For this recipe, you can use store-bought tomato paste, but Cardoza prefers to use a paste he’s made from reducing his own garden tomatoes and running them through a food mill.
Sauté onion in olive oil and add a splash of red wine. Cook until onions are softened and add rosemary, oregano and ground fennel seeds. Add tomato paste, fresh basil, salt and pepper. Simmer on low for 30 minutes to an hour. Spread onto a baking sheet in a ¼ inch thick layer and cook in the oven overnight at 150°. Remove from oven and crumble into pieces. It’s now shelf stable.
About this recipe
My father-in-law, Divit Cardoza, takes backpacking seriously. As one of the founders of the Boise Co-op Wine Shop, he’s equally serious about food and wine. Though gourmet backpacking meals might seem like a contradiction, that’s not the case when you hit the trail with Cardoza.
Every year, he concocts a new plan for shaving weight off his pack, while still incorporating fresh ingredients from his home garden. He plugs in the dehydrator and turns everything from summer tomatoes to salami to fresh potatoes into just-add-water flavor bombs. “It is a lot of work to save an ounce, but the older you get, the more ounces weigh,” said Cardoza, with a laugh.
I’ve heard stories of campfire meals consisting of spicy ramen with fresh ginger, hot chili paste and cilantro; creamy garden potato, bacon and thyme soup, blueberry crepes and even sour cherry upside-down cake with cognac and pecans. Camping with Cardoza is like dining at a pop-up restaurant in the middle of the woods. And it’s the meticulous prep leading up to the trip that results in such epic high-altitude meals.
“Everything tastes better in the mountains, but flavors and textures still matter,” said Cardoza.
For Cardoza’s Backpacker’s Pasta Puttanesca, the secret is his dehydrated “Black Crack” tomato paste. A tablespoon of this concentrated condiment is enough to add ample tomato kick to any dish.
- Tara Morgan