Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Recipes, Books, and a Freeform Give-Away

Ah, my darlings. A few things today. For one, I turned 47. Yes, I did. And we went to see a band called Darlingside, whose new album you can listen to here for free! You are so welcome (assuming you like crushingly adorable young-guy string bands who do Crosby, Stills, and Nash harmonies). It was the best birthday ever, for many reasons, including Michael making a romantic acrostic birthday card, and everyone going on a mushroom foraging walk with me. Sigh. The forties is by far my favorite decade so far, nipple hairs and geriatric acne notwithstanding.

Next up: fulfilling your recipe requests. For Warm and Smoky Potato Salad and Butternut Galette with Roasted Onions, Pecans, and Blue Cheese. I made that galette last week, only instead of squash et al, I made it with a big heap of sauteed cabbage and onions and a thick layer of melty aged gouda, and it was totally fabulous. Also caraway seeds. Yum.

And then a couple of book recommendations. Like the newest Full Grown People collection, Soul Mate 101 and Other Essays on Love and Sex edited by the lovely and brilliant Jennifer Niesslein. I tried to read three essays (it was late, and that was the number I had allotted myself), and did not put the book down until I was done. It's honest and raw, sexy and joyful and sad and very middle-aged, in the best possible way. I confess to having contributed an essay to the volume that is not the least dirty thing I have ever written. Actually, the only dirtier thing might be the essay I contributed to the first FGP collection. Or the poem I once wrote comparing Michael to a microwaved hotdog.

I am also recommending the latest Unbored book: Unbored Adventure, which I had the deep honor of contributing to, and which Birdy has named "The best Unbored book yet!" (Huge praise.) This is a chock-a-block book, filled with crazy, thoughtful, well-tested ideas that range from the immediately doable to the profoundly inspirational and aspirational. Birdy read the book cover to cover, then promptly spent the day sewing something called a "Ditty Bag," which thrilled her no end. "What are you going to do next from it?" I asked her, and she looked thoughtful, then said, "Purify drinking water using nesting bowls and evaporation." Okay! 

And if you're all, "Adventure? Seriously? Catherine?" please know that I wrote the opening essay and ideas for the "Adventures Close to Home" chapter. Like last week? We foraged the black walnuts from our own backyard. Ba-bam. Adventure.

And finally, A Step Toward Falling, which is a book that has nothing to do with me. Except that its author Cammie is my beloved neighbor and friend, and her profound kindness, hilariousness, and curiosity sparkle in everything she writes. It's a book that's getting starred reviews everywhere, and that is currently #1 on Amazon in "Teen and Young Adult Special Needs Fiction." Birdy read this book so fast that the pages were flying, and she has described it as "awesome" and "complicated" and "funny" and also (this is a caveat) "the grown-uppiest book I have ever read." I'm reading it next.

One more book, even though I said "finally" already:

It's out in April, but you can pre-order it here! Please do. (Dying a little. Click on the link just to see the advance blurbs from this incredible person and this one. Dying. Seriously.)

Okay, the free-form give-away! I don't want to give these particular books away because I want you to buy them! So enter by commenting, and if you win, I'll send you any book you like that amazon sells (and that is not, like, $100). Sound good? Comment by noon EST next Wednesday, 10/14. 

Love and happy reading. xo

Friday, September 25, 2015

Bad-Mood Breakfast Burritos

I was recalling recently a thought I had when I was in labor with Ben. And it was: “This is like a mechanical bull!” And I couldn’t stay on. But I couldn’t get off, either. And sometimes that’s kind of how it is.

Anyhoo. Where was I? Oh yes. School mornings. Here’s a confession: they have not historically been frantic at my house. I mean, yeah, it’s a school morning. Are folks brimming over with extra time and joie de vivre? No. They are not. But we try to get up early enough that, should the kids want to crawl into bed for a few minutes with the cat and me, well, there’s a little time for snuggling and the admiring of clean fur, for warm, sleepy conversation. Which I love. 

But these days, that’s mostly Birdy. While Ben. Ben. Ben is falling into paroxysms of starvation and judgment, and the combining of the two into pronouncements of his own hungry grievances. What’s that you say? Welcome to teenagerland? I know! But guys, it’s Ben. The sweetheart of sweethearts. Whom I typically love to feed and feed, but who has become a person who says, irritably, “Are we out of dried cherries?” like this missing ingredient from the muesli he’s assembling constitutes a serious incident of neglect.

The face of RAVENOUS MONSTROSITY! On the way to a Stromae concert with his Ava friend.
He is starving. He is standing in front of the refrigerator, accusing me. “We have no food in the house!” “I’m not totally sure what you’re looking for,” I say, reasonably. “We have toast and eggs. Cheese and ham. Cereal and yogurt and fruit. I heard Birdy offer to share the smoothie she was making.” Ben is visible exasperated. Clearly, I do not understand what is needed. 

“I feel like you want to put out your hand and have an Egg McMuffin fall into it,” I say, and he admits that this is kind of true. “What about toast with melted cheese?” I say, as if this is a problem that could actually be solved, and he groans. “I think that pea under all your mattresses really got to you last night!” I say, which is a funny joke, which Ben doesn’t laugh at, because I’ve said it in a meaner way than I intended. I kiss his starving, irritated cheeks. “Let’s make breakfast burritos this weekend,” I say. “Like we did last spring, when you were in another one of your princessy fits.” “Okay,” he says. “That would be great.”

And so we do! The end. 

Only not really, because a kind of overcaffeination takes over while we’re making them, and the hash browns stick—which remind me that they stuck last time too—and then I burn a tortilla, and Birdy is pissed at me because I’m raging around cursing, and she doesn’t like it. Also I suggest that she’s washing the sandy arugula poorly—“Not in a colander. In a sinkful of water,” I sigh, like what kind of idiot? 

By the time we’re done with the burritos, two of us have cried. “Enjoy these,” I say to Ben, cramming the bag into our too-stuffed freezer, from which two empty pints of ice cream drop to the ground. “Think of all the love that went into them."

Make-Ahead Breakfast Burritos
Makes 8
These are great! Seriously. It’s the thing you’re starving teenager really wants to eat in the morning, and if you don’t use those damned sticking hash browns, they come together very quickly and easily. Plus, they can be varied pretty widely: use ham, sausage, or chorizo instead of the bacon—or whatever veggie versions of those things you like best. Add sautéed onions and peppers. Skip the hash browns (!) and add black beans instead, along with a spoonful of salsa. You might want to add the salsa—or a few shakes of hot sauce—anyway.

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 20-ounce shredded bag hash browns
12 (or 16) ounces bacon
8 eggs
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
 3 tablespoons butter
1 heaping cup shredded cheese (cheddar, Jack, or a blend)
8 (8-inch) wheat tortillas (make sure they’re fairly pliable or you will end up killing somebody)

Heat the oil in a wide pan and sauté the hash browns until they are tender and brown, or according to the package directions. If you have a nonstick pan, NOW IS THE TIME TO USE IT. These stick maddeningly. Aaaaaaagh.

Meanwhile, cook the bacon and drain it on paper towels.

Beat the eggs with the water and salt. Heat the butter in a medium pan and cook the eggs, scrambling them until they are cooked through but still nice and soft.

Heat the tortillas to soften them: I do this by stacking them right on top of a low burner, and flipping and rotating them so that a new one is always on the bottom. There are doubtless better ways than this, especially because I tend to burn at least one.

Now lay the tortillas out on a clean counter. Divide the bacon among them, breaking up strips as necessary to equal it all out. Arrange a scoop of hash browns over the bacon  (you may have some leftover hash browns). Dive the eggs over the hash browns, keeping the filling in a fairly even strip down the middle of the tortillas and leaving about an inch free at the top and bottom. Divide the cheese over the eggs.

Now roll the burritos up. I do this by wetting my hands in a bowl of water, then folding over the top and bottom inch of plain tortilla before rolling it up tight, tucking in the filling as I go, and compressing it tightly. We your hands again, then put the burrito seam-side down on a baking sheet, pressing it down a little to secure. Continue with the folding and rolling, wetting your hands to help compress everything. The water also helps the burritos freeze solid so that, after the whole pan of burritos is frozen overnight, you can move them into a large freezer Ziploc bag, and they will keep their shape.

To heat one up, put it on a plate, lay a wet paper towel over it, and microwave on high for 2 to 3 minutes, until heated through. Or wrap in foil and heat in a 350 oven for around 20 minutes.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Any-Jam Oatmeal Bars

If you made Any-Berry Jam, then you could make Any-Any-Berry-Jam Bars, which is a fun idea (on Mars). 
Before I forget: I've moved over a few requested recipes, from back in the day: Michael's Pesto, Homemade Burger Buns, and the semi-tutorial on how to teach your kid to make salad. Thank you so much for asking. Please keep your requests coming, and please forgive me if you asked for something and I forgot to post it. My intention is to post everything.

Also before I forget: my friend Debbie has started a new craft blog, Ink & Glue, and I am in love with it. It's just the kind of low-cost, high-gorgeous crafting I love. Her first post, on using the color registration boxes from packaging, is so brilliant. But there is lots more (all) to love over there.

Now: Any-Jam Bars! This is based on a Pioneer Woman recipe, but I use (wait for it) SPELT FLOUR! I also use (wait for it) A FOOD PROCESSOR! But you don't need to do either of these things. Dree Rummond (I am leaving that typo because it's funny, but correcting it here: Ree Drummond!) makes them with strawberry jam, but part of the reason I am making these, besides the obvious of (sigh) September lunch boxes, is that I have years and years of weird jams to use up.

If I had to pick a single photograph to illustrate the concept, "first world problem," this would be it. My jam pantry. And yet, it is my particular cross to bear, this having of so much jam, some of it unidentifiable, much of it from too many years ago, and most of it *grape.* Because the wild grapes! I pick them and pick them, how could you not? They intoxicate me! Their smell! Their color! The way they make everyone's lips itch. And also, the jam sets up so beautifully and is so. . . free! But, full disclosure, grape is not everyone's favorite jam around here. People like it fine, definitely, but if you're seeing an absence of peach in that pantry shot, if you're seeing an absence of apricot and plum, well, that's because those are the chosen flavors. (My mother is probably squinting at this photograph to see the word "Gooseberry" in her own handwriting. I love you, Mom!) Grape is a little more eh, a little more likely to have a piece of tape on it that says "2012."

So I'm making jam bars to use it up. And because they're delicious: buttery, brown-sugary, oaty, like the crumble part of a fruit crumble, with just enough sticky (grape) jam to fruit it up, to hold it together. Yum, yum, yum. These are best the first couple of days and, as the week wears on, they get a little less crisp. But then at least it's Thursday and there's a soggy jam bar in your lunch, instead of on Monday, when you really need a nice fresh one. Right?

Thank you for your kind word last. . . uh. . . the other week. The nights are getting cooler, the mushrooms are coming up everywhere, Birdy is adapting to middle school, and life is looking up. Plus, Michael put an abject little Dobby stamp on our taxes, which made me fall in love with him all over again. Which is different from a few months ago, when I raged around the house saying, "Really? You had to buy Harry Potter stamps? I have got to be the only person who has ever put a Voldemort stamp on a fucking *condolence* note." Sigh.

Any-Jam Oatmeal Bars
Makes around 24 bars

In Ree Drummond's original recipe, you mix these by hand, probably to keep the oats whole. Feel free to do that if you prefer, or if you don't have a food processor. Me? I'm lazy.

1 1/2 cups flour (I use half or more spelt)
1 1/2 cups oats (old-fashioned rolled or quick are both fine)
1 packed cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)
1 3/4 sticks salted butter (cold-ish) cut into pieces
One 8- to 12-ounce jar of any kind of jam or jelly (except Green Tomato Marmalade)

Heat the oven to 350 and butter and 9- by 13-inch pan.

In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, briefly whir together the dry ingredients just to mix. Add the butter and process until a clumpy dough starts to form.

Put half the dough in the pan and press it evenly to form the bottom crust. Spread the jam over this layer, then crumble the remaining oat mixture over the top.

Bake 30 to 40 minutes, until nicely brown. Eat a couple "tasting" bites warm, but then cool completely before cutting into squares.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Mini Ricotta Frittatas

This is and isn't a photograph of the kind of week I'm having.
There's something so funny about a food blog. Because: Mini Ricotta Frittatas! It's so cheerful. It's got that nice double-T consonance going for it. Plus, they're mini! They've got ricotta in them! How could I possible be having such a terrible week?

Oh, but I am. It is one thing and another, and yet all the things are manageable things--bad work stuff, my annual back-to-school grief, non-catastrophic family health issues--because, please. You know. My dearest friend of 43 years died in February! Is this that? No. It is not. Although it's true that I have been wearing all her clothes in a terrible melancholy way. There's one shirt I especially like, and Ben offered to silkscreen it for me: "My best friend died and all I got was this lousy t-shirt." So, you know. There's that.

I should be showing you a lunchbox or something similarly seasonally festive, but fuck it.
That kid. And the other kid. And my friends and partner and parents. And all of the beautiful, wonderful things about my life. There was actually this crazy moment yesterday, when I was so distracted by this one particular stressful work thing that I was picking tomatillos with Ben, distracted. And then I was making enchilada sauce, distracted. And I was eating my favorite dinner, which is enchilada casserole, with my favorite people, who are Ben and Birdy and Michael, distracted. And then I was playing Agricola, my absolute favorite game, distracted. And then--because I am the Dalai Lama--it occurred to me that work is a means to and end, and the end is leading the kind of life I want to lead, and enjoying the things I enjoy, and those are all the things I love most, so why was I missing out on them? I know. It's crazy.

Anyhoo. Mini Ricotta Frittatas! Because the kids started school, and Birdy requested something fun for her lunchbox, and then got to flipping through this sweet book, which we'd gotten a review copy of, and picked out these little egg cups (the fact that all the photographs in the book were of preschoolers did not seem to daunt Birdy in the slightest). They're delicious, and I know, because I ate one, and then right after that I ate another. They're kind of weighty and cheesy, in a good way, as opposed to dry and fluffy. Two, cold in a thermos, makes a perfect lunch for her, and would really make a perfect lunch for anyone. I'm going to try doubling the recipe and baking it in a springform pan for dinner.

Mini Ricotta Frittatas
This is adapted from the recipe for “Spinach and Ricotta Egg Muffin Cups” from the book Little Bites. I added dill because it seemed like they were begging for herbs. Also, the book suggested that 2 cups of chopped spinach was 8 ounces, but really it was more like 3 ounces. I chose to wilt the spinach in the pan rather than adding it raw. Another great variation, I'm positive, would be fresh corn kernels and cilantro (which I'm trying next) instead of spinach and dill, with maybe Monterey Jack swapped in for the mozzarella. 

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 eggs
1 cup whole-milk ricotta (Calabro is the kind I like to use, after extensive research)
¾ cup grated whole-milk mozzarella (I like Polly-O or Trader Joe's)
¼ cup freshly grated parmesan
2 cups chopped spinach (around 4 ounces)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill (or another herb of your choosing: cilantro, mint, basil, parsley, chives, or a lesser amount of thyme or marjoram)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Black pepper

Heat the oven to 350 and grease 8 of the wells in a standard muffin tin.

Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat and sauté the onion until soft and browning, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, cook another minute, then add the spinach and cook until just wilted, about 1 minute.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, then add the cheeses and stir. Add the spinach mixture, the dill, and the salt and pepper, and stir well. Season this aggressively. If you're too shy to taste it raw (fair enough), microwave a tiny bit and check for salt.

Divide the mixture in the muffin cups (I used an ice cream scoop, but a 1/3-cup measure would work well), and bake 15-20 minutes until puffed, deeply golden, and set. Eat right away or refrigerate--or try a little of both.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Lemony Brown Rice Salad with Stone Fruit and Herbs

I am here to fulfill a couple of summer requests! For this Satiny Chocolate Sauce, for example, which is different from the healthy fake Magic Shell, and also different from my famous hot fudge, which you will see is not hyperlinked, because I have never posted the recipe! What? (Mental note.) For this Minted Cherry Tabouli. This One-Bean Salad. All are back. Yay! Thank you for the requests and please keep them coming. I also need to make my annual plug for this pasta, which continues to be so crazily good that I actually look forward to zucchini season, and for this cake, these popsicles, and, for that matter, this book, which, come August, I am so glad we own.

Okay. Moving forwards.

Ben and his friend Ava, 2015
And backwards.
Ben and his friend Ava, 2005

And right up to the present! 

This is the kind of late-summer clearing-house dish I love. Tangy, herby, crunchy, juicy, fruity, and a perfect vehicle for any harvesty overabundances that might be coming your way. 

It is also a terrific potluck take-along, as it gets big, enjoys popularity, and travels well. I confess that we got invited to a party last week, and I committed to making a salad with only what we had in (and behind) the house, which turned out to be quinoa, foraged beach plums, purslane from our yard, miscellaneous herbs, and a jar of pickled green beans. It was not bad! But this might be better.

Lemony Brown Rice Salad with Stone Fruit and Herbs
This is the late summer version of the springtime brown rice salad, and is similar to the Summery Whole-Grain Salad, but please don’t feel captive to the vagaries of my personal hell-hole of a refrigerator! Use whatever you have that’s lovely and fresh: different herbs, different fruit, barely steamed green beans, peas, sautéed squash cubes or onions, finely chopped kale, cherry tomatoes, anything good. Furthermore, if you don’t have or want to use the rice, use farro, barley, or quinoa. And finally, if you don’t have lemons, you can’t make lemonade! Or this dressing, so make Ben’s Perfect Vinaigrette instead, and start with about half of it to taste.

2 cups brown rice (I like short grain, even though they recommend long, because it’s sweet and nutty)
4 teaspoons kosher salt plus another teaspoon
3 tablespoons good olive oil
The grated zest of 1 lemon, plus its juice (around 2-3 tablespoons)
2 peaches or nectarines or plums, diced small (or 1 ½ cups pitted cherries, halved)
1 cup crumbled feta or diced fresh mozzarella
1 English cucumber (or 2 regular), seeded and diced small
2 scallions, slivered
2 stalks celery, with their leaves, sliced thin
½ cup chopped or slivered almonds, toasted or fried in a bit of olive oil until just browned
1 cup chopped herbs: I used basil and parsley, but mint and cilantro are great here too

Cook the rice: Bring a pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the rice and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice is just tender (around 25 minutes). Drain the rice well, then put it back in the pot, put a dish towel over the top of the pot, and replace the pot’s cover. Let the rice steam and cool for 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon zest and juice, and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Add the rice and all the remaining ingredients, and stir to mix. Taste for salt and lemon, and add more if it needs it. You can also, if something seems at all off about the balance, try adding a little pinch of sugar.

Let the salad stand at room temperature for up to an hour (really try not to have to refrigerate it, or it will lose a great deal of its loveliness).

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Summer and Summer and Summer

Well, it was worth a try!
Forever, right? Because even though the apples are already dropping from the tree down the street la la la and even though it is already August la la la and Ben held up a crimson maple leaf and said, irate, "What the fuck? No. I mean seriously. What. The. Fuck?" I am just going to pretend that the summer will go on and on. If your kids are back at school already, please just ignore me. Likewise, if they are little still and/or a total pain in your harse-ole and you are counting the seconds until they are.

Birdy's Eebo camped in his own tent, which came inside the big tent when the nights were long and scary. (Note for longtime readers: Strawberry is alive and well! But he doesn't come camping because the raccoons once made off with Birdy's Pink Dolly. Not that she wouldn't be devastated to lose Eebo, of course! #awkward) 
But that's why, instead of offering you useful bagged-lunch ideas or homework helpers, I'm going to pretend that what you want, still and always, is advice about summer! Even though just this very day, I was wading through the Halloween displays at TJ Maxx while Michael, who is maybe in the most denial of all of us, looked for a beach towel, since his had gone missing. "Where are the effing beach towels?" he said, and I had to say, "Um, Honey? I think the store is kind of moving on." And he was pissed.

"I'm thinking we'll call it Neutral Skin and Hair. You dig?" "Yeah, yeah, totally. Should we keep thinking, though? I mean, you don't actually put it in your hair. Or, nah. Forget it. That's perfect."
So I'm here to recommend this sunscreen. Because we're still having fun in the sun, right? It is the best sunscreen we have ever used, at least since switching from lovely silky spray-ons to the gloppy, sticky, white mineral kind, and it's also the cheapest, at $12 for 8 ounces. Plus, it's called Neutral Skin and Hair, so you know they are not wasting a lot of money on, say, frivolous marketing. The Environmental Working Group ranks it pretty high, as do my complaining children, who have now used it for two (one and a half!) summers whilst complaining remarkably little. The fact that it is very oily bothers them less than the fact of the other kinds being very pasty. If you have acne, though, you will hear your pimples slurping long and happily before burping and thanking you.

I wouldn't say that painting those bowls was the best thing that ever happened to me. But only because then you'd think I was lame.
The other thing I want to recommend is these watercolors. I bought them for our summer adventures (and then I bought them again for Ava's birthday), and now I'm starting to think that I've never actually used good watercolors before, even though I thought I was buying this set mostly for its compactness. The hues are as vivid or washed as you want them to be, and the colors themselves are simply thrilling. I brought them camping, and kids and grown-ups alike spent many happy hours hunched over the pages of this wonderful coloring book. The whole series is great (we got this one too), and the pages are sturdy enough to handle the paints. I know grown-ups and coloring books are the hot couple of the month or whatever, but it's true that a coloring book seems to take away people's art-fear factor.

That's Billy Boiler, the camping kettle that Michael and I have been using now for. . . 25 years. Holy fuck.
I also painted the same still life three days in a row, and it was so much fun.

I can barely tell you about camping, about holding Birdy's hand on the way from the bathroom and trying to guess how many times we've walked that path together in the many years since her birth. We guessed 150, but it could be more or less. Her chubby toddler legs must be somewhere deep inside these new long ones, right? 
The view out back.
The view out top. 
The view inside.

Mostly while we're camping what we talk about is how much we love camping. That's how it's always been. I think that if you'd tried to describe to me the bittersweet flavor of growing kids, I wouldn't have been able to understand. It's like trying to explain color or something. The kids are so completely here, but already missing and half gone, and also leaving us. In the tent, I can watch their faces while they're sleeping without, like, being a total freak about it.

Speaking of "learning to let go," this book came in the mail, and I am so excited to read it. It's by the incomparable Jessica Lahey, and, as you know if you've followed her NYT Parent-Teacher Conference blog at all, it is going to be so, so good--challenging and good. There! Those yellow pencils on the cover. That's my one concession to fall.

Happy summer, my dear ones. xo

Friday, July 24, 2015

Tofu Jerky (and other camping food)

I know, I know. Tofu Jerky sounds like the vegetarian you dated once in college, the one who held you hostage in his apartment while he made you his famous nine-hour eggplant and molested your neck and shoulders with an unsolicited rubbing because you seemed tense. And you were! You were tense. Later, Tofu Jerky!

Instead, it’s this: Jerky. But made of tofu. By the kind of jerk who has nothing better to do than fiddle around with tiny slivers of crumbly, slowly dessicating soy curd. Be forewarned: This is a project! “Is it easy?” the kids asked, the first time we were devouring it on a road trip, and I loved the question—which is always code for “Will you make us this all the time?”—but no, it’s not really easy. Nor is it exactly hard. It’s just time-consuming and involved, with many trifling little steps.

But what it is is delicious, cheap, and a fantastic high-protein snack for camping and travel and school and road-trips and all those other times when you are starving, starving, starving, so you eat a handful of crackers and then feel like you’re uraveling into a carb-fueled, still-starving homicidal maniac. This is satisfying and chewy, salty-sweet and excellent, but just short of addictive, so you won’t eat the whole jar and then be carsick. Which is to say: it’s not as good as the beef jerky I used to make (sigh), but it’s much cheaper, and also I mostly don’t eat meat anymore. What? Oh, a story for another day. Suffice it to say: Ben eats enough meat for all of us, and this jerky is good enough to bother making.

I made a double batch last night (shown here) because we are leaving today for our camping trip! Yay, yay, yay! Which is why I have to run off and clown-car ten cubed acres of gear into a single Subaru wagon. I lie: Michael’s in charge of the surrealist math problem that is loading up the stuff. I’m in charge of the food, food, and more food. Speaking of: someone requested the one-pot camping couscous, which is now here, along with the pie-iron pizza and a food-packing list. The granola is here. The muesli, as well as the fish and squash packets, are here. The camp rice and beans is here. (There's a whole camping section in the recipe index too.) But I’ll still be in line at the clam shack. Say hi, okay?

Tofu Jerky
I started with a Mark Bittman recipe, but then ended up changing it over time, adding the initial soy-sauce brushing, e.g., as well as the vinegar and liquid smoke and garlic powder. You could pretty much baste it with whatever. In fact, it occurs to me that I have more or less recreated the flavor of bottled barbeque sauce, so maybe you should simply use that! If you do, will you please let us all know how it turns out? (Process photos below.)

1 (15-ounce) block extra-firm tofu
3 tablespoons soy sauce (divided use)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
½ teaspoon liquid smoke (or chipotle puree or smoked paprika)
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon white vinegar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon cayenne

Heat your oven to 225, and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. While the oven is heating, I actually wrap the tofu in a clean dishtowel and stick the tea kettle on top of it, just to get some of the extra water out before starting. You can leave it like this from 5 minutes to an hour.

Slice the tofu into fiddly little slices. I do this by bisecting the block horizontally, and then cutting these halves into long, very skinny slices. They’ll be a little thicker than 1/8 inch, and they should be as even as you can make them, although they won’t be even, I can tell you that right now. You will eat a lot of raw, poorly cut slices as you go, and you will wonder why, until you put some soy sauce on them, and you’ll think: not bad!

In the end, you should have about 28 good slices, which you’ll squeeze onto the pan so that they’re touching. Brush them on one side with soy sauce and then turn them all over (a total pain!) and brush the other side, using 2 of the 3 tablespoons altogether. Put them in the oven for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, stir together the remaining ingredients, including the remaining tablespoon of soy sauce. Take the baked tofu out of the oven and brush it all over with half the sauce, then return it to the oven for 15 minutes. Take it out of the oven and flip each fiddly, now-hot piece over, then put it back in the oven for 30 minutes. Baste it (you’re now basting the unbasted side) with the remaining sauce, and put it back in the oven until it’s done, 15-45 minutes. Seriously, that’s the range I’m giving you. Not only that, but you’ll also want to pluck out various slices as they’re done so that they don’t get over done! And you’ll know you’re only doing this because you did not cut them evenly in the first place.

How will you know when it’s done? It will go from opaque white to a kind of translucent, plasticky look. It will still be flexible—you don’t want it to get crisp—but it will look like it’s now made out of... I have to say it again: plastic. If you get sick of waiting, turning the oven off and leave them in the cooling oven for a while, and they’ll be done after that. (Nice, clear instruction, no?)

Cool the tofu on a rack, then store it in a bag or jar in the fridge or in a cooler, where it will get leathery and more jerk-like overnight. I don’t know how long it lasts, because we eat it all, but Mark Bittman says 1 week.
Why are you starting with something packed in water, when you want to end up with something dry? Good question.

Bisected! (Likes girls and boys.)
Cut into fiddly maddening slices. 
Soy-basted and baked.