Kokopelli’s Trails, Colorado Beer and a Slice of Humble Pie

Since it’s already summer in Salt Lake, I decided to dive right into the ass kicking and do some trail racing in the desert this past weekend.  I packed up and drove down to Fruita to meet Adele, Toberer and Mike (along with 100 other Boulderites) for the Desert R.A.T.S Trail Running Festival.

It was a rude awakening to trail running in the western heat for the year;  a 50 mile race quickly turned to 25 and then turned into 17-ish mile trail run followed by 8 miles of sunbaked irritating hell.  I emerged from the day on legs that weren’t that tired, a body that, overall, wasn’t that dehydrated and a race, that wasn’t run very hard… but with a body the sun had just sucked the life out of in a matter of 3.5 hours, with 2 more to suffer through.  Mike and I played tag throughout the race and ended up finishing together, over the last 3 miles we “ran” together, I probably uttered more expletives than belong on such beautiful trails.

Mike saved the day, by having a cooler full of cold Avery IPA in the car at the finish line, then we proceeded to join Adele & Toberer who were working the final aid station of the 50.  Adele best sums up the remainder of the day and weekend with her blog post, so I’ll defer you to that for some entertainment and good pictures.  Lots of beer, food, Nuun and a good campfire later, I was rolling in my sleeping bag at 5:30 the next morning, about to get up and go run another chunk of miles on the same exposed trails.

The half-marathon on Sunday proved to be an outrageous price for same-day registration, so I opted to go run on my own.  The goal simply being to run long on tired legs and put in a good training weekend.  My legs, lungs, and body surpassed my expectation and I put in a fluid 6.5 miles, then I met up with the race and joined Adele for some company on her way to her longest trail run so far.  15 miles later, with a stark contrast to how I felt the previous day, I was successfully reminded that, in the desert, all bets are off.

A fantastic weekend with friends, good trails, and good beer; I leave you with a spectacular sunset and a slice of humble pie.

Sunset on the Colorado River

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Things My Mother Never Taught Me: On Risotto

I often am asked for recipes of dishes I’ve shared, this risotto being one of them.  While I have certain recipes that I’m hoarding to claim as “special” (diabetic coma cookies, blueberry cobbler, etc.), this is a Spring Vegetable Risotto commercially published by Cooks Illustrated and I more than happily give them the credit for it. I’ve added a few tweaks that I probably couldn’t quantitate, but those tweaks generate the content of this post.

I love to cook.  I love to bring amazing food to share with friends, family, and even complete strangers.  I think meals and enjoying the the elements that feed us together are an important aspect of life and are certainly a central aspect of society.  That being said… I am picky, I HATE food that is butchered.  I survive on what I eat and I think it should taste good; I get very bitter when I eat out and think I could have done much better myself.  So when people ask me for recipes like risotto, I am very hesitant, as it took a solid 4 years of adjusting and being picky to get my risotto perfect.  If I just gave you the recipe who knows what would happen.

To be fair, risotto is one of the dishes I concoct that requires attention to detail and a bit of finess.  Now that I’ve given you an absolutely fantabulous recipe for risotto, I want to give you some tips for learning how to cook (it).

#1 – Start with a good recipe, or guidance, or know what you are doing.  I don’t care what about.com or the first site in the google search says, even if it is epicurious, start with something good.  Read the recipe, read the reviews, I’m willing to place money that almost anything from Cooks Illustrated will be more than half-way decent. But without this, it’s like trying to ride a K-mart bicycle in Le Tour, you’ll be off the back from the get go.

#2- Your broth is 80%, find a good recipe and then spend the extra 30-45 minutes to boil the broth.  You’ll never be sorry you did this.  If you have a kid, invite a girlfriend over for a glass of wine and dinner, send dad off with the kid, whatever it takes.  Also, make an extra cup of broth.

#3 – Don’t skip the wine.  If you absolutely must, you need to approximate your acidity with lemon juice, but its not quite the same, either in tenderness or in flavor.

#4- Use a wide, shallow dutch oven, cast-iron skillet, tagine, or similar.  Having a good dish with even temperature distribution and heating on the side walls will make a huge difference in how evenly your risotto cooks

#5 – Use a wooden spoon to stir.  I didn’t believe it either, but those risotto need a beating!

#6 – No shortcuts!  You’re in for 90 minutes in reality, just relax and go with it; this is what the wine is for!  I am serious, I’ve cooked with the 18 minute risotto recipes, they make something along the lines of rice, it’s not risotto.

#7- Turn your heat source down a little bit lower than you think it should be.  This is a slow absorbing process, not a boil the broth off faster than you cook the rice.  My rule of thumb is that the broth you add should be just below a bubbly simmer, at least until the very end.

#8- Don’t be afraid to taste test!  This is how you learn, how you make the tweaks and adjustments in butter, broth, flavors, cooking time, temp, etc. You’ll know when you have it right.

In my opinion, at the end, you won’t have to add liquid, salt, pepper, or even cheese.  This should set up nicely as a creamy dish (without the cream!) full of flavor.  Have fun with it, make it your own!

Ridiculous

Raise your hand if you managed to get a sunburn around the mud splatter on the back of your calves from your trail run today…

Yup.  It was ridiculous.

I’m in the midst of a 40 mile weekend.

10 mile road run, unintentionally redlined it at 7 min/miles and couldn’t kill the pace.  Skied a little bit Friday afternoon, due to the recent return of winter.

Thought for sure my legs were going to be shot for today’s 20 mile trail run… well they weren’t.  But I did see a 35 degree temperature swing in 4 hours, the hideous partial leg sunburn, >12+ miles of trail that essentially became mud, ponds, slushy snow and anything else you might dream of throwing in there.  Oh yeah, we had a fairly close encounter with a coyote and proceeded to run on-leash and see more (in the front country!) after that.  We wouldn’t want a boring trail run, would we? Amazingly, I warmed up nicely after 2 hours.

10 more tomorrow, and I feel like I am just getting started.

What did you do this weekend?

Note, I am aware that I’m running crazy distances, and somehow, against all odds I am managing to keep pace.  This is VERY welcome turn around from a month ago, or two weeks ago, when I felt like I couldn’t even hack out a mundane 5 mile fire-road run.  On to 100 I go.