Category Archives: international

Campfire Paella

I’m ALIVE!  If you were afraid that I had been taken hostage or trapped beneath heavy furniture, fear no more!  We have been busily checking items from our Summer List, which has left me little time to blog.  So, to all ten of you who read this thing (Hi, Mom!), I apologize for my radio silence.  I’m pretty sure that all will be forgiven once you see what we’ve been up to.

We spent last weekend riding our bikes along this river…

after camping with our good friends Jeff & Tina on this lake….

where we stuffed our bocas with this grilled deliciousness:

I know.  That last photo is a real jaw dropper.  If you know me at all, you know that my love affair with Spain began long ago.  By no means do I consider myself a paella snob, but baking it in a dutch oven just seems so wrong.  I’ve been obsessed with making this dish over an open fire since watching Mario and Gwynnie’s food tour of my beloved España.  Guess what?  It was so easy!  And FUN!  Our fire pit was equipped with a large steel grate, but you could easily do this on a BBQ grill.   My paella pan will never be the same, but hopefully it will never see the inside of an oven again, as THIS is the only way that I  intend to make it from here on out.  This recipe is adapted from Christine Gallary’s post on CHOW, using my 13.5 inch pan (scroll down to the end if you just want to get to the recipe):

Step ONE:  Build a medium sized fire and let it get going.  It doesn’t need to be huge (you don’t want to singe your eyebrows), just big enough to tickle the pan.  Then saute yo’ meat.  We used chicken andouille sausage and boneless, skinless chicken thighs.  When they are cooked through, remove with a slotted spoon, retaining the juices.

Step TWO:  Add your onion and saute until golden.  You will need to rotate the pan often to ensure even cooking.  This is where a nice pair of LONG tongs comes in handy (we lost ours, so I had to improvise).   Once the onion is nice and caramelized, throw in your garlic, salt, paprika, and a huge pinch of saffron threads.  Coat the onion evenly.  Stir in your diced tomatoes, with juice, and give it a good stir to mix it all together.

Step THREE:  Add your bomba rice, coat with tomatoes and spices, then add white wine.  Let the wine cook into the rice a little bit, then add in the chicken broth.  Mix it all together.  Try to look like Clint Eastwood while you do this (Matt calls this my smoke face).  Now comes the hard part:  DON’T TOUCH IT!  Seriously, keep your grubby little paws OFF the paella.  You want a nice crusty layer to form on the bottom of the pan.  This is called socarrat, and it is delicious, so LEAVE IT ALONE.

Step FOUR:  Let the rice simmer for about 15 minutes,  rotating the pan occasionally so that it cooks evenly.  Then, in an even layer, without disturbing the rice, add the meat back into the pan.  Top with an even layer of peeled shrimp (tail on looks real pretty, but we are roughing it here, folks).  Let the shrimp cook for another 10 minutes or so, until done.   If you don’t feel like they are cooking, you can cover the pan with a layer of foil.

Step FIVE:  Remove the pan from the fire.  It will be HOT, so find a safe place to let it rest.  Cover it with foil and let it sit for about 5 minutes.  Sprinkle with parsley and fresh lemon.  Then DIG In!  Make sure to get some of the socarrat from the bottom of the pan.  ¡Delicioso!

Oh.  And did I mention dessert?  Sit down, I’m not done here.

I’ve also been obsessed with making Campfire Orange Cakes since seeing them featured on Emily’s and Alice’s blogs.   We opted for choco cake mix, because that’s how we roll:

But you could use any type of cake mix that you like.  Just follow the directions found on their blogs and you will be in HEAVEN.

As per Em’s recommendation, we saved the scooped out orange flesh for our juice the next morning.  Holy orange balls!  We were so glad we did.

And that, my friends, is how you stuff your face on a camping trip!  Jeff and Tina, thank you for being such gracious hosts and guinea pigs!  When can we go again?!

(This recipe is for a 13.5 inch pan.  Increase rice to two cups and total liquids to 4 cups for 15 inch pans)
1 (15 oz) can fire roasted, diced tomatoes
1 (16 oz) bag peeled shrimp
1 teaspoon paprika (plus more as desired)
salt and black pepper
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cubed
2 large links of chicken andouille sausage, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 tablespoons olive oil (plus more as needed)
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced or crushed
1 large pinch saffron threads
1.5 cup bomba rice (you can sub arborio or valencia)
1 cup white wine
2 cups chicken broth
Serve with lemon wedges and freshly chopped Italian parsley

1.  Over a medium campfire, equipped with grill, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a 13.5 inch pan.  Add sausage and chicken thighs.  Cook through, then remove with slotted spoon (retain the juices).  

2.  Add more olive oil to the pan, then add diced onion.  Cook until soft.  Add garlic and a teaspoon of salt, paprika, and large pinch of saffron threads.  Coat evenly.  Add the can of diced tomatoes, with juice, and stir to coat. 

3.  Add bomba rice, stir until evenly coated with spices and tomatoes.  Add wine and let simmer for a minute or two, until about half of it cooks out.  Add chicken broth.  Don’t touch from here on out!  Let it simmer for 12-15 minutes, rotating the pan occasionally.  Add an additional splash of broth if you find that it is cooking too quickly out of the pan.

4.  Add the chicken and accumulated juices in an even layer.  Press into the rice a bit, using the back of long tongs.  Add shrimp in an even layer and continue to cook for about 10 minutes longer.  If it’s not cooking, cover – carefully – with foil. 

5.  Remove the pan from the fire, and carefully cover with foil.  It will be HOT.  Let it rest for 5 minutes.  Serve with fresh (Italian) parsley and lemon wedges.  

Original recipe found HERE



Filed under grilling, international

LAS TAPAS tortilla de patata

We  just finished reading The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón for our book club.  If you haven’t read it yet, you are in for a real treat.  I periodically forced myself to put it down, so that it wouldn’t end too quickly.  It’s that good. Ruiz Zafón has artfully woven together a story of suspense, romance, and fantasy that reads like poetry. Oh…and it is set in Barcelona, my favorite city on the planet.  So, it’s no coincidence that I had a mad craving for Spanish tapas while reading this little gem.  As it was my turn to host, I had a good excuse to make a few of my favorite things…

Las flores

El Menú
Almendras  Marcona Almonds
Aceitunas   Jumbo Queen Olives from Andalucia
Pisto Manchego  Roasted Vegetable Purée
Champiñones al Ajillo  Mushrooms sautéed in garlic, olive oil, & dry sherry
Ensalada de Espinacas y Garbanzos  Spinach and Chickpea Salad
Albondigas  Spanish Meatballs in Saffron Sauce
Queso   Assorted Spanish Cheeses (see below for list)
Tortilla de Patata Potato Omelet (recipe below)

Pisto Manchego

Los Quesos de España

Los Quesos
Queso Mahón Cow’s Milk Cheese, Mild
Queso Manchego  Sheep’s Milk Cheese, Sharp
Queso Azul de Valdeon Tangy Blue Cheese
Ibérico Curado Cured Sheep & Goat’s Milk Cheese, Sharp

Tortilla de Patata

 Tortilla de Patata Potato Omelet
Of all the tapas, this is the one that transports me right back to my dining room in Sevilla.  In Spain, the word tortilla refers to an egg omelet, and they are consumed as midday or evening meals.   The pros cook their tortillas on the stove top (if you’ve spent a summer in Spain, without A/C, you know why), but I’ve had mixed success with this.  I follow the Test Kitchen method of starting it on the stove and finishing in the oven.

8 Eggs
2 Russet Potatoes (small), Peeled
1 Yellow Onion
1/3 Cup Olive Oil
Flat Leaf Parsley

Using the smallest slicing disk, thinly slice the potatoes and onion in the food processor.  Heat oil in a 10 inch oven proof skillet (no bigger!!!), and sauté the potatoes and onions for ten minutes, until soft, salting throughout.  Beat eggs with one teaspoon of salt, and pour into skillet.  Allow to set around the edges of the pan for about two minutes.  Transfer pan into 425 degree oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, until the sides puff up, and the egg is done when cut into the middle.  Transfer back to the stove, over medium high heat, and cook until a golden brown crust has formed–use a spatula to peek.  Let it rest for a few minutes, then use a spatula to loosen the tortilla around the edges.  To unmold the tortilla, invert a plate over the pan, then grip both firmly, and flip the omelet on to the plate, browned side up.  Finish with a sprinkle of coarse salt and chopped parsley.  Serve at room temperature.

Of course, it wouldn’t be complete without a little vino….

Los Vinos de España

Most of the wines pictured above were less than $20!  Here are some of my favorites:

Vino Tinto  Red Wine
Ergo Tempranillo Rioja
Marqués de Riscal Rioja
Sexto red blend

Vino Blanco White Wine
Martinsancho Rueda Verdejo
Cava Spanish Sparkling Wine

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Filed under books, international, parties, wine


This post was inspired by a recent book club meeting in which we discussed culinary traditions and family recipes that remind us of home.  Last Saturday I had the pleasure of participating in one such tradition with my dear friend, Jamie.  For years, she and her family have gathered in the kitchen to make Chinese steamed buns, also known as Hum Bao.  We shared a fantastic evening of Hum Bao, Sichuan green beans, fried rice, local wine and birthday cake (felicidades, Tara!!!) with our lovely friends.  

At the end of the evening we each broke open a fortune cookie.  Jamie crumbled hers to reveal the following…(of course!)
Jamie, I was honored to take part in your tradition and I am grateful for your friendship. Thank you for sharing this little piece of “home” with us….

Steamed Buns
(Hum Bao)
originally from: Anne & Lou Gehrig
1 cup chopped carrots
1 1/2 lb pork (fatty cut, pork chops work well)
8 tbsp Hoisin sauce
2 tbsp peanut oil
4 tbsp oyster sauce
4 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp chili-garlic sauce
2 tbsp honey
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp green onion, minced
1/2 tsp 5 Spice Powder
1 cup minced green onion
1 large clove garlic, finely minced
1 tbsp peanut oil
1 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 1 tbsp cold water
2 pkg Rhode’s Bake N’ Serve Frozen White Dinner Rolls 12 count
Prepare frozen dough as directed on back of package allowing dough to rise for 3-5 hours.
Cut meat into 1″ thick strips.  Place in BBQ Sauce thoughly coating meat. Place meat in shallow baking baking sheet, pour remaining sauce over meat.  Roast in 350 degree oven about 45 minutes.  (Cut into meat to make sure no longer pink in middle.)  Let cool till able to handle, chop meat, including all fatty pieces, into 1/8″ pieces. Place all meat, pan drippings and sauce into bowl.
Prepare green onions and garlic.
Mix cornstarch.
Heat wok to hot.  Add 1 tbsp peanut oil.  When it is hot, add green onions and garlic.  Stir-fry a few seconds.  Now add all chopped meat, pan drippings and sauce.  Thicken filling by adding a little of the cornstarch mixture.  Turn out into small bowl.  Chill thoroughly.
Assemble Buns:
Using raised roll dough makes for about the perfect portion size for buns.  Working with a bit of flour to avoid sticking to counter, flatten one roll of dough with your hand to a rough circle. Work to not handle dough to much to avoid making it tough. Place about 1 tbsp filling in center of circle.  Bring up sides and ensuring that dough is fully sealed, tip: avoid sauce getting on dough at seal point as it will not allow seal to take place.  Turn over (sealed side down), on gernerously floured cookie sheet, allow space in between buns.  Let rise 30 minutes.  Bring a large pot filled 3/4 full to rapid boil. Generously spray bamboo steaming rack with nonstick cooking spray, place buns on rack, make sure they are not touching. Steam 12-15 minutes in bamboo steamer, till dough is fully cooked, dough will look slightly translucent when done.  (Can also be baked at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.) Will make about 24 buns.
You can also make your own dough:
1 tsp dry yeast
1 1/4 cu warm water
1 tbsp sugar
3 1/2 cu white flour
Sprinkle yeast over water.  Add sugar.  Let rest about 5 minutes till dissolved and water has bubbles on top.  Add sugar & stir.  Slowly pour into flour, mixing well.  Turn out onto well-floured board & knead until smooth and no longer sticky, about 10 minutes.  Lightly oil bowl.  Turn dough a few times in bowl to cover surface with oil.  Cover with dry towel & let rise until 2X (about 2 hours).  Bread dough is now ready for use after adding 1/2 tsp baking powder.  Incorporate into dough and cut into pieces for use.

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Filed under family recipe, international, parties


It may not seem obvious upon first glance, but the woman pictured above was a total badass.  My heart swells with pride when I remember the woman that she was and, more importantly, where she came from.  The following excerpts are based on the eulogy given by my great aunt, in memory of my great grandmother–the heart and soul of our family:

Aslig Potoian was born in 1905 in Keghi, Armenia.  In 1912 her father left the homeland for America to establish himself and then send for his family.  Before he could accomplish this, the war of 1915 broke out.   Aslig, her mother, sister, brother, and neighbors fled the Turkish massacre for neutral territory.  Along the way, she lost her mother and sister to illness and her baby brother drowned while trying to cross a river.  Aslig, left an orphan, was taken in by neighbors who helped her get to an aunt living in Constantinople.  She remained with her aunt for six years until her father, having learned of her survival through neighbors, sent for her. 

Aslig arrived to America through Ellis Island.  She met her father in Spokane, Washington where he was working for the railroads.   There, she met and married Soghoman Karagavourian.  Soghoman, a highly educated man in Armenia, worked as a railroad supervisor in America.  Together they raised five children.

Her son, called Garabed, is my grandfather.   You may ask yourself how all of this is relevant for a blog dedicated to cooking and recipes?!  Well, as it turns out, my obsession with food may be deeply rooted in my DNA.  Great grandma Aslig cooked for the men on the Spokane railroad and my grandfather and his brothers went on to open a restaurant in southwest Washington.

My fondest memories of my great grandmother are of her enduring strength and love, her impish laugh, and of course, her cooking.  The following is a dish that we often eat at family gatherings. Technically this dish is called Armenian Dolma, but we have always referred to it as Sarma.  The measurements are approximations and ingredients may vary depending on preference.  This one, however, tastes like home to me….


meat mixture: 
1 small onion, finely chopped
2.5 – 3 pounds hamburger, ground lamb, or a combination (I prefer hamburger only)
3/4 cup long grain white rice
1/2 tsp fresh lemon zest 
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
 salt and pepper
COMBINE in a large mixing bowl, careful not to overwork the meat.  ADD a liberal amount of salt and pepper.

1 cup tomato sauce
5-6 large cloves of garlic, crushed
2 TBSP fresh lemon juice
COMBINE in a small mixing bowl.  SPOON mixture into the hamburger, mixing in the desired amount.

*Cover the meat mixture with saran wrap, refrigerate for an hour or more to soak up the flavors.    

1 green bell pepper, lid removed, hollowed
3 to 4 zucchini,  halved and hollowed (cut the stem off, but leave the ends intact) 
1 head cabbage, blanched in 1 inch of boiling water until leaves are pliable
1 jar brined grape leaves (my aunt swears by California grown leaves), rinsed, spread over towels

STUFF the bell pepper and zucchini with meat mixture (this will require you to get your hands dirty, as it is difficult to pack the zucchini without splitting them open)

rolling cabbage and grape leaves: 
PLACE leaf smooth side down, vein side up.  CUT any stems off.  ROLL a small handful of meat between your palms and place just above where the stem has been removed, fold the bottom protruding edges of the leaf up over the meat. FOLD the left then the right edges of the leaf over the meat, then roll to the top edge of the leaf to form a tight cylinder.   

Using a large dutch oven, or oven safe pot with a lid, pack vegetables tightly, placing grape leaves and cabbage seam side down.  POUR approximately 1 28 oz can of tomato sauce over the top.  ADD enough water to completely submerge the vegetables.  SLICE one lemon over the top of the packed veggies and juice (you may also cover with extra grape leaves or zucchini stems for added flavor) COOK at 325 degrees for 3 hours (or up to four, as the rice needs to completely soften).

*If there is room, consider packing oven safe plates over the top of the veggies, juice, and lemons before placing the lid on the pot.  This keeps everything tightly packed and submerged during cooking.  

Traditionally, Armenian Dolma is served with madzoon, or plain white/greek style yogurt and Armenian Rice Pilaf.

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Filed under family recipe, international, meat

CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA the best international recipe

Food porn (definition) a provocative term variously applied to a spectacular visual presentation of cooking or eating in advertisements, infomercials, cooking shows or other visual media, foods boasting a high fat and calorie content, exotic dishes that arouse the desire to eat or the glorification of food as a substitute for sex. 

Recently, when I asked my sweet husband what he would like for Valentine’s Day dinner, he requested, without hesitation, to have Chicken Tikka Masala.  As this recipe elicits the Pavlovian drooling response, I was happy to oblige.  It is  from the Cook’s Illustrated Best International Recipe collection.  Enjoy the porn

It calls for bathing the chicken breasts in a rich whole milk yogurt mixture prior to broiling.  I present you with yet another reason to love Trader Joe’s….

Evidence of our Chicken Tikka Masala addiction….spattered cookbook pages.

The recipe calls for a paltry two teaspoons of freshly minced ginger.  As you can see, we like more  than that.  As a side note, I’m also contemplating the development of a Tikka Masala candle, as I can’t get enough of the fragrant chiles, garlic, and ginger.  Garlic candles?  Maybe not….

While the masala sauce simmers, broil the chicken breasts on high, then tent with foil while finishing the sauce.  When the sauce is done, cut them into bite sized pieces and mix them in.

CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA best international recipe
serves 4 to 6

1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
4 boneless, skinless breasts
1 cup plain whole fat yogurt
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp minced ginger
2 crushed garlic cloves

COMBINE salt, cumin, coriander, cayenne in a small bowl.  DRY the chicken with paper towels and sprinkle with mixture, gently pressing so that it adheres. REFRIGERATE for 30-60 minutes.  WHISK yogurt, oil, garlic and ginger in a large bowl.  COAT chicken generously in yogurt mixture.  BROIL on high appoximately 6 minutes per side, or until chicken reaches 160 degrees.  TENT with foil and set aside to rest.  

3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion
2 medium crushed garlic cloves
2 tsp freshly minced ginger (or a fist full, depending on preference)
1 serrano or jalapeno chile, minced
1 tbsp garam masala (HEAPING)
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 tsp sugar
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup cilantro leaves

HEAT oil in dutch oven pot over medium heat, until shimmering.  ADD onion, salt and cook for 5-7 minutes.  STIR in garlic, chile, garam masala, and tomato paste and cook until fragrant.  ADD crushed tomatoes and sugar and bring to a boil.  SIMMER, covered, on medium low for 15 minutes.  STIR in cream and return to simmer.  REMOVE from heat, add chunked chicken pieces and cilantro.  DIG in.

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Filed under chicken, Indian, international

VIETNAMESE RICE NOODLE SALAD the best international recipe

This recipe comes from my favorite cookbook, The Best International Recipe, developed by America’s Test Kitchen.  Any creation by ATK is considered a Bible in my kitchen.  I’m especially excited about this Best Recipe book as we are starved for international cuisine here in the Gorge.  Merely writing about this recipe makes me drool–the combination of fresh ingredients is heavenly. The book calls for broiling the pork tenderloin, but because the prep is tedious and time consuming, I typically roast the pork and slice it over the salad.  Either way, it is delish.  Happy eating….

GLAZE:  1/4 cup soy sauce, 2 TBSP mirin, 1 TBSP rice vinegar, 1 TBSP honey. WHISK together in a small bowl and set aside.  

REMOVE the silver skin with a knife.  DRY the tenderloin with paper towels, salt and pepper.  HEAT one tablespoon oil in a skillet over medium high heat until just smoking.  BROWN the tenderloin for approximately 2 minutes per side, until it is browned all the way around.  TRANSFER pork to a baking dish.  GLAZE the meat.  BAKE on the middle rack at 450 degrees for 15-18 minutes, flipping halfway through until instant read thermometer registers 135 degrees.  TENT the pork with foil, on a separate plate, and let rest for 10 minutes.  SLICE into bite sized pieces.

2/3 cup fish sauce (* I decrease this amount slightly, depending on the “fishiness” of the sauce)
1/2 cup warm water
3 limes, squeezed
5 TBSP sugar
1-3 minced thai, serrano, or jalapeno chiles, seeds and ribs removed (*depends on your heat preference)
2 crushed garlic cloves
WHISK until sugar dissolves and set aside. 

3 large carrots, shredded
1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, cut into matchsticks
1/4 cup chopped peanuts (*plus extra for topping) 
1 minced thai, serrano, or jalapeno chile, seeds and ribs removed
8 oz dried rice vermicelli noodles
4 cups red or green lettuce, sliced thin
1/2 cup roughly chopped basil (* use Thai basil if you can)
1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro
1/2 cup roughly chopped mint
TOSS carrots, cucumber, chile, and peanuts with 1/4 cup dressing, set aside.

BOIL 4 qts of water, remove from heat.  ADD noodles and let stand until tender, 5-10 minutes.  DRAIN and transfer to a larger bowl.  LAYER with carrot-cucumber mixture, lettuce, herbs.  POUR half of remaining dressing over the mixture and toss to combine.  DIVIDE among four serving bowls, top with pork and additional peanuts.  CHOW down. 

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Filed under international, pork, salad