Foodie Camp (with recipes and pictures)

When I was a kid, I never got to go to camp like some people remember doing. When we went camping, it involved putting an old mattress in the back of Dad’s truck and sleeping under the stars, usually at Arroyo Seco. A weekend adventure for this farm boy raised in Aromas was to go to Pacific Grove to see Uncle Dick at the Pt. Pinos Lighthouse, though he was retired by then. One of the guys at school bragged about church camp, but when you go to a two-room school out in the country, odds are none of your friends went to Boy Scout Camp let alone Nature Camp.

Nobody ever heard of Foodie Camp.

Asilomar’s Harvest Camp for Foodies has got to be the most under-advertised, food-filled, relaxing self improvement weekend I ever heard of. Al Saxe talked us into going, having attended the last one a few months ago himself, so Her Editorness and I hiked the few blocks down to Asilomar and turned ourselves over to the chefs and sous chefs and various experts on hand to learn all about autumn harvest cooking. Where else, for $175, are you going to get two dinners, two breakfasts, a lunch, and at least five cooking lessons at a facility like the incomparable Asilomar? Oh, and an apron, a Victorinix boning knife and a corkscrew to take home, not to mention an apple pie and a pumpkin pie, freshly baked, with your own fingerprints in the crust?

There were 10 of us in the class. There was an Iranian couple, an Indian couple, and a Russian couple in the mix which made for lively conversation at dinner. We were the only locals, with the others coming from as far away as San Francisco and Sacramento.

Our first lesson (involving both the apron and the boning knife) was “how to bone out a duck.” Those filet knives are sharp! With varying degrees of success – and no thumbs in their project — we boned and then turned our ducks over to the chef so he could prepare our dinner of duck confit.

We adjourned to another room for our lesson on mushrooms from Mike The Mushroom Man, a native Italian mushroom broker with a great personality, also known as The Fun-gi (you have to say it out loud to get the joke). He brought with him a case of interesting mushrooms ranging from the everyday LBM through chantarelles to mitsutake and some that cost as much as $50 a pound – wholesale. A little butter, a little garlic, and wow.

Here’s their recipe for the sauteed mushrooms:
Wild Mushroom Sauté
Serves 4-6

½ C chopped parsley
3 garlic cloves
5 T olive oil
½ t salt
2# assorted mushrooms (chanterelles, morels, porcini, portabellas, crimini, oyster, shitakes, etc)
1T fresh lemon juice

Mix ½ C parsley with 1 chopped garlic clove
Chop remaining 2 garlic cloves and mix with 4T oil and salt
Toss mushrooms in oil mix
Heat remaining oil
Add mushrooms and saute about 10 min until tender and starting to brown
Mix in parsley-garlic mix and lemon juice
Taste and season

I have to admit that Her Editorness was way ahead of me on this one – she loves mushrooms sauteed in butter with fresh lemon and threatens to whack my knuckles with a wooden spoon if I try to take them off the fire before the butter is caramelized.

We had a little wine lesson, and then on to the autumn vegetable lesson. There were people in our class of 10 who did not know about spaghetti squash! We learned all about kale, autumn root vegetables and various squash and wonderful ways to cook them. Once again, there were people in the group who had never had collard greens, either. Here are some of the recipes the Asilomar chefs prepared for us and were gracious enough to share:

Fennel and Potato Hash
6 servings

2 small fennel bulbs, cut in 1 inch cubes
2T olive oil
1 ½ # Yukon gold potatoes, ½ inch cubes
1 small yellow onion, chopped
½ t salt
½ t black pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed
¼ C chopped parsley

Cook fennel in boiling water until tender, drain and set aside
Heat oil in skillet
Add potatoes and cook until golden and crisp, 20-24 min
Add onions, fennel, and garlic
Cook about 5 min
Add parsley
Taste and season

Braised Kale with Bacon and Onions (pay attention, George Herbert!)
Serves 4

2 bunches of kale (about 2 #), stems and ribs trimmed and chopped, leaves chopped
6 slices bacon, ½ inch pieces
2C chopped onion
¼ C apple cider vinegar

Cook in stems and ribs in boiling water for 10 min or until tender, drain , set aside
Cook bacon in skillet until beginning to crisp
Add onions and cook about 5 min
Add kale and cook for 10 min
Lower heat and cover, cook for 10 min
Add vinegar, and cook 2 min
Taste and season

Now when I saw this next vegetable laid out on the platter before the chef began his lesson, I felt as if I were at home. Or at least at the firehouse. Rapini looks like mustard greens, which we used to gather in the orchards near the firehouse at Station 15, and wash up and steam. My fellow firehouse cooks out there who watch my website for recipes for the guys might want to notice this one. Mustard greens are free certain times of the year, unlike rapini (if you can find it!).

Broccoli and Rapini with Lemon and Shallots
12 servings

½ C olive oil
1C chopped shallots
3t lemon zest
1 ½ # broccoli crowns
¼ C water
1 ½ # rapini

Heat oil in skillet and add shallots and zest
Saute 2 min
Add broccoli and water
Cover and cook about 3-4 min until broccoli is soft but still crisp
Add rapini
Saute for 2-3 min until beginning to soften
Taste and season

Here comes the spaghetti squash. I hope there’s no one out there who hasn’t tried them. They are one of my favorites, and I’ve even been known to serve them in the shell with spaghetti sauce – saves on dish washing afterward. Firehouse cooks, allow half a squash per guy.

Roasted Spaghetti Squash (easy microwave method)
4 servings

1 spaghetti squash (3-4#)
4T unsalted butter, med pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
1t salt
1t black pepper

Pierce squash all over (about 1 inch deep) with small knife to prevent bursting
Microwave on high for 6-7 min
Turn over and cook for 8-10 more min or until soft
Let cool for 10 min
Carefully squash in half, it will give off steam
Remove and discard seeds
Using a fork scrape out inside into bowl
Heat butter and add garlic
Toss squash in garlic butter
Taste and season

Now, it doesn’t say in the recipe that you have to be from the South (like Her Editorness – where do you think she got that double Southern name, Marge Ann?) to like collard greens. And as it says in the recipe, you can use other kinds of greens, too.

Slow Cooked Collard Greens
Serves 4-6

4qt water or stock
1 smoked ham hock
4# chopped collard greens (can also use kale, chard, or other braising greens)
½ t crushed red pepper
½ C apple cider vinegar

Bring water with ham hock in it to a boil, skimming any froth
Simmer for 1 hour
Add greens, pepper, and vinegar
Simmer for about an hour
Remove ham hock from liquid and allow to cool
Pick meat off hock and stir back into green if desired
Taste and season

This time of year, you’ve probably noticed kabocha squash at the grocery store. To some, they are mud-ugly, as we used to say on the ranch, because they’re sort of blue and what other food, besides blueberries, is blue? But boy are they good.

Roasted Winter (Kabocha) Squash
4 servings

1t cumin
1 bay leaf
¼ t smoked paprika (regular is fine also)
2t brown sugar
1t salt
1 kabocha squash (2-3 #), peeled, seeded, 1 inch pieces
[can use other winter squash-butternut, pumpkin, acorn]
1T olive oil

Heat oven to 375
Combine spices, sugar, and salt
Mix with oil and toss squash
Bake for 25-30 min or until soft
Taste and season

There were a couple of potato recipes, too, but we have to save room for another story. Next time I’ll tell you about the main dishes we were served – pork chops, poached fish…and the exciting Adventure of 10 Cooks Making Pie Crust. Hopefully we’ll get to that before the Christmas column so you can make perfect crusts, too, for the holidays.

Congratulations to Asilomar for a successful program that involves local chefs and cooks (and students), and Happy 100th Birthday!

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