Cooking creek side – What to fix when dining in the great outdoors
Glop … hoosh … gorp … mystery goulash …
Sounds appetizing, no?
Well, thanks to suggestions from the many avid backpackers and campers in our community, it seems cooking in the outdoors has come a long way from brown goop in a pot.
From the impassioned responses of readers, outdoor cooking falls into two camps: simple, fast, and light for the backpacking crowd vs. gourmet spreads for the camping set. No one, however, seems willing to sacrifice taste.
With the recent rains and cooler weather, fire restrictions are lifted on the Tahoe National Forest and camping stoves are permitted again in the backcountry. Good news for all of us taking one more trip before the snows come.
For fast and easy, backpackers often rely on pre-packaged, freeze dried food. Extremely lightweight and packable, these foods require only hot water and a pot. From turkey tetrazzini to chocolate mouse, flavors and options abound. Even for vegetarians.
“Dehydrated food tastes a lot better nowadays,” says Rosie Doolittle of Swenson’s Outdoors in Grass Valley.
“People want tasty entrees with natural ingredients and fewer preservatives. So far. no one has come back to say ‘yuk!’.”
Food companies offer dinner entrees, breakfasts and sides, such as vegetables and starches. Deserts are always popular, and campers often mix a selection of freeze dried foods with more labor intensive options.
Natural High and Backpacker’s Pantry promise no additives and only natural ingredients, with many vegetarian options. Prices skew higher for the premium brands, however, averaging $10 for a meal for two adults.
Mountain House and AlpineAire are other brands to try. Hikers advise trying a selection before you buy for five days in camp, however.
An unsatisfying meal after a long day’s hike can make you grumpy.
While hikers like to eat well, few are willing to trade a lighter pack for complicated eats.
Pasta, couscous and rice dishes remain a staple of backpacking food because they are lightweight, easily prepared in one pot and provide energy.
Still, fresh foods taste great on the trail and can spice up a pot of pasta or rice. The following are a few recipes from readers incorporating fresh foods for the trail.
Asian Veggie Soup
Submitted by Karyn Coughlin, Nevada City
Packaged hot and sour soup mix, or miso mix
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
Any of the following:
Canned bamboo shoots or water chestnuts
Canned baby corn
Tofu cubes (optional)
At home: combine soy and sesame oil, bring in plastic container. Decant canned items and tofu into Ziploc baggies.
In camp: Prepare soup according to package directions. Add remaining ingredients to pot with longer cooking ingredients first (carrots, tofu). Stir in soy mixture before serving.
Pasta and Salmon
This recipe can be made with fresh salmon, cooked, chilled and packed in a cool place, or with canned salmon or chicken. If using fresh salmon, make this the first or second night on the trail.
1 pound rotelle pasta (or your favorite small shape)
1-2 cups precooked salmon, or canned salmon
Shredded parmesan cheese
Freeze dried beans or peas (optional)
Olive oil or butter
Spice mixture: dill, parsley
Salt and pepper
At home: Bake or poach salmon simply in lemon and dill – no cream sauces. Chill. Pack in airtight container or freezer bag. Combine spice mixture and bring in plastic bag or container.
In camp: Prepare pasta according to package directions. Add freeze dried peas or beans to water and cook with pasta until both are done. Drain. Stir in salmon, olive oil and spices. Serve with parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.
Polenta, Peppers and Mushrooms
Instant polenta Ð enough for your party
1 red bell pepper
Dried shitake mushrooms
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
No home preparation required.
In camp: Boil enough water for polenta and 1 cup additional for mushrooms. Soak mushrooms in boiling water 15 minutes to soften. With pot or frying pan, sauté bell peppers and set aside. Prepare polenta according to package directions. Stir in rehydrated shitakes, peppers. Top with parmesan cheese, season with salt and pepper.
K. Ryan Hodgkin is a resident of Grass Valley. She can be reached by e-mail at ryanh@ theunion.com or by telephone at 273-1801.
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