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Campground Cooking: Beyond Burgers & Dogs
Camping is all about adventure and discovering new things, but when it comes to food, campers tend to stick to the basics. Give your taste buds something new to enjoy with these ideas that will take your next camping trip to a new culinary level.
When you think about a gourmet meal, toast is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. But with hardly any cooking required, this option lets you enjoy a fresh, healthy, restaurant-worthy meal in no time. Plus, creating your own take on this trend is as easy as knowing what you like because fancy toasts are completely customizable.
Start with a hearty bread, one with whole seeds is great for added texture. Toast any way you have available – on a skillet, in a toaster inside your camper, on the grill – anything works. Then move on to toppings. Right now, the most popular version of this simple meal is avocado toast. A simple combination of smashed avocado slathered on warm bread (often topped with salt and/or red pepper flake), this toast can be topped with a fried or hard-boiled egg as well for an added boost of protein.
Hate avocado? Skip it and slather on your favorite nut butter, then top with an in-season fruit. Or go savory with a combination of soft cheese and a fresh, sliced veggie (radishes and peas are tasty choices that hold up well when camping). The possibilities are truly endless, and trying new, unexpected combinations is part of the fun when playing with fancy toast.
Break up the camping routine with a filling pasta dinner. The key here is that the pasta can be cooked at home ahead of time, cutting way down on prep time and making this meal a cinch at the camp site. Simply cook the pasta in heavily salted water for about 2 minutes less than you would for a typical al dente result so you don’t end up with pasta-mush. Drain, rinse with cold water to prevent sticking, then store cooked pasta in a Tupperware or sealed plastic bag and toss in the cooler (use within 1-2 days). Whole wheat pasta is a great choice because it will make for a filling meal, no meat needed.
Now that you’re ready with a stash of cooked pasta, what can you make? Instead of spending time simmering sauce (a task that’s not so easy if you’re cooking over a grill or campfire), keep it simple and fresh with this rule of thumb: one cheese + one veggie + olive oil + salt & pepper. Fresh herbs also always make a great addition to this equation.
Here’s where you can let your inner chef shine. Like things traditional? Go with parmesan (which, like many hard cheeses, can stay good for days with no refrigeration) and diced tomatoes. Feeling funky? Try tangy goat cheese, thinly sliced zucchini and mint. All you need to do it throw all the ingredients into a large pot and toss until heated through. No matter what, you’ll feel like you’re dining al fresco in Italy right in your own campsite.
The word “charcuterie” originally referred to meats that had been cured in order to preserve them before refrigeration was easily accessible. But what started as a necessity is also just a really tasty way to enjoy different varieties of meat – plus with no need to take up precious cooler or refrigerator space, charcuterie is the perfect partner for camping.
To create a gourmet charcuterie board that can rival any restaurant, you need to start with the star of the show: the meats. Many salt-cured meats can last up to a month without refrigeration when stored in a cool, dark spot. Salami, summer sausage, pepperoni, and Spanish chorizo all make for a flavor-packed spread. Next up is the cheese. Hard cheeses like aged cheddar and parmesan will keep just fine if wrapped and stored away from the sun. Finally, make a pit stop at your local olive bar and stock up on pickled veggies like a variety of olives, marinated artichokes, peppers, carrots, onion, and cornichons.
This no-prep option is ideal for an easy mid-day lunch. Plus, you can have fun arranging your selections for an impressive presentation. Feel free to add any additional accoutrements (jams, nut butters, mustards, fresh fruit, etc.), then grab some bread or crackers and enjoy!