Sunday, July 20, 2008

What I did on my summer vacation.

Each summer my parents close up their shop for a week, pick an attraction within a 12 hour drive, and pack up the airstream. Then Amelia and I climb in the backseat of the Travelall, promptly fall asleep, and we go. This year we went to New Hampshire. Some things you should know about traveling with my family: 1. eating well is a focal point of every trip, and my mom makes it happen. 2. Camping with my family is more akin to going on a roadtrip. The campground is merely a nice place to relax at the end of the day; or, depending on the park, a nice place to explore for the day. My family gives road food a whole new meaning. So, I thought you might be interested in some highlights.

Hampton Beach, New Hampshire is like no place I have ever experienced before. It is exactly how I imagine coney island: people and cars everywhere; a boardwalk with a zillion tacky tee-shirt shops selling shot glasses and fake jewelry; arcades, mini golf and "shooting" ranges. It's amazing. We stayed at a state park campground a short walk outside of town. When we checked in, the woman told us in a thick east coast drawl that if we bought three looobstas from the shack across the street, they'd cook 'em right up for us. We didn't need much prompting. We had an outrageous lunch of a lobster each, a bag of steamers, and chardonnay.
We were, in fact, so enamored with our lunchtime seafood experience that we went back for more when dinner rolled around.

This time the bounty was fresh-caught scallops. They were nonchalantly packed in the sort of plastic tub that you buy pre-made pasta salad in from the local grocery store, but the contents were anything but pre-packaged grocery store. My mom cooked them in butter and white wine outside in the wind while my sister and I hid inside the airstream reading. They were buttery and practically melted in your mouth, which seemed near miraculous given their enormity. Afterwards, we all drifted off in a chardonnay and scallop coma, and listened to James Taylor.

The next morning, we were off, headed north. Things to know about my mother: she has an affinity for dishes, travel books, and thrift stores. In this particular instance, her love for travel books came in handy, as she stumbled upon a bit about the oldest operational farm in the country, and it was, lo and behold, a mere 15 minutes out of our way. Who can say no to a farm thats been around since 1632? Okay, so we didn't visit the farm exactly, we visited the farm's store, which was a quirky mix a wonderfully fresh produce, organic staple items, local chesses and delightful pre-made sandwiches. I think we spent a solid $100 in there. It was neat.

Imagine, lettuce from somewhere that has been growing it for the past 376 years. It was amazing. We decided to be purist about the lettuce, serving it as simple salads with cracked pepper and a little vinaigrette.
I realize we're working on the longest post ever here, but at least there are lots of pictures, right? Anyhow, it was a whole week.

While many of you may consider something like pancakes to be a traditional camp-breakfast, somewhere along the line the traditional breakfast while in the woods morphed from pancakes to Huevos rancheros.

Surprisingly little work for a very impressive looking breakfast. Serve with red wine, and embrace the decadence. You're on vacation, after all. And, if your not, theres no harm in pretending.

Mamma's Heuvos Rancheros with Refried beans
(serves four)

Ranchero Sauce

About 5 large tomatoes, in season , diced
or 2 large cans tomatoes, such as Muir Organic (Fireroasted would be nice) tomatoes
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno pepper (optional) diced
½ lime, squeezed
Salt, pepper
Dried oregano, parsley, basil-about 1 tsp or to taste
Fresh Basil and Cilantro, (if available and to taste, if desired)-cilantro chopped & basil in a chiffonade

4 large eggs (or 8 if desired)

8 corn tortillas

½ to ¾ c shredded Mexican “mixed” cheese (cheddar, jack, etc) or Chihuahua cheese

Sour Cream

Guacamole (your favorite recipe, made previously)

Refried beans (your favorite recipe, made previously or canned)

Olive oil


In 2” deep sauté pan, lightly cover bottom of pan with oil. Sauté onions, pepper(s), and garlic until onions are translucent and peppers are soft and garlic is cooked but not brown. Add fresh or canned tomatoes (and juice from can). Add salt, pepper, dried herbs and lime juice. Cook on medium heat about 15 minutes, or more, to let flavors meld. Add fresh herbs, if using, near the end of cooking.

To poach eggs, gently break egg into tomato mixture, starting at one point and adding eggs around the edge of the pan. Cover with lid. Depending upon size of pan and the number of eggs used, the eggs will spread to fill the space in the pan. (Eggs will absorb tomato mixture while cooking and will reduce the mixture geatly. Therefore, make sure you have enough “broth” before adding eggs. If necessary, could increase tomato/herb mixture to have more liquid for the eggs.)

Cook the eggs in the ranchero sauce to desired doneness.

While ranchero sauce is cooking, heat refried beans. Top with shredded cheese. Keep warm.

Right before serving, take two corn tortillas at one time to make “sandwich”. Sprinkle outside of tortilla with sea salt. Sprinkle one tortilla lightly with cheese. Top with other tortilla. Heat small sauté pan with small amount of olive oil. Put tortilla “pair” in oil. Sauté side one until lightly crisp. Gently flip to other side. Continue with remaining tortilla pairs until complete. Keep warm.

When eggs have poached to desired doneness, take one tortilla “sandwich”. Use slotted spoon to remove egg ( one egg or two per person, depending upon appetite) and put on tortilla. Top with tomato ranchero sauce. Top with sour cream, guacamole and a chiffonade of basil for decoration.

Serve with refried beans, and a nice cabernet J

I swear, I'm almost done. SO, Friday we started driving home. As we descend from the mountains, it seems to be growing exponentially hotter. We pass one of those bank flashy-thermometer signs and realize, that indeed, it has grown exponentially hotter--well above ninety. So just as we're all are getting stuck to the vinyl on the seats and the sweat beads begin to drip off our eyebrows, the Top of the Hill Grill appears like a mirage.

Our 45 foot rig isn't fitting in their tiny lot though, so we park down the road and hike in, resembling walking human sprinklers. We're starving. The menu is scattered across the front of the building, an item to a plate. Super cool, super hard to take in all at once.

I order brisket, because its easy and its meaty and pretty quintessential BBQ food. In the meantime, dad and I hustle back to the trailer to grab a couple beers for lunch, because states that aren't Michigan let you bring in your own booze and thats sweet. They also gave us a playing card to identify when our order was up, and I appreciated that.

The brisket was delicious. It wasn't slathered in sauce, as you can see, and it really didn't need to be. It was moist enough, and smoky, and the roll was chewy. The beer was cold. I was a good lunch. We even took a pound of the stuff with us, and ate it straight out the ziplock baggie for dinner with killer garlic bread and fresh pickles. And it was good.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Check that lushness. Apparently, 5 green thumbs work way better than one. I'd like to take this opportunity to A, thank everyone who lives in Ypsi for watering, and B. remind everyone that but 6 short weeks ago, that looked like this:

pride is a word for it. Excitement is another. Monday, I picked my first share of the harvest. A bunch of arugula, a single zucchini, and some dill.

We grilled the Zucchini, thinly sliced and rubbed with tarragon and olive oil. It was sweet and a little sultry as it stuck between your teeth.
The arugula I put in a pasta that is barely worth mentioning, and the dill is sitting on my counter top eagerly awaiting cucumbers.
I suppose this wasn't a very exciting post, or very useful, but, I was so proud I just had to share.