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Our first week on the road, Living in Beauty wasn’t so different from living in a sticks-and-bricks house, except that we’re in constant movement. Balancing all the details of health, exercise, budget and work hasn’t changed. We’ve just added travel – and work is defined by researching where we need to go and seeking proactive ways to improve the rig and, of course, learning new ways to impose on friends.
A bit of backstory: When we arrived to Fiddler’s Cove and Marina and RV Park on the Silver Strand … Surprise! Our assigned space put us right next-door to Jim’s former colleague (now, Airstream colleagues). Kismet is a beautiful thing. Instant block party!
Moving along, to beat The Heat Dome and fires, we towed Beauty and The Beast out of San Diego and up 6,752′, visiting friends in Riverside before making the ascent.
It kinda worked … Big Bear Lake has much to offer during the summer months, and as long as we rise by 5 or 6 AM we avoid crowds, overheating and traffic – which is surprisingly busy, even on weekdays.
By breakfast time, the temperature is in the high 80’s to low 90’s in the shade – so, we lie low throughout the afternoon reading, writing and performing light trailer maintenance till evening. We’re trying to become nappers because we don’t have much choice about it.
When I go to the mountains, the new perspective always catches me off-guard. The difference of the air, light and terrain have an effect that causes my neglected memories to demand attention. I dream day and night. And the trees rustling in the warm drowsy breeze – restless somnambulists – encourage me to forget what I was about to do. I am compelled to remember – to consider how I came to this place. Maybe it’s some kind of hardwired ancient homing skill – to go through the steps while your mind is fresh. Or, perhaps the elevation reduces the mundane so important things will rise to the top.
Staying cool is our primary objective, but when that doesn’t work, food and drink, is the next best strategy. We love to entertain. Grill outside. Serve chilled drinks. Food is always a comfort we can share. When the weather is out of our control, we resort to some serious food whompin’!
More backstory: Two sources are responsible for the smoked salmon recipe below. Olivewood Gardens Adult Cooking Class and our new, full-time Airstreaming friend Elizabeth Lumpkin, former owner of Boss Hawg’s Barbecue.
We met Elizabeth and Jack the first week of our stay at the Chula Vista RV Park and Marina during a difficult moment in our transition. We were in our final week of liquidating everything we owned, our escrow had been delayed again and again, and Jim deep in details of preparing the office for his retirement. As we strolled about the park, weaving up and down the rows of RV’s, dazed and concerned over many things – we turned a corner, and spied a glistening 34′ Airstream Excella. Almost immediately, a truck pulled up and Elizabeth and Jack spilled out with their three happy dogs. The friendly couple became our momentary confessors as we gushed forth our elevator speech about how we had just let everything go, bought an Airstream and planned to tour the continent. “Oh, we did that two years ago!” Jack, a retired physician said … Wow! They’re two years ahead of us, both still in love with their trailer (same year as ours, 2001), and both still enchanted with their vagabond life … and we hadn’t even started yet!
So, with homemade bread, I wooed Elizabeth and Jack over to our campsite for Happy Hour where Elizabeth reciprocated by disclosing her prize-winning smoked salmon recipe. She knows her stuff, scoring first place and a perfect score from all six judges in the brisket category at the 2001 Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue! I’ve altered Elizabeth’s recipe only slightly by substituting coconut sugar for regular and using the alternative smoking method I learned at my old friend, Christy Walton‘s house. Yes, me and Christy … we go way, way back to a time when we actually exchanged waves from across her yard in National City… and, honestly, that was it. I hear most Walmart Stores open their parking lots to overnight RV travelers who are passing through. We haven’t done that yet, but when we do I will be sure to mention my friend, Christy.
Truth is, my friend, Martha Prusinskas was the Walton’s head gardener when our children went to The Waldorf School of San Diego together. On certain weekdays when Ananda, Martha’s eldest (now on the education staff at Olivewood Gardens) stayed after school to practice violin, I would drive her two youngest, Sita and Atma, to the Walton house where Martha would sometimes fill my arms with fresh greens and produce while our children played on the grounds. Then five summers ago, we benefitted once again from Christy’s community action and generosity though a free class taught by UCSD’s Moore’s Cancer Center. With our friends, Alec and Nina, we met beside the charming Olivewood Garden swimming pool where an amazing staff of marvelous women who care deeply about health and food, taught us slow cooking and grilling techniques. The method below is adapted from that presentation. I call it:
Friend-Catcher Smoked Salmon
You will need:
- A Grill: we use our old but trusty Weber Q-100 gas grill – small, but does the job.
- Saran wrap
- Aluminum Foil – the thick stuff
- A 5-6 lb skinless salmon filet
- One cup of coconut sugar
- One cup of Tony Chachere’s Cajun Spice
- Gin – about ½ cup
- A grocery bag full of freshly cut and washed rosemary branches. Rosemary is everywhere in San Diego. Hedges can be found in parks and yards and vacant lots. It’s a prolific plant that loves to be trimmed.
Here’s how you do it:
Two days before
- Wash and dry the salmon fillet. Lay out two or three long layers of saran wrap vertically on a surface overlapping so the marinade doesn’t escape. Lay the fish horizontally, so the ends are inside the layers
- In a large bowl blend the coconut sugar and spices together and taste. If it is too spicy, then add more sugar. If it’s too sweet, add more spice.
- Once you have the right balance, dribble a few tablespoons of gin over the mixture and stir. Continue stirring and adding tablespoons of gin until you have a thick marinade. Wall paper paste is the consistency you’re after – thick, not runny.
- Using a spatula, spread the marinade evenly over the top side of the fillet making sure you have a thick coat. Flip the fillet (you might need help) and do the same on the other side.
- Cover the fillet tightly as possible with the saran wrap to insure the marinade stays close to the flesh and then place in a large zip-lock bag and refrigerate for two days.
One day before:
- Cut, wash and soak rosemary branches. You will need enough branches to cover the grill entirely with about three layers. Use as much as you can and still manage to close the grill cover.
- Cover your grill with the soaked rosemary branches.
- With heavy aluminum foil make a tray that will contain the fish and be a reservoir to hold in the juices.
- Take your fish out of the refrigerator, unwrap and place on the aluminum foil tray. Reserve the fluids for basting.
- Turn on the grill, setting the temperature as low as possible. Gently place the aluminum foil on the rosemary bier, and the fillet on top of the foil, and close the grill. Soon, it will smoke – quite a lot!!! – the rosemary will slowly burn away as the fish cooks. Just keep checking it and marinading it about every 5 minutes. Have a bottle of water ready for hot cinders. Using a meat thermometer, every 5 minutes, when basting, check the temperature in the thickest parts of the fish, and when the fillet reaches 120 degrees take it off the grill. To avoid contamination, remember to cook for 5 minutes following the last basting.
- Let the fish cool. Serve atop a parsley lined platter surrounded by deviled eggs
Photo by Denise Jones at Newf in My Soup.com
Now that you have your boozy fish, you will need some boozy fruit!
We have a rule: NO DRINKING AND COOKING WITH FIRE!!!
But, when you’re all done you can slurp down one of these:
Carmen’s Clementine Cosmos
You will need:
- 3 heaping tablespoons of *Clementine Slurry (recipe below)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon bourbon vanilla
- 1 cup warm water
- ⅔ cup cranberry juice
- ⅓ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 ½ cups good vodka
Place all ingredients in a high-speed processor for about 45 seconds. To serve, pour into an ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake until very cold. Pour into chilled cocktail glasses with a twist of fresh mint and/or a slice of fresh clementine (wish I had some, but … oh well, I’m camping!) Enjoy!
Clementine Slurry is one of the best things you can have in your freezer! Use it to make dressings, smoothies, marinades, stir fry, drinks, cookies, breads, cakes … the possibilities are endless. Just bring the fruit – skins on – to a boil and simmer for about 2 hours. Cool. Remove any seeds and process, skins-and-all, in a high-speed blender until smooth. Use immediately or bag and freeze for future use.
Okay! Those are my culinary coping skills for The Fiery Summer of our Great Escape! What’s yours? Please share!!!