Grilling up the same old hot dogs and hamburgers when you’re on a camping trip can get boring... fast. However, being outdoors doesn’t have to mean settling for less-than-amazing food. World-acclaimed chef Susur Lee (who has appeared on Iron Chef America and Top Chef: Masters), shared his tips for creating some mouth-watering meals outdoors.
Chef Susur Lee demonstrates how a few simple ingredients and the latest outdoor cooking equipment (courtesy of Canadian Tire) can elevate Canadians’ camping meals.
1. Bring along an olive oil sprayer.
It’s a widely-known fact that olive oil is a crucial part of mastering an outdoor grill, but who wants to lug around a big bottle when they’re in the middle of the woods? Make things easier by bringing a sprayer with you to spritz the grill with oil whenever you need to. Keeping things quick, clean and simple is an integral part of ensuring your camping trip is successful.
2. Mix things up by grilling some fruit alongside your vegetables.
Sure, grilling veggies like bell peppers and zucchini is yummy and nutritious, but throwing some pineapple or peach slices on the grill adds an unexpected sweet and savory taste to your meals.
3. Buy quality, store-bought food whenever possible.
No one wants to spend a ton of time and effort on meal preparation during a camping trip, so if you can buy pre-packaged and already-made ingredients, make sure to do so. Lee likes to bring packages of peeled garlic cloves in a vacuum-sealed bag because they're super easy to crush and add to anything. No muss, no fuss.
4. Choose square plates over round ones.
The idea behind this is simple. You don't have a lot of room on a picnic table and square plates line up nicely along the edge of the table, leaving more space for other items. Efficiency is key when dining outdoors.
5: When life gives you lemons...
You can never have enough lemons on a camping trip. Lee loves to grill them and squeeze them over both desserts and main dishes to brighten them up. The citrus flavour will complement your dishes perfectly.
6. Keep it casual.
When you're camping, it's no secret that the simpler something is, the better. You don't have to spend a lot of time (or any at all) on meal presentation. Keep everything looking rustic and straightforward. This is not the time for delicate garnishes and fussy plating.
7. Serve food at room temperature.
Bugs can be a huge problem when you're camping, and a good way to keep the flies away is to make sure your food is served at room temperature. Steaming hot dishes will attract pesky bugs and distract from your meal. Also make sure to pack mosquito covers to keep your food completely bug-free.
8. Bring a cooler.
Susur likes to have a big one on hand to store all his ingredients cool and safe from the heat.
9. Be sure to have plenty of fuel on hand if that's your main source of cooking.
The last thing you want is to run out of gas in the middle of your gourmet camping meal!
10. Pick a good cooking spot.
You don't want to be battling the winds on your camping adventure. Set up your cooking station in a place that's shielded from the elements to maximize your enjoyment of cooking in the great outdoors.
Susur Lee cooked up a couple of great dishes that are perfect for showing off your culinary skills while you're camping. You'll love munching on these amazing meals while enjoying the great outdoors.
SINGAPORE STYLE BEEF SHISH KABOB (Serves 5)
30 oz beer striploin
2 zucchini (cubed)
1 pint cherry tomato
10 long tamarind skewers
1 stalk fresh lemongrass
4 slices galangal
4 slices ginger
6 pcs shallots
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp tumeric powder
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp roasted ground peanuts
2 tbsp oil
1. Cube beef and set aside. Mix all marinade ingredients in a food processor or blender to make a paste. Add beef cubes to paste & marinate for 12-24 hrs.
2. When ready to skewer, include zucchini, pineapple & tomato between beef cubes. Brush grill with oil & cook for 15 minutes turning frequently.
3.Squeeze fresh lime juice over skewers just prior to serving.
VEGETABLE POLENTA CAKES (Serves 5)
5 C water
1 C cornmeal
2 tbsp sweet peas
2 tbsp corn
2 tbsp red pepper (diced)
2 tbsp parmesan
1. Bring water to a boil, season with salt. Whisk in cornmeal, corn, peas & red pepper. Continue stirring until no longer grainy. Add parmesan, white pepper and nutmeg to taste.
2. Once polenta has thickened (approx. 30 min) Pour mixture into a saran lined baking dish. Add a second layer of saran wrap on top & smooth down directly onto polenta. Chill for 2 hrs.
3. When ready to make polenta cakes, lift polenta out of the dish, remove saran wrap & place polenta on cutting board. According to desired shape-use either round cookie cutter or cut polenta into large squares.
4. Place saute pan over med heat & add 1 tbsp olive oil. When oil is hot, add cakes & cook until golden brown on both sides (turning as little as possible).