We thoroughly enjoyed our camping trip at the coast last weekend—our last of the summer. Despite some surprisingly cool evenings and a bit of rain, we managed to put in a respectable amount of time on the beach. This is the third Labor Day weekend we’ve spent with our friends in the yurts at Nehalem Bay State Park. It’s becoming one of my favorite traditions. Although the campground is big and crowded and the sites are not at all private or remote, I still love this place. It is right near my favorite stretch of beach on the Oregon coast. I love the approach to this beach. I love the cool sand on our bare feet as we walk up the path, through the grasses, to the top of the dunes where the most breathtaking view reveals itself. I love to see the kids racing, tumbling down the soft hills of sand toward the beach and the ocean. I love looking back on the dunes from the beach once we’ve settled into our playing and relaxing. It’s quite thrilling.
But I digress.
For me, the highlight of the weekend was not beach combing, sand-castle building, kite flying or marshmallow roasting. It was the meal I cooked on Saturday night: Sweet Corn Chowder with Tomatoes and Basil, from my new favorite cookbook, The Farm to Table Cookbook: The Art of Eating Locally, by Ivy Manning.
I’m not typically a big scratch cook while camping. Hot dogs over the fire, spaghetti noodles with (good) sauce from a jar or an assembled mezza platter are fine examples of my culinary offerings while in the great outdoors. But I’d been having such success with this book and the chowder recipe had been calling to me, so I decided to pack up all the ingredients and give it a try on the Coleman stove. The result was divine. It tasted exactly like summer in a bowl. All six of us practically licked the pot clean.
The funny thing about this soup is that it sort of takes you by surprise. The ingredient list isn’t particularly impressive, nor are the techniques—with the exception of simmering the naked cobs in the stock. It doesn’t look like anything special when served. But when you taste it, you realize it is special.
I made it again last night and although not as stunning, it was still very, very good. I think the difference was in the quality of the produce and the salt. Please do yourself and favor and get this book. Then make this recipe using the freshest, best quality ingredients you can get your hands on. You won’t be sorry.