It has been nearly a year since I last reported from Yosemite. Sarah and Evan have been invited again to demonstrate the preparation of one of their dishes and to prepare a dinner at the Ahwahnee Hotel.
During the past year, things have changed in our family and with the park. Last year, Sarah was trying to cook while 8+ months pregnant. This year we were charged with watching a nearly four year old and a 10 month old while Sarah cooks.
The park is still suffering from the results of last summer’s fires. There are great stands of blackened tree skeletons, and huge logging trucks are pulling enormous tree trunk s down the road. The drought and warm weather have both had their impact: there is no snow, and Yosemite Falls, usually frozen by this time of year, are without ice. In the Central Valley below, the reservoirs are nearly empty. Everyone is hoping for the rains and snows that don’t appear to be coming.
Perhaps the biggest current news is the successful climb of the Dawn Wall of El Capitan by Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson. Sarah and Evan’s demonstration was interrupted by the announcement, and since then the hotel has been abuzz with the news. All of the television networks appeared with cameras and had the climbers get up at 4 AM (After being on a sheer rock face for 19 days.) to give interviews for Good Morning America, Today, etc.
Today, Susan and I took a drive while Sarah, Evan, and the boys were taking a walk – the first time they have had a chance to get out of the hotel and the kitchen.
Our drive took us past El Capitan. There were still three bivouac tents hanging from the Dawn Wall, and there was a huge traffic jam of television trucks in the meadow where Caldwell and Jorgeson were giving yet more interviews. Then we drove past Bridal Veil Falls to the Tunnel View Point to get an obligate image of the whole valley including El Capitan and Bridal Veil Falls with Half Dome in the background. It is a cliché image, but it is so breathtaking that you can’t avoid it. Neither could a big crowd of people even in the middle of winter.
Tonight, Sarah and Evan will serve a wonderful dinner to include aged duck lasagna and an almond-chocolate dessert.
here’s the menu:
- Onion soup: radish and dried plum salsa verde, fried shallots
- Aged duck lasagna: chickories
- Bone marrow roasted cauliflower: kumquat
- New York strip steak: lemon verbena curry, pommes fondant
- Bittersweet chocolate ganache: marshmallow fluff, citrus
But I thought I would share recipes from their demonstration:
Rich Table Plancha Bread
1 1/2 cups water
- 2 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 cup bread flour
- 1 3/4 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons Sevillano olive oil
- Mix together the water, yeast, honey, and olive oil.
- Add flour and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the dough hook, add the wet to the dry ingredients and mix to form a ball.
- Keep the dough in the mixing bowl and wrap the whole thing with plastic wrap. Let dough proof in a warm area of the kitchen for one hour.
- Once the dough has proofed, divide it into 70 g balls. Roll each ball out into an oblong about 1/4 inch thick.
- On a griddle or large cast iron pan heated to medium-high and seasoned with oil, sear each flat bread, cooking and browning on both sides.
Roasted Baby Cauliflower Dip
- 1 head baby cauliflower
- 3 tablespoons butter, browned and reserved
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- salt to taste
- Clean cauliflower to remove most of the greens leaves and stem. Cut in half.
- Blanch cauliflower in boiling salted water until jus tender
- Sear the blanched cauliflower on a griddle or heavy cast iron pan until golden. Then bake in a 350 degree F oven until tender.
- Season cauliflower with lemon juice, brown butter, and salt. Puree if desired or serve as is.
Shelling Bean Dip
- 1 pound fresh cranberry beans
- 2 bay leaves
- 3-4 tablespoons pure olive oil
- salt to taste
- 1 teaspoon Douglas fir powder
- 1 teaspoon fennel pollen
- Cook cranberry beans in water with bay leaves until soft. Strain beans and reserve the cooking water
- In a mixing bowl, season the beans with pure olive oil (e.g. Mission Trail from Sciabica), some of the reserved cooking water, salt, Douglas fir powder, and fennel pollen.
- Using a fork, mash everything together until the desired texture is reached. The puree should be as smooth as hummus.
Note: With both dips, you can spread them on pieces of reheated plancha bread and garnish with tiny cauliflower florets or thinly sliced radishes and caramelized finely sliced shallot.