Once I got used to the idea of not having internet and electricity, the thing I missed the most during my blissfully off-the-grid time working in Yellowstone National Park last month may seem strange: cooking.
When I’m camped out in Red, my trusty Toyota Tacoma pickup, I keep meal-prep simple (and make my home-on-wheels less attractive to bears and other wildlife) by only cooking breakfast. And that’s just gluten-free instant oatmeal with organic dried fruit. I perch on Red’s tailgate with my JetBoil stove, which lives up to its name by boiling a cup of water practically faster than I can empty the packet of oatmeal into my mug and add the dried fruit.
Sitting on Red’s tailgate in the chill pre-dawn air, eating my oatmeal (enriched with a dollop of half-and-half from the Mammoth store) and watching the sun rise over Mount Everts across the valley, listening to the bluebirds and buntings sing and the mama elk squeal at their young was about as wonderful a way to start the day as you can imagine.
Mt. Everts from the hill above the Mammoth Campground in the evening (look closely and you can see Red between the trees).
For lunches and dinner, I ate deli salads and wraps from the Gardiner Market, bought whenever I went out of the park to town to get my wifi fix. Or if it was a shower day, I hiked up to the Mammoth Hotel Dining Room, where I had some delicious meals, great wine, and interesting conversations with the servers, who come from all over the country and in fact the world to work there.
But I missed being able to cook, especially using whatever was fresh in my kitchen garden.
When I got home, one of the first things I did was check my garden, tended by my friends (thank you, Bev and Maggie!), to see what needed harvesting. I noticed that the basil had thrived in the hot weather while I was away, so I snipped enough of that to make a batch of pesto. (Recipe here.)
One of the best things about having fresh pesto around, from my point of view, is all the ways you can use it. Not just on pasta: Mix a dollop in scrambled eggs, or spread it on an omlette. It’s great broiled on crusty slices of bread, or as a sandwich spread. Bake or grill chicken breasts (or mild fish) spread with pesto and wrapped with foil, and you’ll be hooked.
My favorite way of using pesto on hot summer nights though is to make easy pesto “pizzas” using tortillas or pita bread as the crust. Here’s the recipe:
Individual Pesto “Pizzas”
1 corn or flour tortilla, or one round pita bread
1 or 2 tsps of basil pesto (the amount depends on the size of the “crust”)
1 T sliced fresh leaves of spinach, radish, mustard, or other flavorful green (I use whatever needs harvesting from my garden)
1 slice mozzarella cheese, cut into strips
2 grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise (I use organic tomatoes)
2 half artichoke hearts, cut in half again (I use grilled baby artichoke hearts in jars)
Pre-heat broiler. Spread the pesto on the tortilla or pita bread, thinner on the tortilla (it’ll run off if you use too much), thicker on the pita bread since it’ll soak in. Cover with the sliced greens. Put the “pizza” on a cookie sheet and put in the broiler until the greens wilt and the pesto bubbles. Remove from broiler and layer on strips of cheese to mostly cover wilted greens. Top with tomato halves and artichoke hearts. Return to broiler (on cookie sheet) and broil until cheese bubbles, about two minutes.
Slide onto a plate, let cool for a moment, and enjoy! (Warning: these are messy. But oh-so-good.)
For dessert, serve up some warmed fresh summer fruit topped with vanilla yogurt or ice cream. (I just finished eating warm Palisade peaches, which I sliced and froze last summer, topped with Noosa vanilla yogurt. Heaven!)
I loved my time in Yellowstone. But it’s good to be home with my garden and my kitchen.