Sunday, July 4, 2010

Camping Salad

We recently took a little camping trip to Great River Bluffs State Park in southeastern Minnesota. This park has wooded hiking trails that lead to beautiful bluff prairies and fabulous Mississippi River views. Although the noise from I-90 and busy railroad tracks does encroach on the park, the preserved and reclaimed natural setting with its unique habitats and vistas goes well beyond refreshing and inspiring.

I do have a few personal rules when it comes to camping: 1) If at all possible it should be in a campground with a shower. 2) There must be something cushy between me and the ground when I try to sleep. And 3) The food has to be good.

A little planning allowed 1) and 2) to come together pretty well, and some additional planning and preparation were all that was needed to tackle 3). Among a few other things, I prepped and packed Peanut Butter Granola Bars (like these but made with peanut butter instead of almond butter), homemade Granola, homemade yogurt, Beet and Carrot Burgers (which were a disaster because I forgot a spatula), homemade jam and homemade wheat bread, and chocolate chip cookies. I also put together a salad, much like one I had made on request for my inlaws a few weeks ago when they came to visit. It’s simple, fresh, delicious and keeps and travels very well.

I made the salad with cooked wheat berries (I talked about cooking them here. You can freeze extras to have on hand.) and vegetables I happened to have in the refrigerator, including some crisp sugar snap peas and red bell pepper. (I also have used asparagus when making this when it’s in season). A handful of fresh herbs (from my container garden on the porch) and simple vinaigrette with fresh lemon juice, perk up the starchy wheat berries without being perishable like a mayonnaise or dairy-based dressing would be.

I also used garlic scapes to flavor this dish. Scapes are tender, dark green, curly stems that carry the immature flower buds of the garlic plant. They’re included in our CSA boxes in the spring as they are harvested to help the underground garlic bulbs become all that they can be. They’re probably hard to find unless you grow garlic or know someone who does. You may be able to get them at some farmers’ markets or stores that carry local and/or organic produce. The season is probably over for them by now, but mine have lasted very well in the refrigerator and I’m still using them.

Garlic scapes are milder in flavor than garlic cloves, but are stronger than chives or garlic chives. You can use them pretty much interchangeably with both garlic cloves and chives as long as you are prepared for the rather pleasant difference. I use them in soups and sauces in place of garlic, and hardly notice the difference as long as I use enough. You could use a small, finely-minced garlic clove in place of the scapes in this wheat berry salad if you really want the garlic flavor. If, however, you’re planning to snuggle into a tent with someone after eating it, be sure you’ve both achieved a good dose of garlic breath so no one causes offense.

This salad was great for camping meals. It’s refreshing (when kept cool), flavorful and quite healthy and doesn’t get mushy over time. In fact, the whole trip was a big success, with the exception of the accidental omission of one extremely important item. Under conditions ripe for the development of a DEET-based religion, there I was without my mosquito repellent. I’m still itching!

Wheat Berry Salad with Sugar Snap Peas and Lemon Vinaigrette
If you do not have garlic scapes, you could add a small, finely minced garlic clove instead, but the flavor is likely to be stronger.

2 cups cooked wheat berries
1 cup chopped sugar snap peas, trimmed, tough strings removed
½ cup finely chopped red bell pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic scapes (optional)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon coarse Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1. In a large bowl, combine the wheat berries, sugar snap peas, red bell pepper, garlic scapes, parsley and oregano.

2. In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, mustard, salt, pepper and olive oil. Whisk well to combine completely. Pour over the wheat berry mixture and stir to combine and coat well.

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