Camping SavoryGirl Style

I love camping...partially because it is so amazing to completely disconnect, be dirty and just not care for days at a time. But I also love it because I get to leisurely cook outside with the sun streaming down over me and a margarita in my hand. In my opinion, everything cooked over a campfire just tastes better so that's the only way we cook dinner when we camp.  I do allow a little camp stove for breakfast sometimes, but usually I'm a stickler about campfire cooking.

Since we're heading up to Lake Tahoe to go camping for Labor Day weekend I thought I'd share the SavoryGirl approach to camping. If I do say so myself, we eat pretty darn well!  We keep it relatively simple so clean-up isn't too intense but we've certainly moved beyond the typical burgers & hot dogs every night that most people associate with camping.

First things first, you have to go camping prepared if you want to eat well.  What you see above is my camping spice rack.  My spices at home are in these little magnetic tins hanging on a wall in my kitchen so when we go camping I stack them up and bring them along. Luckily (or unluckily) we live in bear country so pretty much everywhere we go camping has a nice big metal bear locker that works just fabulously to stick my spices to.  Seasoning at your fingertips!

We also bring along our good knives, cutting boards, can opener, wine key, aluminum foil, pot holders, tongs, camping pots/pans/plates/cups etc... so that we essentially have a fully stocked kitchen with us.  Essential if you want to cook well over the fire...so what exactly are we cooking?

Weekly Menu: August 26, 2012
Sunday: Oreccheitte with Braised Broccoli Rabe & Sausage
Monday: Grilled salmon and Summer Squash with Brown Rice Salad with Crunchy Sprouts & Seeds
Tuesday: Leftovers: Frozen Vegetarian Bean Cassoulet with Roasted Red Pepper & Spinach Salad
Wednesday: Leftovers: Orecchiette
Thursday: Leftovers: Vegetarian Bean Cassoulet with Salad
Friday: Camping at Lake Tahoe: Grilled Steaks and Sweet Potatoes in the Campfire
Saturday: Camping at Lake Tahoe: Chicken Fajitas with Refried Beans
We're keeping it simple this week as we gear up for our Labor Day Weekend camping trip to Lake Tahoe. Sunday is one of our all-time favorite dishes that is always in rotation, no matter what time of year. So admittedly, it's a bit of a more winter-y dish...but to be honest it has felt like winter in San Francisco the past few days! Monday we're grilling up some salmon and summer squash to serve alongside another batch of that Brown Rice Salad with Crunchy Sprout & Seeds that we made last week. It was that good...we decided to make a second batch as soon as we ran out of it last week!  We're depending on some leftovers we've had in the freezer to round out the rest of the week so we have time at night to start pulling together our camping gear and packing up.

Then we're heading up to Lake Tahoe nice and early on Friday...if you've never been, put it on your bucket list!  There are very few places as spectacular and amazing as Lake Tahoe in the summer. When we go camping we do it SavoryGirl style...cooking delicious food over the campfire all weekend long. I haul up my spices, knives, cutting boards, french press and we eat well...particularly for breakfast and dinner. We take it easy for lunch and go old school with PB&J to take on our hikes and down to the beach or we'll ride our bikes up to Tahoe City for lunch. Breakfast is eggs and bacon or pancakes on the camp stove. Of course, don't forget the s'mores fixins! Some people think it's crazy to cook so much while camping, but I love it because I get to cook outside and I have tons of free time so there's nothing else pulling for my attention!

Have a fantastic Labor Day Weekend...I hope it's full of fun, family, friends and of course fantastic food!
SavoryGirl’s Strawberry Shortcake

Nothing says summer like strawberry shortcake for dessert!  I grew up eating those little sponge cakes you buy at the store with cool whip but over the years I've developed a completely homemade strawberry shortcake recipe that I absolutely adore. It's super easy and well worth the tiny bit of extra effort over store brought. My recipe below makes enough for about 8 servings.

Berries: 3 baskets of fresh, ripe strawberries 2 tsp. sugar

Quarter strawberries into a medium sized bowl...if they're larger strawberries cut into sixths or eighths. Sprinkle with sugar, stir, cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit in the fridge for a minimum of 30 minutes.  This is called macerating...the sugar softens the berries and pulls the juices out of the berries so that you get a nice natural sauce along with your berries.
State Bird Provisions – Bon Appétit’s Best New Restaurant

The "dim-sum style" cart making it's rounds at State Bird Provisions

I may call myself a foodie but I am never on trend. So when I found myself celebrating our anniversary at State Bird Provisions the very same week that Bon Appétit named it the best new restaurant in the entire country I was extremely proud...especially since I completely agree with their rave review!  So what's all the hype around State Bird Provisions?  Well, in my opinion it's the perfect trifecta of fantastic food, warm and somewhat funky atmosphere and a unique style of service.  It wakes you up out of your "going out for another fancy dinner" stupor and makes you think, eating out should always be this fun!  And while it certainly would classify as sophisticated, high-end cuisine, it's done in an extremely approachable and affordable (in my "Bay Area skewed definition of affordable"opinion) manner.

The atmosphere has a bit of hipster funk to it, but in a mom's kitchen kind of way.  Quirky yet warm.  The service is extremely friendly which is important since the waitstaff interacts much more closely with the patrons due to the table-side explanations.  It may seem a bit slow to some, but I honestly think that's just because they kind of try to leave you alone when they're not explaining the food table-side so that they're not at your table the entire night!  It's a small enough place though, very easy to call someone over whenever you do need some extra attention.  You can also try to grab one of the bar seats overlooking the kitchen, which I honestly think would be the best seat in the house, but I always love watching the kitchen at work!

My recommendation?  Get to State Bird Provisions stat...before all of those globe-trotting foodies start pounding down the door to this small Western Addition gem.  It's the perfect spot before a show at the Fillmore or the Boom Boom Room or even Kabuki Theaters.  But when you go, go with an open mind. Be comfortable with deciding what to eat as you go and not knowing how many dishes you'll actually end up ordering. The dishes that come by dim-sum style ranged from $5-$9 each but they're enough to share 2-4 ways depending on how many you order. Yes, you can order items from the 5-7 items on the "commandables" list...but since that only represents about 1/3 of the actual dishes you'll be presented with throughout the night don't order too many.

For the two of us we ordered 2 commandable main dishes, 1 commandable starter, 6 table-side dishes and 2 desserts.  It sounds like a lot, but we were happily full by the end, not bursting at the seams...and remember, we were celebrating so we indulged a bit!  For all of that variety plus two drinks each and tip we spent about $130, which for San Francisco high-end cuisine and honestly one of the most fun nights at a restaurant I can remember felt like a bargain.  So you ready for the culinary photo tour?  Let's get started... Guinea Hen Dumplings at State Bird Provisions

Guinea Hen Dumplings in a delightful Pho-like broth.  We were slurping up every last drop of broth knowing that if this was the first taste we had a good night ahead of us!

Ahi Crudo with Quinoa and Chrysanthemum Greens at State Bird Provisions

Ahi Crudo with Quinoa and Chrysanthemum Greens...the delightful surprise in this dish was a combination of perfectly cooked quinoa with toasted crunchy quinoa sprinkled on top. Fantastic juxtaposition of textures.

Heirloom Tomato and Corn Salad with Salmon at State Bird Provisions

Heirloom Tomato & Corn Salad with Salmon.This dish had another great crispy crunch sprinkled on top and the salmon was cooked perfectly rare.  Lovely sophisticated touches added to one of my favorite summer salads.

Calabrian Chili Tofu with Pickles at State Bird Provisions

Oh, this reminded me of something you might get at Mission Chinese Food (another one of my quirky faves!).  Not nearly as spicy as it looks or what you would get at MCF but the Calabrian Chili Tofu complemented with a unique take on pesto and crunchy pickles was just so unique and delicious.  The texture of the tofu was divine as well...I'm not sure if it was homemade, but the firmness was just perfect.  Absolutely loved this dish.

Weekly Menu: August 19-25, 2012
Sunday: Takeout Pizza & Salad to celebrate Christian’s triathlon!
Monday: Fish & Bean Tacos with Avocado Salsa & Spicy Brussel Sprouts
Tuesday: Dinner with friends at Saha, my Check, Please Bay Area Reviewed Spot!
Wednesday: Grilled turkey sausage with Brown Rice Salad with Crunchy Sprouts & Seeds
Thursday: Chicken & Corn Soup with Chile-Mint Salsa
Friday: Leftovers: Brown Rice Salad with Sausage
Saturday: Leftovers: Chicken & Corn Soup
First things first...a huge congrats to Christian for completing his 3rd triathlon this Sunday!  In celebration we're indulging in some delivery pizza, which is rare for us and therefore feels special for Christian. I'll have to make sure I get a good workout in too so I deserve it! Monday is one of our old standbys...a fabulous take on fish tacos that is simple and healthy.

Tuesday we have a rare mid-week dinner date with some friends. My episode of Check, Please! Bay Area re-aired recently and a friend at work reached out wanting to get together and try my restaurant so we're heading to Saha. We haven't been in a while and obviously I love it, so I'm pretty excited to introduce some new friends to an old favorite.

Wednesday & Thursday are two new dishes from the June & August issues of Bon Appétit...my go-to resource for stellar recipes. Christian requested "something with lentils" this week so the Brown Rice salad looks like a nice way to incorporate them into a meal without it feeling like a heavy, winter-like dish. The chicken soup is a new take on one of our all-time favorites...Chicken Tortilla Soup. Not that the old favorite needs any fixing, but sometimes a fresh spin on an old dish is fun!  
Nectarine & Blue Cheese Salad with Plum Vinaigrette

This is a super simple recipe...one that you may have even come up with on your own in the past, but it's so yummy that I wanted to share it just to ensure it makes it into your summer repertoire.  The original recipe is from this month's Bon Appétit and can be found here but I've revised it slightly based on our preferences and ingredients.  I found that the vinaigrette as specified in the original recipe wasn't quite "plum-y" enough for me so most of my slight adjustments are focused there.  Otherwise this is a super flavorful and satisfying salad to serve alongside just about anything or enjoy on it's own.  Perfect way to enjoy the amazing nectarines in season right now!
San Pedro Market in Cusco, Peru

How I love visiting markets in foreign countries!  It's like a glimpse into the way the locals shop, eat, cook and really helps you understand their culture's perceptions around food.  Do they use the whole animal or mostly prime cuts?  Do the vendors want you to sample and try things you've never seen or are they more reserved and focused primarily on the business aspect of their stall? Are there fully prepared foods to eat or is it just an ingredient marketplace?  You can learn and understand so much from one quick stroll!

The San Pedro Market in Cusco, Peru is no different...it's like you can feel the pulse of the city as you explore row after row of fresh produce, just squeezed juices, handmade scarves and wares, freshly cut meats, handcrafted cheeses and breads and brimming bowls of just made Peruvian soups. If it wasn't for Christian I would spend a full day at this place, but at the very least let's take a quick tour:

The produce at the San Pedro Market is incredible!  Each row you walk down smells of another sweet, intoxicating smell so finally we gave in and tried Sweet Passion Fruit for the first time, which is shown above.  We immediately fell in love with this new fruit...you can read more in my post all about the sweet passion fruit.

Beyond produce there is an amazing array of freshly baked breads, artisan cheeses and of course the staples of the Peruvian diet; corn, potatoes and coca leaves!  Coca leaves have a similar effect as caffeine but more mild. You can chew them directly (kind of like chewing tobacco) or have them as tea, candies...the options are pretty limitless.  I'm not 100% sure that they actually helped our altitude sickness but if nothing else they certainly had a nice placebo effect on us!

Weekly Menu: August 12-18, 2012
Sunday: Grilled Filet Mignon with Nectarine and Blue Cheese Salad with Plum Vinaigrette
Monday: Quinoa Soup
Tuesday: Disappearing zucchini orzo with grilled shrimp
Wednesday:   Leftovers: Quinoa Soup
Thursday: Leftovers: disappearing zucchini orzo
Friday: Easy egg dish (DIY)
Saturday: In Sacramento for Christian’s Triathlon tomorrow
This Sunday is our 7 year wedding anniversary, so it's a special day and while we've been celebrating all weekend (because that's how we roll!) we've decided to keep it simple and cook a nice meal for ourselves on the actual day. So we're indulging in some quality filet mignon and serving it alongside a seasonal salad with a nice bottle of wine.  Perfect, intimate night in.  We'll likely whip up a nice homemade dessert as well.  Maybe a summer berry clafouti or homemade strawberry shortcake.

We somehow had an extra night of dinner last week (I think I forgot to account for one night of leftovers) and ended up eating out with a friend we hadn't seen in a while so the Quinoa Soup got bumped from last week into this week since we already had the ingredients on hand.  It's a good Ecuadorian friend's family recipe so I'm pretty excited to try it out and see if it is similar to the Quinoa soup I loved so much while traveling in Peru.  The rest of the week is "oldie but goodie" recipes.  Disappearing zucchini orzo is one of our favorites...especially this time of year when you're drowning in zucchini!  If you need ideas for an easy egg dish check out my post on breakfast for dinner here.

Christian's competing in his third triathlon next weekend so we'll be up at his sister's place in Sacramento and likely just eat dinner with them.  Good luck Christian, I know you'll do awesome!  
Corn Pudding with Mushrooms

Whenever I think of savory puddings I immediately think of the Brits.  I'm not 100% sure that's historically accurate but since the London Olympics are in full swing I'm going with it!  It also doesn't hurt that the corn in season right now is so ridiculously sweet and tender that I'm trying to figure out ways to work it into all three meals a day.  So when I saw this recipe in my current issue of Bon Appétit it simply felt like all the stars had aligned and I needed to make it right away...and wow am I glad that I did!

In terms of the recipe itself, you all know by now that I'm not a huge fan of typing recipes up if I don't have to...so you can find the original Bon Appétit recipe here. I chose to omit the ham since we were serving it as a side dish alongside pork (Tenderloin with Plum Chutney if you're curious). I would also suggest using 6-7 ears of corn vs. the 4-5 they recommend.  I used white corn since that's what they had at my farmer's market and you can see my pudding still came out pretty and bright but yellow corn would likely make the dish even more striking visually.

Other than that I followed the recipe exactly.  It's pretty straightforward, but one technique that may be a bit new to some is using a box grater to grate corn kernels directly off the cob. It's a pretty genius technique, both removing the kernels from the cob quickly and "milking" the corn all at the same time so you get a nice wet mushy pile of grated corn as the base for your pudding.  The only watch-out is that it splatters like crazy, so I would suggest draping a clean towel over your grater and work station to contain the mess.  But be careful if you do this since you won't be able to see what you're doing as well...keep those fingers away from the grater and go slow!  Another option is to put your bowl down in a clean sink and do all of your work there with an apron on (although my face still got quite a splattering when I tried this approach!)

One of the Top 50 Restaurants in the World: Astrid y Gaston, Lima

In the middle of a huge trip to the Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu we had one sole day in Lima, Peru.  Actually, more like half a day.  Neither one of us had ever been to Lima or even Peru for that matter so we were excited by the prospect of our first Peruvian food exploration...which of course is what we chose to spend our limited time on in Lima! Astrid y Gastón was the obvious choice. Not only has it been recognized as one of the top 50 restaurants in the world, #35 to be exact, but everyone we knew who had been insisted that we go as well. So we made a reservation for lunch (dinner was booked 3 months out) and considered our one afternoon in Lima planned!

Originally we had intended to do the full tasting menu but when we got there and they told us that it would be a 3-4 hour experience we decided to just order a la carte instead so we still had a bit of time to explore the city before taking off on the next leg of our trip.  As you'll see below we were still able to explore quite a bit of their huge menu...

First up, a little mango and sea urchin amuse bouche.  Served in a crispy tortilla-like shell this was a perfect little bite with a nice juxtaposition of salty/sweet and crunchy/soft.

Next we sampled the Peruvian national dish, Ceviche.  We love ceviche and have had quite a few great ceviches throughout our well-fed lives but this one immediately rose right to the top of our past ceviche experiences.  Really, it's only tied with the ceviche we've had at our favorite Peruvian restaurant in San Francisco, La Mar (which we actually found out is owned by Astrid y Gastón...fabulous!) .  The ceviche at Astrid y Gastón was incredibly fresh with a clean taste and delicious sauces that were each distinct yet subtle enough to not overpower the fish. One sauce was traditional lime while the other two were a bit more unique.  One spicy with plantains and another with sweet potatoes and hints of mango and coconut. Absolutely divine...best ceviche we had during our entire time in Peru.

Another appetizer we tried was called "La Guerra de los Antiuochos"...tender yet crispy grilled octupus served alongside lightly fried white asparagus and shaved Peruvian olives.  This was great...some of the best prepared octopus I've ever had.  And the Peruvian olives almost had an intense truffle-like flavor.  Wow!