Cookout: Red Pepper Quinoa & Fire-Roasted Bananas

San Rafael Wilderness, full of wildflowers

The first time Gilles and I went backpacking together, we brought quiche and leftover roasted duck. The campers next to us were eating those dehydrated rice+stuff meals out of plastic bags that you can pour hot water directly into. Needless to say, they were envious of our dinner, and we of their pack weight.

We’ve toned things down a little since that first trip, but just because you’re outdoors doesn’t mean you have to rough it.

This past weekend we went for a short backpacking trip in the San Rafael Wilderness near Santa Barbara. The wildflowers were just coming out, the vegetation was nice and green, and the views stunning. To be alive!!

For dinner, we had this red pepper quinoa dish and for dessert, bananas cooked over an open fire. Divine!

Of course, if you’re not camping, the quinoa dish may seem a little rustic. You could plate the quinoa, pour over the sauce, and serve some eggplant or steak on the side.

The bananas would be delicious and rich in any backyard BBQ.


Red Pepper Quinoa with Steak Bits & Eggplant

Bananas, ready to roast!

Bananas on the Grill

Red Pepper Quinoa

1 cup quinoa
2 cups cooking liquid (water or stock)
1/2 cup roasted red pepper sauce*
1 leek, sliced

mixed in, serve chopped in 1-inch pieces, or sliced on the side:
1/4 pound leftover steak
1 small, roasted eggplant (or less)

Put it together

Slice and wash the leek. Cook in some oil in a skillet over medium heat until tender. In a small saucepan, cook the quinoa with the cooking liquid for about 20 mins, or until all the liquid is absorbed. Mix the quinoa into the cooked leeks.

*You can make red pepper sauce from scratch, as described below, or you may be able to find a similar substitue in the store. I’ve made it before, and it was none too hard. This time around, with the option I had at the store, I calculated that it would cost me more to buy the peppers to make the sauce than it would to just buy the sauce, and the taste is comparable. Bought the sauce!

Stir in the red pepper sauce, or serve over the top of plated quinoa.

If mixing in, stir in the cubed steak and/or eggplant.

If serving alongside, plate the steak or eggplant.

Red Pepper Sauce

4 red bell peppers
1 small eggplant, or 1/2 of a medium-large eggplant
olive oil, about 2 tablespoons
balsamic vinegar, about a tablespoon
salt to taste
roasted jalapeno or serrano peppers, optional

Roast peppers and eggplant on the range turning every few minutes until skin is blackened and fruit is soft. You can use a gas or electric stove, or the BBQ if you’ve got it on. For stove-top cooking, just place the fruit directly on the burner, and use metal tongs to handle.

Remove fruit from heat, wrap in plastic wrap, and let cool. Once cool, remove the blackened skin and rinse. Squeeze water from eggplant flesh and remove the stem. Remove and discard seeds from peppers.

Toss it all in a blender. Add a few tbs of olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Roast the chili pepper, if using, and add to the blender (with or without seeds, depending on the level of heat you’re looking for). Blend! Add a splash of water or more oil if needed. Sauce should be relatively thick. Add salt and more vinegar to taste. You can roast the peppers and eggplant in the oven if you’re not up to the fire-roasting.

Fire-roasted bananas

Slice bananas in half. Roast over open fire. If the skins blacken, and if you’re using wood, the bananas develop a nice, smokey flavor. So good!

I’ll bet you could add a lot of stuff to this banana: maple syrup or brown sugar; cinnamon or nutmeg; a splash of burbon or wine. But the banana doesn’t need any of it. It is sweet, complex, and smokey enough just roasted on its own!

At rest


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