The forecast in many parts of North America reaches 90 degrees in the next several days, so here’s a cold drink recipe to try. Shout out to my many Northwest peeps living without air conditioning. I had a real brain-sparking juice from Assembly Hall (a part of that behemoth conglomerate known as Tom Douglas restaurants) in Belltown, Seattle which spurred me to attempt an imitation, which inevitably spawned variants.
PLOC Juice (Pineapple Orange Lime Cayenne)
Inspired by Tropical Spice Juice from Assembly Hall
1 fresh pineapple, cut in chunks with rind removed*
1.5 orange, peel off, scrape a bit of pith off too
2-3 limes, (see oranges)
ice to desired thickness
Optional: 1/2 c frozen mango or ice, or coconut milk to taste
1 small dash of cayenne pepper
Optional: mint, coconut flakes, for garnish
Today’s Trial Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating: 5 of 5 stars.
Well, that is certainly novel. Likelihood of Repeat: 35%
The first couple sips are always a little startling, after that it starts to grow on you..I think…maybe..
Don’t worry folks, if this is not enough cold refreshment for you this summer, I’ve got at least two more in my back pocket coming, on top of last year’s frozen coconut limeade. Lesson Learned: Even when you’re feeling unsuspectingly casual and lazy-looking without a stitch of makeup on a Sunday afternoon, you might still concede to post a video that includes your mug in it, in the interest of telling the world about the DIY espresso tonic your household experienced..shrug.
But seriously, next time I might try muddling the rosemary** a little, and maybe adding a few crushed berries for a sweet, tart flavor.
*I actually drink tonic water on its own sometimes, no gin. On the advice of one of my docs, the quinine in it supposedly helps with nocturnal leg cramps -so painful they wake me up. The internet, however, indicates that docs no longer prescribe quinine for anything besides malaria due to strong side effects (beyond the crazy dreams, I’m guessing). I have to assume that tonic water has much lower amounts of it than a prescription, though. However, if you are after quinine in tonic water, read the bottle labels carefully. Sometimes it’s just sugar water without any actual tonic-ness.
I found this gluten-free chocolate cherry cake recipe and used it to make a raspberry chocolate cake in a dutch oven by campfire. Below are the basic steps re-written the way I did them. This was a good one to prep and fire up before dinner, and let sit and finish cooking while you eat the main meal.
Before more recent whirlwind adventures to a wedding in Vermont, K____ and I took a brief respite to camp in the North Cascades National Park. The votes are in, and the top winning option for next blog post was Campfire Cooking Methods! Special thanks to Logistikris for the unique comment entry of ‘Campfire chocoraspberry cake.’ I’ll try to cover chocoraspberry cake next. We were only there a couple nights, or: “as long as my back will take tent sleeping,” and “that’s how long the giant cooler of ice and frozen meats lasts to a safe-ish temp.”
Method Part 1: Pack it!
If you were a compulsive planner like me, you might list what you’d like to eat on your camping trip, and portion out ingredients as you pack up the accompanying junk food (in my house any road trip merits a hiatus from healthier eating). This time, I had in mind..
chocolate raspberry cake
and traditional sausage-bacon-egg-potato breakfast foods
In retrospect, it was too much in one night’s work to prep everything and also make spam musubi, but yeah, that’s what I did (even with lots of help from K___). If you are NOT a compulsive planner like me, I leave it to you to wing it like you do (i.e. like a BOSS). Really, I only measured things out for the first two items listed there, and I cheated with box chocolate cake mix. It’s camping, not the Iron Chef. I also made a little mix of balsamic vinegar and olive oil which came in handy as dressing and marinade.
Method Part 2: Fire, not for backpacking -especially in high-fire-prone areas.
With the exception of marshmallow roasting, you want a low, even fire with plenty of coals. K____ and I treated fire-building like a team sport, with him as captain. We spread the logs out pretty wide for cooking, to make room for an even surface for the tools. Want more on this? Let me google that for you... Don’t forget to read up before you are out of cell phone reception zones. Obvi, if you are backpacking, all this “camping” is a whole different ball game.
Method Part 3: Tools
Here’s what the latest full-scale carried-a-little-too-far Wong Way of camping entails for cooking tools:
Tool 1: Cast Iron Skillet
-Needs: high temp cooking oil or butter, don’t forget the metal flipper!
-Good for bacon and all-purpose random cooking, especially when you snag the last possible campsite and it turns out to have no standard grill rack.
-Bad for open-flame potatoes.
-Obviously a bad idea for for light-weight packs.
Tool 2: Dutch Oven
-Good for making cake, probably good for a lot else too, like stew. It really holds the heat in.
-Bad for your back. This thing is so heavy. At least that means the squirrels can’t mess with it, only Yogi Bear.
-ditto on the backpacking
Tool 3: Aluminum Foil
-Good for..tubers, if you can get coals. Much better to wrap potatoes than expose them in cooking on a skillet. It was useful to shape handles on top of them for easier maneuvering.
-Also good for fashioning makeshift plateware and utensils, for that one time when you forgot sporks.
Tool 4: Percolator. Just add water!
-Good for coffee, tea, hot cocoa
–Hot toddies (basically, pre-mix everything but the water and lemon).
-Easy mac & cup noodle.
-Thermos + raw chicken noodle soup to cook over time.
Surprise Winning Tool: Percolator?!
That’s right, folks. While I’m grateful for the delicious breakfast K___ served up via skillet, and the fully-baked cake thanks to how well the dutch oven holds heat in, the percolator was the one I was most grateful to have, both to stave off a caffeine headache in the morning with coffee, and to keep me really cozy in the evening with hot toddies. It also felt like the easiest, most versatile one with endless possibilities. Maybe my opinion is swayed too strongly by how precious having water was on this trip since they hadn’t turned on the taps on the North Cascades yet. Oops.
Second Runner Up: Dutch Oven! This one is getting googled some more for the next camping trip. I’d probably rather just cheat directly with hot cakes’ take ‘n’ bake for smaller portion sizes on cakes, but I think you might get a good stew out of the dutch oven instead. They even come with campfire directions!
Safety Notes: on meat thermometers and a giant cooler on wheels..
-It’s definitely good to not poison yourself (see: safe cooking temps for meat).
-Tried to store meats on the bottom of the cooler, separated by ziplocs for extra OCD-style care.
-Tried to cook the more salmonella-prone items first, like eggs.
So, maybe that 2nd hot toddy and the half a family size bag of kettle style salt & pepper chips was not the best idea, since now my health has declined significantly post-camping over the weekend. But anyway, I thought I’d put it to a vote of the readers: which of these would you most like to hear about, from my brief stint car camping in the North Cascades (least visited National Park in the Lower 48)?
Polling closes in an arbitrary number of days from Thursday 5/13..
3 tablespoons good olive oil 1 small French bread or boule, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups) 1.5 cups croutons
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes (used a mix of heirloom cherokee purple, cherry tomatoes and a couple romas)
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/2-inch thick 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 red onion, cut in 1/2 and thinly sliced
20 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
Added: avocado, chopped in large chunks 3 tablespoons capers, drained (I don’t like capers)
For the vinaigrette:
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar sherry vinegar
1/2 cup good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper Steps
0. Heat the oil in a large saute pan. Add the bread and salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. Add more oil as needed.
1. For the vinaigrette, whisk all the ingredients together.
2. In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, yellow pepper, red onion, basil, and capers. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Serve, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend.
Today’s Trial Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating: 3 of 5 stars.
This was a nice, relatively low maintenance way to still be able to see the different kinds of tomatoes I put in and the pretty colors from the cherokee purples. Likelihood of Repeat: 30%
I think there might be too much delicious salty crouton in this recipe for it to be good for me, plus they get soggy after a little bit so this is not a salad for next day unless you separate things out. Plus, I almost never have bread around to make croutons or buy croutons or basil on their own.. Lesson Learned: meh.
In honor of the South American countries and their gracious hosting of the World Cup: baked plantains. A little late in posting, but better than never. Recipe was from my local grocery store (see photo)!
1 plantain (ripe = black spots all over)
high heat cooking oil and a pastry brush, or just cooking spray
1. Preheat oven to 450.
2. Coat a non-stick pan with spray, or cover with parchment.
3. Cut plantain diagonal into 1/2 inch slices.
4. Arrange in single layer on pan and coat with oil.
5. Baked for 10-15 minutes, flipping each one until golden and very tender.
Today’s Trial Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating: 4 of 5 stars.
I don’t eat bananas much, so this was pretty novel. Likelihood of Repeat: 15%
Bananas are still just too sweet for me. They might go good as a treat atop of cold ice cream or whipped coconut dessert, might be interesting in thinner pieces too. Lesson Learned: All that sugar can burn really fast if you don’t keep an eye on it.
Mark Bitterman‘s Gazpacho recipe and some tips from my friend Katherine got me to try making gazpacho about a year ago, and tonight’s continued hot humid weather in the Northwest called for a revisit of cooking without heating elements. Unfortunately, I failed at that last bit, since I like my onions and garlic sautéed instead of raw and heart burn-y. See modified recipe below. But you, my friend, could make it with raw garlic and onions if you so desired, and even without the bread if you wanted to go Paleo or gluten-free (although cave men didn’t have blenders).
Gazpacho, Fast and Simple
Makes: 4 servings
Time: About 25 minutes
2 pounds tomatoes, roughly chopped, or one (today: fresh beefsteaks)
28-ounce can (include the juices)
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded if you like, and chopped
2 or 3 slices bread, a day or two old, crusts removed, torn into small pieces (today: a toasted leftover hamburger bun from July 4)
1 /4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar, or more to taste
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 Tbs minced red onions
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Optional: sliced scallions for garnish, and/or dollop of greek yogurt (skipped the latter this time, but it would be tasty)
0. Lightly saute onions and garlic for a few minutes on stovetop with olive oil and butter.
1. Combine the tomatoes, cucumber, bread, oil, vinegar, onions and garlic with 1 cup water in a blender; process until smooth. If the gazpacho seems too thick, thin with additional water.
2. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve immediately (or refrigerate and serve within a couple of hours), garnished with a drizzle of olive oil and scallions or greek yogurt if desired.
Today’s Trial Recipe Rating: Novelty Rating: 2 of 5 stars.
Made this once before without the bread a year ago, I liked it better this time. I’m hoping the novelty will really kick in in the next few days when I am still eating delicious chilled gazpacho without turning on the stove on a hot day. Likelihood of Repeat: 75%
I ended up with enough for 4 more individual meals, so I’m looking forward to finding out how it does frozen and defrosted later. Lesson Learned: Less complicated than it feels to grab a ladder and retrieve the blender from the top shelf of the kitchen cabinet..
0. Preheat barbecue (medium heat).
1. Score cut side of zucchini halves diagonally about 1/4 inch deep at 1-inch intervals.
2. Melt butter with lemon juice concentrate, lemon-pepper seasoning, garlic powder, oregano, and curry powder in heavy small saucepan. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Brush seasoned butter on cut side of zucchini.
4. Place zucchini on grill and cook until charred on all sides and just beginning to soften, about 12 minutes.
5.If desired, arrange zucchini on grill, cut side up, and sprinkle with cheese; close lid of barbecue and cook until cheese just softens, about 1 minute. Transfer zucchini to platter.
Today’s Trial Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating: 3 of 5 stars.
Yeah yeah, it’s zucchini and it’s grilled, and there’s cheese on it.. Likelihood of Repeat: 15%
Doubt I’ll bother with this again, it was good with the hot dogs and burger and pasta salad for a weekend grilling, but not spectacular. Lesson Learned: …