As you might remember, we spent the week of Thanksgiving in Montana where a large part of C’s family lives.
We were eager to see family, mountains, the big open sky, and hopefully some fresh snow. It had been six years since the last time I had visited. I missed the vast land and wilderness.
“I cannot wait to see snow” repeated Jon over and over again the days before our departure. He had only seen snow once up to that point, but he was too young to remember. I couldn’t wait to see his face once he felt snow in his hands. There were plans for sledding, snowman building, and definitely some snowball fighting.
On my agenda was also a visit to Amaltheia Dairy, which is an organic goat farm in Bozeman where they also make incredible cheese from their goat’s milk. I couldn’t wait for this one.
We could see the snow from the sky as we were making our final descent into the Helena airport. A sheet of white covered mountains, fields, and trees. Just as we had wished for, it had snowed all night leaving us with blue skies and fresh fluffy snow.
I had forgotten how dry and cold Montana can be, but quickly it all came back as soon as we stepped outside the terminal. “13 degrees” the thermometer in the car read at 1 o’clock in the afternoon.
It was amazing. Bright blue skies and fresh snow.
“I want to go sledding” Jon said as soon as we arrived at uncle Lane’s house.
Tucked away at the bottom of the hill sits Lane and Janet’s house. Surrounded by trees and a spectacular view, deer often times come up to their front door.
We wasted no time. Up and down that hill Jon went for an hour straight. Nothing but belly laughs and “let’s do it again.”
We spent time with C’s parents who helped the children make their first ever snowman. It was exciting for sure.
We spent our days visiting family and relaxing in the snow. Nothing feels better than the warm reflection of the sun in the snow. I took it all in.
Lane, the avid hunter he is, prepared many meals of wild game. I accompanied him in the kitchen cooking side dishes of risotto, soups, and even a couple of tarts. I love their open and spacious kitchen where we all gathered. Even C’s uncle Loren and aunt Jan came all the way from Washington to spend time with us. They told old family stories and we listened while sipping hot chocolate next to the wood-burning stove.
There was hot chocolate every single night.
One of the highlights of the trip for me personally was to be able to visit Amaltheia Dairy farm. The farm is nestled at the base of the Bridger Mountains outside of Bozeman. Melvin and Sue Brown along with their son Nathan, operate the organic goat farm where they make different varieties of cheese from their goats’ milk. They also raise beautiful pigs and in the summer sell organic heirloom tomatoes and other produce.
We were greeted by Nathan who took us to see how Melvin milked the goats. Such labor and time goes into it as no more than six goats are milked at a time. The place was quiet and peaceful. I could tell the animals were happy there.
Jon and Miren were taken by the pigs, particularly the newborns who did not stop eating the entire time we were there. We fed the goats and the lamas and simply observed them as they roamed freely.
I asked Melvin a million questions as I am fascinated by the life on the farm. He was passionate about their mission and very involved in the community and schools. Once again, I felt inspired by a simple life – not always easy, of course, yet wholesome and grounded.
From the farm, we drove a couple of miles down the road to their cheese-making facility where everything is made in small batches and packed by hand. Melvin told us about his adventures all over the world and his upbringing in rural England. We discussed food practices and explained to us ways in which we can support small farm operations.
We sampled their organic Gouda, feta, Perigord black-truffle chevre, and ricotta. Intense and delicious. “This so good” Jon shouted. He ate slice after slice until there was no more to cut. A good sign if there is any.
We were lucky enough to part with a small assortment of cheeses that Melvin was kind enough to share.
I carried the cheeses with me on the plane and I guarded them as if they were my children.
I couldn’t wait to cook with them.
As soon as we returned home, I made this shiitake and black-truffle chevre tart that everyone loved. Shiitake mushrooms cooked with leeks and garlic and baked in an herb crust with fragrant black truffle chevre and thin slices of purple potatoes. It was crispy and creamy and made a perfect lunch with a green salad.
Also enjoyed a winter salad with red kale, celeriac, Asian pears, hazelnuts and crumbled feta all dressed with a lemon vinaigrette. Sweet and salty.
It was such a magical time for our family. A great way to reconnect with those we love and be close to nature once again.
And any excuse is a good one for a snowball fight, isn’t it? We seem to think so.
Shiitake and Purple Potato Tart
makes a 9-inch tart
2/3 cups (90 g) superfine brown rice flour
1/3 cup (45 g) quinoa flour
1/4 cup (40 g) potato starch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
8 tablespoons (110 g) cold unsalted butter, diced
6 to 8 tablespoons (90 to 125 ml) ice water
Combine the first seven ingredients in the food processor and pulse a couple of times to aerate. Add the cold diced butter and pulse until butter is the size of peas. Add the ice water and pulse to combine. Press the dough between your fingers and if it comes together, it is ready. Add more ice water, one tablespoon at a time, if needed.
Turn the dough onto your work surface and form into a disk. Chill the dough for 30 minutes.
Dust your work surface and rolling pin with superfine brown rice flour. Roll the dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Fill tart pan with the dough. Trim excess. Chill the tart crust for another 30 minutes.
Shiitake and purple potato filling
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing potatoes
1 small leek, diced
8 ounces (110 g) shiitakes, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for topping
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk (canned)
2 ounces (60 g) black-truffle chevre or any other soft goat cheese you prefer
2 small purple potatoes, thinly sliced
Preheat oven to 375F (190C).
In a medium saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook for 5 minutes or until soft. Add the shiitakes, garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes until tender stirring occasionally. Add the parsley and stir. Remove pan from heat and let filling cool.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and coconut milk.
Spread the cooled filling and the goat cheese over the tart crust. Pour the egg mixture and spread evenly. Top with sliced purple potatoes. Brush the tops with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle a pinch of salt over them.
Bake the tart for 30 to 40 minutes until golden. Let the tart cool for 15 minute before cutting.
Winter Red Kale and Asian Pear Salad
1 head of red kale, washed and chopped
2 Asian pears, cored and thinly sliced
1 medium watermelon radish, thinly sliced
1/2 medium celeriac, peeled and thinly julienned
2 ounces (60 g) goat feta, crumbled
1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped
Microgreens (pea tendrils, sorrel, kale, etc)
1/3 cup (80 ml) olive oil
2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Large pinch salt
ground pink peppercorns
Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl. Let the lemon juice and vinegar macerate the kale slightly, about 5 minutes. Serve.