I’ve been on a writing binge recently, shaking awake at 4am with story ideas swimming around my brain, so waking before dawn on Saturday for a big hike felt like sleeping in. During a charity auction last spring, Cameron and a colleague auctioned off a guided hike of choice to their students. His students chose for us to ascend a nearby 14-er, Mt. Bierstadt. The mountain is named after famous 19th landscape painter Albert Bierstadt, whose iconic work seared Romantic notions of the American West onto the hearts of many an East Coaster and immigrant.
Located about an hour and ten minute drive from Denver within the Arapaho National Forest in the Rockies’ Front Range, Mt. Bierstadt’s trailhead at Guanella Pass offers free parking and free hiking for the hale and hearty.
Last June Cameron and I summitted Bierstadt while wildfires raged across the state, and the views from the top were more than a little hazy.
For better and worse, our region of Colorado has seen much more rain this year, which made an August morning hike up the mountain chilly and precarious, particularly along the portions of the trail where the only way to move forward was scrambling over ice-crusted rocks. My back is still aching from an unexpected tumble.
Despite surface arm and leg lacerations and wince-worthy muscle strain, the view from the summit was stupendous. I’m not just saying that because the air is thinner at 14,065 feet.
After a grueling hike to the top of the world, I’m usually too exhausted to devote much time to complicated weekend meals. Cameron and I try to avoid processed soy products when we can, but our Achilles’ heel on “too tired to make it from scratch” nights are Field Harvest Smoked Apple Sage vegan sausages.
These sausages are the most flavorful vegan “hot dog” fare I’ve tasted. I’m not making a penny from this product endorsement, I promise. If tofu dogs make your stomach turn, these sausages are going to be a revelation. Even my beef- and pork-eating friends enjoy the ingredient combination.
Today’s recipe features an an over-the-top hot dog and burger topping, Fresh Pickle Relish. We still have a month of summer in the northern hemisphere. That’s plenty of time to whip up this sweet and savory relish for picnics and barbecues.
The key to top-notch homemade relish is to salt the chopped cucumbers first, let them sit for a bit to draw out their water, and then cover them with a paper towel and give them a good squeeze to soak up excess liquid. This process reduces the water in the finished relish, allowing for a thicker sauce. Your stomach will thank you.
Fresh Pickle Relish (a Bon Appetit recipe)
Makes 1 1/2 cups relish
1 large English Hothouse cucumber (about 1 lb., finely chopped)
1 tsp. kosher salt plus more
1 TBS vegetable oil
2 tsp. yellow mustard seeds
2 tsp. grated peeled ginger
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1/3 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
2 TBS sugar
1. Place cucumber in a fine-mesh sieve set over a medium bowl; toss with 1 tsp. salt. Let sit for 10 minutes, then squeeze well to remove as much moisture as possible (do not rinse).
2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and cook, stirring, just until they seeds begin to pop, about 1 minute. Mix in ginger and turmeric and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add vinegar and sugar and cook until syrupy, about 5 minutes longer. Mix in cucumber; transfer to a small bowl and season with salt. Let cool.
* Relish can be made 1 week ahead, though I found that it tastes best when eaten within the first three days of making it. Cover and chill.