A Couple’s Guide to Camp Cuisine

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How to spice it up for "date night" on the trail

My husband, David, and I are constantly searching for balance. We started our company, Good To-Go, over 2 ½ years ago, which has pretty much swallowed up any free time that we once had to spend together, and sadly the idea of a “date night” has gone to the wayside.

My idea of a great time together is sitting down to a wonderful meal at one of our favorite restaurants. I just love food, eating, and the whole ritual of dining.  My husband’s idea of a great time together is hiking up multiple mountains in a day. Granted, I love to hike—I just love dining out more.

A photo posted by Good To-Go (@goodtogofoods) on

David made it his mission for our little dog, Bella, to summit all of the 48 4,000-footers in New Hampshire's White Mountains by the end of 2016. So I thought I could throw in a little of what I like to do with what David and Bella like most.

I then decided to make a great "date night" out of Bella’s last 4,000 footer summit, Mount Moosilauke. What tops dining out? Dining outside, of course! As much as I think it would be funny to dine on Moussaka on top of Moosilauke, I realized bringing up a pan of the delicious Greek eggplant layered dish, topped with a rich Bechamel sauce, would not be practical. This mission did get my creative cooking juices flowing, however.

What could I make as the best celebratory “date night” dinner for my sweet husband and me, including a few nibbles tossed to Bella as well? Light and compact was my goal (we were hiking, obviously, so everything had to be carried in our packs). Also, everything needed to be ready to go. No prepping food, cutting vegetables, or slow simmering anything on the summit. I wanted to whip this meal together, at the top, in just a few minutes. A little more preparation in my kitchen at home made this easy-peasy out on the mountain.

I came at my menu two-fold: What would we like to eat, and how would I present it?  In all restaurants, as the chef knows, you first eat with your eyes and then your mouth. Being that it was fall in New England, I focused on hearty comfort food, and let me tell you, it was perfect. This was our menu.

Trailside Date Night

Hor d'ouevres
Wine, Cheese & Olives

Main Course
Herbed Potato Gnocchi with Brussels Sprouts & Bacon

Dessert
Banana & Nutella French Toast Sandwiches

This may all sound crazy difficult, but once I explain how to prepare this, you too can make this on the trail with very little effort.

Equipment List:

1 stove—I always hike with my Jetboil

1 sauté pan—Jetboil makes an awesome 10” sauté pan

2 wine glasses—GSI makes wine glasses perfect for the outdoors

2 bowls

2 sporks

Pocket knife (or whichever knife you prefer)

Slotted spatula, or other slotted utensil

Any other romantic decor you wish to carry!

Wine, Cheese & Olives

Photo: Jenn Scism

This one is pretty self-explanatory.

  • Pour your favorite bottle of wine into a Platypus or other travel-safe bottle.
  • Bring three hard cheeses (hard because you can pack them tightly and hard cheese is safe without refrigeration for several hours). I suggest a Spanish manchego, an aged Dutch gouda, and a wedge of Grana Padano (reserve a piece for the potato gnocchi course).
  • To accompany the cheese, bring a delicious mixture of olives. Most local groceries sell olives seasoned with herbs and marinated in olive oil. I suggest double bagging the olives to avoid the oil leaking in your pack.

Herbed Potato Gnocchi with Brussels Sprouts & Bacon

Photo: Jenn Scism

This dish takes little more prep work at home but is very simple to cook at the top.

Ingredients:

1 small onion—cut into ¼” dice

2 garlic cloves—minced

2 tbsp olive oil

1 ½  cups brussels sprouts

5 sprigs fresh thyme

3 sprigs fresh oregano

4 tbsp Grana Padano—grated (or other parmesan-style cheese)

3 tbsp unsalted butter

1 lb vacuum packed potato gnocchi (shelf-stable)

2.5 oz fully cooked shelf-stable bacon

Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation at Home:

  • Cook the diced onions with the olive oil in a small sauté pan set on low heat until the onions caramelize.
  • Photo: Jenn Scism

    Add the garlic and cook for a couple more minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Let them cool and pack into a small Ziploc bag. Refrigerate.

  • Photo: Jenn Scism

    In fancy cooking terms, chiffonade the brussels sprouts (in laymen’s terms, thinly slice them). Pack into a Ziploc and refrigerate.

  • Finely chop the thyme and oregano and pack into a Ziploc.
  • Pack the grated cheese and butter into separate Ziploc bags.
  • The gnocchi and bacon are sold in bags and are already set to go.
  • I usually mix some sea salt and fresh cracked pepper together and bring that in a tiny bag.

On the Mountain Top:

  • Fill the sauté pan ¾ full with water and place on high heat.
  • Once boiling, add the gnocchi and cook on a moderate boil for 4 to 5 minutes or until they are all floating at the top.
  • I suggest bringing a slotted spatula that is held on the edge of the pan to strain the water off.
  • Photo: Jenn Scism

    This is a one-pan dish, so leave the gnocchi in the pan and add the butter, cooking over medium-high heat until the gnocchi is lightly browned and crispy.

  • Add the onions and garlic.
  • Tear the bacon into small pieces and add them to the pan, cooking for a minute or two.
  • Photo: Jenn Scism

    Add the brussels sprouts and a couple tablespoons of water, and cook until wilted.

  • Season the whole dish with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon out your delicious dinner into two bowls and top with the grated cheese.

Banana & Nutella French Toast Sandwiches

Photo: Jenn Scism

This is incredibly easy and so delicious.

Ingredients:

4 slices of your favorite soft bread—pre-cut into 3“ rounds

1 egg

1 tbsp unsalted butter

3 tbsp Nutella

1 small ripe banana

1 tsp sugar

Pinch of salt

Preparation at Home:

  • Photo: Jenn Scism

    Using a cup or glass, punch 3” round holes out of each slice of bread. Discard the crust.

  • Pack the bread and the egg into a small container so they don’t get smashed.

    Photo: Jenn Scism

  • Combine sugar and salt into a small container or Ziploc bag.
  • Portion the Nutella into a smaller container if you would prefer to not pack the jar.

On the Mountain:

  • Remove the egg and bread from the container. Using this container, whip the egg with your slotted spatula, adding the sugar and salt.
  • With the sauté pan heat on medium high, melt the butter.
  • Quickly dip the bread rounds into the egg mixture and place into the pan, cooking until puffy and golden.

    Photo: Jenn Scism

  • Remove French toast and set aside.
  • Slice the banana into ¼” slices (the peel works as a great cutting board).

    Photo: Jenn Scism

  • Add the bananas to the pan and cook for a minute or two, slightly browning them.
  • Assemble each sandwich with one French toast round, half of the Nutella, half of the sautéed bananas and top off with another French toast round.

It might be a little extra weight in your pack and some preplanning at home but I can assure you, whomever you surprise with this special “date night” will be thrilled. And lastly, if you’re hiking with your dog like we do, save a slice of bacon for them!

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