an almost-winter hike (chautauqua) + an almost-winter soup (mushroom barley)

I suspect that anyone listening to the news these days has felt a deep sorrow that seems hard to shake. We aren't the parents of the slain children, or the siblings who have lost so much, or even the community members who have to pull together and pick up the pieces. We are simply people who feel a connection with the grieving community of Newtown because we are human. 
Ever since the tragedy, I've been hugging my boys a little bit tighter, reading to them a little bit longer and telling them how much I love them a bit more often (if that is even possible).
A few months ago my friend suffered several personal losses in a row. When I asked her how she was doing she wrote: "I'm up in the mountains; the mountains are good for the soul."
Monday felt like the right time to go to the mountains. It was warmer than it should have been and the sun was shining brightly. So we drove to Boulder and hiked a small trail near Chautauqua. It was beautiful. 
We got some fresh air, got lost in our own thoughts and spent good, quality time with each other...the whole family. 
When we got off the trail, I turned to my boys and asked them, "Do you know how much I love you?" 
"So much," Otis replied with his arms fully extended.
"Yah," said Theo.
I ask them that each and every day...
This hike will probably be one of the last ones we do this calendar year. Temperatures are taking a plunge and a big snow storm is supposed to move in tonight.
I'm well into soup season and this one, from Mark Bittman, is really good. It will be a heavy-hitter in my soup rotation this winter. Enjoy it with your close friends and family.

Mushroom-Barley Soup (Adapted Slightly from Mark Bittman, Recipe of the Day)
The soup becomes a light meal with bread or, even better, croutons -- just brown slices of good bread on both sides in as much olive oil as you need. 
  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms (about 1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 pound shiitake or button mushrooms, stemmed and roughly chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 cups of vegetable stock (optional)
  • 2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1. Soak porcini in 3 cups very hot water. Put olive oil in a medium saucepan and turn heat to high. Add shiitakes and carrots, and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to brown. Add barley, and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until it begins to brown; sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Remove the porcini from their soaking liquid, and reserve liquid. Sort through porcini and discard any hard bits.
  • 2. Add porcini to pot and cook, stirring, for about a minute. Add bay leaf, mushroom soaking water and 3 cups additional water (or stock, if you prefer). Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer; cook until barley is very tender, 20 to 30 minutes. {I had to cook the barley a bit longer-- and I added a few tablespoons of water every few minutes until I thought the consistency was right.} Add soy sauce, and taste. Add salt if necessary and plenty of pepper. Serve hot.

Cooking from the Pantry, Part II: Ginger Fried Rice (and Boulder Farms)

I'm up to my eyeballs in boxes, packing tape and bubble wrap. Our third bedroom is fast become a staging ground for our impending move, which is less than 2 weeks away (eek). I'm trying to get as much done as possible. This way, when my husband gets here, we can do some hiking in the mountains and head over to the farms near Boulder. Of course there are tons of things to do in the city as well (like a date night at the retro- Lakeside Amusement Park , the Sunnyside Music Festival and 'Now Boarding' at the Denver Art Museum), but sometimes I like to hit the road and get out of town. 
This morning I got a little bit of packing done and then we spent the rest of the day outside --this weather is absolutely spectacular. You can feel it; fall is just around the corner. That, my friends, makes me downright giddy. The cooler nights are wonderful, and while the sun is still really strong during the day, we now have a respite from the oppressive heat of June and July. Those heat waves seem to be behind us. (And hopefully those wildfires too.) This weather gives me a serious case of perma-smile. 
So, we went back to Boulder for a little hike and to check out a few farms that we had never visited. Our first stop was Cure Organic Farm, which has a great farm store. I picked up some wonderful looking produce (included in today's bounty: tomatoes, cucumbers, garlic, beets, peaches, carrots, and leeks)...
...and then we fed the pigs and saw the ducks.
I  have to tell you (and this might sound strange coming from an vegetarian who grew up in a kosher home), but I totally love pigs. There was a little part of me that wanted to take one of these guys home, but I think that we've got enough on our plate right now...and I'm not sure a) how keen the farm would be to give us one of their porcine friends, and b) how keen my husband would be having a pig roaming around our backyard...
I though about asking if the pigs had names, but then decided not to. That's because the last time I was on a farm and asked, "What's the pig's name?" the response was "Bacon Bits." I was horrified. I've learned it's better not to ask questions if you don't really want to hear the answers. 
We read David Wiesner's "Three Pigs" almost every night, so Otis was really excited about these guys, um, gals. 
Our second stop was Munson Farm, right across the street from the Cure Farm. There I picked up white corn, Palisade Peaches, and some watermelons that looked like perfectly shaped bowling balls. There were also Zinnia flower beds that were "cut your own." 
When we got back to the house I decided to do a little cooking. A new restaurant called Uncle opened in the Highlands and, according to Eater, it's "Momofuku-esque." Reading the review got me thinking about a Momofukufor2 recipe I had seen for Ginger Fried Rice (adapted from Mark Bittman). I had pinned it on my recipe board a while ago, but never got around to making it. So last night I cooked up some rice, since the recipe calls for day-old rice. I had the rest of the ingredients on hand (either in the fridge or the pantry) and included my recent farm purchases-- eggs and leeks. 
I thought this recipe would work well as an installation for my "Cooking From the Pantry" series-- where I try to use up ingredients from the cupboard-- in this case, rice. 
I think I'll be making this one again and again. It's tasty and simple. So here it is:
Ginger Fried Rice Recipe (Courtesy of Momofukufor2 blog, adapted from Mark Bittman at the, adapted from Jean-George Vongerichten.)
Serves 2
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 cup thinly sliced leeks, white and light green parts only, rinsed and dried
2 cups day-old cooked rice, preferably jasmine, at room temperature
2 large eggs
1 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons soy sauce
In a large skillet, heat 1/4 cup oil over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp and brown. With a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels and salt lightly.
Reduce heat under skillet to medium-low and add 2 tablespoons oil (or maybe even just 1 so it's not too oily) and leeks. Cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season lightly with salt.
Raise heat to medium and add rice. Cook, stirring well, until heated through. Season to taste with salt.
In a nonstick skillet, fry eggs in remaining oil, sunny-side-up, until edges are set but yolk is still runny.
Divide rice among two dishes. Top each with an egg and drizzle with 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil and 1 teaspoon soy sauce. Sprinkle crisped garlic and ginger over everything and enjoy hot.