Food should taste good. It’s a simple idea that often gets ignored in favor of weight or convenience during hiking trips or other outdoor adventures.
Anna Brones and Brendan Leonard would like to change that. “Best Served Wild,” their new cookbook, has a straightforward premise: Good food is a vital part of the outdoor experience, and it’s worth a little extra work. Note: a little extra work. Anna and Brendan are outdoor veterans, so they come at the book from years of experience. They don’t demand anything unreasonable.
Brones, who lives near Tacoma, is the author of several cookbooks, including “The Culinary Cyclist” and “Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break.” Leonard, who lives in Denver, is the creator of semi-rad.com and the author of several books.
Brones and Leonard are a natural partnership. Leonard said he brought an intense love of food and a wealth of outdoor experience, and Brones brought experience with writing cookbooks and her own years of outdoor adventures.
The result is a cookbook that is as fun to read as it is to cook from. Leonard is well-known as a humorist and this book is written in a lighthearted, slightly irreverent tone. Essays throughout the book are both useful and entertaining. Leonard writes an ode to the value of brewing a cup of coffee at lunchtime. He also gives advice about when it’s appropriate to start talking about real food on the trail (not too early, unless you want your companions to hate you). Brones writes an exhaustive breakdown of outdoor coffee brewing methods and explains in loving detail the benefits of a chocolate stash.
“We are both people who try not to take ourselves too seriously, particularly when it comes to food,” Brones said. “But cooking can be a little intimidating if you’re not a food lover or not an avid cook. We wanted people to feel it was fun.”
The book is broken up into three sections: car camping trips, day trips and backpacking trips. On the first, weight isn’t much of a consideration. On the second, weight is a consideration, but you can get pretty creative with what you bring: breakfast sandwiches and flatbread quesadillas, for instance. The final section focuses on lightweight foods that are easy to make and that keep well.
The recipes are all vegetarian and some are vegan, although the authors make suggestions for recipes where it would be easy to add meat.
Leonard hopes the book reminds people that great food and great adventures don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
“We want people to take inspiration from the book,” Brones said. “I want people to have more fun eating outside. I want to challenge folks to be more creative.”
½ cup walnuts
1 cup water
2 tablespoons dried red pepper
½ cup couscous
2 teaspoons dried minced garlic
¼ teaspoon salt
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
Place the walnuts in a pot over your stove. Toast them, shaking the pot regularly to move them around, until they have started to turn a dark brown. They will burn quickly, so keep an eye on them.
Once the walnuts are toasted, transfer them to a bowl. Add the water and red pepper to your pot and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and pour in the couscous, minced garlic and salt. Stir together and cover. Let sit for about 10 minutes, until the couscous has softened.
Add the toasted walnuts and olive oil and stir together. Spoon into bowls and serve.
Chocolate chip cookie dough
1 cup almond meal or almond flour (you can also make your own by finely grinding almonds in a food processor)
¼ cup chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
At home: In a bowl, mix together the almond meal, chocolate, salt and baking soda.
In a saucepan, melt the coconut oil. Remove from the heat and stir in the maple syrup and vanilla extract. Let cool for a few minutes. Pour the slightly cooled coconut oil into the almond meal mixture. Mix together, then form into a log. If it’s too sticky to form into a log, place in the refrigerator until it cools down a little and stiffens. Place the log in a plastic bag and chill in the refrigerator.
At camp: Eat the cookie dough on its own, or if you’ve managed to save some of it, place a frying pan on your stove. Slice the dough into rounds, and mold each one into a cookie shape. If the dough is cold and extra hard, sometimes it can get a little crumbly and just needs to be molded back together.
Fry the cookies in the frying pan for a couple of minutes on each side. Remove from the heat and let cool for a few minutes before serving.
Makes enough for about 8 to 10 small cookies.
The Washington Trails Association is the nation’s largest state-based hiking nonprofit organization. The WTA protects hiking trails and wildlands, takes volunteers out to maintain trails and promotes hiking as a healthy, fun way to explore the outdoors. For more information, go to www.wta.org.