Summer is the time to pack it in: Pack our cars, pack our calendars with trips and pack ourselves off to the mountains, parks and beaches.
That all works better if we pack some food, too. Sure, you could just go through a drive-in window or hit an overpriced and understocked tourist-town market as soon as you get where you’re going. But we have a better plan. In the Assembly Line Cooking series, we look for really simple food plans that let you take a few shortcuts and mix a little scratch cooking with good-quality prepared ingredients.
This time, we put together a menu featuring easy things that travel well. You can even eat some of these in the car. They’re all portable, ready to pack in a cooler and toss in the car.
We have recipes for Black Bean Summer Salad and a layered take on Caprese Pasta Salad. The rest are so simple, you don’t need a recipe:
1. Ginger Lime Melon: Get out a flat plastic container with a lid. Peel and grate a 2-inch piece of fresh ginger (about 1 to 2 tablespoons), then place it in a coffee filter. Squeeze the juice into the container. Add 2 tablespoons demerara or raw sugar, 1 teaspoon grated lime zest, 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Mix it all together. Slice a cantaloupe in half and scoop out the seeds. Cut into quarters and peel off the rind, then cut the melon into thin wedges. Add it to the container, turning to coat the wedges. Cover, chill and serve. Adapted from southernliving.com.
2. Walking Chicken Tacos: This started out as Frito Pie — you add cooked chili and toppings to a snack-size bag of Fritos and served with a spoon to eat it out of the bag. This version lets you serve it cold: Make Avocado Crema Slaw (see recipe) and place in a plastic container. Strip and shred 2 to 3 cups cooked chicken (rotisserie or leftover grilled chicken is great), place it in a resealable bag and add about 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice and a little salt to taste. Take along enough snack-size bags of Doritos for everyone. When you’re ready to eat, crush each bag of chips a little, then open and roll down the top about an inch. Spoon in about 1/4 cup chicken and Avocado Crema Slaw. Add grated cheese, salsa and fresh cilantro if you like. Serve with a fork or spoon.
3. Camp Cooler Sangria: In a large jar or (3-quart) sealable pitcher, stir together 1 tablespoon sugar and 1/2 cup pomegranate juice until dissolved. Add 1 orange, quartered and cut into thin slices; 1 apple, quartered, cored and cut into thin slices; 1 (750ml) bottle of Zinfandel; and 1/4 cup each brandy and orange liqueur, such as triple sec or Cointreau. Seal and chill at least 3 hours and up to 1 day. To serve, pour some into a glass with some fruit and top with sparkling water or seltzer. From “Camp Sunset: A Modern Camper’s Guide to the Great Outdoors” (Oxmoor House, 2016).
4. Ice Cream in a Bag: You’ll need ice, salt, one 1-quart and one 1-gallon resealable freezer bags, and energetic kids for shaking it. Place 1 cup half-and-half, 3 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract in the 1-quart bag. Leave it plain for vanilla, or add 1 tablespoon instant espresso, 1/4 cup chopped fruit or 1 1/2 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa. Seal the bag and place in the 1-gallon bag. Add about 2 quarts of ice and 1/2 cup rock salt or kosher salt. Seal that bag. Wrap it in a towel and shake vigorously for 15 minutes. Remove the smaller bag and serve the ice cream immediately. From “Camp Sunset: A Modern Camper’s Guide to the Great Outdoors.”
5. Butterscotch Time-Crunch Cookies: Line a sheet pan with wax paper. Place 1 1/2 cups butterscotch chips in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until melted. Stir in 1/2 cup peanut butter until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in 3 cups corn flakes. Spoon out in small mounds on the wax paper. Chill until set. (You can use almost any kind of cereal, and swap butterscotch chips for chocolate, but chocolate is messier in the car.)