Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Recipe: Camp Dutch Oven Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp (Gluten Free)

Strawberry Rhubarb crisp prepared over an open fire
This recipe is a slight variation of my camp dutch oven apple crisp recipe. In this recipe I've doubled the flour and oats since we all agreed that a thicker crisp was tasty. Accordingly, I added more butter, sugar and salt to ensure enough flavor in that extra crisp bulk.

This is a gluten free rendition, but you could easily just use wheat flour and regular oats.

This recipe serves 8-10 people, and takes about an hour to prepare. We used strawberries and rhubarb because that's what was in the garden, but you could use just about any fresh fruit. We used about 2 pounds of strawberries and maybe 18 foot-long stalks of rhubarb.

  • Roughly 12 cups of sliced fruit
  • Roughly 1 cup sugar
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1 cup gluten free flour
  • 1 cup gluten free rolled oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • cinnamon

2 fire rings: one for dutch oven
baking & one for a steady supply of coals
As always with camp dutch oven cooking, begin by preparing your fire rings. You'll need two fire rings: one for your maintenance fire from which you'll pull fresh hot coals, and one for cooking food in your dutch oven (see image at right).

In one of your fire rings, make a large fire with small pieces of wood. You want a bunch of hot coals to put above and below your camp dutch oven... and a large fire made of sticks (as opposed to logs) is the quickest way to get there.

Once you begin cooking, of course, the story changes entirely. You'll keep a medium-sized "maintenance" fire in one fire ring to provide fresh coals. It's important that this fire stays small enough so as not to burn the food in the dutch oven nearby. You'll likely add logs to the maintenance fire at this point to sustain an even burn without throwing off too much heat. The camp dutch oven itself will cook your food in the second fire ring at relatively low heat (mimicking a 350 degree F conventional oven for this recipe). 

So, with your fire started, it's time to prepare your crisp. 

Wash your rhubarb in cold water and slice off the leaves (they're poisonous). Also cut off the bottom part of the stem that was underground. Then, slice the rhubarb stems into roughly 1/2 inch thick sections. For the strawberries, wash them in cold water, and then cut the tops off and cut them into roughly 1/4 inch slices. 

The fruit mixture
Toss all your fruit into the camp dutch oven. Add lemon juice, 3/4 cup sugar, and 1 stick of butter (sliced into 1/4 inch thick pieces).

Stir the fruit around, and then add roughly 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Taste it. You should be able to detect a general increase in fruit flavor because of the salt, but you don't want the fruit to actually taste salty. Add salt if you feel it isn't salty and more flavor might be nice. You may also feel it needs more sugar. The raw fruit mixture should taste quite sweet. The proportions provided in this recipe are good guides, but the sweetness of the fruit you are using will also play a role. When in doubt, taste it!

When you're satisfied with the flavor of the fruit, add a pinch or two of cinnamon, stir things around, and taste it again. You should detect a hint of cinnamon, but no more. As the crisp cooks, the fruit will cook down and concentrate the cinnamon flavor, so don't overdo it!

For the topping, combine the flour, oats, the rest of the sugar (roughly 1/4 cup), another dash or two of cinnamon, and the other 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Mix things around, and then taste a pinch of the dry flour/oat mixture. It should taste sweet, salty, and good. If you aren't tempted to eat more of the flour/oat mixture, you need to add more sugar and/or salt.

There's no such thing as too much butter
Sprinkle your flour/oat mixture on top of your fruit mixture, and then add the remaining stick of butter (sliced) on top of the crisp.

To begin cooking the crisp, grab a single layer of coals from your main fire, and sprinkle them into the second (empty) fire ring in a 1-inch thick disc that matches the diameter of your dutch oven.

You are effectively creating a "burner" for your dutch oven. Place the camp dutch oven on the disc of coals, and then pile glowing coals on top of the lid about 3 inches high.

It's important to check in on your crisp frequently. To check your crisp, lift the lid off (coals and all), and place it on a clean surface (so you don't end up with dirt or ashes in your crisp after replacing the lid).  Visually inspect the crisp for any signs of burning, and try to get your nose down there to smell for any burning-sugar-type odors. I usually also reach in there with a wooden spoon to push things around a bit to make sure nothing's burning on the bottom.

The crisp cooking under a pile of coals
When you're satisfied that nothing is burning (yet), rotate the base of the dutch oven by 90 degrees, and then place the lid back on top. When you place the lid back on top, rotate it by 90 degrees in relation to the base.

The idea here is to even out the heat from top and bottom in relation to the food inside the dutch oven. Just make sure you rotate in the same direction... and don't worry too much about it as long as everything looks and smells fine inside.

Your crisp should bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Keep checking it every 5-10 minutes (depending on how quickly it seems to be cooking), and always be on the lookout for burning. It can happen quickly. That said, you will almost certainly need to add coals above or below the dutch oven to maintain a constant temperature. Keep rotating base and lid every time you check.

After 35 minutes or so, grab a piece of fruit out of your crisp and taste it. Keep doing this from here on out every five minutes... and once your test fruit pieces are coming out sufficiently soft, pull the crisp from the fire, remove lid coals, and serve after 5 minutes of cool-down.

Crisps are pretty robust, so if you aren't yet ready for dessert, keep a few lid coals on top and set it next to the fire to stay warm. Rotate it every 5-10 minutes to provide even heat.

If you have the means, serve with ice cream or whipped cream. You can also just pour heavy cream over the crisp when serving. If you're particularly adventurous (or happen to be French), you can add a few dollops of goat cheese on top of your crisp. It is divine.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Recipe: Sausage and Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta (Gluten Free)

A tasty pasta filled with all five basic tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami. 
I've always been a sucker for a creamy pan-sauce pasta. Especially one with with sun-dried tomatoes and rosemary. We don't typically keep a ready supply of heavy cream in the house. But on a recent camping trip we had made whipped cream for a strawberry rhubarb crisp, and happened to have half a pint left.

This recipe contains each of the five basic tastes: sweet (cream, caramelized onions), sour (sun-dried tomatoes), salty (salt, butter, sausage), bitter (rosemary, sun-dried tomatoes), and umami (sausage, sauteed mushrooms and onions, sun-dried tomatoes).
The essential ingredients of
flavor come together in this recipe

This means it's packed with flavor. Thankfully, it's also quick and easy to make. It takes about 30 minutes, and most of that is just waiting for the pasta to cook.

My rendition is gluten free, but you could make it with wheat pasta as well. If you go for gluten free pasta, use Tinkyada brand. Everything else tastes like monkey balls. Note: if you follow that link, you'll have to pardon the Tinkyada website (I thought animated GIFs had gone the way of the coelacanth).

OK, here's how this recipe breaks down:

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 large mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 4 sausage links, sliced into 1/3 inch sections
  • 1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • cracked black pepper, to taste
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 loose teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine (e.g. chardonnay)
  • 8 oz elbow macaroni
Start the pasta water first thing. Make sure the water is nice and salty. Pasta water should taste like a somewhat too-salty soup.

While the water works up to a boil, slice your mushrooms into 1/4 inch slices, dice your onion, and chop your sun-dried tomatoes.

Once the pasta water gets within a minute or two of boiling, heat a medium stainless steel saute pan on medium heat. Add the canola oil to the pan. After perhaps 5 minutes of heat, when the oil shimmers (but before it smokes), toss in your diced onion and sliced mushrooms.

While you're working on the sauteed ingredients, begin cooking your pasta as soon as the water reaches a rolling boil. Just after you add the pasta to the boiling water, make sure to stir things around a bit to break up any clumps that form before the water gets back to a rolling boil.

Mushrooms, onion, and
sausage cooking. 
Saute the mushrooms and onions for 5 minutes—stirring or flipping often. Add the sausage and continue to stir/saute.

Don't forget to keep track of your pasta while it boils. When it is al dente (a tad underdone), strain it and then toss it back into the (empty) pot in which it boiled. Stir in some olive oil and then cover the pasta and set it somewhere off heat (trivet, cutting board, etc.). Give it a stir in another minute as well.

Cook the sausage and saute the mushrooms together until they're done—stirring quite frequently.

It's almost time to eat. The sausage doesn't have to be completely done, but it should be pretty darn close. Mushrooms should be essentially done (taste them!).

Deglazing fond from the pan
Toss in your chopped sun-dried tomatoes, stir things around briefly, and then deglaze the pan with white wine.

Scrape the browned bits of goodness up off the bottom of the pan for 30 seconds, and then add the heavy cream and rosemary.

Stir things around some more, and let the whole concoction come back up to heat for 2-3 minutes. This helps reduce the cream volume and concentrates the flavors.

Taste the sauce. You'll almost certainly need to add salt and cracked black pepper. If it doesn't burst with flavor, keep adding salt until it does.

Add your pasta to the sauce, and stir things around for 1-2 minutes.

Serve immediately.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Recipe: Gluten Free Pancakes

A gluten free pancake doesn't have to taste like cardboard!

For those that are not gluten free, I have a regular wheat flour pancake recipe as well. As noted in my regular pancake recipe, there are two secrets to perfect cast iron griddle pancakes:  1) keep the heat low, and 2) make sure the griddle surface is shiny with oil every time you pour the batter.

When I found out I had a wheat allergy, I thought my pancake-eating days were over. But there's been a bit of an awakening among restaurants and grocery stores in recent years, and a lot of gluten free products and ingredients are now available. I decided it was time to concoct a good gluten free pancake recipe.

In addition to being tasty, my pancake recipe had to be easy to make on a weekday morning. For this reason, I opted to stick with a "pre-mixed" gluten free flour—Bob's Red Mill in this case. In my experimentations, I found that technique had a lot more to do with the flavor and texture of the pancakes than a proprietary mix of flour.

This recipe makes about 10-12 pancakes.


  • 2 Cups Bobs Red mill gluten free all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups milk
  • 4 tablespoons canola oil

I typically heat the oven on 200 degrees to hold the pancakes before serving.

Heat a cast iron griddle on medium-low heat for 10 minutes. As the griddle is heating, oil your griddle lightly using a paper towel. This ensures even coverage, and removes any excess oil. You want to use an oil that doesn't bring it's own flavor, and has a reasonably high smoke point. I use canola oil.

You'll know when the griddle is hot enough because a drop of water thrown on it will dance for a few seconds and disappear. The griddle should not get so hot as to smoke.

While the griddle is heating, combine the dry ingredients and mix them thoroughly. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and then pour in the milk. Add the milk/egg mixture and oil to the dry ingredients, and mix together carefully. Mix the liquids and solids enough to combine them into a lumpy batter, but be sure not to over-mix them.

When the griddle is hot (and shiny with oil), spoon out the batter for the first batch. Cook the pancakes for 2-3 minutes, and flip them once bubbles begin appearing (but before the bubbles pop). Cook the pancakes for another 2-3 minutes on the other side, and then either serve them immediately (or hold them in a warm oven).

If you're holding the pancakes for more than a few minutes, consider pulling them off the heat a little sooner. I've found that gluten free pancakes don't hold in the oven as well as their wheat-filled brethren, so I recommend serving them immediately.

Be sure to re-oil your griddle prior to beginning each new batch. You also want a good thin spatula for flipping. If your griddle is well-seasoned, a metal spatula is just fine.

Serve your gluten free pancakes with lots of butter and a steady supply of warm maple syrup.