Reaching the Heights

At 25 you think, “no problem”. At 70, “I’m a little tired, but no biggie”. When you hit 115 you are a little less cocky, your pace slower, your breath more labored. By 286 you’re thinking, “what… are they serious?” And at 413 you have decided whoever thought this up had better be sitting in the reserved section of the 7th circle of hell as a reward. Well, that’s what went through my thoughts as I discovered “the stairs”. What are “the stairs”? Well, in simplest of terms they are a conveyance. A means by which a pedestrian can get from the Heights, where I live, to downtown, where my Sunday Times lives. In between said habitat and bulky newsprint reminder of back east is a considerable hill and the aforementioned stairs. All 413 steps of them.

©cookinginmyheels.com

©cookinginmyheels.com

I discovered the stairs about a week after I landed in my new home. Having heard about them when I visited a few months earlier, I was looking forward to checking them out firsthand. After all, living in the Heights is great but many of the swell things this town has to offer are downtown. Walking seemed the best way to get there, and hey, I walked everywhere in Metropolis so this seemed a no brainer to me. I strolled over to their start. What a cool way to get to where I was going flashed through my thoughts, and I began my descent. Cutting through the woods and past houses tucked in on the hillside…what a lovely stroll. Oh look, another set, neat. And another. Oh geez, there’s more. By the time I reached the final steps, which were more ladder than stair, my legs were shaking. I sat on a bench at the bottom and took a moment to regroup and bask in the glow of my achievement. Though a little wobbly, I had tackled “the stairs”. OK, that was a lot, but I handled it. Bravo kiddo, all that Highline walking back east paid off.

It’s funny how you can forget pain. Or at least forget impending pain. As I wandered around town, window-shopping, popping in for an ice coffee here, a conversation there, I forgot one very important thing. I had to get back up to the Heights. Up…the…STAIRS. Remember when you were a kid, and wished you could fly? Yeah… The first time I came to Hood River, I remember thinking how exceptionally well toned the locals calves were in this town. I now know why. Windsurfing Capitol of the World, feh! Muscular Calves Capitol is more like it.

It’s been three weeks since I first met the stairs. Have I attempted them again? Let’s just say my calves are well on their way to world-class status…

Cucuzza!

On what I’m certain will be a lengthy list of the things I love about my new world lays access to abundant tasty produce. This week I gave myself the challenge of coming up with something for this post from the weekly Farmer’s Market and $10. In that ten-buck bounty was squash blossoms, bright saffron yellow and tender as velvet, they are a rare and quickly fading summer treat I look forward to droolingly every summer. Rather than fry them in a tempura-like batter (a recipe I love), I decided to just peruse my fridge to find something equally alluring to stuff them with, and serve atop a salad of farm fresh greens and ripe figs. The result was my Herbed Goat Cheese Stuffed Blossoms, as beautiful to look at as they were delicious to devour.

Herbed Goat Cheese Stuffed Blossoms

Serves 1 (Easily doubled or tripped based upon how many blossoms you can get)

  • 4 Squash Blossoms, stamens (the inside bit) removed
  • ¼ cup spreadable goat cheese (or if you have a log of goat cheese, just add some milk or better yet cream to loosen and smooth out so it isn’t so crumbly)
  • ¼ tsp anchovy paste, or one anchovy, finely minced
  • 1 TBSP Tomato Jam (2 finely minced sundried tomatoes in oil can substitute)
  • 1 TBSP toasted pine nuts, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp flavorful olive oil
  • A grind or two of black pepper
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1 tsp minced fresh herbs (I used a combination of thyme, parsley and basil)

Mix all of the ingredients together. Taste for seasoning, and add a pinch of salt and/or a grind of black pepper if needed. Let sit in refrigerator about 20 minutes. (This mixture is terrific on crackers or crusty bread too, if you wanted to make a double or triple batch.)

Carefully open up the blossom and spoon in a heaping teaspoon of the cheese mixture. Gently pinch and twist the top of the flower together to close. Repeat with the other blossoms. You could just serve these as they are with a drizzle of good olive oil on top as a starter. The night I made them I had them atop a salad of mixed field greens dressed with lemony vinaigrette and quartered ripe figs. Open up a chilled Rosé, add some crusty bread and you have the perfect reward for getting up those 413 steps! Calories: approximately 250 per serving

If you like what you read here, please help me spread the word. Meantime, I’d love you to join me on Facebook (please click the ‘like’ button). Thanks! 🙂

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6 thoughts on “Reaching the Heights

  1. Mark neglected to tell you that my Aunt Marge did something similar in Bellows Falls, Vermont – only hers included ice and snow. The good news? She lived to be 102! He also neglected to tell you that squash blossoms were on our menu yesterday, too – a squash blossom and corn risotto. Love the stuffing you created! Can’t wait to try next weekend after the market!

  2. Yay! Keep climbing, and think of those 110-year-old World War I widows in those Tuscan hill towns, climbing the steep streets, then the stairs up to their apartments… and eat Mediterranean! Triple-batch; I like the way you cook! – Mark

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