Diva

You may call me “Domestic Diva” today. I’ve harvested the garlic I planted last fall, and it’s curing outside. And I’m thinking about which variety to plant this year–it’s good to order seed garlic early, since it tends to sell out. I’m leaning toward a softneck variety like ‘Inchelium Red’ or ‘Siskiyou Purple’. The hardnecks have the greatest range of flavor, but softnecks store well.

It’s time to store the flavors of summer. Besides garlic, I’ve harvested the first cutting of basil for pesto. While I have fresh basil in the kitchen, I tried making my own herb salt–heard about it on a radio program. On a wooden cutting board, I spread a tablespoon of sea salt then one cup of fresh herbs (basil, oregano, parsley, sage) and sprinkled another tablespoon of sea salt. Chopped and mixed with a chef’s knife, along with four cloves of fresh garlic. It turns into a gritty green mass and smells good. When the herbs seemed fine enough, I spread it all on a plastic tray and took it out to my warm front porch to dry. Imagine the possibilities…you could do this with any combination of herbs. Maybe lemon zest too…

Also drying are cherries, apricots, peaches, and blueberries. From now till the end of September, I will dry fruits and vegetables every weekend. Whatever is fresh and local now will keep me nourished for the next whole year. Having dried produce on hand gives me options as I pack for backcountry trips, as I am doing today. Tomorrow we hike to Waptus Lake to stay the week, and I’ll be nibbling on dried cherries. We are planning a pesto dinner, and there will be home-baked desserts every night. Living nine miles from the road for a few days does not mean meager rations. Food is fuel for our work, and anticipation of meals keeps the spirits up.

Speaking of anticipation, my favorite summer holiday is coming up. That’s right: Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day is August 8th. I’ve been checking my plants daily and giving them plenty of water. They got planted late and languished during June. They are quite perky now, and I will harvest some small fruits when I get home from Waptus.

A true Domestic Diva would never flinch from zucchini. She would transform them into something delicious, and pop the excess into the freezer to enjoy next winter.

Happy Summer Eating!

The Waptus Trip, Part Two

A camping tradition of the Cle Elum trail crew is to eat a concoction called “Magma”. I believe this was originally invented by Mr. Jon Herman when he was a wilderness ranger during a previous decade. It’s classic bachelor food, and has been through various stages of field-testing. I believe that it was named “Magma” by Mr. Todd Stiles during his first season with us after he observed it bubbling in the pot. He may have compared to to one of the boiling mud pits at Yellowstone National Park. This dish has been called magma ever since, and the crew always asks for it when we are figuring out camp menus.

Here’s how you make it:

Cook two packages of Knorr Spanish Rice mix with a little extra water. You can add some dried scallions. In the biggest pot, empty a can of corn and a can of diced tomatoes. Once this is steaming, add a large can of refried beans. Keep the heat low–the secret to magma is to heat it very slowly and stir often. Chop up three bell peppers of various colors and stir in. Add another large can of refried beans, and another can of diced tomatoes. Stir and heat. Add a small can of refried beans and the cooked rice. Dump in a little water if it seems too solid. Let the whole potful of food simmer. When it bubbles like lava, it’s ready to eat. There are two methods. The first is to lay a flour tortilla on a plate and spread magma, grated cheddar, and salsa. Roll up like a burrito and eat. It will certainly drip. The other way is to nest a tortilla in a bowl, fill with magma, cheese and salsa and eat with a spoon, cutting up the tortilla as you go.

Possible variations include adding canned chicken if you aren’t accommodating vegetarians. You could throw in some chopped black olives or jalapenos, or any other vegetables that sound good.

This potful fed nine hungry people, but proportions can be adjusted as needed. For a lightweight backpack supper, use dehydrated beans and vegetables.

The pinnacle of trail crew haute cuisine is to follow the magma with Pepperidge Farm’s Entertaining Collection of fancy cookies. Be sure to talk in a posh voice as you pass them around. It’s a good idea for people to NOT share tents after this meal. Adequate ventilation is necessary. But that’s usually the case with the trail crew.