Some of the best camping memories are created around the campfire roasting hotdogs and marshmallows. While this is a surefire way to have a good time, adapting some of your favorite recipes to be camp-friendly is a great way to add excitement and diversity to your trip. One of our favorite dishes capitalizes on the bounty of summer vegetables to create a healthy and tasty ratatouille. While it might not seem like this complicated dish would be a practical camping meal, by using the following tips you can have a delicious culinary masterpiece right over your campfire.
Break the recipe down into its core ingredient or flavors Most recipes can be broken down into a few ingredients or flavors that are really the essence of the dish. If you get these right, your camp meal will at least be reminiscent of the original recipe. At its heart, ratatouille is a casserole that features summer vegetables like tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash, and eggplant. As long as we focused on these ingredients, I knew we’d be able to capture the essence of the dish.
Simplify meal prep When you have a sink with running water (or a dishwasher!), it’s easy to pull out all of your cookware and gadgets and not give a second thought to the cleanup. However, when camping, every dish and utensil requires hand washing, so it’s best to minimize what you use – remember, camping is supposed to be relaxing and fun, not a total chore! At home, we use a mandoline to slice the vegetables super thin. For our camp version, we decided to slice the vegetables much thicker so all we would need is a knife, which we already carry in our camp kitchen box. This also saves a ton of time and is much less fussy! Additionally, when made at home, we use at least three different dishes in order to actually cook the meal. In camp, we’ve narrowed it down to just one, for the tomato sauce.
Consider your heat sources and adapt The final trick is to adapt the actual cooking process. This is sometimes the hardest part. Usually you’ll have one of two options: using a propane stove or cooking on a grill over the campfire. Fortunately, using the right cookware, most meals can easily be cooked in camp (though I have yet to see someone make a campfire soufflé). Our ratatouille recipe usually requires an oven to bake the vegetables in the tomato sauce. Given our obvious lack of an oven at our campsite, we thought we would just embrace the campfire and instead of layering all of the vegetables in a baking dish, we would instead skewer the vegetables and roast them over the campfire, kebab style. By alternating the different vegetables on the skewers, we were also able to retain some of the fun presentation of our original recipe.
Have fun and experiment! My bonus tip is to have fun with developing camp friendly versions of your favorite meals. It always helps to test your ideas at home first, but if you don’t have time before your trip, have fun experimenting in camp. Remember, being outdoors is all about exploring new things and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, so go with it! You can always bring along some good ol’ franks and beans just in case your experiment doesn’t pan out. What’s your favorite meal that you can reimagine into a camp meal? Let us know in the comments!
Ratatouille Campfire Kababs Serves 2 | 35 minutes total
The key to success with this dish is to make sure that your vegetables are all roughly the same width around. Chinese eggplant is a long, thin variety that is the same width as the zucchini and squash. In a pinch, you can use the more familiar Italian eggplant and cut it down to the right size.
2 tablespoons olive oil divided
1 small yellow onion diced
2-3 cloves garlic minced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon salt 1 lb tomatoes
finely chopped 4 medium zucchini (about 1.5 lbs)
4 medium yellow summer squash (about 1.5 lbs)
2 large Chinese eggplants (about 1 lb)
Over medium heat, warm 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet until simmering. Add the onion and cook until translucent and just beginning to brown. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chopped tomatoes, oregano, basil, and salt and stir well. Simmer over medium heat until the kebabs are done, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, slice the zucchini, squash, and eggplant into slices ½ inch thick. Assemble the kebabs onto skewers, alternating each vegetable. Drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with salt to taste. Grill the kebabs directly on the grill grate over the fire, turning frequently so all sides cook evenly. Cook about 20 minutes, or until all the veggies are tender. Serve immediately topped with the tomato sauce.