The May long weekend is on! Time to take stock of what to bring, what to wear, and most importantly, what to eat! Whether your idea of roughing it is within the walls of a lakeside cabin or a four-person tent, your outdoor meals can be simple and spectacular.
This month four Alberta chefs have provided some great cabin-or-camp friendly fare, from starting salads to decadent brownies. They’re quick to prep, easy to serve, and take you beyond the realm of hotdogs and s’mores. Stoke your fire, get the coals glowing, and let your weekend begin!
At Edmonton’s Smokey Bear you’ll find Chef Riley hard at work creating dishes using a wood-burning grill and quality, local ingredients. “My cooking is inspired by my surroundings - the people, the land, the animals and plants - and telling a story of beautiful ingredients prepared with little intervention over an open fire to make them shine.”
When it comes to the menu, he leans towards vegetable dishes, especially during the warmer months. Fifth Gen Gardens does the growing for Smokey Bear, so you know you’re getting some of the best the province offers. “We spend lots of time preparing them fresh but also fermenting, pickling, and drying for the long winter months,” Chef Riley adds.
With cucumber salads popping up on menus all over Alberta, there’s no better time to try your hand at Chef Riley’s creation during that first trip to the cabin at the end of May. This Cucumber Salad with Charred Pesto was made for grilling – easy to prep and store, and leaving minimal waste.
An inside tip from chef himself: “Get some mesh strainers from the dollar store and flatten them to make your very own campfire pan. And don’t be afraid to really char your veg! The smoky flavour will shine through.”
If you peruse the menu of Edmonton’s Rosewood Foods, two defining factors will probably come to mind: fresh and uncomplicated. “We’re inspired by simply prepared and delicious food,” says owner Jesse Gado.
The Kale Gomadare salad is Jesse’s favourite dish on the menu: “When I first started going out to eat sushi, I was obsessed with Spinach Gomadare Salad, which is essentially wilted spinach tossed in a savoury and sweet sesame dressing. We worked hard to replicate a similar dressing to give us a beautiful and fresh result that travels well.”
By prepping all of the ingredients ahead of time, the only thing left to do when you arrive at your long weekend destination is put everything in a bowl, dress, and season the salad. “You can add grilled or fried chicken, or any other protein to the salad if you like, but frankly this salad is great on its own!”
For Cody Draper, the chef at Calgary’s New Camp, cooking is about sustainability, efficiency, and creativity. “My cooking is inspired by a nose to tail, farm to table approach. In a world of so much waste and shortage, every scrap should be respected and utilized in the most efficient way possible, while still trying to be creative and trying to put an interesting spin on the classics.”
Crispy rice and seared tuna tops the list of Cody’s menu favourites and he finds it refreshing to be able to work with fresh seafood within a landlocked province. And, just because you’re headed out doors or to the cabin, it doesn’t mean you can’t have fresh proteins along the way. “A good trick for longer stays to prolong the use of proteins, consider freezing some items in advance, as they will keep longer in your cooler.”
Planning is key when creating a menu for out-of-home excursions. Keep meals simple, and don’t forget about dessert, too. This simple Skillet Fudge Brownie can be prepared up to three days in advance and kept in the fridge or cooler until it’s needed. Plus, it’s gluten-free, so more can enjoy it – and that includes wildlife!
“Take precautions to keep yourself and your food safe. Be sure to store your food least 100 metres away from your campsite. Cooking or eating in your tent should be avoided, and properly dispose of any food waste to prevent attracting wildlife to your campsite.”
As Culinary Director for both Brix & Barrel and Rooftop in Calgary, Chef Ty’s inspiration when it comes to creating dishes, is people. “Making food for people to enjoy and talk about to their friends and family is what makes me want to continue to make great food.”
Hard-pressed to choose just one fave dish from the menus, Chef Ty names a few: tagliatelle, short ribs, wild mushrooms and burrata, and the jerk chicken skewers. “These items showcase our wide variety of menu items and offer savoury and spicy flavours.”
Also appearing on the menu are Steak and Shrimp Skewers, and he shares the recipe here as a quick and easy recipe perfect for grilling at the cabin. “You can elevate your steak experience while camping - it’s really easy and has a ton of flavour,” explains Chef Ty. And, they make for great appetizers or main dish.
Be sure to prep everything beforehand so you can just fire up the grill and get cooking right away – but then slow it down and be patient. “Take your time with the proteins, they’re expensive and you don’t want to ruin them by cutting them wrong. Ensure they are seasoned well, use a thermometer so they don’t overcook - and don’t be afraid to use a little extra butter!”