About nine years ago, a college student named Craig Bumgarner stopped along the Vermont section of the Appalachian Trail, whipped up a tasty casserole, and shared the meal with veteran hiker Edward B. Garvey. Ed, who had already walked the many miles of the Trail from Georgia, was on his way to Maine. Later—when Mr. Garvey described his more-than-2,000-mile trek in the book Appalachian Hiker (Appalachian Books, 1971. $4.95)—he wrote enthusiastically about Craig's delicious, protein-balanced trail mix recipe that combined two grains and one legume. Backpackers all over the country soon began experimenting with variations on that original recipe.
The Basic Mix
To prepare this lightweight, nutritious dish, you'll need 2 cups of brown rice (short or long grain), 1 cup of barley, 1 cup of lentils, and 4 teaspoons of salt. Then, add 2 parts water to 1 part Mix, bring it to a boil for 1 minute, reduce the heat, and simmer—covered—for 40 to 60 minutes. (You can cut the cooking time if you pre-crack your grain ingredients in a grinder or a blender.) One cup of the dry mixture (which can be packed in individual-serving-sized plastic bags before you hit the trail) will—once cooked—satisfy two very hungry hikers or three or four less active people.
And, although the basic Mix is scrumptious, other ingredients can be substituted or added when you're in the mood for a change or just want to cook up a special treat. I've tried a number of variations on the recipe over the years and have come up with these three personal favorites:
Herbed Tomato Blend
In a saucepan, bring 1 cup of Mix, 1 teaspoon of sweet basil, 1 tablespoon of parsley, 1/4 teaspoon of oregano, and 2 1/2 cups of tomato juice to a boil for 1 minute, and then reduce the heat to low. Cook the mixture for about 50 minutes, stirring occasionally, and—if desired—sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese on top before serving. NOTE: The proportions mentioned are for dried herbs. Triple the quantities when these ingredients are used fresh.
Mushroom Curry In-The-Pines
Heat 1 tablespoon of butter (or vegetable oil) in a pot and stir in 1 chopped onion (or 1 tablespoon of dried onion flakes) and 1 teaspoon of curry powder. Next. add 2 1/4 cups of water, 1 cup of Mix, and 1 package of dry mushroom soup (or substitute 1 /2 cup of dried mushroom pieces and 1/2 cup of milk powder). Stir the curry well, and bring it to a boil for 1 minute. Then, reduce the heat (or place the pan over a few glowing coals), add 1/2 cup of raisins, and let the dish simmer for about 50 minutes, stirring occasionally. Finally, serve the spicy treat with peanuts, sunflower seeds, and/or grated coconut.
This is a variation on the popular Near Eastern salad called tabouli, which is traditionally made with bulghur and served with tender, young grape leaves.
First, cook 1 cup of Mix in 2 scant cups of water until the ingredients are soft and all the liquid is absorbed (about 50 minutes). Then, pour it into another bowl or pot and toss in 1/2 cup of fresh chopped parsley, 1/3 cup of diced mint, 1/4 cup of chopped green onion, 1 or more tomatoes cut in small pieces, 1/4 cup of olive or other vegetable oil, and 1/4 cup of lemon juice. (Dried parsley, mint, and onions may be substituted for the fresh ingredients if you reduce the given amounts by 2 to 3 tablespoons each.)
Toss the salad gently and chill, if possible. Then, serve your backpacker's masterpiece with fresh lettuce leaves. You'll find this dish makes a tasty sandwich filling too, especially if it's served in pita bread.