings fresh cat tracks on the damp sand. Bob Cat? Lynx? Mountain Lion? Raccoon tracks too. Blackbirds flutter in the tamarisk trees. Flies and tiny biting bugs are everywhere. The sun pierces to the pore. Shade is a coveted commodity—it creeps from tree to tree. We trade from one tamarisk to the next. Darting lizards leave their tiny twisting tracks in the sand. Speaking of, on our morning stroll we surprised a young couple in the throes of carnal ecstasy. I wanted to take a picture but I felt embarrassed for them stuck together like sinners on the burning sand. Discreetly, we walked around and resumed our stroll.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Trainspotting in Colorado

Ionah toasts a train as it passes our camp on the river.
A couple years ago on this river we watched a circus travel by. I guess the show had just ended. All the players were still in costume. They were sitting, clowns and all, legs dangling over the edge of the cars and drinking. We exchanged wild waves and toasts.
A train or two usually comes through during the night. The only sound you hear for hours is the gentle desert breeze and the river lapping quietly on the bank. And then, suddenly, out of the silence you hear it. It's just a faint hum at first, seemingly coming from nowhere. Then it becomes a rumbling with a discernable threatening rhythm as it gets closer. Then it grows louder and louder until it shudders and roars as it passes like a thousand buffalo stampeding to their death. You lie there on your back in your tent listening as it screams and shrieks and then just as fast as it came, it fades back into the silence of the night. A terrible beauty is the Iron Horse.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Christian Muslim Medley

Listening to global savior and United States President Barak Obama spread his message of hope, peace and justice for all in Cairo, Egypt the other day, I was inspired to go on a mini crusade and create a new dish.
And so, armed with only a Chinese scissors, I marched to the garden and chopped the ornamental heads off of a cluster of unsuspecting Egyptian onions, and converted them into a working dish that I call my, "Christian Muslim medley"— Fusion Pasta For All.

If you've read up on the knights of Malta you may know about the ancient Muslim Christian clash in the southern mediterranean, and the exchanges that took place throughout the centuries not only of slaves and women but also of culture and spice. But, I wonder, is it common knowledge that this is also the place where the hideous food craze called "Fusion Cuisine" can trace its unsavory beginnings?

For a thousand years, ingredients and combinations of such, slowly trickled down through the soups and sauces of the day, or were whisked and beaten into the common Christian kitchens of Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica and Malta by their Muslim conquerors. Hence, here, in these places, you will find dishes boasting such exotica as pastes of fragrant cloves, coriander, cumin, fennel and garlic. Or tiny Grattini pasta looking eerily like Moroccan Cous Cous, tossed with the Sultan's raisins and infused with Saffron from Christian Spain.

So, on a congratulationary note, for his wonderful speech, the other day, I would like to offer my creation of this, my only fusion dish of sorts to President Barack Obama. May he and his family enjoy it for a thousand years.

As a foot note— the other name that I came up with for a title was, "The Sultan's Slippery Rings" which obviously is not a reference to his footwear which clearly would be a grave insult, but in fact refers to the squid rings required for the effective execution of the dish. After eight years have passed, I will change it to this.

Plenty for two with leftovers for lunch.

For the sauce:
Good olive oil to coat a stout enameled cast iron pot.
3 Large Egyptian onions chopped into fine rings, or 1 medium yellow onion finely minced.
1 Tbsp rinsed salted capers roughly chopped.
3 Oil packed anchovies finely minced.
1/2 Tsp smoked hot paprika.

Briefly toast the following in a pan and then combine in a mortar and mash to a coarse powder with a pestle;
5 whole cloves,
1 Tsp coriander seeds,
1/2 Tsp cumin seeds,
1/2 Tsp fennel seeds,
3 large garlic cloves.

1 14 oz Jar of whole roma tomatoes,
Pinch of Spanish saffron,
Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper,

For the squid:
A juniper and pinon wood fire cooked down to hot coals.
1 Pound squid tubes and tentacles.
Marinade for squid: Make a paste in a mortar and pestle of a small handful of fresh oregano, 3 cloves of garlic, organic lemon zest from one whole lemon, sea salt and black pepper to taste. Toss the squid with the marinade.
1 pound of Stringozzi pasta.
Have a large pot of lightly salted boiling water at the ready.

Heat the oil in the pot to medium and add the onions, allow to soften at a gentle pace, then add the capers and the anchovies, toss them around a little, then add the smoked paprika. Now add the ground spice powder and stir around for a bit. Now, add the jar of tomatoes and the saffron. Break the tomatoes up with a wooden spoon. Add salt and pepper. Turn heat to a gentle simmer and go outside and chop wood for the fire. Fire starter is unnecessary: Slice the wood into tiny kindling with your ax and place in the fire pit in a pyramid shape and using only one match light your fire. Build it up and let it die down to hot coals. Now add the marinated squid to the fire and grill briefly. Transfer to a bowl and slice the tubes into Sultan's rings. Then add the squid to the sauce and continue to simmer.
Now cook the pasta, drain it, toss with butter and fold it into the sauce. Adjust seasonings to taste prior to enjoying!

Interesting caveat: In all honesty, I haven't actually tried this recipe. That is not to say that I haven't eaten the dish. I have. We have. Just the other day. I simply reconstructed it from memory. So the seasonings and amounts may not be exact— feel your way through. Nothing is written on paper here. Change as desired.

Back in Colorado

The author and his son Jack photograph themselves for something to do because they didn't catch trout on the Big Thomson river.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The stinger and the spritely ale


The only good thing about the British air flight from Denver to London, apart from the free socks, toothpaste and booze, is that it gets in at lunch time. I find the best thing to do is to go directly from Heathrow on the tube to Farringdon station and take the short stroll over to restaurant St. John, get a table and order a plate of roasted bones and a bowl of nettle soup. Afterwards when you're nicely marrowed you can traipse over to the Jerrusalem Tavern on Britton street and have a spritely pint of St Peter's best bitter. If there is a better way to deplane I have yet to alight on it.