Camping Cookout 101 – Go Veggie

My family just got back from a camping trip with extended family and friends to Lake Millerton, CA.  We had a great time boating, swimming, visiting, reading and cooking.  I must admit our camping meals were pretty great.  No simple hamburgers and hot dogs at this campsite.  We had everything from sausages, to grilled veggies, to homemade chili (my sister’s prize winning),  to scratch scones (pumpkin and lemon poppyseed, thank you), to grape leaves and hummus wraps, to orzo salad, etc… Did I mention pretty much everything was vegetarian, or vegan?  My sister organized the trip and she and I divided meals and shopping.  Since she is vegan and other family members are vegetarian (my daughter of course) we went with what would be easy and satisfy everyone.

Surprisingly, the most beneficial part of the vegetarian cook outs was no bees.  There are so many times I dread eating outdoors because I think the bees are going to come eventually.  Do you eat fast?  Or buy something to keep them away?  I’ve heard everything from citronella candles to dryer sheets (not what I want to breathe when I’m eating).  Now we know, just don’t cook meat.  Ah ha!My extended family sat quietly enjoying our camp dinners, while our friends at neighboring tables were running and screaming from yellow jackets.  Not fun.  Especially with little ones.

There is a great spread about camping, cookouts and favorite chef recipes in this month’s Sunset Magazine.  Ironically, I read it while camping.  I plan to make this fire-roasted veggie salad at home on the grill for Labor Day and keep the pests away.

Fire-Roasted Vegetable Salad

(by Russell Moore of Camino in Oakland, CA)

1 garlic clove

  • 2 tablespoons high-quality red wine vinegar
  • 4 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise 1/2 in. thick
  • 3 ears corn, husks and silks removed
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, cored
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • About 3/4 tsp. kosher salt, divided
  • About 1/2 tsp. pepper, divided
  • 2 whole onions, unpeeled
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 2 yellow bell peppers
  • 1 cup lightly packed fresh mint leaves, torn into pieces
  • 1. Build a wood fire* in a camp grill or fire ring, using about 4 logs and some kindling; let burn to medium (you can hold your hand 5 in. above cooking grate only 5 to 7 seconds), about 1 hour. Adjust fire so there’s a thick area of embers and smaller logs in the middle and larger logs to the sides.

    2. Smash garlic, put in a small bowl with vinegar, and set aside. In a large bowl, toss zucchini, corn, and tomatoes with 2 tbsp. oil, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper.

    3. Place onions in embers between some smaller logs and cook, turning every 10 minutes or so, until completely black and soft when squeezed with tongs, 25 to 40 minutes. Meanwhile, set peppers on embers and cook, turning every few minutes, until completely charred, about 20 minutes. Transfer vegetables to a board and let cool.

    4. Set cooking grate in place, if using a portable one. Grill zucchini, corn, and tomatoes (in batches, if needed), turning occasionally, until grill marks appear, 5 to 35 minutes, depending on distance from fire.

    5. Pull off blackened outsides from onions and peppers. Cut corn kernels from cobs into large bowl. Cut remaining vegetables into slices or strips, discarding seeds; add to bowl.

    6. Stir remaining 6 tbsp. oil into vinegar with remaining 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper. Toss gently with vegetables, add mint, and more salt and pepper if you like.

    *Or cook all the vegetables over (but not in) a medium (350° to 450°) charcoal fire, adding 8 briquets every 30 minutes.

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