let’s camp!

Forgive me. It’s the height of summer (at least up here in Northern Wisconsin) and the garden is finally overflowing. So I feel like I ought to be rattling on about all the ways I have been using my glorious vegetables. But what really has my attention at the moment is biscuits. Mile-high, flaky biscuits. See, I went camping last week with my childhood friend Kathryn. And when Kathryn and camping get together, you can pretty much bet there will be biscuits involved. On this particular trip, it was Kathryn’s dad, Gary, who made the biscuits. But still, there were biscuits. Warm biscuits with butter and honey. Could there be a better way to start a day?

To accommodate his daughter’s dietary needs, Gary went all out and tried his hand at making gluten-free biscuits – how sweet is that? Truth be told, they were a bit heavier than your average biscuit. But they were still biscuits. Warm biscuits with butter and honey. And I can assure you that there is certainly not a better way to kick off a day of paddling than with a belly full of biscuits. I give Gary an A+ for effort. His biscuits reminded me that I have been meaning to try a recipe from a delightful little cafe I visited in Charleston, SC earlier this spring.
I decided a batch of these old-fashioned biscuits would be just the thing to help me ease back into work and the daily routine. I could take them outside with my morning coffee and pretend like I was still camping. Perfect. I knew I had some White Lilly flour lingering in my freezer that my mom had lugged home from Charleston. White Lily is a low-gluten flour made from Southern grown soft winter wheat. It’s the type that makes extra fluffy quick breads and biscuits. You can substitute cake flour or other low-gluten flours to achieve the same results.
While these biscuits may be low-gluten, they aren’t exactly low-fat. But they are so worth it. Especially if you take them outside and pretend like you’re camping. The recipe, which comes from a fun little hand-illustrated cookbook published by the Hominy Grill, calls for all three of the traditional fats – butter, lard, AND shortening. But it’s okay – we’re camping, remember? I don’t keep shortening on hand, so I kept the amount of fat called for the same, but replaced the shortening with butter. I’m sure a true southern cook would detect this omission, but my taste buds were none the wiser for it. And you could no doubt get by with using all butter.
To even further soften my transition back to reality, I made a side of Honey-Thyme Butter to accompany my biscuits. I was inspired by a Honey-Thyme Ice Cream recipe from Amanda Hesser. It’s such a great combination that I wanted to try it in butter as well. I used lemon thyme with the butter and it was perfectly lemony. I’m sure regular thyme would be equally as tasty. For an even more savory treat, try adding a pinch or two of fresh minced garlic into the butter. Maybe it’s just me, but I love the taste of garlic, butter, and honey. A blend that I accidentally discovered years ago while camping – of course!

And since I don’t want to completely short-change you on the vegetable front, I’ll at least tip you off to some of my favorite combinations this summer.

Cukes: Toss coins or matchsticks with a bit of seasoned rice vinegar, toasted sesame oil, salt and red chili flakes

Zucchini: A riff on a 101 cookbooks recipe, caramelize some shallots and garlic, toss in a layer of zucchini coins to brown on both sides and finish if off with a healthy handful of chopped dill and crumbled feta. Left unattended, I can polish off an entire pan of this in a heartbeat. It also makes a great lunch stuffed into a pita.

Green beans: This concoction is adapted from the now defunct Fhima’s in downtown St. Paul. Combine equal parts teriyaki and peanut butter, add in fresh garlic, chopped green onions, and cayenne to taste. Serve over lightly steamed green beans.

Mile High Biscuits
(adapted from the Hominy Grill)

4 cups flour, plus additional for kneading
(use a southern biscuit flower or substitute cake flour)
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons lard
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Sift the dry ingredients together into a large bowl. Cut in the butter and lard with a fork or pastry cutter until you get pea sized lumps of butter. Add in the buttermilk and mix until the ingredients are just moistened. Turn out onto a floured board and knead a few times until a ball forms. Roll or pat the ball into a circle about 1 inch thick. Cut out biscuits with a lightly floured cutter and transfer them to a baking sheet. Bake the biscuits in a 425ºF oven for about 15 minutes, or  until they are golden brown. Makes about 12 2 1/2 inch biscuits.

Honey-Lemon Thyme Butter

6 ounces butter, room temperature
4 tablespoons liquid honey
1 tablespoon fresh chopped lemon thyme
a pinch of fresh minced garlic (optional)

Combine and mix well, chill slightly.

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