Nectarine Blackberry Cobbler with Coconut-Oat Topping

This show-stopping cobbler recipe–featuring peak-of-season nectarines and blackberries–has half the sugar and butter you’d find in a regular cobbler recipe, yet packs a much richer flavor thanks to whole oats, raw coconut, sour cream and lemon zest.



Give Your Camp Kitchen a Gourmet Upgrade

We just got back from an incredible camping trip in Hope Valley, Calif., and I wanted to share some of the tricks and tips we’ve gleaned about “gourmet camping” over the years (to see our full five-day menu, click here).

With the right camping gear you can turn out amazing, easy camping food in mere minutes, which leaves lots of time for Uno, stories and s’mores. And, when your gear is strategically doing double duty, you’re not loaded down with an excess of camping equipment. Here’s how we set up our camp kitchen.

gourmet-camping-foodPhotos (clockwise from left): Our big helper, Noemi. Our trusty Coleman in the foreground, and our “drying rack” in the background. Awesome first night dinner of Sticky-Spicy Eggplant over a Village Harvest wheat berry mix. (I heated the wheat berries first, then put them in a bowl above the pot to keep warm while reheating the eggplant that I’d made at home and packed in the cooler in a zip-top bag)

1) Make everything you bring do multiple duties. Tongs = fire pokers. Metal mixing bowls = pot lids. Foil = wrapper and makeshift cookie-esque sheet for grill grates.

2) Get a knife roll to hold your kitchen equipment. Trust me, it is by far the best (and safest) way to keep your kitchen gear together.

camp-kitchen-gearPhotos (clockwise from top left): Our “drying rack” of screen mesh. The top loose ends of the mesh folded over the rope and secured with clothes pins. Our knife roll … everything for the camp kitchen together in one place.

3) Set up a drying “rack.” Here’s how: String a rope between two trees roughly 8 to 10 feet apart. Fold a 5-by-4-foot piece of standard window screen mesh in half so it measures 2-1/2-by-4 feet. Fold both edges of the long side opposite the fold over the rope by 3 inches and secure every 6 inches with clothes pins. Tuck clean, wet dishes into the mesh pocket to dry.


4) Think of “evolutionary meals.” Our Greek salad turned into a panzanella for a picnic the next day with leftover stale bread, which then disintegrated into a sort of rustic gazpacho that Noemi gobbled up as an appetizer before dinner.

5) Make hurricane votives from mason jars.

gourmet-camping-mealsPhotos (clockwise from left): Hurricane mason jar “votive.” The beginning: Greek Salad. The end: rustic, post-panzanella gazpacho.

6) Cook for more than one meal when you can. When you’re boiling pasta, make enough–and plan for–another meal as well. Pasta, rice, oatmeal … all double super well and can be dressed up with different toppings the next day for an almost instant meal.

Camp mealsPhotos (clockwise from top left): Cooking double the pasta–half for the melted squash, half for tomato sauce the next day. Grilling a breakfast peanut butter and banana quesadilla over the morning campfire. Pasta with “Melted” Summer Squash (I’d made this ahead of time and packed it in the cooler in a zip-top bag … it’s even better after a few days. Then just reheat in the pot with the pasta).

7) Use the campfire when you can. For s’mores, of course. And souvlaki, cheese–and even peanut butter and banana–quesadillas, too. Place a piece of foil on the grates above the fire for extra gooey dishes, or to keep foods warm.

8) Bring two wash tubs. One for hot, sudsy water and one to rinse.

Camping in Hope Valley

Our Camp Kitchen Equipment List

  • Coleman 2-burner stove (plus propane)
  • Skewers
  • Cast iron griddle
  • Medium skillet
  • Medium pot
  • Large black kettle
  • Cutting board (1 large, 1 small)
  • 3 metal bowls
  • Mesh food covers
  • Knife Roll
    • Tongs (2 pairs)
    • Spatula
    • Stiff spatula
    • Stirring spoon
    • Can opener
    • Small serrated knife
    • Small chef’s knife
  • Foil
  • Zip-top plastic bags
  • 5-by-4-foot screen mesh
  • Mason jars
  • Votive candles
  • Plates, bowls, cups and cutlery (1 set for each camper)
  • 2 wash tubs
  • Environmentally safe dish soap
  • sponges
  • Towels


Real Greek Salad

I used to make this Greek salad at the “Souvlaki Stand” on the island of Corfu. To this day, it remains my favorite summer salad. It’s classic. It’s simple. It can be a meal or a side. It’s the epitome of summer vegetables in their simple glory.


Sticky-Spicy Sauteed Asian Eggplant

Not everyone is an eggplant lover. But this eggplant recipe may change that. Long, slender Asian eggplant are no-fuss, and soak up the spicy, sweet, sticky sauce they’re doused with when creamy and tender. This is a hearty, gluten-free, vegetarian main course paired with brown rice, quinoa or even wheat berries, but would also make a terrific side dish.



Summer Camping Menu Planning

We’re packing up for a trip to Hope Valley in Tahoe (click here for a peek at our camp kitchen), and as we were planning our menus it occurred to me that y’all might enjoy seeing what’s on our list. Planning meals for a camping trip is a lot like planning meals for a busy week … only with a heck of a lot less refrigerator space. I have to give big props to my husband for taking the lead this year. Thanks, honey!

For breakfasts, we’ll keep it simple with oatmeal, granola and cereal with nuts and fruit. Lunches will be strategic amalgamations and re-vamps of our dinners. And dinners themselves need to be as close to one pot (or grill) as possible. So here’s the plan:

Molasses-Cranberry-Granola* SUNDAY NIGHT — I’m making Sticky-Spicy Thai Eggplant before we leave with the bunches of Asian eggplant we have hanging in the garden. We’ll heat that up Sunday night with some quinoa I have leftover in the fridge. Dessert will be fresh plums from the farmers market.

* MONDAY LUNCH — I’ve got a big batch of this “Melted” Squash on the stove right now, and it will play a couple of different roles on our trip. For Monday lunch, I’m going to cook up an omelet with half the squash as a filling and a bit of feta cheese (the rest of which will be used Monday night in the Greek salad).

* MONDAY DINNER — Souvlaki has somehow become a camping standard for us. Christopher has cubes of pork marinating in olive oil, garlic and oregano, all ready to go onto skewers and over the campfire Monday night. He’s making a garlicky Tzatziki and I’m making Melizansalata Eggplant Dip, both of which will only get better over time. We’re also bringing up the makings for a Greek salad from our garden. Dessert … s’mores.

south-melizansalata* TUESDAY LUNCH — Leftovers from Monday dinner–marinated Greek salad, Tzatziki and chopped pork–will go into pitas for an easy lunch.

* TUESDAY DINNER — The rest of that Squash will get tossed with pasta tonight (we’ll make extra pasta for Wednesday lunch), and any leftover feta.

* WEDNESDAY LUNCH — Christopher is making a nice, chunky tomato sauce that he’ll freeze (one of our strategies for keeping the cooler cool). We’ll toss it with the leftover pasta on Wednesday for lunch.

* WEDNESDAY DINNER — The last night is our classic “cookout night.” Hot dogs, sausages and baked beans. I’ve got a big batch of beans frozen, along with the hot dogs and sausages, that we’ll let thaw Wednesday. Dessert … definitely s’mores again.

baked-beansYou might notice an “arc” to these menus. First, the perishable dishes are used right away. Second, “marinated” stuff–dishes that gain flavor as they sit–gets used mid-trip. Third, frozen items help keep the cooler chill, and then are defrosted and used at the end of the trip.

I’ll be checking in with pics on Facebook if I can get service. Otherwise, I’ll post pics of our sweet kitchen setup (wait until you see our “dish rack”) next week.