intrepid archaeologist, avid cook


Campfire Pizza

This is my favorite thing to make camping.  Seriously.  There is nothing so good as a pizza cooked in a cast iron dutch oven on a campfire.  The most difficult thing is judging the temperature of the coals so you don’t burn the bottom or the top.

I start with a ‘quick’ pizza dough.  This means I do not have the patience to make a regular pizza dough and wait the hours it takes for it to rise.  This pizza dough is ready in about 25 minutes.  And I use it all the time, not just camping, since I have the same ability to plan what I am going to eat for dinner as goldfish have of remembering that they have seen this castle before.  you can see the cornmeal on the bottom of the pan

I mix the dough first, and then usually do something else for a while.  In this case, I made the potato balls detailed in the last post.  After the dough has risen, I prep the pizza.  You begin by adding flour until the dough doesn’t stick to your hands anymore, which can be as much as a cup.Then you stretch the dough and shape it into the pan.  I start by stretching the dough outside the pan, and then fitting it into the pan and stretching it some more if I need to.  The trick is to not forget the cornmeal to put on the bottom of the pan.  It makes removing the pizza actually possible.  My dutch oven is about 15 inches in diameter, so it makes a decent size pizza.  If we had had more folks in camp, though, I think we would have needed a second pie…

When you have it all stretched out and even, it should look like this: 

Then you top it.  I used a jarred pizza sauce, but you could use something that was homemade or no sauce, or whatever.  In this instance someone wanted no sauce on their slice.  I would have loved to accommodate her, but being it was one pie for 8 people, I was not making promises, and I told her that.  I did honestly try to make it at least plain cheese.  That was all I could do for her, even though I did scrape the sauce off one slice, it oozed on there when the pie cooked.

Our final product before putting the lid on and on the coals looked like this:

Then we made a little spot for it in the fire ring.  In retrospect, I should have gathered the coals on the stones outside the ring to better control the temperature on the bottom, but there is always next time… I made a bed of coals, about one layer deep to one side of the fire ring and kept the fire going on the other side.  Then I placed the oven on top of the bed of coals and coals on the lid:

you may have to replace the coals on top...You may have to add more coals to the top, but you will want to check the pizza after about 10 minutes.  Pizzas don’t take long to cook and you don’t want to burn the bottom.  Simply lift the lid to look at the pizza.  If the sides look a little golden, the bottom will be done.  You want the top to get done too, so if it is not looking like a pizza should when the bottom is done, you can just take the whole dutch oven off the bed of coals and add a few more to the top.  This is what I eventually did with this.

The end product looked like this:

sorry kid, i can't even guarantee you a slice without pepperoni...

In the end the movement of the molten pizza made the sauce ooze everywhere and the pepperoni with it.  Sorry, Kid, you’re going to have to have a new food night.  To her credit, our intrepid eater liked the new food she bravely tried.

To make the dough you need:

1 package quick-rise yeast

1 1/4 cup flour, plus more for kneading, up to 1 cup

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup warm water

Cornmeal to sprinkle on your pan.

mix the dry ingredients with the yeast.  Add the warm water and mix till dough forms.  Cover in the bowl and let sit for about 20 – 25 minutes to rise.

After rising, punch down dough and work in enough flour to make the dough not stick to your hands.  Sprinkle the pan with cornmeal and stretch the dough, first out of the pan and then in the pan, so the dough fits into the pan and up around the edges a bit.  Add your toppings.

Bake in the Dutch oven until the pizza looks like a pizza.  It should take between 15 and 20 minutes altogether.


Fried potato goodness, on a campfire

Some of you may know, I am in love with camping.   Those who didn’t already, now know.  I just got done with a 6 week camping trip, and turned around and took my family camping this past weekend.  It rained, and the boy was teething, or got a cold, or possibly both, but we were meeting another family there, and I have a 4-year old daughter who would have lost her damn mind if we had stayed home, so we packed everyone up and headed up to my favorite state park in the area, Promised Land State Park, in Promised Land, Pa.  having an eagle scout around makes staying dry much easier.

I really like this place, especially with kids.  a bunch of the trails are short, and the lake is within walking distance from any of the campsites at either camping ground that we like to go to.  One of the grounds is near a decent playground too, so it’s really nice for keeping kids occupied, provided it isn’t raining….

OK, enough about rain.  Let’s talk food.  That’s really why you are here:  for the food.  I like to be adventurous.  I cook with all the courage that my convictions have, and that just doesn’t change simply because I have left my comfortable kitchen with it’s multi-burner stove and oven with temperature controls.  This weekend I decided to try frying some potato goodness in the form of something called a ‘potato ring’, a pizza using a dutch oven, a cobbler (also using a dutch oven), and donuts.  The donuts failed.  Probably I should have brought a thermometer and not just eyeballed the temperature of the oil.  Turns out my eyeballs do not have laser thermometers in them….

The potato balls (I haven’t thought of a clever name for these) turned out pretty well though.

the oil got hot enough for these

I got a recipe for Potato Rings here, and thought they looked fabulous.  Then I noticed that I needed to refrigerate them to make them into rings, and I had already started, so I just made them into balls.  Also I added bacon and never made the buttermilk dip.  I brought heavy cream with me, but I couldn’t bring myself to buy buttermilk while camping.  They were a hit with the adults and G, but the other girls were less than impressed.  I try not to let it bring me down…

At any rate they were pretty easy.  Here’s the recipe, with some more pictures, to hopefully make you drool:

Fried Potato Balls

3 potatoes (I baked mine in tin foil in the fire, but you could cut them up and boil them too)

1 onion, sliced and caramelized

3 slices bacon, chopped up

~1/3 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup butter

salt, pepper, garlic powder, to taste

2 eggs,

~2 cups of flour

possibly the best flavor combination EVER

Heat some oil.  I would use at least 2 inches of oil in the bottom of a good heavy pot.  Nearly all my pots and pans are cast iron and so I am never far from something good and sturdy.   I take them camping too, since they are so good for cooking over a fire.

Add the butter to the potatoes and mash.  Add the cream until you have a thick-ish mixture.  Add the onion and bacon and mix that up.  I used purple potatoes for this, which is why the color looks funny, but they are so good, I couldn’t not use them.

Next you beat the eggs in one dish and divide the flour between 2 other dishes.  add salt, pepper and garlic powder to all three dishes.


sexy camping clothes....

Form the potato mixture into little balls, about 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter.  Roll each ball in one flour dish, then egg, then the other flour dish, making sure you coat the ball completely each time.

These are really not difficult.

Hopefully your oil is good and hot.  To test this, first flick water on the top.  If it starts to sizzle immediately, drop one ball in and if it floats and begins to turn golden, you are good to go.  Drop about 4 or 5 more in, depending on the size of your pot.  Don’t crowd them.  You want about 1.5 – 2 inches (about 4-5 cm) between the balls, or else they won’t cook right.

notice the nice golden color on the balls waiting to be flipped

Wait till the edges turn a nice golden color and flip the balls to cook evenly.  Take them out and drain them on a paper towel.

The original recipe calls for chives and, like I mentioned, buttermilk ranch dip.  I did not make the dip.  Too ambitious for camping, honestly.  ‘Why didn’t you just buy ranch dressing?’ you ask yourself.  Well, I didn’t think that far ahead when I went to the grocery store, that’s why.  There was ketchup available, but I think everyone just ate them plain.  It was generally agreed that the bacon really amped up the final product.


don't they look good?

The next time I try these, I am going to try to make the actual rings and possibly even the dip, but I will at least get ranch dressing to put on them.  I’ll let you know how that goes.  I may also try adding Panko crumbs to the second plate of flour for an extra bit of crunch.  I will let you know how that goes too.

I can not say for certain whether or not the original recipe is amazing, or whether my recipe produced something similar enough in taste, at least, if not in prettiness.  I can say, though, that these were a lot of fun to make, and they were pretty tasty.


I think you could probably prep them ahead of time, and get as far as forming the potato mixture in to balls at home in your kitchen and then just keep the balls in the fridge or cooler until you are ready to use them.  They make a great snack while you wait for the main meal, which in this case was pizza, which I will share about in another post.

last night’s dinner

Tonight we had leftovers.  Glorious leftovers.  It means I get to make other things that I normally wouldn’t actually have the time for.  Tonight I made little half-moon pies with peaches and blueberries and chai masala (which I will talk about later) and I am making chocolate bread with a strained yogurt spread (also discussed in detail later).

I have already (as promised) tortured J (who was eating PB&J) with photos from last night’s dinner, so I have the photos on hand to torture or entice others.

 they sell these bunches entirely too large at the market

I had bought a large bunch of kale at the farmers’ market last week, and really wanted to use that, but I had had a vision of a potato gratin earlier in the afternoon.  I still had some white carrots in the fridge too, but no eggs and not enough milk.  I sliced all the vegetables, including the kale and mixed it in a bowl with house seasoning and urfa red pepper (which I have been fairly obsessed with lately) and added a healthy dose of garlic infused grapeseed oil and some Parmesan cheese.  Then, I crossed my fingers, covered the dish, and popped it in the oven.


I turned my attention to the large chicken breast on the cutting board, and proceeded to beat the hell out of it.  I chopped onions and garlic and coated the chicken in the same spice mixture I already added to the vegetables.  I sauteed the hell out of the chicken in some more of that garlic-infused oil and added a bit of cream cheese and some milk.  I added more kale, and then a butternut squash gnocchi that I had in the freezer.  In retrospect, if I do this again, I will use butter and wine; it was a tasty sauce, but slightly creamier than I was aiming for.  The kids loved it, though, except for the kale…


At any rate, the recipes follow:

colorful not-gratin

2 med purple potatoes, thinly sliced

1 med red, white, or yellow potato (I used red), also thinly sliced

1 med onion, thinly sliced

3 med carrots (I used white, but any color is fine), thinly sliced

2 cups coarsely chopped kale

1/4 cup, plus more for sprinkling, Parmesan cheese, grated

1/4 cup garlic-infused oil

1/4 tsp each salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder (this 1:1:1:1 mixture is known as house seasoning)

1/4 tsp Urfa crushed red pepper (you can use whatever pepper you want, or no pepper at all)

oven at 425 F

mix all ingredients in large bowl, tossing to coat vegetables eveinly with oil ans spices.  Transfer into a 2 qt casserole dish and cover with foil.  Place in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes.  Reduce heat to 359 F for another 20 minutes.  Remove the foil, sprinkle with more Parmesan cheese and return to oven for another 20-25 minutes, or until the vegetables look similar to the following photo:


My son doesn’t much care for kale and as a result, my daughter now thinks that she also does not like kale (a complete LIE!), but both ate this, after picking the kale out and piling it in isolated corners of their place settings.  If they don’t grow out of this, they will wind up very disappointed with meals in their lives.

As I think about it, I am going to leave you with this. I want to work on the chicken.  I will try to make it with wine next week and I will let you know if it is any good.

Do you know what would be good right now?

These are dangerous words to hear in the field, especially only a few days in to a 6 week long field season, with a constant rotation of pasta and beans.  Don’t get me wrong, they have their place, but maybe not for 2 out of 3 meals for 40 days…


a USO of dubious attribution…

Some one always starts the session by asking if the people around them know what would be good right now.  Sometimes, what would be good right now is something simple, like a hot dog or onion rings, but sometimes, it is all out fantasy.  It happens, that the answer to this question is never “a USO of dubious attribution.

This blog is an attempt at creating some of the fantasy dishes concocted during this past field season, and come up with some good things to torture future field season participants.