Campfire Chioggia Beets with Summer Vegetables, Garlic, and Lemon features a classic technique with a little lively added!
Our camping trips with my parents always centered on playing in the water and enjoying the food. When we weren’t boating or eating, it seems like we were talking about what we were going to eat next. Mom had her whole repertoire of camping dishes, salads, and sides she would pack to bring with us, such as simple sliced potatoes and onions in foil on the wood coals. She also loved to make special dishes such as grilled lobster over the camp fire, a ritual on summer holiday weekends, and some of our favorite memories, along with the loons and crickets in the background.
My own children also loved camping, the leisurely fun of being able to jump in the lake just about any minute of the day, and the food of course. While I could rarely afford the lobster, we made many special dishes with what we had, and everything cooked on an open wood fire tastes better, no matter how simple.
When the kids left the nest, we often camped with two other couples and we each took a night to prepare dinner. Of course, we loved making something special, not just hamburgers and hotdogs. We’d often plan some pretty special meals that are surprisingly easy to cook without benefit of electricity or gas, all the flavors enhanced with the wood smoke. Glazed salmon, seafood kebobs, special chilis with all the fixings were all delights we assembled at home, packed to the site, and then shared.
Don’t forget the sides
The side dishes were also important as well, whether dressed up potatoes cooked on the fire coals, fresh corn on the cob, or whatever seasonal veggies struck our fancy.
Chioggia beets (pronounce: kee oh’ jah) are the only ones I really like. They are sweet and light and they don’t bleed all over the other vegetables! These beautiful candy-striped beets are an Italian heirloom variety, and every inch of them including the tops are edible. They are delicious roasted, baked, steamed, boiled, sautéed, or brined into pickles. Need I even mention how nutritious they are!
They are also delicious cooked en papillote over a campfire. It’s a simple process, I bet you’ve done it, wrap those vegetables in foil and let the coals do the rest. Here I just sliced up the beets, you don’t even need to peel them, and placed them with other vegetables on foil lined with parchment paper. If the beets come with their top greens, toss them into the packet as well! Season, seal well, and nestle into the white coals.
A quick and easy method
These became a camping staple with us when the beets were in season. I could prepare the packet at home and when it was time to think about cooking supper, on the coals they went. I’ve added lemon to jazz them up a bit, lots of garlic and scallions, and just a touch of maple syrup to round it all out.
You can use any combination of vegetables you like, what is in season and what is the most tasty. What do you like? You can even use just the beets and scallions!
Other cooking methods
You will find Chioggia beets at the farm stands and markets right now, but if you don’t just substitute golden beets. Of course, if you are not camping, you can do this on your charcoal grill, or just in a hot 450-degree oven. Add a little smoked paprika, close your eyes, and might find yourself next to a campfire just for a moment. Hear the loons?
After the last two camping trips of rain, rain, cold rain, and leaky tent, we decided to rent cottages from this point on! But we’ll still have the wood fire to make our favorite dishes!
Campfire Chioggia Beets and Mixed Vegetables with Lemon and Garlic
- 3 large Chioggia beets, greens too if available
- 2 small carrots
- 2 small summer squash
- 2 small zucchinis
- 1 small firm apple
- 3 scallions, whites and greens
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 or 4 cloves garlic
- Zest and juice of one lemon
- 1 tsp. maple syrup
- 2 tbsp. fruity olive oil
This can be assembled well ahead of its cook time, even the night before, to be ready when the coals on the wood fire are ready.
Take two long sheets of foil and fold the long edge together well, double fold so it won’t leak. Line this with parchment paper.
Slice all vegetables and mix them together. Place on the parchment and nestle in the bay leaves and lemon zest.
Mix together the garlic, lemon juice, maple syrup, and olive oil and pour over the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Bring the long sides together first and fold down to seal, then fold up the short sides. The packet should be well sealed so the vegetables will steam.
After 30 minutes or so, open up the top and check. They should be cooked, but you want to leave them on the coals a few minutes longer, packet open, so the smoke will add to the flavor. It doesn’t take long!
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