The air smells of leather and pine, and the rustling of the wind floating through the tops of trees almost sounds like the beginning of summer rain in Florida. It’s as if the world’s quietest train was passing through to its next stop in the sky.
Climbing at least 1,200 feet straight up on a mountain, at an altitude of over 10,000 feet above sea level to begin with, is not something you forget (or do) easily. My dad and Matt and I carefully watched our footing as we hiked over sprawling tree roots and masses of rocks, laughing and literally out of breath along the way. There were times on our six-hour hike where just a few feet away from us, was a sharp, terrifying drop down. I remember seeing a woman ahead of us cover the side of her face so she couldn’t see it.
It’s in these moments where you get a true sense of nature’s incredible beauty, vastness and wonder—and that we are powerless and small in comparison.
In Colorado, the mountains are high, the food is fresh, and the people are happy. Whether it’s the cool mountain air or the endorphins from all that exercise, there is something about that “Rocky Mountain High” that you can’t find anywhere else.
I’ve snowboarded in Colorado nearly every year since I was a child, thanks to my dad. I think he has a special place in his heart for Colorado too. But these last couple of years, I’ve been lucky enough to add a summer trip. Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing better than spring skiing (in fact, it’s the best kind) but the summers in Summit County are magical. The weather is absolutely perfect, and my sunny days consist of books, hikes, bike rides, and of course, cooking–with a view.
My Colorado reads? “Of Mice and Men,” “Beautiful Exiles” and “The Tenth Island.”
A part from hiking through national parks and biking through miles of winding mountain roads, one of my favorite things to do in Colorado is shop at the overflowing farmer’s markets, open only during the summer. The markets are filled with trucks selling coffee and food, talented local artists and musicians, locally-made products, an abundance of organic local produce, and even a few farmers who bring fresh, Colorado-raised cuts of grass-fed beef.
I left the farmer’s market that day with gorgeous heirloom tomatoes, green beans, romaine, arugula, and a variety of small potatoes—and a magnet, a poster, healing crystals and two lattes.
The main course for us on this particular evening was a cast-iron roasted chicken, and I knew a fresh farmer’s market salad and perfectly roasted potatoes would pair beautifully with it.
When roasting potatoes, don’t be afraid of the heat! Aim for 450-475° and be generous with olive oil and salt.
This farmer’s market salad comes together easily, and can work with whatever produce you have on hand, but I hope it inspires you to shop local and try it with peak-season fruits and vegetables. For the potatoes, I used an organic variety of purple, red and gold—but thanks to my go-to roasting method, I’ve had the same crispy-but-still-fluffy-inside success with Yukon Gold, red potatoes, and sweet potatoes.
My go-to salad dressing—for everything—is olive oil, lemon juice, salt + pepper.
Both of these simple recipes work as excellent side dishes or even a light meal all by themselves.
During our time in Colorado this year, we did a lot of hiking and biking, and spent quality time with family around the dinner table and in the kitchen. We even saw a play at the local theater, which for me was really special.
But perhaps one of the most memorable days was when Matt and I biked Vail Pass Summit, a 10,662-foot-high mountain pass. We rode for 20 miles through dreamy valleys and steep, picturesque roads. Dwarfed by the mountains around me, I was awestruck by their sheer size and million-year history.
It’s easy to overlook all the life and beauty around you when you’re just trying your best to make it to Friday. But mountains are a massive reminder that time waits for no one, and we should try more often to stop and smell the roses—or mountains, or palm trees.
Farmer’s Market Salad
Feel free to get creative here. This is what was in my salad, but you can really use whatever produce you like. This is my go-to salad dressing—for everything.
- few large bunches of greens I like arugula, spring mix, or romaine
- 1 pint of halved tomatoes Heirloom tomatoes are so pretty!
- large bunch of green beans
- shaved parm optional
- walnuts or any chopped nut!
- lemon & olive oil dressing see recipe below
- Add all produce to a large bowl, drizzle dressing over everything and toss.
- Add nuts and shaved cheese on top and serve.
- extra virgin olive oil
- salt + pepper
- lemon juice
- Whisk lemon juice (start with half a lemon) and a tablespoon or so of high-quality olive oil, and salt and pepper in a small bowl. Season to taste, and adjust accordingly.
Assemble a large bowl of ice and water. Drop vegetables into a pot of boiling, salted water. Cook for a few minutes (usually 2-5) tasting along the way to see if they’re cooked through. Using a slotted spoon or a large strainer, drop all vegetables into the big bowl of ice water. This helps to retain their beautiful color and halt the cooking process.
Perfect Roasted Potatoes
- potato variety
- extra virgin olive oil
- salt + pepper
- herbs de Provence
- juice from half of a lemon optional
- Heat oven to 475°*
- Half potatoes so that they are all uniform in size.
- Add potatoes to a ribbed baking sheet.
- Add more salt and olive oil than you think you need, along with pepper and herbs. You want a really thin layer of olive oil covering the bottom of pan. No dry spots!
- Using your clean hands, toss it all together—making sure to leave at least half of the potato halves flesh-side down. This is how we’ll get some really crispy ones!
- Cook for about 30 minutes or until fork tender and deliciously browned. I usually grab one with a fork around this time to taste.
- When they are done, remove from oven and drizzle fresh lemon juice over potatoes right before serving. Taste, and add more salt if needed while they’re hot.
*If you find yourself cooking something else at a lower temperature, and only have one oven (like me) and want to cook the potatoes with it, I’ve found that you can still get delicious crispy fluffy potatoes cooked at as low as 350°, but you need to cook them for longer—closer to an hour.