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Camp Cooking with Local Food

By Shelby Thompson

It’s universally accepted that food tastes better outside, which is one of the many reasons I love camp cooking. Planning each and every meal – from your morning coffee to the non-negotiable campfire s’mores – is rewarding and also a bit daunting. With some foresight, planning, and flexibility, you can incorporate the veggies from your CSA share into some delicious camp meals that will fuel you for fun days filled with hikes, hammocks, and happy times. 

Frantically searching your kitchen for all of the tools, spices, and foods you’ll need to cook at camp isn’t a great way to spend the night before you leave for a trip. Because I’ve done this exact thing too many times, I now keep a checklist of all the cooking tools and spices I know I’ll want to bring on each camping trip: a cast iron skillet, plastic cutting board, spice kit, and olive oil, to name a few. Then, I write out every recipe I plan to make on the trip and make sure that I have every ingredient and tool I’ll need to make that dish. This requires some dedicated time and thorough thinking – after all, it’s unlikely that you’ll find a potholder in the woods. You can make this easier on yourself by preparing as much as possible (chop those veggies! make that sauce! grate that cheese!) at home and by incorporating simple meals like oatmeal and PB&J sandwiches into your meal plan. 

The first night of a camping trip is exhausting and exhilarating – you’ve spent hours packing, planning, and driving, and by the time you set up camp are probably ready to relax. I always rely on veggie burgers for the first night of a camping trip – specifically the NexVeg tepary bean burgers sold in the CSA shop, but you can bring your favorite kind. I simply retrieve the frozen pack of veggie burgers from the cooler and cook them up on a cast iron skillet over the fire or camp stove. At that point, all you need to complete the meal are buns, condiments, a bag of chips and your favorite beer. 

Anything-goes pasta is easy enough to make at camp and works with pretty much every CSA vegetable. The basic recipe is: one pound of pasta, one onion, a few cloves of garlic, and about 3-4 cups of chopped seasonal veggies. I sauté́ the onion, then add the garlic and the rest of the veggies while the pasta is cooking. Once everything is tender, I toss it all together with a lot of olive oil, red chili flakes, and Parmesan that I’ve grated at home. In the spring this might look like carrot and fennel pasta; in the summer it’s usually bursting with juicy tomatoes, corn, and summer squash; in the fall it’s grated butternut squash with lots of garlic and black pepper; in the winter it’s broccoli and goat cheese. It’s quick, easy, and incredibly satisfying after a long day outside. 

To make hardy sandwiches that hold up well on hikes, I bring a sheet pan of focaccia bread, a wedge of hard cheese, Dijon mustard, and pre-cooked seasonal veggies. These can be assembled the day(s) you want to eat them and are great if you’re feeling a bit tired of the traditional PB&J… if that’s even possible! Roasted and sliced beets, smoky eggplant, grilled zucchini, caramelized onions, juicy summer tomatoes, 

candy-sweet roasted carrots, and tender greens all go wonderfully on these sandwiches. If you don’t want to make the focaccia bread yourself, Barrio Bread and Beyond Bread both sell great versions of the soft and flavorful bread. 

No matter what you choose to cook on your camping trip, it’s sure to taste better outdoors!