Well, we made it. In spite of intense humidity, thunderstorms, dangerous rip tides, flying ant infestations, and complications too feminine in nature to mention outright, we managed to have a really wonderful camping trip with my family.
In my family, there are two kinds of camping: car camping and backpacking. Car camping involves packing your car to overflowing with every possible gadget and form of amusement you could possibly need, and driving to a site that has running water and electricity. Golf clubs, bikes, bocce and koob, not one but two coolers of food, a large awning, camp chairs, a music system, portable burners and cast iron pans - all usually make it onto the list for car camping! Backpacking though, well, that's all about minimalism. Your gear is limited to what you're strong enough to carry on your back. You're lucky if you get to have a pillow, and it will absolutely not be the nice fluffy one from your bed at home! Games come in the form of cards, and food is of the instant, dehydrated variety.
Guess which version we did?
True, some may decry car camping as not "real" enough, since we're not really "roughing" it, but any camping trip that lets me start my morning with French press coffee and buckwheat corn cakes with berries and Maine maple syrup leaves me feeling like . . . well, a happy camper!
And to be completely honest? Truly roughing it with young kids in tow sounds like the exact opposite of a vacation to me. So for now, I'll take the working toilets, swimming pools, mini golf courses, and trolley rides, and enjoy my time with my family, one which happens to include a young boy who cried, "I don't want to leave! I want to stay here forever!" A sure sign of a successful vacation, wouldn't you say?
Now, since this is a food blog, I feel that I should give you the rundown of what we ate. None of it was that spectacular or even really special, except for one little thing: for me and my dad, it was all gluten-free. Regardless of what kind of camping you do, cooking is never as elaborate or involved as it is at home; coolers and camp stoves are great, but do a poor job of mimicking a home kitchen. And throw the gluten-free wrench into the mix, and it can be very tempting to stock up on lots of prepackaged foods to get you through the trip. And I'm not saying we didn't rely more heavily on processed foods than usual (these cookies are a traditional camping treat), but I made an effort to plan and make as much in advance as I could, and it really paid off.
We had hamburgers on Shauna's hamburger buns. Black and blue shortcake on my biscuits. (It sounds hostile. It's not - we used wild Maine blackberries and blueberries!) Rebecca Reilly's perfect gluten-free graham crackers, which never made it into s'mores, but were perfect for snacking on. Bacon and egg breakfast sandwiches on these gluten-free English muffins. And of course, those buckwheat corn cakes, which was one of the easiest camping breakfasts I've done in a long time. I had measured out all the dry ingredients into a ziploc bag before we left, and taped instructions for mixing up the batter onto the bag. I even brought along a tiny jar of pre-measured buttermilk! (Why bring the whole bottle if I only need a quarter cup?) We dumped everything into a mixing bowl and stirred it up while the pan was heating. They cooked up quickly, everyone loved them, and they were a nice, healthy way to launch a day that would later include lots of ice cream and pier fries. They are absolutely my new camping go-to breakfast.
So yes, we ate well. We even stopped at a very good barbecue joint on the way home (they were knowledgeable about gluten-free foods, and assured me that all the sauces on the table were safe), and topped it off with a trip to Ben & Jerry's (because we just hadn't had enough ice cream!).
But as good as the food may have been - and it was! - it was really just a minor accessory to the trip. Because, as much as it may often feel like my whole life is about food, sometimes it's decidedly not.
Instead, it's about telling stories by the campfire late at night. Relaxing and doing absolutely nothing while my youngest one naps. Enjoying a beautiful sunset amidst the cacophony of amusement park bustle. Standing at the edge of the ocean, marveling at the power of the waves. And of course, per the usual these days, watching my children grow in leaps and bounds before my eyes. Swimming? Putting your face in the water? Going on rides all by yourself? Really?? Yes. All of it. No food required.
However, since this is a food blog, and a gluten-free baking one at that, I can't let you go without a recipe. Especially since we're off again in two days for my cousin's wedding, and my oldest childhood friend comes into town after that, so it might be awhile before you get another post from me. The night before we left I made this summer squash tart, and it was a great, easy dinner, one which was also the perfect breakfast the next morning, eaten in fits and starts as we rushed about the house, trying to accomplish all the last-minute packing and organizing in order to leave soon!soon!soon! before we lost most of the day. And it's great going-away food, since it used up some aging squash, perishable goat cheese, and almost-forgotten herbs. It was inspired by Deb's and Jen's galettes. Because really, aren't we all inspired by Deb and Jen?
Summer Squash Tart
makes one 11-inch tart
One recipe gluten-free pie crust
8 oz fresh goat cheese (Vermont Butter & Cheese is a good, widely-available product)
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan (I use my microplane)
1 large egg
1 Tbsp coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
1 Tbsp coarsely chopped fresh oregano
drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil (about 2 Tbsp, at the most, depending on how dry your goat cheese is)
salt and pepper, to taste
1 small zucchini
1 small yellow squash
2 pieces cooked bacon, crumbled
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 350°. Roll out the pie dough and transfer it to your tart pan, patching any cracks or holes that form. (I used my largest removable-bottom tart pan, which is 11 inches across. I was able to stretch a single-batch of pie dough to about 14 inches, which fit the pan perfectly. Good to know.) Press plastic wrap against the surface of the tart dough to protect it from drying out, and refrigerate until needed.
In a small food processor or blender, combine the goat cheese, Parmesan, egg, chopped herbs, and just enough olive oil to make a smooth pureé. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Alternately, if your goat cheese is pretty creamy, you could do this by hand in a small bowl.)
Take the tart pan out of the refrigerator, remove the plastic wrap, and spread the goat cheese pureé evenly over the bottom.
Slice the zucchini and squash into thin rounds, and lay them in overlapping circles over the goat cheese. Scatter the crumbled bacon over the whole thing, and season with salt and pepper.
Place the tart pan on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 45-55 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the squash slices are soft (some may be just starting to brown). Allow the tart to cool in the pan until it's cool enough for you to carefully remove the base from the rim of the tart pan. Slice into wedges, and drizzle with your favorite olive oil. Tart is great served warm or at room temperature.
*via the esteemable Dave Barry.