Category Archives: Cooking

Oh! Lassen

Katherine and Katrina are back with more camping adventures–this time, a post-Covid, pre-wildfires trip to Lassen National Park’s Butte Lake Campground. We’ll use a similar organizing principle to the one we used for Pinnacles. We are librarians, after all. With a couple of added categories to cover some car trouble and fishing. We may need to deviate from our cute spellings…


KA was the first to arrive, so she did a little exploration and took this shot of Butte Lake. What an amazing setting! KK arrived a bit later. We set up tents, stored food in the bear boxes, etc. B54 is a good site with proximity to the restrooms (no showers) and an open area for great star gazing. We planned our trip to coincide with the Perseid meteor shower and saw several meteors on two nights while we were there.

Hiking and Klimbing

Our original plan included scaling three different types of volcanos. The first to be conquered: Cinder Cone. One reason for selecting the Butte Lake campground, which is off the main park road was that the trailheads for two volcanoes are right there! So, off we went on Day One to Cinder Cone. Who are these masked women?

The trail offers a Sisyphean challenge. The surface is cinders (doh!). With every step, you plant your foot, only to slip back again and again… The trail seems to wind endlessly before you.

The effort is rewarded with spectacular views. But the wind was high that day. We were unable to scale the highest viewpoint. On the positive side, we didn’t need to visit the spa for exfoliation for some time after the hike. The little cinder fragments took care of that! We recommend spats for this hike. We did not have them and had to stop to remove larger cinders from our shoes fairly frequently.


We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming for our feature: Kampground Kooking. As with our Pinnacles trip, we planned our meals and shopped for provisions before arrival at the campground. On the first night, we ran into a little “issue” with wood. Things seemed a little frayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. There was no camp host and therefore no firewood for purchase. We opted not to do the 6 mile drive back out on the gravel road to get some. Instead, we scoured the campground for abandoned wood from campers who had left.

One of the logs we found was a challenge to chop but we got it done and managed to grill our pork kabobs on the open fire. (Challenge #2–the grill at our campsite was rusted out on the bottom so had to be propped on the side of the fire ring.) Other repasts included chicken with Spanish rice and mango (not pictured), sausage and veggies, KA’s infamous lettuce wedge, pasta and hot squash and carrot slaw, and of course, crab aliens–a dessert treat of chocolate melted on croissants.

Best Laid Plans

Our day two plan was to hike our second volcano: Prospect Peak. However, KK’s car battery went out. We were fortunate that nearby campers had cables and we were able to jump start the car. KK opted to drive to Redding to get a new battery rather than risk not being able to start the car again. (We didn’t get photos of this part.) KA made the best of it by exploring nearby lakes. When KK returned, we tried a swim in Bathtub Lake, reputed to be tepid and good for a swim. It was a complete bust! Full of algae. But we had a good swim in an unnamed lake we christened Naked Man Lake for the man we saw emerge from it in his birthday suit as we walked by on our way to Bathtub Lake–re-christened Bathdud Lake.

More Klimbing and Katching (we hoped)

Hiking Lassen Peak, the third volcano in our master plan would involve driving to the park entrance and then a distance down the park road to reach the trailhead. With KK having spent much of the previous day in her car and with road work on the route to the park entrance, we opted instead to try our luck at fishing in nearby Hat Creek. While we didn’t catch anything, it made for a relaxing morning by a beautiful creek with some good birdwatching.

After lunch, we hiked around Butte Lake with spectacular panoramic views of the Lake and its surroundings. Gooseberries and lizards too!

Our last night at Butte Lake campground was a Friday night. The campground became much more crowded and a large family group occupied the campsite across the stargazing field from us. They had bright lights that interfered with our ability to see the stars. We were ready to break camp and head home the next day. Our timing was good, as it turned out. The night after we got home, dry lightning struck throughout the state of California, igniting many fires. We haven’t stopped burning since.


Fava Saga

Once upon a time, there was a small vegetable plot in the garden of a home in Oakland, California. During the winter of 2019, the bathroom of the home attached to the vegetable plot was remodeled and the vegetable plot lay fallow. But it was not too late to plant a late winter crop of fava beans, according to the architect who had designed the bathroom, who was a fava bean enthusiast. Fava beans were miraculous, she said. The leaves could be used to make pesto. The pods could be harvested early and stir-fried without having to husk the beans. Simply growing them in the garden would add nitrogen to the soil.

I was SOLD! In late January, I planted six hills of fava beans. In mid-March, after I had returned from what was possibly my very last trip on a plane and recovered from the flu I had that was probably not Covid, the plants had sprouted and had enough leaves to harvest for pesto.

Blending the leaves with olive oil, garlic, hard cheese, and walnuts in lieu of pine nuts, I made pesto and used it to make a pizza with fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, and kalamata olives. Tasty, but I missed the distinctive, pungent flavor basil brings to traditional pesto. I decided to leave the leaves, and let the bean pods develop. I managed to harvest a few immature pods to cook without husking. However, once the pods started coming in, they matured quite quickly. Perhaps because my crop was so late.

Before harvesting, I read up on how to prepare fava beans. The information was not encouraging. Chefs were enthusiastic about all the tasty dishes that could be made with them but cautioned that kitchen staff hate them because they are so laborious to prepare. But I couldn’t just let them rot on the vine… This is what the six beanstalks yielded.

Fava beans have both an outer pod and an inner membrane that surrounds the beans inside. When the beans are mature, both the outer pod and the inner membrane need to be removed for the beans to be palatable. Removing both is indeed laborious and involves shelling the beans and then blanching or heating in some other way to loosen the membranes. That’s why kitchen staff hate them. One chef suggested grilling the beans. Heat from the grill pops the pods, loosen the membranes and gives the beans a smoky flavor. So, that’s what I did. On the left–fava beans on the grill–on the right, grilled beans before shelling.

Even after grilling, shelling the beans and removing the membranes was a laborious process and yielded a pathetically small pile of cooked beans!

Just enough for a batch of hummus, made in the traditional way, with tahini, garlic, and lemon juice but with grilled fava beans in place of garbanzos. It was truly delicious, especially with the smoky flavor from the grill. But I will never have it again! That’s it for the fava saga!