The culinary experience here at California’s dude ranch can be described as “garden to table cuisine” and “wholesome original”. Thanks to Heidi’s and my Danish ancestry, we have also sometimes laughingly been called the “Klamath River butter-fest”. A true Dane can devour butter, sugar, and marzipan as the three main food groups. But wait! Chocolate should also be in the list somewhere I suppose.  Could we possibly build a culinary travel niche based on butter?

In any case, the quiet winters here in our mountain home allow us to experiment with new and untested recipes. We are constantly on the hunt for new and original cuisine that we can present to our guests. To be honest, sometimes the end of summer can create some boredom in the palate for those of us in the kitchens, as we prepare our “tested” menus for our guests. It’s new cuisine to our August ranch arrivals, but our family and staff have been seeing the year’s blend of proven recipes as familiar dinner fare through the progression of the summer. This is in fact, the motive for our winter “test” kitchen.

In our test kitchen we get to explore the fun of cooking. We try new pairings, new cultural influences, and more exotic food types. We blend our fresh garden herbs, and look for creative ways to include Heidi’s canned garden produce.

Recently we have been enjoying Heidi’s  “Sourdough Experiments” that began by creating her own starters. The feeding and caring for Seymore (the whole wheat starter) and Seyless (the white flour starter) has been quite an undertaking.  An unexpected point to the sourdough experiment has been the variety of product we can produce with a sourdough base. We have enjoyed  breads, pancakes, pizza and desserts. We’re looking forward to the next sourdough adventure with Seymore or Seyless.

culinary travel to california's dude ranch

Original ranch cuisine with home canned produce, fresh sourdough, and amazing deserts.

The long awaited October harvested olives, were finally bottled this week using herbs from the ranch along with some fresh garlic. Everyone agrees they are quite delicious. Unfortunately, Heidi does not like green olives and is not convinced she wants to undertake this time consuming adventure a second time.  What is a mere 5 months protocol when you are talking about a quality olive?  As a founding officer of the “brotherhood of the olive” I will strive to convince her otherwise. I wonder… If I do the olive picking, will she do the bottling and pickling for me? I’ve got until this fall to figure this one out.

The preserved lemons are ready and they are adding a lot of exciting new flavors to our table. Heidi marinated some Tilapia in her own mixture of preserved lemons, orange, ginger, spices, and avocado oil. I fired-up the Weber last night and did a nice job of the grilling (in my humble opinion) and Heidi finished off the assembly of some truly amazing fish tacos with the grilled fish.   While I was at the grill, she created a dipping sauce using the lemons and herbs from her garden that we dipped some of her fresh sourdough bread in. mmMMMmm!

And of course every year Heidi cans a large batch of bread and butter pickles as the required ingredient for our signature smoked turkey salad. The home canned pickles are also a part of another Cole family winter tradition: grilled albacore sandwiches. The grilled albacore sandwiches are a “go to” dinner when I want to take the meal preparation off of Heidi’s work plate.

My personal favorite part of the winter test kitchen is the endless desserts created by my wife.  This week we were treated to Orange-Lemon Cheesecake with fresh raspberries and sauce. Definitely a keeper…it will be in Heidi’s second cookbook coming this fall, “At Home with Heidi”.  The culinary adventures continue at Marble Mountain Ranch!

The green house is in full swing now, and many of the fruit trees are already in bloom. It looks like we are in for a wonderful healthy harvest here at Marble Mountain Ranch this summer. Heidi and I hope you can come and enjoy it with us.  The food will be abundant, wholesome, and original.