Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Daily Special: Spicy Potato Matchsticks

Spicy Potato Sticks 004


1) Decide you will have gnocchi for dinner.  Purchase the wrong type of potato since you haven’t made gnocchi since last winter.  Let the two accidental baking potatoes sit around while you are busy with other things.

2) The potatoes need to be eaten.   You’ve been traveling more than not this month.  There is nothing else in the house to eat.  This potato shall be dinner.  How to best capitalize upon the situation?

3)  Drag out the mandoline slicer with which you sliced off an alarming amount of your finger last year.  Discover you do not have a waffle blade, so figure out how to install the julienne blade, instead.  (This may take several minutes.)

4)  Slice up your potato(es) into delightfully teeny tiny matchsticks, and deep fry them only a small handful at a time, since you can not stomach the thought of using an entire dollar’s worth of oil to cook one potato.  Poke at them with a fork if you want to keep them separated while frying (drying them in a paper towel first helps), but it won’t really work, and they’ll stick to the fork if you poke them immediately after their submersion.  Does it really matter if they come out as a charming birds nest instead of individual sticks?

5) If you can resist the temptation to eat them all as they come out of the pan (impressive!), allow them to drain while you prepare a paste of aromatics (onion, garlic, ginger, shallot, whatever), spices (cumin, chile, coriander, again whatever), and salt. Use your mortar and pestle if you wish to avoid food processor rage.  Or use the mini food processor.  It’s entirely up to you. 

6) Slowly fry this paste in a tablespoon or two (or more, depends on how much paste you’ve got) of oil (yes! more oil! or use leftover from frying the potatoes) until it’s nearly dry and nicely browned.  You can cook the paste and fry the batches of potatoes simultaneously, but you better have your kitchen kung-fu goin’ on, because if you look away from either for more than a few seconds, something is going to burn.  Add your fried potatoes to the cooking paste, gently stir ‘round and mash up the bits of spicy goodness.   Don’t try too hard to get it perfect, because who knows?  Perhaps you’ll be the lucky one to hit the jackpot glob of spiciness in your mouthful of potatoes.

7) Enjoy with a cold beer.  (Do not open the beer until the mandoline slicer is safely put away.  No, really.)  Turn on some Bollywood and pretend you are in Mumbai.

8) Oh, the glorious crunchiness of it all!

Monday, September 19, 2011

What I Did (Later) Last Summer: Part Five (Picking Up Some Loose Ends at Mesa Falls)

Remember my Yellowstone/Tetons ride from 2009?  The one where I couldn't manage a photo because of the violent wind, and where I missed Mesa Falls completely thanks to road construction?  Well I corrected both those omissions on a little weekend ride in Idaho in August 2010.  Here are a few photos.

Hello, Idaho!  Hello, Idaho Potato!

The Tetons as seen from their western side, near Driggs, ID.  Yes, I think this route earns the name "Teton Scenic Byway."  The view was every bit as captivating as in was in 2009, but this time I could stop to take a picture.

Upper Mesa Falls, one of the "two last undisturbed waterfalls of consequence in the US."  Weirdly, I don't think I have a photo of Lower Mesa Falls.

And, because I am a map geek , here's the approximate route.

As for the rest of summer 2010?  Well, I told you about that already.  Last summer.  Of course.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

What I Did Last Summer (Hwy 12 Reprise Part Four: Capital Reef and Cafe Diabolo)

In my eternal race to beat the setting sun, I declined a kind invitation for coffee by the Ducati Instigator to head to my next destination.  Even though it was too early in the season to harvest apples, plums, pears, quince, and cherries, wouldn't it be a lovely "Eating of Two Wheels" activity to camp beside an orchard of heritage fruit trees? I must have not been the only one to think so, because there was no vacancy at Capital Reef National Park.  Nada. Still, I couldn’t leave without a short tour of a that glorious place.

This orchard is right next to the campground.  Self serve!

Although just on the other end of Highway 12 from Bryce Canyon  and its hoodoos that remind me of the muddy sand castles I made as a child, Capital Reef looks entirely different. Surely these cliffs are the product of God's giant chisel? And Zion National Park, also just a short ride away, with its swirling waves frozen in time - how is it that these three parks be so close on the map, yet so utterly unique?

I set up an alternative camp at Sunglow Campground,  not far from Cafe Diabolo in Torrey, UT, kitchen of Honda riding chef Gary Pankow, and home of some seriously tall food.

I pilfered this shot from across the dining patio.  A towering skyscraper of... lamb?

Rattlesnake cakes with three sauces?  Delicious!

The pumpkin seed trout had entirely too much going on for one plate.  If you could eat plaid, this was it.

Next time I’m in the neighborhood, I look forward to trying  Hell’s Backbone Grill, delightfully located on Highway 12 in Boulder, UT.  I’ve ridden by it at least four times over the years and have been mysteriously oblivious to its existence each time.  I only recently just heard of it, and it looks very promising.   My “Next Year, Next Year" list continues to grow faster than my backlog of blog posts.

Back to camp, where I chatted with quirky postcard photographer Mark Smith, and on home the next morning.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

What I Did Last Summer (Utah Scenic Highway 12 Reprise Part Three: A Fateful Meeting at Calf Creek Falls)

Now that the dust has cleared from the meteor called August* that smashed into my life, I can continue with this little series on Summer 2010.  (Actually, September is a meteor of another sort, but one of my own design, so at least I could prepare for it. Which isn't meant to imply I was ready for it.)


June in Utah can be… cold.  It was so cold the night before in Bryce Canyon I couldn’t sleep.  And while I can usually count on the wrestling, struggling, swearing and panting required to get my sleeping bag into its dry bag to warm me up, it was too cold even for that to be effective.  I was nearly beaten by that daily athletic event, yet my teeth were still chattering.  Breaking camp and loading up that shivery morning wasn’t the highlight of my trip, but even so, as I rode out of the park, I wasn’t sure if the tears stinging my eyes were solely from the weather.  How lucky I am to be here, in these wonderful places, doing what I love to do!

Good morning, Highway 12!  Special Bonus: I had time for the short hike to Lower Calf Creek Falls. This would serve me well, as you will soon see.

I love these stripey rock walls.

Not quite three miles in and Lo!  Lower Calf Creek Falls appear!

The falls in all their glory.  Next year, next year… the upper falls, from a shorter but more difficult trail.

A friendly hiker at the falls noticed my awkward attempts at a self portrait and offered to take my photo.  We hiked back to the parking area together, and I learned that he too, was a motorcyclist.  Do you remember, back in 2009, the day I fell in love with the Ducati 696?  Not only faster than my Kawi, but lower and lighter, too.  Sadly, I never did find that extra $10,000+ under the couch cushions, and had ruled it out as an impossibility.  But fate, in her mysterious ways, would put this unsuspecting starving artist in the saddle of shiny new bike before summer's end.  A few weeks later, this friendly hiker (who would later become my Most Excellent Tour Guide)** would search for and post a Craig’s List ad for a practically brand new Ducati (but, remarkably, in the same solar system as my budget - Pluto to be sure, but still the same solar system) on my Facebook Wall.  Thanks to this chance meeting on the trail, in little over a month’s time I’d be the proud owner of my “little pony.”  Who knew?

*Pack and move home from UT, dead car leaves me stranded in UT, ridiculous alternate transport home to Tucson, job goes wonky, find affordable reliable new-to-me-used car (Hah!), beloved doggie moves on to greener pastures… I think that’s plenty for one month!
** My METG took me on a most unexpected tour last week, the description of which is approximately fifth in the line of blogposts held up on the runway.