Some days, life feels like I’m climbing a forty-five degree mountain in our ‘78 Volkswagon Westy, whose maximum level speed is about 65 mph. Every mile requires more effort coaxed from my engine as my tread hugs the road of human highway, urging me forward…slowly, but surely. Life is like that. Sometimes you’re speeding along, feet on the dash, sunshine on your shoulder, wind in your hair, everything running smoothly; and other times, you claw and creep to doggedly make it up that hill – no matter how low on gas you might be.
Running a bakery/cafe requires enormous stores of stamina, creativity and an affinity for soothing daily body aches. Dinner at our house is, paradoxically (considering we prepare food for a living), always a simple affair, especially during summer when there is lots of produce & fruit around, and we’re at our busiest. We’ve taken to fixing up a grass-fed steak (from Tilldale Farm in Hoosick) with some roasted potatoes & sweet corn (from Farmer Jon’s Produce) on Saturday nights when we get home from our farmers market, with tender watermelon or cantaloupe for dessert. Simple, fast and delicious.
Recently, the memory of sitting on our back porch as a kid, making and enjoying “Mountains” came back to me. My stepmom (who everyone calls “Babs” – her real name is Babetta Belinda, no joke) would take advantage of a busy summer’s late bounty to prepare an easy, versatile meal she called “Mountains”, which were cooked on the grill. Traditionally, she made them with hamburger, potatoes, carrots, onions, mushrooms, butter, Worchester sauce, salt and pepper. However, any protein, vegetable, herb or flavoring of your choosing can be substituted. Reducing or increasing this recipe to feed one or twenty is awesomely easy and they make for a fun activity to do with kids if you have them throw in their favorite ingredients! Here are the basics:
4 Grass-fed, Organic Beef Patties (Thick is good!*)
4 Carrots (we get ours from Jenny & Clemens at Solstice Hill Farms)
8 Medium Potatoes (any kind, we like Adirondack Purples, Pinks & Golds from Farmer Jon’s Produce)
1 qt Baby Portobello Mushrooms (ours are from Bulich Farms in the Catskills)
4 Small Sweet Onions (Mom used Vidalias, ours are from Solstice Hill or Farmer Jon’s)
8 dashes Worchester Sauce
To taste Salt & Pepper
Wash, peel & dry your vegetables, as required. Place two long sheets of aluminum foil crosswise (one set for each Mountain), one on top of the other like this:
Rub a bit of butter on the center 4 inches of the top piece of aluminum foil, then place the hamburger patty on top. *Hand-formed, thick patties are good! It takes a while for the root veggies to cook, so you don’t want to use traditional store bought, ultra-thin ones. Cut your vegetables into medium sized, uniform cubes and disperse evenly among each setup. Finish with a pat or two of butter, a few dashes of Worchester sauce, salt and pepper.
Now you want to make a pocket out of the foil so the Mountain can steam on the grill (medium heat, for 30 minutes to an hour depending on your protein, thickness of your vegetables, or desired beef temperature). Fold the top of your contraption so you can easily check for doneness, but be aware hot steam will escape when you open it so be careful when peeking!
When you’ve determined your Mountains have done cooking, pick them up with tongs and let them rest on a plate for a few minutes to cool slightly. Then open carefully and transfer out of the foil (we usually just slapped the whole foil package on our plates and dig in, too eager to wait for niceties).
A fast, fresh, affordable dinner can bestow vigor for future peaks to be climbed with renewed energy. This recipe works with tofu, chicken, black bean burgers, fish, various sauces, and any kind of vegetable, herb, spices or other seasonings. With the summer harvest upon us, the possibilities are endless!