It’s mid-May, and spring is in full swing here. With the warm, sunny weather we’ve been having, you can bet that I am gearing up for the camping season. Since my book, Campfire Cuisine, was just released in a new, revised edition, I’m even more inspired than usual to get out into the woods and do some amazing cooking au naturel (by which, of course, I mean “out in nature” not “naked,” although that could be fun, too!) There is nothing like eating an amazing gourmet meal out in the wilderness, and as I set out to prove in Campfire Cuisine, it doesn’t have to be difficult.
Here are a few of my favorite recipes from the book that prove that great food can be cooked easily at a campsite—one each for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Breakfast: Veggie Polenta Scramble
This vegetarian frittata makes a hearty breakfast. Serve it cut into wedges with a spoonful of salsa, if desired.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cups chopped button mushrooms
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and diced
4 ounces ready-made polenta, cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 1 cup)
6 eggs (or use 1 1/2 cups liquid egg substitute)
4 ounces shredded Monterey jack cheese (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon crumbled dried rosemary
Beat eggs in a medium bowl. Add milk, cheese, salt, pepper, and rosemary and mix well. Set aside.
Heat oil in a skillet over high heat on a camp stove. Add onions and cook, stirring, until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-high, add mushrooms and peppers, and continue cooking until onion is translucent and mushrooms and peppers soften, about 5 minutes more. Add polenta and cook, stirring, until heated through, about 2 minutes more. Spread polenta and vegetables evenly out in pan, reduce heat to medium-low and pour egg mixture over the top. Cover and cook about 12 to 15 minutes, stirring it up once or twice during cooking, until cooked through. Serve immediately.
Lunch: Curried Chicken Salad Sandwiches
This is a great way to use up any leftover grilled chicken from last night's dinner. You could also substitute two 6-ounce cans of solid white tuna (drained) for the chicken.
3/4 pound diced or shredded cooked chicken (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons curry powder
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup slivered almonds or roasted, unsalted pistachios
8 slices whole wheat bread or 4 8-inch round pita breads
4 large lettuce leaves, torn in half or shredded
Mix together chicken, mayonnaise, mustard, salt, curry powder, raisins, and nuts. Make four sandwiches, dividing chicken mixture evenly among them and topping each with lettuce. Serve immediately or wrap tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and store in cooler or insulated lunch bag.
Dinner: Coconut Shrimp
This Latin American-inspired dish has a spicy kick that makes it perfect for a cold night by the fire. Serve it over rice—and be sure to include the rich coconut milk sauce.
2 pounds shrimp, peeled
Juice of 2 limes
2 cups green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1 14-ounce can light unsweetened coconut milk
2 jalapeno or Serrano chilies, halved, seeded, and sliced
1 teaspoon salt
Combine all ingredients and toss to coat shrimp. Prepare 4 large squares of aluminum foil by spraying with olive oil or cooking spray. Place 1/4 of shrimp mixture in the center of each foil square, fold up sides, and spoon some of the sauce over each. Seal securely, leaving room for heat and steam to circulate inside.
Grill packets over high heat until shrimp are cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve immediately.
Robin Donovan is an experienced camper and a freelance journalist, book author, blogger, and editor specializing in food, cooking, travel, and other lifestyle topics. She lives in San Francisco. Learn more about Robin at www.robindonovan.com.