What We Ate When We Went West


Being from the Midwest, I had no idea how beautiful the western part of the United States is. I had visited California and Colorado before, but they were short trips with a busy schedule. This summer Roy and I had the opportunity to explore this area of the country in a motor home and of course, one of our goals was to investigate the food! This post highlights what we found; I’m sure I’ve only hit the tip of the iceberg, so please let me know what I’ve missed in the comments below.

 Bison and Elk


I had my first taste of bison (photo above, left) at the Cowboy Cafe in Medora, North Dakota. Medora is a cute little touristy town right at the entrance to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. I was a lot more excited about the park than I was about that bison burger! Bison meat has less fat than chicken and fewer calories. I figured that was why it tasted so dry. But I didn’t give up! Each time I found it on a the menu, I’d give it a try. Some bison burgers were tastier than others. The best one I found was at Wall Drug in South Dakota. We also sampled elk burgers made for us by our friends Jim and Carol in Missoula, Montana. They were delicious (Carol is a great cook) and really not that much different than hamburger. However, our best bison experience was when we grilled a bison tri tip steak which we bought at Specialty Cuts Meat Market in Columbia Falls, Montana. In the West, beef tri tip is a common cut rubbed with dry spices and cooked up Santa Maria style which I tried to mimic. I used what spices I had on hand, and bragging aside, it was delicious!

Bison Tri Tip Steak

Ingredients for Four Large Servings:

Tri tip steak close to two pounds (about one inch thick)

4 cloves garlic, peeled and put through press

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons thyme

1 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon marjoram


Combine the salt, garlic, olive oil, thyme, pepper, and marjoram together to make a paste. Rub it into the steak, covering all sides. Allow the steak to sit (with the rub on) until it comes to room temperature. Heat the grill up to high temperature. Sear the outside of the steak by cooking each side on high for 2 minutes. Then, turn the heat down to medium low and cook 9 minutes a side for medium well. Tri tip has sort of a rectangle shape, so the ends of the steak will be well done and the middle inside will be pink. After taking the steak off the grill, let it rest on a covered platter for 5 to 10 minutes. Then slice the steak against the grain and enjoy!



Smaller than a blueberry and a bit more tart, huckleberries are a big deal, especially in Montana and nearby Idaho.  They are good in everything that blueberries are, but perhaps because there is a short window when they are in season, they are found in a lot of packaged food as well.  We enjoyed them in ice cream, chocolate sauce, and even taffy.



Not just beef jerky, but a multitude of different meats and flavors such as teriyaki turkey and jalapeño bison are available. In the Midwest, I’ve seen this stuff in sporting goods stores or Walmarts, but I have never seen anyone buy it.  Out west, everyone seems to have it in their grocery cart. It’s a great snack that doesn’t have to be refrigerated, so for car trips it’s handy – especially since every destination is so spread out from the next one. On the plus side, jerky consists of protein, but the down fall is the high sodium. However, since these strips of dried meat take an eternity to chew, not many can be eaten at one sitting!

Traditional Dishes Passed Down From Immigrants


Thousands of immigrants came to settle the West due to the Homestead Act of 1862 and the railroads. Their lasting influence is felt in various Irish pubs, German restaurants, and Italian produce companies in the region. Our friend Carol is of Norwegian descent. Her ancestors came to Montana via Minnesota. She belongs to The Son’s of Norway and I was thrilled to see her and other members make a traditional Crown Cake (Kransekake). It was evident that Carol and her dear friends Tolly, Susan, and Betty had a wonderful time doing this labor of love together. This time consuming celebration cake is served at milestone events such as weddings and graduations.


Rings of batter consisting of ground almonds, sugar, and egg whites are  baked in special form pans. Then they are stacked 18 high,  held together with royal icing, and decorated with Norwegian flags and candy. As you can see from the photo collage above, there are many different recipe versions; some use almond paste while others include more than just the three basic ingredients. I got to taste a baked piece of a ring that broke while it was being removed from the pan. It reminded me of a macaroon cookie and was delicious.

Huge Candy Stores Where the Star of the Show is Licorice


We encountered huge candy stores such as the one in Arlee, Montana above. I never knew there could be so many different kinds of licorice – including huckleberry!



While in Denver, we met up with our old friends Jerry and Helen.  Roy and Jerry have a hilarious fishing history which they managed to continue during our visit. I won’t go into it here, but I will say tears of laughter streamed down my face when they came back after hours of fishing with a grocery store bag full of trout. At least they were cleaned and gutted! Helen cooked them up using the foil packet method and the results were scrumptious!

Helen’s Colorado Trout

Ingredients for Four Servings:

4 trout- about 2 pounds, gutted and cleaned

4 pieces of heavy duty foil, each about 12 by 24 inches

1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half if large

1/2 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced

4 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon seasoning salt

1 teaspoon lemon pepper

1 teaspoon garlic powder



Mist each piece of foil with cooking spray and place a trout in the middle. Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon seasoning salt, lemon pepper, and garlic powder over each fish. Evenly sprinkle the cherry tomatoes and diced onion among each fish. Top each one with a tablespoon of butter and seal the packets tightly. Either bake in the oven or place on a gas grill at 400 degrees heat for fifteen minutes, turning once in the middle of the cooking time.  The fish should flake easily with a fork when done.

Green Chiles of Colorado and New Mexico


We hit Pueblo, Colorado just in time for the annual Chile & Frijoles Festival. Contrary to what Midwesterners think, this event doesn’t celebrate a ground beef and tomato sauce concoction, but rather dried beans and green chilies. Huge bags of mirasol chilies are carried over by fork lifts to roasters that resemble those devices that turn raffle tickets. Only these are huge baskets that flame up and smoke the chiles. People line up to get huge plastic bags full of the roasted chiles which they take home and divide into freezer bags to last them until the Chile Festival next year.image

The signature dish in Pueblo is the slopper, shown above left. An open face cheeseburger is covered with a sauce made from green chiles and sprinkled with chopped onion. It also comes with red chile sauce which is a less spicy version. We sampled one at Grays Coors Tavern, an iconic place that was started by the Coors company to promote their beer. It’s only changed hands a couple of times and it’s full of character. Lots of families were sitting in booths along the wall watching the Broncos play and there is outdoor seating as well.

New Mexico is know for bring a bowl of both green and red chile (sauce not the stew) to the table. A few years ago when we were driving across the country to California,  Jenny and I found their brand of Tex Mex food as enchanting as the terrain. We are headed there next, and I’m looking forward to Sopapillas drenched with honey! Anyone have any recommendations?

Please communicate!

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Beautiful Off-season Ibiza and Some Traditional Dishes


This is the final post in a series about our trip to Spain to visit Allison. The other two, “Manneqins, Markets, and Tortilla Espanola” & “Reminiscing about Coffee in Spain” gave me a chance to use some of the photos I snapped, but also to remember how much I enjoyed that vacation. At the end of our trip, we wound up in Ibiza, one of the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Valencia. Allison was based there at a school that participated in the English Language and Culture Auxiliary Program. She was also working as a nanny for the only child of a very privileged family. Both experiences made for some interesting and outrageous stories. Her blog, Naptime With Yasmine, recounts some hilarious tales about her time there.  One thing that she immediately noticed about Ibiza was the curious fact that it has two different personalities…

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The photos above are indications of what most people come to Ibiza looking for. During the “Clubbing Season” it grows from a population of a 180 thousand to 1.2 million people. Clubs with names like Cream, Cocoon,  Privilege, Amnesia, and Space open up from at the end of May through the beginning of October. People from Europe, especially the UK, flock to party and soak up the sun on the beaches. AOL and other sites have reported on tourists’ shenanigans that take place there. However, since we were visiting in April, our experience was very different.


We didn’t find too many sun worshipers on the beach in Ibiza Town. In fact, it was easy to get around and sometimes the city almost had a deserted feel to it.

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We were able to amble around Dalt Vila, Ibiza Old Town without fighting any crowds. The walls surrounding it date back to the 1500’s and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Roman’s, and Moors each had a period of occupation on the Island. In 1715 King Philip V absorbed it into Spain. In more modern times it became a place of peace, love, and living off the land when Hippies descended on it in the 60’s. These days it has morphed into a tourist destination for those who like to party. I wonder if some of the offspring from the Hippies grew up and became club owners? Just speculating!

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Santa Maria Cathedral in Old Town is worth seeing and there are lots of interesting shops as well.

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But what I really enjoyed is the alter ego of Ibiza; the raw unspoiled beauty of the island is in complete juxtaposition with the glamorous material lifestyle of clubbing.  Allison is an avid hiker, and she guided us to some breathtaking views. The huge rock in the lower right of the photo collage above is Es Vedra. Reported to be one of the most magnetic places on earth, some say below it lays the lost city of Atlantis.


Further highlighting the Island’s dual personalities was our experience of eating at two very different restaurants that basically had the same menu. The first one, extremely expensive Es Nautic in San Antonio, was suggested by the mother of the girl Allison au paired.  It was located next to the harbor in which the family kept their sailboat. Typical to what Allison had relayed to us about the mom’s behavior, she packed her daughter in the car with us, and sent us on to the restaurant even though it wasn’t a scheduled babysitting time. Of course, she did not send the little one with any money, so we footed her portion of the bill. We rationalized that observing the girl’s behavior was worth it as she plowed through eating more than her share of the family style servings. Es Nautic had a beautifully appointed dining room. The table setting was lovely and the presentation of the food was fabulous. The second restaurant, El Bigote in Cala Mastella, was quite a different venue. It is shown in the photo above. This outside eatery with the most remarkable view has two servings everyday and all patrons are served the same dishes cooked right in plain sight on an open fire. The girl was with us for this meal also; this time she ate a bit more modestly. Apparently she suffered some stomach problems after the first experience! We ordered just about the exact same tradition Ibicenco dishes from both restaurants. The food photos were taken by me but the photos of the recipes are all from www.Ibiza.Travel .


Both restaurants brought bread, olives and aioli to the table. The bread alone was very bland, but it was fantastic with aioli spread on it! The olives were the perfect complement to that bread combo.



On the left above is Es Nautic’s rendition of the fish stew, Bullit de Peix. On the right above is El Bigote’s version and right below shows how it was cooked. The dish gets its orange hue from saffron. Delicious rice served after diners eat this main dish and is prepared in the cooking broth left behind from the fish. Notice how Es Nautic’s is served with aioli poured over it. In both restaurants the fish still had tails, tentacles, and all still attached!

Bullet fish and rice


The dessert above is Greixonera from Es Nautic. It was pretty good, but not as good as Allison’s favorite Ibizan sweet, Flao. Flao is a goat cheese tart laced with mint; the recipe for it is in the Spanish coffee post mentioned above.

Ibiza dessert

So which restaurant did we like better? It’s hard to say! Both are very authentic to Ibiza; one reflects the pampered life and one showcases the natural beauty of that part of the world. The fact is – I would go back to either one of them in a heartbeat!

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Guest Post: Yates Yummies Recipe Challenge — Naptime With Yasmine

Challenge: How many meals can you make from 10 ingredients? Editor’s note: Here in Melbourne, I’m struggling to find new and creative ways to make easy meals on a budget with the same few ingredients I always buy. I love to eat (and eat healthy). The problem is, I don’t really like to cook and I’m […]

via Guest Post: Yates Yummies Recipe Challenge — Naptime With Yasmine

Eating Out in Charleston: A Cautionary Tale

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About a month ago, we spent a few days in Charleston.  I was surprised how much I loved it; the historic neighborhoods have charming architecture and there are so many opportunities to visit historic places such as Fort Sumter and actual plantation sites. I recorded much of our Charleston adventures in a post HERE.  One of the things we love to do when we travel is explore local eateries and discover the dishes a region is known for. Several people, including a high school friend of Roy’s who lives there and  Peg Moore, Chief Culinary Correspondent at the Charleston Mercury (who I was thrilled to meet), gave us suggestions of “must try” restaurants. It makes sense that these same places were also listed high up on Trip Advisor.  For the curious, here is the recommendations we were given:  Amen Street Fish & Raw Bar, Hanks Seafood Restaurant, Hominy Grill, McGrady’s, Magnolias, and SNOB – Slightly, North of Broad. Guess how many of these famed establishments we got to eat at? Just one. Turns out reservations are a pretty big deal! We showed up at Hanks on a Tuesday at 5 pm. after being turned away a few days earlier. Ninety-nine percent of the tables were empty. We were sure we would be able to get in, but were told that the only place we could be seated was on high stools at the large community table. We wondered  if our wind blown look after visiting Fort Sumter had something to do with it as we turned down the offer. Their menu was way too expensive to feel like we were dining at a lunch counter. We wandered down to Amen Street Fish & Raw Bar and luckily got seated right away, tousled look and all! Below are thoughts on the restaurants we did get to try- including Amen Street.  I’ve also included a recipe  from Cook’s Illustrated for an old southern favorite, pimento cheese. So, lesson learned: in a major foodie city like Charleston, make reservations!

Box Car Betty’s


Yum, yum, yum the fried chicken sandwiches at Box Car Betty’s are delish! Roy ordered the Boxcar and loved it. I had the Chicken & “Not So Waffle” and relished the spicy/salty/sweet flavors. The sandwiches were served on small baking sheets and both had pimento cheese on them, hence the recipe at the end of this post! We also loved the fried pickles and the French fries. The place was once a house, and although not huge, it was cute inside. It filled up quickly and some of the patrons were cadets in uniform from the Citadel. Apparently, there is also a take out option.

Charleston Crab House Seafood Restaurant

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We ate at Charleston Crab House on a Sunday after not being able to get into Hanks or Hominy Grill.  At that point, since we were hungry and it looked decent, we went for it. It got good reviews besides being #35 out of 656 on Trip Advisor and we found the food pretty tasty. I had a cup of the She Crab Soup and a Shrimp Po’Boy Sandwich. Roy enjoyed his Carolina Platter that had crab legs, shrimp, and a crab cake on it.  One thing the venue has going for it, is the roof top seating. Later we learned via our driver on the carriage ride we took, that back in the day, the building was once a brothel.

Amen Street Fish & Raw Bar

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We were impressed by the fact that Amen Street Fish & Raw Bar took us in off the street without a reservation, but the fact that it was just a bit after five probably helped our cause! Our waiter was excellent; he was unhurried while explaining the menu which included a vast selection of oysters that were offered that day. We chose a couple from three different types and they arrived with crackers, lemons, and different sauces. I ordered the Charleston standard, Shrimp and Grits, and found it rich and delicious. Roy opted to have his fish “herb grilled” and he said it was great.

Pimento Cheese Recipe from Cook’s Illustrated Magazine – yields three cups



2/3 cup mayonnaise

1 (4 oz.) jar pimentos

1 (8 oz.) package finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 (8 oz.) Package regular shredded cheddar cheese

2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

14 (or less) teaspoon cayenne pepper


With an electric mixer, gently combine all ingredients together just until spreadable. Use as a sandwich filling or cracker spread.

So, has anyone else had a similar experience in Charleston? Does anyone have a great Charleston restaurant to recommend?

I’d love to hear about it!

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Reminiscing about Coffee in Spain


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On the left above, is one of the several cups of coffee I had the first day I was in Spain; the photo on the right was taken just before heading to the airport to return home.

Just about a year ago, we had a great time visiting Allison in Spain. She was employed by a program that places native English speakers as teachers in secondary schools. During her week of spring vacation, Roy, Jennifer, and I met her in Madrid. We spent a couple days there, drove a rental car to Portugal, and then returned to Spain where we explored Seville, Barcelona, and finally Ibiza. A few weeks ago I woke up to the fact that I hadn’t done much sharing of our trip, so I blogged about Mannequins, Markets, and Tortilla Espanola. Here is my documentation of how I fell in love with  Cafe con Leche and some of the delicious things I ate while sipping it.

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Roy and I flew into Madrid within minutes of when Allison landed there from Ibiza. We had agreed on where to meet ahead of time by using the map on the airport website. I was excited to see her, but also so impressed at her ability to figure out the subway system and guide us to our Airbnb apartment. After dropping off our suitcases, we explored our neighborhood and discovered a little cafe just down the street. It was there that I had my very first Spanish breakfast and cup of coffee. I followed Allison’s lead and ordered Pan Con Tomate ( bread with tomato) and a side of jamon iberico (Spain’s famous ham) just for the fun of it. Basically a DIY deal, it was up to me to slather the grated tomato onto toasted bread which had been rubbed with a little garlic. Then I sprinkled it with coarse salt and drizzled it with olive oil. If that wasn’t delicious enough, I added some of the ham on top and thought it was about the best breakfast I ever had. The cafe con leche was just the thing I needed for my jet lag. It’s made by pouring a shot of espresso into a cup and then filling the rest of it up with warm milk. The designs seen on top are achieved by pouring the milk in second with an experienced steady hand and using a toothpick to coax it into shapes such as hearts. I found coffee made this way so yummy, that I wanted to stop and have a cup of it every chance we got.

Pan con Tomate:

Toasted slices of baguette

1 clove garlic

1 tomato

Olive oil to drizzle

Coarse salt to sprinkle

Optional: Spanish ham or sausage, manchengo cheese

Slice and toast pieces of baguette. Lightly run the garlic clove over the top. Grate the tomato into a bowl, discarding the skin. Slather the tomato pulp on the toast. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt.  Nice additions are the Spanish ham or sausage and manchengo cheese; either can be found in a specialty store or Whole Foods.

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The next day Jennifer joined us and it was her turn to deal with jet lag. A friend of Allison’s had told her about a bar in one of the Madrid neighborhoods that had great food. We took the subway over to it and found it was just a “hole in the wall”, but the food really was delicious. We munched on crusty bread, triangles of manchego cheese, and an impossibly tender meat dish that must have cooked in its perfectly spiced sauce for several hours. I attempted a similar dish in a post written soon after we returned,  Tapas Inspired Braised Meat in Port Wine Sauce . While we were eating lunch, Jennifer ordered a coffee. It was delivered to her as a shot of espresso in a glass. I was surprised, but found out later that serving coffee that way was not uncommon.

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At the tail end of our trip, we ended up in Ibiza. It’s a legendary place for Europe’s rich and famous to frolic, but Allison worked their during the off season and never was fully exposed to how riotous it is reported to be! It seemed pretty tame while we were there, but there was no denying how absolutely breathtaking the raw beauty of the island was. For a sample of Ibiza photos, visit this post on Allison’s entertaining blog Naptime with Yasmine. One afternoon after wandering about, we stopped to watch the sunset and grabbed (of course!) a cup of coffee. We also ordered a slice of Allison’s favorite dessert, Flao. It is sort of like a cheese cake in a pie crust. The version Allison liked best was made from goat cheese and flecked with minced spearmint. Click here for a recipe I found on the web . I’m also going to post a photo of recipe I downloaded from http://www.Ibiza.Travel because I think it might be more authentic to what we sampled. Full disclosure: I have not tried making this yet, but hope to make it for Allison some day!


Now, a year after our trip, I still drink my coffee with half a cup of warm milk in it. The other half is rarely actual espresso; the majority of the time it’s just regular American coffee. Thank goodness for microwaves – right?

I’d love to hear about anyone else’s coffee traveling experiences – please feel free to comment!

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Mannequins, Markets, and Tortilla Espanola

tortilla with water mark

Ever feel like life is a roller coaster and every time is starts to slow down, it takes off again? In my case, perhaps a speeding train would be more like it. For the last year or so, I just seem to be headed to one experience after another. Throughout it all, I have enjoyed taking photos, but I haven’t taken the time to pause and do anything with them. Currently, my husband and I are living the dream (O.K. – maybe his dream!) of traveling around the United States in a motor home. Check out our travel blog at Yates RV Adventures. A couple of weeks ago, we were staying at a RV “resort” in Naples, Florida. These parks typically are a mix of prefab homes and recreational vehicles. As I was passing one of the homes, I was startled to see a mannequin guarding the door. My memory was jolted back to another mannequin I had seen when we were in Spain visiting my daughter Allison just several months ago. All of a sudden I realized I had tons of photos and lots of experiences from that trip that I had never shared or done anything with because the train I was on never slowed down. The Spanish mannequin I remembered was looking out onto the Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid. It was the first of the many fabulous markets we encountered on that trip. It had booth after booth of beautiful produce, meat, and seafood. Best of all, it had delicious ready made food that could be eaten right there or taken away for a meal at home. One dish every market in Spain had was Tortilla Espanola. This Spanish tortilla is basically a very yummy potato torte and is a common every day food in Spain. A wedge of it could be an entre, or cut in squares and served with aioli, it is often part of a tapas spread. The lady of the house where Allison was staying made it for us one night for supper and I saw how simple and easy it was to make. In this post are photos of some markets we saw on our travels. Below them is a recipe for Tortilla Espanola.

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The classy senorita on the left overlooks the Mercado de San Miguel. The American mannequin on the right surveys the trailer park.


Above is the beautiful Mercado de San Miguel, a wonderful market in San Miguel Plaza in Madrid.


This is a shot of my daughter Jennifer walking into a market in Porto, Portugal. Whether they were big or small, these places of commerce offered fresh meat and produce and we thought they were all charming.


The Mercado de Ribeira in Lisbon, Portugal had the largest food court we had ever seen. The market area was in one side of the building, and the Time Out Food Hall was in the other half.


Beautiful greens in the famous La Boqueria on La Rambla in Barcelona.


The Mercat Nou in Ibiza, Spain sold every thing from tea and liquor made from local herbs to their famous salt and honey.

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Of course the market in Ibiza had an offering of take away foods, including a Spanish Tortilla.

Ingredients and Procedure for Tortilla Espanola:


Ingredients for Spanish Tortilla:

4 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch slices

1 medium sized onion, peeled and sliced

4 eggs

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon Spanish paprika

1/4 teaspoon salt

pinch pepper

pinch saffron (optional)


Ingredients for Garlic Lemon Sauce:

1/2 cup good quality mayonnaise

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 clove garlic, put through press or finely minced

pinch Spanish paprika

pinch saffron (optional)


Procedure for Spanish tortilla:

In a skillet, saute the onion in 2 tablespoons olive oil until tender. Remove with a slotted spoon and set the onions aside in a mixing bowl. Add 1/4 of olive oil and the sliced potatoes to the pan. Cook, covered, over fairly low heat for 20 to 25 minutes – gently turning over once at 10 minutes. Potatoes will be done when they are easily pierced with a fork but still retain their shape. Carefully remove the potatoes from the pan with a slotted spoon and add to the onions in the bowl. Discard all but 2 tablespoons of oil from the pan. Whisk the eggs, salt, paprika, pepper, and saffron together. Pour the egg mixture over the potatoes and onions. Gently mix the to coat the potatoes and onions. Add the potato mixture to the pan and cook over low heat. As the tortilla slowly sets up, run a rubber spatula along the sides to create a rounded edge. When the tortilla is almost completely firm, remove the pan from the heat. Place a plate on top of the skillet and using pot holders or a kitchen towel to prevent being burned, flip the pan over so that the tortilla is on the plate. Then slide the tortilla off the plate and onto the skillet. Place back on low heat and cook another 3 to 5 minutes. Invert onto a serving plate and either cut into slices as a main dish or small squares as part of a tapas spread.


Procedure for Garlic Lemon Sauce

Whisk together mayonnaise, lemon juice, garlic, paprika, and saffron.


I’d love to hear anyone else’s experiences with the markets in Spain or Portugal!

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