We are lucky enough to have a free place to stay in Ocean City, Md., and for the last several years that’s been our summer vacation spot. It’s a two-bedroom condo right on the beach (which is a dream with a toddler) and it has a full kitchen. Packing a few lunches and making a couple of simple dinner saves a few pennies to be able to get more than a pizza when we do head out for a meal.
My struggles with cooking at the beach are few, because I do love to cook and the kitchen is open so I can look out onto the ocean or see what my family is doing in the living room. However, the oven is electric. I hate cooking with an electric stove! I need the control of the open flame of a gas range. Also, the knives are very dull and if I am going to do some elaborate recipe, I need to be able to chop something.
So I opt for simple meals. This year’s dinners were broiled steak with local new potatoes and green beans, curry night, and chili with corn bread.
Here’s a couple of shortcuts I took:
Curry night naan. I couldn’t find naan in the grocery store freezer or bakery. So I improvised. I grabbed a Pillsbury Pizza Crust Thin. When I got it home I unrolled it, cut it in four triangular pieces and topped with minced garlic. I followed the directions and baked the bread at 400 degrees and kept an eye on it. When it started to brown, I pulled it out and glazed it with butter. Naan-erific! Well, close enough.
Chili spices. As you can imagine, there’s a lot of hardware that goes into taking a toddler to the beach for a week. Throw in dad’s Boogie board, two laptops and clothes and I can’t bear to add one more thing to the pile. But when I want to make chili, how do I season it? Looking back I could have packed a single portion of all of the spices in a sandwich bag, but it probably would have ended up a mess. I remembered seeing something in the grocery store that would help, so I went searching in the spice aisle. I found McCormick’s Recipe Inspirations and while there wasn’t one specifically for chili, the quesadilla casserole package did the trick. It had chili powder, oregano, minced garlic, cumin and crushed red pepper. I stashed the garlic because I did have some fresh to use, but the rest went into the pot with onion, ground beef, beans, tomatoes and tomato paste. I found some Worcestershire sauce in the fridge and threw some of that in. Yummy chili!
The moral of the story is, you don’t have to have a tandoor to make naan and you can make a pot of chili even if you’re hours away from your spice cabinet. Improvise!