Thursday, May 31, 2007

Grandma's Molded Cranberry Salad

Retro recipes bring back a lot of camping memories. Here's one that grandma always made for us during the holiday season. I love this tangy dish with roasted chicken or pork. Easy to pack or freeze, this is great on a sandwich, too. Makes me think of Thanksgiving and the holidays!

3 pkg Knox gelatin
3 T sugar
2 pints cranberry juice cocktail
1/2 cup water
3 T lemon juice
1 ripe avocado
2 cups diced apple
2 cups finely diced celery
1/2 cup walnuts
1 tsp salt

Mix gelatin, sugar and one cup cranberry juice. Dissolve over a low heat. Stir in the rest of the cranberry juice and lemon juice. Chill until syrupy. Then stir in rest of ingredients. Pour into molds or bowl. Store chilled until ready to serve. Great sweet tang with roasted chicken, pork tenderloin or turkey.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Cold Pasta

Salads are great when you're camping. Easy, quick and cool, a salad can help balance out a grilled entree. This cold pasta dish goes with everything. It can be prepared ahead or semi-prepared for optimum freshness.

cooked, rinsed, drained pasta (rotelle or other shape)
1/4 cup olive oil
cracked black pepper
roasted red peppers
blanched asparagus (cut into 2-inch slices)
blanched carrots (cut into thin circles)
2 Tblsp dried tomatoes in olive oil (preserve 2-Tblsp of this oil)
2-Tblsp balsamic vinegar
sliced pepperocini (diced & minced)
pinch chili pepper flakes
fresh cherry tomatoes (cut in half & drained)
thin sliced red onion
crushed kalamata olives (pitted & crushed by hand)
1/4 cup sliced Italian parsley (flat leaf)

sub brocolli for asparagus
add cubed mozarella
sub jicama for carrot
add roasted sliced chicken
add roasted shrimp

Drain pasta well until dry. Rub crushed garlic over the entire interior of a large shallow bowl. Add half of the olive oil to the bowl. Add salt and pepper. Mix well. Add chopped roasted red peppers, asparagus and carrots. Take two folks and shred the dried tomatoes into small pieces in another small bowl. Add to main bowl. Add pepperocini. Add pasta. Add rest of olive oil along with the tomato olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Toss with chili flakes. Add cherry tomatoes, kalamata olive, red onion and Italian parsley. Let stand refrigerated for at least one hour.

You can pack this entire dish into a zip lock baggie and serve when you're ready. Or have all ingredients ready to add to your pasta if you are cooking pasta outdoors. Just give the pasta enough time to cool down and drain well. You want the flavors to penetrate the pasta for optimum flavor. (Here's how I prepare for the dish. I pack my cold pasta in a large tupperware bowl. Then I have the oils, spices and dried tomatoes in one small ziplock baggie. Then I have another baggie filled with the red peppers, asparagus and carrots. I keep the cherry tomatoes, kalamata olives, sliced red onion and parsley ready to cut up. Then I assemble right before serving.)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

7-UP Grill Marinade

Camping and grilling go together. This summer make it easy with smaller cuts of meat. They cook faster! Grilled meats are easy to do if you follow some basic rules. Keep the meats small and uniform and you'll never have to guess if they're done.

Slice all meats into the same size and thickness (2 - 3 lbs)
tons of garlic (as much as you can stand)
bunch green onions (scallions)
7-up (or orange juice)
bay leaf
cracked black pepper
chili flakes
soy sauce

Pat dry all the meat. Place into a large ziplock baggie. Add as much crushed/sliced garlic as you can tolerate. (I like to put in about 20 cloves or 3 large heads) Add chopped green onions including the greens. Pour a can of 7-up or 1 cup of orange juice over everything. Add sprigs of rosemary, tyme, oregano and bay leaf. Add pepper to your liking along with a pinch of chili flakes. Pour enough soy sauce to cover the meats. (I know, I never measure... you'll have to base it on your own personal taste). Let marinate overnight.

Next day, fire up the grill. When smoking hot, sear each piece of meat. Then place all meats towards a lower heat to slowly cook. If your meats were pounded thin, this won't take long to cook. Make sure the chicken is cooked throughly. The beef can be cooked to each person's personal liking, though, I like all my meat cooked throughly. And a reminder... don't add salt. The soy sauce is salty enough.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Cucumber Salad

The Japanese have a lot of recipes with cucumbers. A cooling and refreshing vegetable that will take some of the bite out of hot summer days, here's one of our favorite recipes. This salad is best after marinating for at least 30 minutes.

cucumbers (armenian or regular american)
Japanese mirin (sweet sake vinegar)
seaweed (dry sheet for making sushi)
toasted sesame
carrot (optional)

add these variations for an Italian influence
omit the seaweed for these variations
tomato (optional)
red onion (optional)
cracked black pepper (optional)

Wash and dry cucumbers. Use a mandoline or a very sharp knife and slice as thin as possible creating circles. (A decorative touch for slicing cucumbers: peel the cucumber leaving strips of green skin; slice as instructed.) Toss into a small colander to drain excess moisture. Take (1) seaweed sheet and gently toast it over a low flame. Careful, it will burn and curl very quickly. Just hold it above the flame and quickly turn it over using a rapid motion. Do this for 10 to 20 seconds. Put aside. Heat a small frying pan using a low heat. Toss sesame seeds into pan without any oil and heat them until you see a slight darkening to the seeds. Take out of pan and put to the side to cool. Toss the drained cucumbers into a decorative bowl. Add the Japanese mirin until cucumbers are thoroughly covered. Let stand until ready to eat. Take seaweed sheet and fold in half and then in quarters. Using kitchen shears, cut the seaweed into thin slices. Before serving the cucumber, add toasted seaweed strips and toasted sesame.

A decorative addition to this cooling salad is to cut carrots into thin matchsticks and add for a crunch. Another modification towards a more Mediterranean diet is to add small wedges of tomato and sliced red onion. Yum, and it becomes more like an Italian salad with an Asian kick. If you add the tomato and onion, omit the seaweed and don't forget to add some cracked black pepper.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Camp Chef

Memorial Day weekend is here and many of you are on our rafting trips this week. Our food buyers and chefs are busy preparing the meals for this holiday. Yum! So many people have asked us for our river rafting recipes, that we posted them on our website a few years ago. I also came across a collection of recipes from great-grandma who passed away and left me her entire collection of recipes from the 40's and 50's. Aye caramba... and there are some really great ones... love the jell-o molds and funny salads from the past... it's a history lesson in modern food.

Don't get too caught up with cooking this holiday weekend. Keep it simple and you'll enjoy the camping and partying much more if you're not slaving over the grill. Here's a great addition to the grilled meats and tofu that you might be having this Memorial Day weekend.

olive oil
crumbled blue cheese
diced red peppers
minced red onion
Italian or Blue Cheese dressing
cracked black pepper

Take the whole head of the romaine and wash gently without pulling the leaves off the core. Let dry (turn upside down so the water drains out of the leaves). Slice in half leaving the core. If the head of romaine is large, you should be able to slice each half again creating 4 quarter wedges. Crush a garlic clove and rub it over the leaves and core. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on the sliced romaine wedge. Add blue cheese liberally over each wedge. Sprinkle capers, red peppers and minced red onion. Drizzle your favorite Italian dressing or blue cheese dressing over the wedge right before you serve. Cracked black pepper to taste.

Sometimes, we add sliced asparagus to the wedge or fried calamari... and I like to add lemon zest to mine!