Last weekend a group of friends and I went out to Donner Summit in North Tahoe for some climbing, camping and some of the best campfire cooking I’ve had in a long time. My friend W. and I cooked tacos on Sunday night, but this blog post is dedicated to S. and K. who came back from a recent trip to the Middle East inspired to cook a Bedouin Desert style dinner for us all.
So many of my friends are foodies – and a few are new climbers. It was not until this weekend I realized how much cooking and climbing have in common. Both require an attention to detail – whether it is tying a knot or setting an anchor, or driving all over town to find kaffir lime leaves. Both also take a great deal of creativity, patience and invention. Knowing how well my friends cook – they are destined to be great climbers.
Saturday was the first time S. and S. climbed outside. We took them to School Rock and set some top ropes on the practice slab. They were pretty easy for everyone – but it was a nice warm up. I had forgotten how hard it is to climb in the heat and sun. We ended up hiding in the shade for a good portion of the day. It was our first time out to Donner Summit, so even though we did not get much climbing in we did learn a lot about the routes out there – and the best times of day to climb them! It was a good enough day to get everyone excited for climbing up at Big Chief the second day. We headed back to camp and rewarded ourselves with a swim in Donner Lake.
After swimming, K. and S. got to work on making our Bedouin style meal. Dinner included a chicken dish cooked in a cast iron pot, babaganoush, bread baked in the fire, and a cucumber-tomato salad. A sincere thanks to S. and K. for sharing the recipes below and to B. and A. for the great photos!
Bedouin Desert Chicken
For this meal you will need a hot coals from a wood fire and a large cast iron pot w/ lid. Start the fire about an hour before cooking, let the wood burn down to nice red coals. While the fire is going, prep the ingredients for the chicken and make the babaganoush and salad.
8 – 12 boned chicken thighs or 1 whole chicken cut up into pieces
1 lb. baby potatoes (red, yukon or fingerling)
1/2 lb.carrots cut into big chunks
2 red onions cut into chunks
1/2 lb. Anaheim or bell peppers
4 cloves of garlic chopped
1 Tbsp ground coriander
1/2 Tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne (or more if you like spicy)
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 medium tomatoes peeled seeded and chopped or 1 20oz. can of whole tomatoes (drained and chopped)
Beer or water
salt and pepper to taste
Prepare a good, hot fire of coals and lay a grate over the coals. Mix all ingredients together and place in a doubled large foil packet (fold the long ends together first and roll several times, then roll each of the ends towards the middle so all the folds are at the top) or place in the cast iron pot (If using a pot add beer initially and keep adding so ingredients don’t burn on the bottom). Cook over coals about 40 minutes or until chicken is tender.
6 small eggplants (clean and dried)
2 Tbsp tahini
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp salt
Roast the eggplants over campfire until soft and the skin is charred completely. Remove the skins and mash the eggplants in a bowl. Add the tahini, salt, lemon juice and olive oil to taste.
Bedouin Fire Bread
2 cups white flour
1 cup wheat flour
2 Tbsp kosher salt or 2 tsp table salt
1 Tbsp baking powder
Blend all ingredients and add enough water to make a soft dough. Knead dough for 5 – 10 minutes with your hands, dipping your kneading hand in water periodically to work into the dough. This should make a soft and pliable dough. Cover the dough with a cloth and set it aside to rest for at least 15 minutes. While dough is resting, clean fire pit of debris and build a fire with small sticks or small pieces of kindling to create small coals. When the fire is ready, work the dough into a round about 1/2 inch thick making sure the thickness is pretty even throughout. Push the coals aside and place the dough on the cleared space, then push the coals over the dough so they cover it completely.
Let the bread cook 10 – 15 minutes under the coals. Scrape the coals off the bread and flip, then cover the bread with coals again to bake the second side. After 10 minutes, pull the bread out of the coals and dust it off scraping a bit to get any dirt or large coal pieces off the surface. Break apart and serve with hummus or Babaganoush and salad.