A couple weeks ago I pulled a Snake Plissken and escaped from New York.
I’ve mentioned this before, but my mom is in the process of renovating an old house upstate. I am a weirdo masochist so rather than using my vacation time this year to go to Europe of the Caribbean, I opted to go upstate and spend my vacation time sanding ceilings on a ladder, getting drywall dust in my eyes and lungs, breathing paint fumes, and working 10 hour days in an empty 100+ year old home with no air conditioning or functioning plumbing.
When my mom said her contractor was almost finished putting up her new drywall and that she could use help sanding and painting, it didn’t take much arm twisting to get me on board. I totally love those kinds of projects and not-so-secretly wish that I had the opportunity to do them in a home I owned myself. She also needed some help choosing fixtures and finishes for her bathroom and kitchen, which is something I already spend countless hours doing on Pinterest, planning for my non-existent future home. The opportunity to actually do this for real, even if I wouldn’t get to live with the finished product, was a total dream.
My only stipulation for doing all that sweaty manual labor was that I would get to take off for two days with my older sister and her kids to go camping. Sorry house! I needed those two days to at least pretend this was an actual vacation! My mom needed the break just as much as I did, so she even joined in the fun and drove up to relax (and drink) with us on our second day.
Before I moved to Brooklyn I used to camp, like, a lot. For most of my life I’ve lived either in the Fingerlakes region or in the Adirondacks, so spending time outdoors has always been a major part of my life. Since moving here though, opportunities to get out into the wild have been fewer and farther between. Having grown up in southern California, Russell doesn’t really share my love of staring into a camp fire for hours on end, or my love of sleeping with nothing but a thin sheet of polyester protecting me from the nocturnal creatures outside, making camping trips even less likely. What, to me, is the height of rest and relaxation, to him is a painfully boring way to feed mosquitos.
Since Russell was going to sit this trip out and stay home with the pups, it took me all of a quarter of a second to decide I wanted to go camping. I called my sister and begged her to come with me (she needed zero convincing), and we started making plans. Since we only had a couple days, and my niece and nephews would be with us, we decided pretty quickly on Fair Haven Beach State Park. It’s less than an hour from my home town, and since it’s an established camping park we could just roll up, set up the tent, and get down to the business of relaxing. It also has a number of amenities like playgrounds and fishing spots to keep the kids entertained while we were doing our thing. Not only that, but it’s absolutely gorgeous there, with scenic ponds, untouched wooded areas, zillions of deer running around, and a gorgeous sandy beach on the shore of Lake Ontario, all just a short walk from the camp.
Once we set up camp, and opened some wine, we set to building a fire and setting up our temporary kitchen. With three kids to feed, my sister takes food just as seriously as I do. We brought a ton of fresh produce with us, some from her garden and some from the farmer’s market in my home town; along with plenty of supplies from the grocery store. We ate like kings (and queens) over the course of our stay, and I while I was there I was bound and determined to try to take some blog worthy camping food photos. Always thinking ahead, just before leaving Brooklyn I rolled a couple of my knives into some kitchen towels and stuffed them into my suitcase along with my camera equipment and a cutting board.
We had a ton of juicy ripe tomatoes, and she’s picked up a couple of mangoes, so just before we got on the road I decided we should pick up a nice piece of fish and some limes to pull everything together. The salmon at my hometown Wegmans looked beautiful so that was that.
Truth be told, if I were making this at home I would have done things a little differently. We didn’t bring any oil with us and the pan I used to cook the salmon wasn’t really ideal, but that’s half the fun of cooking in the great outdoors. The recipe below should be used only as a guideline, as cooking times and your camping supplies will vary a lot. It was a bit hard to gauge when the fish was cooked because the coals weren’t as hot as I would have liked them, but in the end everything was absolutely delicious. The salad was bright and acidic and complemented the smoky fatty salmon perfectly. Sometimes kids can be picky eaters but all three of them loved it just as much as we did.
Then, afterward, we had smores. Duh.
The whole trip was absolute heaven and I’m so glad I made the time to go. Spending time with family, sunny days, starry nights, the smell of wood smoke, plenty of wine, and chipmunks making off with the marshmallows. The perfect trip for the end of the summer. What better farewell to the season than to fully immerse yourself in it?
Campfire Grilled Salmon with Tomato Mango Salad
salt & pepper to taste
juice of 3 limes, divided
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 small red onion, finely chopped
Season the salmon with salt and pepper, and squeeze with the juice of 1. Brush the grill or the pan with some olive oil, if you have it. Place the salmon skin side down on the grill or pan. Grill or sear until the flesh on the cooked side is visibly turning pale and firm. You want it to be cooked about 1/2 way up the side. Depending on the heat of your fire, grill, or pan, the time this will take can vary quite a bit. Over a camp fire it took a long time, but in a hot cast iron on the stove top it would only take 3 minutes or so.
Flip the salmon over and cook until sides have visibly turned completely pale and firm.
Meanwhile, make the salad. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half and place in a large bowl with finely chopped onion. Remove skin and pit from mango and slice into bite-sized chunks, add to the bowl and squeeze the remaining two limes over everything. Toss it all together with a spoon and season with salt and pepper.
If not already portioned, slice your cooked salmon into individual fillets with a sharp knife. Spoon salad over salmon just before serving.
Serve with grilled corn, if desired.