Recipes from the Road

In addition to regular posts about our travels, I plan to share some recipes here and there, here's two quick ones that go hand in hand.

It’s no secret that the majority of my working life has been spent in kitchens, first as a dishwasher, then prep cook, line cook, sous chef, and head chef, but I’ve never cooked much at home. As most people who work in restaurants can testify, some of the best professionals eat the worst. Greasy cheeseburgers, takeout pizza delivered to the back door of a fine dining restaurant, or late night frozen chicken wings over beers post shift are all part of the restaurant life routine. After filling in at one of the better restaurants on Cape Cod I was done earlier than the regular staff, part of the trade-off of being sent home early: going on a Burger King run while everyone else served the final few tables in the dining room. It was eleven o’clock at night and after serving fifty-dollar steaks and hundred-dollar bottles of wine all night, the sommelier, chef owner, and myself stood hunched over a garbage barrel, eating rodeo cheeseburgers and drinking rolling rocks.

Since being on the road, cooking at home has been a pleasure, not a chore. It’s something I can enjoy again and want to do since I’m not doing it eighty hours a week under the dim fluorescence of an industrial kitchen. Here’s a quick, on the road favorite, pico de gallo and fresh guacamole. Enjoy!

 

Pico De Gallo ~ Serves 4

Ingredients

2 Medium Ripe Tomatoes

1 Small Onion

1 Small Red Bell Pepper

4 Cloves Garlic

1-2 Jalapeno* Peppers (however spicy you like it)

½ Bunch Cilantro

1 Lime

1 Tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar

Salt & Pepper to Taste

1 Tablespoon Hot Sauce (whatever your personal favorite is, I like Cholulah)

Tools:

Sharp Knife

Cutting Board

Medium Mixing Bowl

Microplane Grater

Citrus Juicer (or the two God gave you: your hands)

-       Dice Tomatoes, Onion, and Red Bell Pepper, place in mixing bowl and set aside

-       Finely chop Garlic, Jalapeno Pepper, and Cilantro. Add to mixing bowl and set aside. 

-       Zest using the microplane and Juice the Lime

-       Add Lime Zest, Juice, Red Wine Vinegar, Salt, Pepper, and Hot Sauce to bowl and stir well

-       Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.

*For a spicier batch try substituting Scotch Bonnet Peppers

 

Guacamole ~ Serves 4

First off, let’s dispel a major guacamole myth that drives me batshit crazy when I hear it, “If you put the avocado seed in the center prepared guacamole, your guac won’t turn brown! I swear it works! My best friend’s brother’s sister-in-law’s roommate told me she does it that way, and her guac is neverbrown.” If you’re B.S. alarm isn’t sounding when you hear this, there may be no hope for you.

One thing causes brown guacamole, oxidation. It’s the same thing that turns apples brown when grandma is baking and no one is throwing avocado pits at her. The solution is the same for you as it is for granny, acid. Just like adding lemon juice to the apples, lime juice will help prevent browning with the guacamole. Ascorbic acid reacts with the oxygen in the air at a faster rate than the avocado (or apple) thus preventing browning.  If your guacamole is going to sit on a buffet for a while, double down on lime juice or throw in some red wine vinegar, that should help slow everything down. The only real solution is to eat faster! 

Now, on to the preparation. If you’re going to go through the trouble of making fresh Guacamole, there’s really no reason not to make a batch of Pico De Gallo. If you skip making the Pico, you still have basically the same amount of work in prepping all the same ingredients as a Guacamole starter. My suggestion is never make one without the other. It’s about the same amount of work with double the reward.

Ingredients

2 Perfectly Ripe Avocados (as rare as unicorns, so do your best to find them, or plan ahead and ripen in a paper bag on the counter)

¼ Cup Prepared Pico De Gallo

½ Bunch Cilantro

2 Limes

Salt & Pepper to Taste

1 Tablespoon Hot Sauce

Tools:

Sharp Knife

Cutting Board

Large Mortar & Pestle or Medium Mixing Bowl & Potato Masher

Microplane Grater

Citrus Juicer

-       Cut Avocados in half and remove seed with knife and scoop flesh with tablespoon. Place flesh in Mortar/Mixing Bowl

-       Chop Cilantro, zest and juice both limes, add to Mortar/Mixing Bowl

-       Add Pico De Gallo, Salt, Pepper, and Hot Sauce.

-       Mix well with Pestle/Potato Masher

-       Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as needed and serve.

 

The Lost Coast

October 13-19, 2017

Day 1: Friday 10/13/17

Usal Beach Trailhead to Little Jackass CreekAnderson Camp

7.5 Miles5.0 Miles

We started the day late after having a slow time moving the rv to storage at the KOA in Benbow, CA. Our plan was to be on the road by 7 am, but after everything was said and done it was closer to 8:45. I hate starting behind schedule. Our drive was south to Leggit where we got on Route 1 South to Usal Road, a winding one lane mountain road that led us down six miles to Usal Beach, the southern terminus of the Lost Coast Trail. The trailhead proved difficult to find, though we did eventually and left our truck parked below a striking redwood.

The hike climbed up the hillside to the ridgeline from the forest below and to our first mountain view of the Pacific.

Stunning.

The day continued in some strenuous ascents and descents alternating between cool redwood shade and hot sun. Our camp was made at Little Jackass Creek which we followed down to a beach side camp. A seal community based just offshore had couple curious creatures swimming towards the beach to investigate our presence. Dinner was chicken with noodles, a little cous cous, and hot apple cider with a chocolate bar for dessert.

We waited to pitch tents until high tide, around 7, to be sure we wouldn’t be washed out. Just before dozing off Lily said to me, “You know, we’re about twenty-five years over due for a hundred-year quake. If one hits, we’re pretty much screwed.”

Thanks for the peaceful thought before nodding off.

In the middle of the night the wind kicked up and nearly booted the tent away. The rainfly whipped and woke us often. Between the wind and waves, dreams were strange, but I slept well regardless.

Breakfast of coffee and grits as we broke camp. A twelve-ish mile hike to needle rock in front of us. A fantastic first day, hopefully several more to follow.

Day 2 Saturday 10/14/17

Anderson Camp to Needle Rock

14.5 Miles

So good news is: Jackass Creek is BEAUTIFUL, bad news is: Jackass Creek is NOT where we camped last night!

In our inattentive excitement we pitched camp at what was actually Anderson Camp. We learned our mistake on the slow grind of a climb that did not seem to end. That climb led to a long day of hiking, finishing with three miles in the dark.

Despite the tough day, the scenery was a rugged beauty that blew us all away. We hiked down gulches and through groves of redwoods that led to epic ocean views. Fortunately, our destination offered a camp shelter created from a converted a welcome sight after a long day. We arrived late, 8:30ish, spread out on the barn floor for a dinner of lasagna. Sarah N. was planning on Chana Masala until she spilt it on herself. The rest of the week will be long for her, with burnt legs and curry scented pants.

Sleep came fast to us all.

Day 3 Sunday 10/15/17

Needle Rock to Shelter Cove (via the Hidden Valley Trailhead)

8.6 Miles

Yesterday (I’m writing this on Monday) was our last day of hiking in the mountains. After our longer day on Saturday, and another day up and down in the hills, we arrived in Shelter Cove. The trail along the way did not disappoint.

The day began with incredible switchbacks along a creek and through a dense fern forest. We climbed the 2,500 feet to the peak of Chemise Mountain. The going was slow over two small peaks, Red Rock 2 and Manzanita, before reaching the Chemise summit where we broke for lunch. From there it was a quick 2.7 mile downhill stretch to the car and resupply box we had stashed earlier, and even more importantly, the general store.

The beer, Gatorade, and mango frozen bar did not disappoint.

Our plan was to camp just beyond Black Sands Beach, but the RV park in Shelter Cove was too inviting to pass up. A shower and campfire along the ocean was a perfect end to a lighter day on the trail. Both employees at the park assured us that the next stretch of trail is easier, gaining only 100 feet between here and Mattole. Though “easier” may be relative as I’m not sure about hiking on the sand.

Day 4 Monday 10/16/17

& Day 5 Tuesday 10/17/17

Shelter Cove to Miller Flat

10.5 Miles

The first day on the norther section of trail was more or less what was expected. Hiking through sand with fully loaded packs slowed us to a crawl. The tidal zones weren’t any worse than the rest of the trail, except for the added stress, which some of us felt more than others. We arrived at Miller Flat in the early afternoon and set up camp at an epic spot with a view of the ocean and King’s Peak. Something about looking at a mountain that size from “sea level,” literally sitting on the beach, struck me.

Our original plan for today was to hike up to King’s Peak, but we scrapped that in favor of pitching the tarp on the beach and relaxing for the day, it wasn’t much of a debate. We lit a fire at breakfast and kept it burning all day. Chris arrived at camp early in the day, making us all look bad by whipping down the trail in a couple of hours. Other than that, the day was uneventful and fantastic. Reading and laying around camp is easily something I could do for days.

The day ended with a driftwood sculpture and chicken rice for dinner. Tomorrow we head to Spanish Ridge to camp for another night before heading to the Mattole River where the car is waiting for us. This has been a great week and I hate for it to end.

Day 6 Wednesday 10/18/17

Miller Flat to Punta Gorda

12.2 Miles

With a full rest day behind us we hit the trail refreshed. The plan was possibly going to Punta Gorda Lighthouse and definitely going to Spanish Flats. We broke camp at a relaxed pace and left heading north to one of the patches of private property which contained a small airstrip. During our day on the beach we had watched a plane land and take off from that airstrip as well as met a surfer who was living and working on the property. The plane had been construction supplies dropped for the work he was doing there. He was shocked to hear that we had hiked from Usal Beach.

“Nobody does that!” has become a common response from the few people we have encountered on trail. Though it was trickier to organize transportation, and the terrain was difficult, I cannot understand why people don’t do it. The surroundings were stunning and the hike was fantastic, even more impressive than the more well-known northern section.

As we approached the house with the airstrip, two dozen deer watching us on our right, the sight of our newfound friend running towards us yelling, “The Usal hikers!” definitely made us feel all the cooler. We chatted for a few minutes before he realized he had forgotten oatmeal that was burning inside, “come in, come in,” he tried to talk us into staying, and though I wish we had, we pressed on.

The weather was off and on all day, never raining terribly, but the ocean was violent and angry. It was intimidating to walk alongside of, like an angry drunk who could throw a punch at any minute. The day dragged for the first time as we made our way to the historic Punta Gorda Lighthouse. We had planned to camp nearby, but the water source was dry, so we pressed on to a creek that lay along private property where we filled water and backtracked to a camping area. Our spirits were slightly low after a day of hiking in the rain, but after building a fire and a dinner feast we all felt better. Dinner consisted of a smorgasboard of dehydrated meals, everyone heating up the extras we seemed to have in our packs and sharing mac and cheese, pho, pad thai, chili mac, spaghetti with meat sauce, cous cous, freeze dried ice cream and more.

The weather continued misty into the night, but the sleeping bags were dry and our bellies were full.

Day 7 Thursday 10/19/17

Punta Gorda to Mattole Beach

2.4 Miles

Our hike ended with a short slog over loose sand. It seemed the last two miles were the worst of the sand hiking and we were glad to be done with it. The sky was grey over Mattole Beach, but our breakfast of oatmeal and lukewarm PBR that we had stashed in Matt’s Jeep hit the spot. I am sad to see the trip end, this week carried some of the most impressive sights, some expected, others completely surprising.

Both Sara, Sarah N. and myself stayed behind while Matt brought the first carload of people back. We hunkered down and napped waiting for our ride into town, lunch, and the rest of our California adventure.