Until this month, I’d never been on a camping trip in which I was responsible for feeding myself – meaning I’d only been as a kid or with big groups in which more organized people than me had sorted out those logistics – and I was excited about it.

So when the subject of meals came up while planning my recent three-day stay on Moosehead Lake, I scoffed at my tentmate’s suggestion that we could always just open cans of store-bought chili. Coming back from a daylong hike and cooking a meal over an open flame without a care about carbs or calories was what I was anticipating the most.

My daydreams, however, didn’t serve as adequate preparation, and some bland, shriveled vegetables on the first night led us back to chili on the second – though I insisted, at least, on buying fresh ground beef and a seasoning packet from the Hannaford in Greenville.

Not a week after returning, I came across “Hungry Campers Cookbook” by Katy Holder. Although my first thought was that I could have used it a couple weeks earlier, I decided to take it home with me to try to learn something for any future trips.

I was a little disappointed to find out in the introduction that the author is from London. I was hoping to get my camp cooking education from a seasoned Mainer familiar with local ingredients, campsites and weather conditions, but Holder’s cheery tone and helpful tips made it hard not to like her – even if she’s from “Old” England.

Holder is upfront about the fact that she and her family only camp at sites they can drive right up to – and they must have a pretty big vehicle, considering her list of essential food items and cooking utensils includes chutney and tea towels. She also apparently brings a lot of homemade food, as she dedicates a couple of chapters to snacks and meals to make beforehand, like oat bars and frozen meat dishes.

I was looking more for something that wouldn’t require a lot of ingredients or cleanup but would be flavorful and give me some – I don’t know – “campy” feel. And then I saw foil-wrapped fillets of fish with tomatoes, olives and herbs. Figuring my grill pan on the stove could serve as an adequate test campfire barbecue, I decided to try out the recipe at home.

It called for unspecified white or pink fish fillets – ideally, whatever was caught on that day’s fishing trip. Although my excitement for the day was limited to a trip to the nearest grocery store fish counter, in the spirit of adventure, I bought my first Acadian redfish, which aptly shares its name with a national park. Also, it was on sale.

Sure enough, however, cooking the fish in tinfoil on the stove – complete with grill marks, bubbling juices and smoke in my eyes – sufficiently re-created that camp meal je ne sais quoi I was seeking. And the flavor, ease of cooking and lack of cleanup made it a surefire recipe for my next camping trip. Or maybe I’ll just learn how to make s’mores on my grill pan.

Foil-Wrapped Fillets of Fish With Tomatoes, Olives and Herbs

Olive oil

4 skinless, boneless white or pink fish fillets

250 rams (9 ounces) cherry tomatoes, halved

About 20 pitted black olives

1 small handful fresh herbs, such as cilantro or flat-leaf parsley, chopped

  1. Tear off 8 pieces of foil, large enough to enclose a piece of fish and some vegetables. Make 4 double layers of foil – these will create individual parcels for cooking.
  2. Drizzle a little bit of olive oil onto the top pieces of foil and smear it around. Place a fish fillet into the centre of each one. Divide the cherry tomatoes and olives between the fish and scatter over the herbs. Drizzle with a little more olive oil and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Carefully enclose the fish.
  3. Place the fish parcels on a grill rack over the fire or on a barbecue and cook for 18-20 minutes, or until the fish is cooked. Unwrap the fish carefully and simply sit the foil parcels in bowls so you won’t lose the delicious juices when unwrapping them.
  4. Serve the fish in the foil accompanied by rice, potatoes or pasta.
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