Din­ing out­doors? Leave the gruel and power bars at home.

Cook­book takes a DIY ap­proach to mak­ing a great meal in the great out­doors

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Gra­ham Am­brose Pro­vided by Bren­dan Leonard Hi­lary Oliver, Pro­vided by “Best Served Wild”

Denver’s Bren­dan Leonard and co-au­thor Anna Brones wrote “Best Served Wild” to show that high­qual­ity out­door cook­ing doesn’t have to break the bank — or your back.

Bren­dan Leonard wanted to spend more time do­ing what he loves. So in 2011, he started a web­site, semi­rad.com, where he blogs about those things he loves: back­pack­ing, kayak­ing, climb­ing, bik­ing, eat­ing, cook­ing and trav­el­ing.

Six years later, Leonard, who lives in Denver, has more than 17,000 fol­low­ers on Face­book and nearly 29,000 on In­sta­gram. His hu­mor­ous es­says, cre­ative car­toons, life-hack lis­ti­cles and mus­ings on ev­ery­thing from the “mir­a­cle” of break­fast to the sex­i­ness of moun­taineer­ing have reached over a mil­lion read­ers.

He’s also writ­ten six books, in­clud­ing the forth­com­ing “Best Served Wild: Real Food for Real Ad­ven­tures,” co-au­thored with Anna Brones, a Seat­tle-based writer who has penned four books of her own and who founded Foodie Un­der­ground. The cook­book hits shelves Aug. 15.

“Best Served Wild” is a guide to high-qual­ity out­door cook­ing that doesn’t break the bank, or your back. Its au­thors be­lieve that “rough­ing it” in the back­coun­try shouldn’t have to rel­e­gate you to half-burnt gruel, hard-to-chew power bars or sad spoon­fuls of peanut but­ter.

Leonard and Brones met through mu­tual friends seven years ago. They de­cided to team up af­ter Leonard pitched a high-end out­door cook­book and “needed a co-au­thor, be­cause other­wise the re­sult would be very bad,” he joked.

Their dis­tinct styles com­ple­ment the strengths of the other. Leonard es­teems Brones as “the per­fect nexus of food writ­ing and ad­ven­ture writ­ing.” Brones, in turn, con­sid­ers Leonard “the funny one.”

They share a love of food, ad­ven­ture, and an easy­go­ing ap­proach to the great out­doors that aims to en­cour­age neo­phytes.

“We both have a straight­for­ward ap­proach to food out­side, which is to have fun and not take our­selves too se­ri­ously,” Brones said. “We want peo­ple to up their game, but not in a crazy way.”

“Best Served Wild” packs more than 40 recipes into three cat­e­gories: “Sin­gle Day Ad­ven­tures,” “Overnight Trips” and “Mul­ti­day Out­ings.” Each sec­tion con­tains a cadre of help­ful and hu­mor­ous es­says, in­clud­ing “An Ex­haus­tive Break­down of Back­coun­try Cof­fee-Mak­ing Meth­ods” and the fool­proof “On the Ben­e­fits of an Emer­gency Choco­late Stash.” Dozens of vivid, full-page photos, most shot in the Pawnee Camp­ground north­west of Boul­der, give color to the 208-page book.

The book’s ethos can be summed up by the au­thors’ live­and-let-live re­frain: “to each their own.”

“There’s noth­ing wrong with power bars, if you like them. You might just get bored quickly,” Brones said. “The first cou­ple of times you’re cook­ing out­doors, it’s in­tim­i­dat­ing. But once you’ve nailed down your fa­vorite tools, your fa­vorite sil­ver­ware, your fa­vorite pan, then it gets a lot more com­fort­able.”

Brones em­pha­sizes that the recipes are not meant to be fol­lowed to the let­ter, but in­stead in­tended to in­spire cre­ativ­ity and art­ful de­vi­a­tion. The au­thors want their read­ers to see the great out­doors as an op­por­tu­nity for en­joy­ment and fun.

To Leonard, fun out­doors stems from his user-friendly, DIY ap­proach.

“What we’re do­ing isn’t rocket science,” he said. “The more you know, the less you need. I don’t like to pack a lot of com­pli­cated in­gre­di­ents for long back­pack­ing trips. I like it to be pretty sim­ple but still taste good.”

The Coloradan knows his way around the Cen­ten­nial State, and has a per­fect spot for lo­cals look­ing to es­cape the city: Mills Lake in Rocky Moun­tain Na­tional Park.

“It’s my fa­vorite lunch spot of all time,” he said. “It’s a re­ally easy day hike. Hands down, the best rec­om­men­da­tion I can give.”

Recipe from “Best Served Wild.” Here is the de­scrip­tion Brones and Leonard of­fer in the book:

Do you like mak­ing crepes? How about at 4 a.m. be­fore you leave for a hike to the top of a moun­tain? If you an­swered, “Of course not — that’s ridicu­lous!” Then this recipe is for you. It’s ba­si­cally the guts of a stan­dard crepe recipe with­out the painful mix­ing of flour, sugar, salt, milk, eggs and but­ter and puree­ing all that in a blender. Makes enough for one per­son who is climb­ing a moun­tain to­day. In­gre­di­ents

1 large (aka bur­rito-size) flour tor­tilla 1 enor­mous gob of Nutella

1 banana, sliced

1 hand­ful of wal­nuts

Honey (op­tional)

Peanut but­ter (op­tional) Di­rec­tions

Spread the Nutella over half the tor­tilla.

Ar­range banana slices over the Nutella-cov­ered side of the tor­tilla; place wal­nuts in the gaps be­tween the banana slices.

Fold the naked half of the tor­tilla over the half with all the good stuff on it, like a que­sadilla. Slice it in two tri­an­gle-shaped halves.

Place in a zi­plock bag for later. Ad­di­tional tips: For enough sugar to give your pan­creas the work­out of its life, driz­zle the Nutella, banana slices, and wal­nuts with honey just be­fore you fold the tor­tilla.

For more pro­tein and fat with less sugar, spread peanut but­ter on the tor­tilla; add a streak or thin layer of Nutella over the top of that be­fore adding the ba­nanas. Recipe from “Best Served Wild.” Here is the de­scrip­tion Brones and Leonard of­fer in the book:

OK, so scurvy isn’t a health con­cern any­more, but bring­ing an or­ange on a trip can add some much-needed fresh­ness to your palate. The sweetness of the or­ange and the dried raisins gives this sa­vory dish a nice bal­ance. And since it in­volves cous­cous, it cooks up al­most faster than you can say Or­ange and Raisin Cous­cous for Scurvy Pre­ven­tion (Even though That’s Not Re­ally a Thing Any­more).

Makes 2 serv­ings. In­gre­di­ents

3⁄4 cup cous­cous

1⁄2 cup raisins

1 tea­spoons cumin pow­der 1 small onion, chopped

1⁄2 cup pine nuts

1 cup wa­ter

1 or­ange, peeled and chopped Salt


Olive oil Di­rec­tions

In a bowl, com­bine the dry cous­cous, raisins, cumin pow­der, onion, and pine nuts; mix to­gether.

The ra­tio for cook­ing cous­cous is about 3 parts cous­cous to 4 parts wa­ter, so bring 1 cup wa­ter to a boil and pour over the cous­cous. Cover and let sit for about 5 min­utes. Un­cover and fluff.

Stir in the chopped or­ange, along with any or­ange juice that’s left­over on your cutting board.

Sprin­kle with salt and pep­per, and driz­zle with olive oil be­fore serv­ing.

Recipe from “Best Served Wild.” Here is the de­scrip­tion Brones and Leonard of­fer in the book:

This isn’t as much a recipe as a guide. We as­sume that you know how to make pasta, be­cause if you don’t, it’s shocking that you have made it this far. But do you know how to cook with dried mush­rooms? Dried mush­rooms are one of the eas­i­est and light­est ways to add fla­vor to pasta when camp­ing. In a normal kitchen (one you didn’t pack on your back), it’s sug­gested that you give dried mush­rooms am­ple time to soak so that they can fully re­hy­drate and keep their fla­vor. Well we’re not in a tra­di­tional kitchen now, are we? To save on time — and en­sure that your mush­rooms re­hy­drate enough that your sys­tem will still be happy once you’re fin­ished eat­ing — you want to do two things:

Break your mush­rooms into smaller pieces; they will re­hy­drate bet­ter.

2. Add the mush­rooms to the wa­ter be­fore you put it on the stove. This al­lows the re­hy­drat­ing mush­rooms to spend a lot of time in the wa­ter as it comes to a boil and af­ter­ward as you boil your pasta.

What kind of mush­rooms should you buy? The main thing to keep in mind when pur­chas­ing, other than taste, is that the thicker the dried mush­rooms, the longer they will take to re­hy­drate.

Morels, porci­nis, and chanterelles work well for this par­tic­u­lar recipe, and all three re­hy­drate in the time it takes to boil the pasta. An­other ben­e­fit of boil­ing your wa­ter with the mush­rooms in it from the be­gin­ning? You’ll end up with starchy, mush­roomy pasta wa­ter at the end of it. Don’t you dare throw that away! On a cold evening, this makeshift mush­room broth is a de­li­cious treat.

Be­sides mush­rooms, the sky is the limit for what­ever you want to add to your pasta. A sprin­kling of cheese or Nut and Seed Parm af­ter your pasta is ready to serve will add some ad­di­tional umami fla­vor. Spice it up with red pep­per flakes or, if you want a tamer, more tra­di­tional pasta fla­vor, dried basil leaves.

Makes 2 serv­ings. In­gre­di­ents

2 serv­ings dry pasta of your choice 1/2 ounce dried mush­rooms of your


Olive oil

Small chunk of hard cheese or nuts


Seed Parm (op­tional)

Finely chopped gar­lic (op­tional) Red pep­per flakes (op­tional) Dried basil leaves (op­tional) Di­rec­tions

Mea­sure out the ap­pro­pri­ate amount of wa­ter for your pasta and place in a pot with the mush­rooms. Place on the stove and bring to a boil. Let the wa­ter boil for a cou­ple of min­utes be­fore adding the pasta (this will give the mush­rooms a lit­tle ex­tra time to re­hy­drate). Add the pasta and cook un­til ten­der.

When the pasta has fin­ished cook­ing, pour off the wa­ter into a wa­ter bot­tle or camp cups to save.

Driz­zle a lit­tle olive oil over the pasta and what­ever other in­gre­di­ents you want to add. Stir to­gether to fully coat the pasta. Spoon into bowls and serve.

Camp cook­ing is best done with the right in­gre­di­ents and a sense of hu­mor in “Best Served Wild,” a new camp­ing cook­book co-writ­ten by Denver au­thor Bren­dan Leonard.

A camper in north­ern Nor­way downs some­thing de­li­cious in the pages of “Best Served Wild.”

Nutella Crepes for Peak Bag­gers Who Can’t Make Crepes.

Or­ange and Raisin Cous­cous for Scurvy Pre­ven­tion (Even Though That’s Not Re­ally a Thing Any­more).

No Puffy Jacket Re­quired Dried Mush­room Pasta.

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