Thursday, July 16, 2009

summer tomatoes

Tomatoes are super sweet in the valley of California. This is home to some of the best tomatoes grown in the world. Most valley farmers also grow heirloom tomatoes. Heirlooms are featured colorful orbs in the farmers' market throughout all the communities of our Golden state.

When the tomato is in season, it is best eaten simply and plainly. Let the flavor rule the dish! Here is a simple dish for tomato and pasta lovers. With the addition of fresh basil, this dish will seem like a gourmet celebration made at the best restaurant in town! You will never miss "jar tomato sauce."

1 Tbsp of olive oil
1/4 cup of olive oil
1/2 head of garlic (or more)
diced 1/2 onion (sautee)
30 cherry tomatoes (yellow heirlooms)
10 basil leaves
1/4 tblsp of chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1/4 tbsp of chopped fresh oregano
salt, pepper to taste
parmesan cheese (optional)

Bring a pot of water w/ 1 Tbsp of oil to a boil to cook the pasta. While waiting for water to boil, place a skillet on medium high heat w/ 1/8th of cup of oil. Add diced onions and sautee. Add garlic and slightly brown. Add cherry tomatoes. Stir until tomatoes are completely wilted and skins are falling off. Stir and add all herbs. The mix will be a light sauce. Meantime, drain the cooked pasta lightly and place all noodles into the skillet to coat the pasta. Because the pasta is not well-drained, the starches will make the light tomato sauce creamy without the addition of cheeses or dairy products. Add the rest of the olive oil. Toss. Add more chopped basil on top before you serve. This is a total vegan dish without the cheese topping.

Variations: add leftover meats or other vegetables. This is also a great accompaniment to a pot luck where it can be served at room temperature... but it is best enjoyed with a group of friends sitting around a campfire and talking about the rafting trip that you just did. Woot!

Thank you Wikipedia for the Heirloom Tomato info and picture!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Camping & Rafting : Tri Tip Roast

The guy is bonkers about food. He's our camp chef on the American River trips in California. Steve can be found squeezing avocados at dawn at the local markets for the best of the squishy delight or gathering melons from the local farmers markets for the best quality flesh. Either way, he is passionate about all things food. (I even heard that he watches the Food Channel for grilling and cooking tips!)

Steve's been beta testing recipes again and all of us at the office have been guinea pigs to his gourmet treats. Here's one that we all loved and hope to see on the next river rafting camping trip on the South Fork American.

1 large tri-tip
Marinade to cover tri tip (salad dressing is easiest; add other ingredients)
head of garlic (peeled, cut in half; see below, save a few cloves)
1/4 diced scallions
handful of herbs (use your favorite; rosemary, thyme, etc)
soy sauce (splash or to your taste)*optional
1/2 cup of olive oil
1/4 cup diced onions
whole onions (cut in half)
10 small yukon or red potatoes (cut in half)
splash of wine (*optional)
6 large carrots cut into thirds
2 cups of cleaned brussel sprouts (make a small cut x at the bottom to cook thoroughly)

Marinade the tri tip in a ziplock baggie with your favorite marinade. Add garlic cloves (add a whole head or just part of it), green onions and any herbs to the baggie. Add a splash of soy sauce (*optional). Set aside for at least an hour or overnight in the refrigerator or cooler. Add 1/4 cup of olive oil into a roasting pan or heavy dutch oven. Heat to high. With tongs, add meat and sear on all sides helping to seal in juices. Take meat out and set aside onto a clean plate. Add the rest of the olive oil into pan. Heat to medium high and add diced onions and garlic. Heat until onions are slightly browned. Add halved onions & potatoes. Add meat with all juices. Add a splash of wine*. Roast in 450 degree oven or dutch oven for approximately 30 minutes. Add carrots and brussel sprouts at the end. Continue cooking until done to your liking for approx 10 to 15 more minutes. Serve after letting the meat rest for 10 minutes. Serve with an additional salad or crusty grilled baguette... but the potatoes are already in it so it really is a one pot meal!


Variations: for vegetarians or vegans just separate the meat from the vegetables into two roasting pans. Prepare vegetables and add olive oil, salt, pepper and herbs. Toss well, coating all vegetables. Roast at 450 degrees as instructed before. Serve when potatoes are done. Add a meat substitute like grilled tofu to complete this vegetarian or vegan dish. Groups rafting with us will love this hardy meal!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Mushrooms are plentiful at the farmer's market in California. I look for large caps that are still connected to the stems. What I like to do is use leftovers when making this easy dish. Use leftover bread ends, mushrooms and other veggies in your fridge. Keep it simple and you will make this easy recipe at least 3 or 4 times a month. If you are river camping, try this same dish in the dutch oven.

12 large whole mushrooms (button, crimini, etc)
1/4 olive oil (split into two portions)
1 head of garlic chopped and minced
1/2 yellow onion diced
1 cup chopped mushrooms (stems from the whole mushroom)
1/2 cup of spinach (cooked, chopped & drained)
thyme, rosemary, oregano (variety of herbs that you like)
salt, pepper
1/2 cup of dried out bread crumbs
handful of cherry tomatoes

Brush and clean mushrooms. Break off stem carefully leaving cap whole. Chop stems and set to side. In a large skillet, place 1 portion of olive oil into skillet. Add garlic to flavor the oil. Add diced onions and carmelize slowly (translucent w/ dark brown edges). Add chopped mushrooms and saute until all moisture is gone. Add spinach. Add herbs, salt & pepper. Add bread crumbs at the end. Mix well and let cool. Rub each mushroom cap with a little olive oil (use reserved 2nd portion of oil). Place cap side down onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Add a dollop of mixture to each mushroom cap. Add a tiny bit of tomato (I use 1/2 of a cherry tomato to top each cap). Drizzle left over olive oil over the entire platter of stuffed mushrooms. Broil until tomato is totally wilted and mushrooms look cooked (dry and dark). (approx 10 min or less depending on size of mushroom).

Variations for non-vegans or non-vegetarians: add cooked Italian sausage to the mixture prior to the chopped mushrooms. Omit seasonings due to sausage seasoning. Add a sprinkle of parmesan cheese before you broil. Another great variation is to add ricotta cheese to the mix and then prepare as outlined above.

Serves 4 to 5 people as an addition to the main course. Stuffed mushrooms are also a great hors d'ouevres at room temperature! Try different mixes and don't be afraid to experiment!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Brussel Sprouts with Yukon Gold Potatoes

Winters in California are highlighted with cruciferous and root vegetables. Brussel sprouts on the stem are at the farmer's market throughout the valley and coastline. Broccoli, so sweet, that just a light steaming will suffice. Yukon gold potatoes, the creamy yellow flesh rivals all potatoes for flavor. All are so good along with the fresh winter onions that look like gigantic fresh green shallots. Here's a great veggie and vegan dish that will have you craving for more on the next camping or rafting trip!

Brussel Sprouts with Yukon gold potato
Dutch oven or large iron skillet
1/4 cup of olive oil (or less)
1 whole large diced yellow onion
1 bunch of chopped shallots or fresh winter onions
3 large diced Yukon gold potatoes
1/4 stem of fresh brussel sprouts
1 cup of cleaned cut broccoli heads
1 Tbsp of oyster sauce (skip this for vegans)
soy sauce to taste (omit if using oyster sauce)
splash of rice wine vinegar
pinch of chili flakes

Add 2 Tbsp of olive oil to a large skillet. Heat until oil is medium. Add diced onions. Saute until edges are carmelized. Add diced shallots. Continue to carmelize both onions. Push to the side of the pan. Add more oil. Add diced potato and cook until translucent. Push to the side of the pan. Add brussel sprouts. (if cut in half, they will cook faster) As brussel sprouts start to wilt, add broccoli heads. Cook until heads are bright green. Add oyster sauce or soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and a pinch of chili flakes. Stir all ingredients gently; try not to smash the potato. Serve immediately.

Variations: add cooked meat; chicken, pork, beef to make this a one-pot meal. Add kale, cabbage or other greens to this dish at the very end of the cooking process for even more of a cruciferous boost!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Creamy Pan Fried Potatoes

Potatoes are a favorite among everyone. Fried, mashed, boiled or baked, the lowly potato can be a featured dish for breakfast, lunch or dinner. On camping and rafting trips, the potato rules. Easy to pack and store, that starchy tubor is king on overnight and wilderness trips. Keep them dry or they will deteriorate. We used to keep them in ammo boxes so they were locked and kept dry on extended trips through the Grand Canyon, Middle Fork Salmon and American river trips. But now, there are so many high-tech containers to keep stuff dry on water, that I highly recommend bringing that potato along. Start with this breakfast hash... the rafters and campers will love it.

Creamy Pan Fried Potatoes
large frying pan or dutch oven
1/4  cup + 2Tbsp olive oil (or your fav oil)
2 med diced yellow onions
1 cup of chopped raw bacon (or vegan substitute)
10 large potatoes diced into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup of water
pan lid or dutch oven lid
salt and pepper to your liking
1/2 cup of chopped parsley (Italian is good) or lemon thyme
options: cheddar cheese (or vegan sub)
options: eggs (or vegan sub)

Prepare all chopped ingredients first, set aside. Heat pan to medium. Add olive oil. Add onions. Carmelize onions slowly by letting them cook until edges are dark and center is translucent. Push to the side of the pan. Add bacon and cook thoroughly. Mix the onions and bacon together and push to the side of the pan. Add additional oil to the empty side (if real bacon, you won't need the oil). Add potatoes and coat with oil. Mix pan ingredients together. Heat until pan is hot again. Add water and cover immediately. (Be careful, steam will rise when you add the water) Hint: don't open the lid for 5 to 8 min or you will have to add more water. Check potatoes with the tines of the fork for softness. Uncover when potatoes are done. Add salt and pepper. Toss the ingredients. You will notice they are very creamy. (I hate dry potatoes) No fat or dairy, just water will bring out the starches and creamiest to this dish. Add parsley and serve.

Optional eggs: when the potatoes are done, push to the side. Add as many eggs as you like at the empty side of the pan. Add a bit of salt and pepper on top of the eggs. Let set then scramble. When eggs are set, toss the entire pan ingredients together into an egg potato hash. Add parsley. Serve immediately. (should serve approx 8 people... yeah right... rafting guides say about 4-6 hardy eaters Haha!)