Holiday Citrus Treats and Zoom Invite

MEYER LEMONS and heirloom citrus fruits are ripening at Mission Garden orchard and in my own little desert oasis. Every part of this glorious fruit can add to festivities.  Read on to see how to even use citrus RIND in delectable confections!

Tia Marta here to share an easy and festive recipe my Great Aunt Rina used to make for the holidays when I was young–Citrus-Rind Candy.  With a combination of grapefruit, tangerine and orange–rare and special in early 1900s New England–she made sweet confections.  Now, in the Sonoran Desert where a diversity of citrus abounds thanks to introductions by early missionaries, I’m expanding on Aunt Rina’s inspiration.

Heirloom sweet lime is growing in profusion at Mission Garden. I can hardly wait to use its surprisingly sweet juice in a libation–then, to harness its unusually fragrant rind to make a confection.  It’s the ultimate “recycling” reward!

With citrus, nothing gets put in the compost except the seeds.  Check out two great posts for holiday libations with heirloom SWEET LIME and explore others thru the SavortheSouthwest Searchbox.

Meyer Lemon Rind Confection Step 1: After juicing lemon, cut rind into strips and put in saucepan.

RECIPE for MEYER LEMON-RIND CONFECTION:

Place 1 qt sliced lemon peel in saucepan.  Cover with 2 cups granulated sugar or 1 1/2 cups agave nectar.  (No water is needed as there is enough moisture in the rind’s white pulp to supply it.)  Mix well and simmer slowly until sugary liquid thickens, being careful not to scorch or caramelize.  Remove from pan and spread out slices on wax paper to cool, dry, and begin to crytallize.  Dust with powdered sugar.  If this candy remains pliable and sticky, you can dust again with powdered sugar.

A little bundle makes a fun old-fashioned stocking-stuffer, or, served on a buffet platter with other sweets it offers a “bitter-sweet” alternative.

Meyer lemon-rind confection is a welcome flavor surprise offering a pleasant bitter note with the sweet.

Processing (de-hulling) pine nuts from our native pinyon trees is an ordeal….

…but the rewards of our local pinyones (pine nutmeats) are a joy to the tastebuds! Our native pinyon pine nuts (Pinus cembroides and Pinus edulis) are bigger and tastier than Italian pignolas.

To add a local wild ingredient to your holiday confection, try adding some Southwest pinyones.  (New World pinyones is a local industry waiting to happen.  Thousands of years of Indigenous harvests of pinyon nuts should teach us what a treasure this desert tree gives!)

Of course you can cheat for this recipe and buy delicious Italian stone-pine nuts already de-hulled from Trader Joe’s.

The best “sticking ingredient” for attaching pinyon nutmeats to your citrus-peel confection is–tah dah you got it!!–our sublime western-hemisphere contribution to human bliss–chocolate! 

For the ultimate in Meyer lemon delicacies, try dipping your crystallized lemon-rind into melted chocolate, then while it is still hot and molten, imbed a sprinkle of pine nuts.  There’s no more decadent and delectable combo of flavors!

For more great ideas, you are cordially invited to join our Arizona Native Plant Society December Zoom meeting, Thursday, December 10, 2020, at 7pm for a delightful virtual pot luck — Native Plant Desserts and Libations!  Tia Marta will join Tucson’s culinary artists Carolyn Niethammer (author of the new book A Desert Feast) and Amy Valdes Schwemm (molera extraordinaire and creator of ManoyMetate mole mixes) with creative ideas and virtual “tastes” live.  To join the zoom go to www.aznps.com/chapters/tucson in early December for details, or send an email to NativePlantsTucson@gmail.com to request Zoom login.  The meeting will also be streamed on Facebook, starting at 7:00 pm Dec.10.

Happy holiday cooking with our local heirlooms!

Tia Marta’s heirloom products and Southwest foods artwork are available at www.flordemayoarts.com, www.nativeseeds.org, www.tohonochul.org, and in person over the holidays at Tucson’s Mission Garden.

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, fruit, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Turkey Mole Shepherd’s Pie

Hello Friends, Amy here with comforting dish of turkey in rich Mole Dulce topped with buttery, browned mashed potatoes. I made a single size portion and just devoured it myself. Perfect to change up leftover turkey or special enough for the main event in a very non-traditional year.

I started with cooked turkey in turkey broth from my freezer. Of course, chicken would also be perfect here.

Then I cooked a rounded spoon of Mano Y Metate Mole Dulce powder in enough oil to make a paste. I let it get darker in color and bubbly.

By this time, the turkey broth was mostly defrosted.

Then I added the broth to the mole paste.

When the mole was smooth and thick, I added the turkey…

and placed it in a little oven safe dish. Of course, you can stop here and just enjoy it with tortillas!

But to make something different, I continued. So after covering with mashed potatoes, I put it to bake.

The top browned easily, but I really let it go until the whole thing bubbled and glistened. I ate the whole thing in the beautiful autumn sun.

Enjoy and stay safe!

Categories: Cooking, Mexican Food, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Quince: Having Fun with an Old Fruit

Quinces come with a fuzz that must be washed off before cooking.

There are some people who like to cook, but want an explicit recipe to follow. Then there are others who dare to plunge in with new ingredients, new techniques, making it up as they go along. It’s Carolyn today and for all of my professional life, through five cookbooks, I’ve belonged to the later group. Most of my experimental cooking over the years has involved wild plants, but this week I began to make friends with an old-fashioned cultivar: the quince. There is plenty of advice for how to cook quinces, I’d just never done it before. And the advice isn’t foolproof. 

Quince is native to rocky slopes and woodland margins in Western Asia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Georgia and from northern Iran to Afghanistan. It was brought to the New World by the Spanish and is very popular in Sonora, Mexico. Several years ago, the Kino Fruit Tree Project propagated cuttings from quince trees in Sonora and many of those cuttings have grown into huge and prolific trees in the Mission Garden in Tucson. I write about these in my new book A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary History. Quinces aren’t as popular as apples, to which they are related, because they can’t be plucked from the tree and eaten. They are hard and astringent and they need to be cooked to be good. 

After looking through a number of recipes, I decided to take a risk and combine a couple of them. One bit of advice that ran through all the recipes was not to peel the quinces because that’s where much of the pectin (the jelling factor) lies. I decided to use half quince and half green apple and chose a technique of grating the fruit rather than chopping it. Then I mixed the sugar with the fruit, lemon juice, and water and cooked it. I kept having to add more water to get the fruit soft. Because I had added the sugar right away, the mixture jelled before it was adequately soft. 

Green apple on the left, quince on the right. Related but different.

This is a case of I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Quince, even when shredded is a hard fruit and takes a long time to cook. When I finally gave up, the resulting jam was rather chewy. 

Quince, when cooked with sugar, turns slightly pink.

In the middle of my experiment, I reached out to gardening and cooking expert Dena Cowan for advice. Maybe I should have done that first. Here is her response:  “For the past two years I have been making it in the crock pot! I cook the whole quinces first in a pot full of water for about 10 or 15 minutes, just to make it easier to cut them. (If you have a microwave, you can put the whole fruit in it for a minute). No need to peel. I cut around the core and wrap all the cores in cheesecloth. Then I dice the rest of the quince. I put the diced quince, the cores in the cheesecloth, and the cane sugar into the crock pot, stir it up, and leave it overnight. In the morning I mush the core and use what in Spain they call a “chino” (basically a strainer) to get the gelatin out of the cooked core. Then I mush all the quince with a masher and leave it a couple of hours more.”

Ultimately, I used my jam as filling for some turnovers. The texture is perfect for them. I have about a cup left. We can use it on toast or I might try it as an alternate filling in a recipe I have used for fig or date bars. 

Quince-Apple Preserves

2 quinces, unpeeled

2 green apples, unpeeled

¼ cup lemon juice

½ cup water (be prepared to add more)

2 cups sugar

Cut washed fruit in quarters and remove cores. Grate apples into a bowl; grate quince into heavy-bottomed medium saucepan. Add water to grated quince and cook over low heat until soft, about 15 minutes. Add grated apple, lemon juice, sugar, and more water if necessary. Cook over medium heat, watching closely and adding more water as necessary, around another 15 minutes. The mixture is done when it turns pink. Makes about 1 pint.

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A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage tells the history of how residents of the Santa Cruz Valley have fed themselves over thousands of years, why they are still eating some of the same foods over that time, and how that led to Tucson’s designation of the first American city to earn the coveted UNESCO City of Gastronomy. You can order the book from your favorite bookstore, on-line, or from the Native Seeds/SEARCH bookstore.

Categories: Cooking, Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Whole Mesquite Pods–what to do?

My freezer was stuffed with mesquite pods waiting to be milled–but there’s no milling in sight with Covid19 still preventing group millings. So….Tia Marta of Flor de Mayo here to share some creative ideas for using these precious, laboriously-gathered, nutritious gifts from the desert.

First–Make an easy mesquite syrup. I filled a pot with cleaned pods and enough fresh water to cover, and cooked it down until pods were soft and the liquid was really sweet. Next I strained every bit of mesquite pulp from the softened pods, squeezing the gooey fibers by hand. It’s a process kids can get into! Then–I cooked the gallon of pulpy liquid down with 2C brown sugar, 1 C agave nectar, 1C of my Meyer lemon juice, 2 tsp cinnamon, 3/4 tsp salt, and 4 tsp of fruit pectin. It took a couple of hours at a low simmer until it had lost enough moisture to becomes a syrup.

The resulting thick syrup was totally yummy on buckwheat cakes…

…and I used it as the perfect liquid sweetener in my mesquite pinyon-nut oatmeal cookies….

…then enjoyed it as a refreshing ginger ale and mesquite syrup punch over ice! The ginger gives the perfect counter-flavor for the mellow sweetness of mesquite.

My favorite invention of all with mesquite syrup is my “Mesquite Sitol Sour”–a fabulous sweet and sour libation. (Sitol means syrup in Tohono O’odham language.) Here is my special Mesquite Sitol Sour recipe:

2 oz mesquite syrup; 2 oz bootleg mescal like Bacanora; 2 oz aged tequila; 2 dropper-squirts of bitters (I do home-made bitters with local desert plants–but that’s another blog post!); 2+oz unsweetened tart cherry or cranberry juice; squeezed slices of fresh Meyer lemon or lime and orange; crushed ice. Swizzle and serve with cheers for our native plants! And, it’s a good way to toast and acknowledge, on Dia de los Muertos, those who have gone during this difficult year. Saludos to the departed! Salud to all!

The next step I’ll take with mesquite syrup is to join it with membrillo (quince fruit) in a delicious jam. Membrillo provides extra flavor and pectin. Attention--Come masked and safely distanced to visit Mission Garden this Saturday, Oct 31, 2020, for a festive celebration of the latest harvest of Membrillo (Quince).

Arizona Native Plant Society will be featuring a virtual pot luck with native foods at its December 10, 2020, zoom meeting. Become a member and share in the local festivities!

Note: If you don’t have mesquite pods you can buy mesquite meal via the NativeSeedsSEARCH catalog to create your own syrup to use in these above fun recipes. For a shortcut, try Cheri’s Desert Harvest Mesquite Syrup available also via NativeSeedsSEARCH.

Categories: Sonoran Native | Tags: | 3 Comments

Green chile stew

Hello, Amy here, with a classic for cool fall evenings. A friend brought a baggie of roasted green chile back from New Mexico. That was the inspiration. Frankly, I had no idea yet how mild or spicy it was. As I peeled, seeded, stemmed and tore into strips, I starting thinking…

So I lightly browned some ground pork. Even lean pork has a richness that tames the spiciness of chile.

I added water and, cautiously, half of the chile. Then of course, onion and garlic.

I had some tomatillos from Tucson CSA that would be perfect! I skinned , rinsed and chopped them coarsely and slid them right in as is.

Wishing I had potatoes and brainstorming what to add for starch, I found some good dry while corn posole in the pantry. I covered it with salted water and brought to the boil.

Then I let the sun finish cooking the posole in the solar oven, which sometimes needs an hour or two to fully soften, while I shut off the rest of the stew and filled a few mole orders.

When it was soft, I mixed everything together and tasted. Very mild! So added the rest of the chile and some Mano Y Metate Mole Verde powder. It has jalapeno for heat, roasted green chile from Hatch for flavor, and a hint of black pepper. (Tia Ella always said to add black pepper to chile dishes.) Just right. !Buen provecho!

Categories: Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Harvest-time Happenings at Mission Garden

Tohono O’odham ha:l–the traditional desert pumpkin with its corky attachment and rich orange center–is ripening in autumn heat at Mission Garden…..

A colorful harvest is happening at Tucson’s Mission Garden, and it’s time to celebrate!   Tia Marta here with an invitation:   Every Saturday for the weeks of autumn there will be foodie festivities to enjoy at Mission Garden. Come masked and socially-distanced for open-air learning, tasting, photography and fun.  There’s a big one this coming Saturday Oct.17, 2020 not to miss!

O’odham tepary beans hold the record for desert adaptation, high nutrition, rich flavor, and long sustainable cultivation right here in the Sonoran Desert.  Come get a taste of this rich heirloom Sat.Oct.17.

This colorful heirloom bean mix, known as Tom’s Mix, is like a multi-cultural metaphor–bringing the agricultural wisdom of 14 different Southwestern cultures together in one incredibly delectable soup. You can taste it Oct.17 at Mission Garden!

Tohono O’odham 60-day corn could be the fastest maturing and most desert-adapted corn known. It was domesticated by the Desert People long ago. Mission Garden’s volunteers are honoring it and helping to bring it into wider cultivation. Come taste a tortilla made with this ancient and nutritious desert crop!

Ancient Chapalote corn (known from 4100-year-old archaological sites in the Tucson area) and pre-Columbian Tohono O’odham 60-day corn are celebrated at Mission Garden. What a beautiful way to pay proper respect on Indigenous Peoples’ Day! Our mutual thanks to Native ancestors for these gifts from the past which can help us into an unsure future!

All of these Three Sisters–Corn, Beans and Squash–are grown together at Mission Garden in traditional ways, demonstrated in different “time-line” gardens.  Come observe and learn how you might plan your own garden next summer season.

As the evenings get cooler, it will be time to plant a winter/spring crop of ancient White Sonora Wheat, a golden, low-gluten wheat-berry introduced to our area by Padre Kino over 300 years ago. It will be packaged and available for sale at the Mission Garden’s Oct.17 gastronomy book launch event.

Tastes of the Southwestern heirloom bean Tom’s Mix soup and tastes of traditional O’odham Tepary Beans will be available at Mission Garden, Saturday, October 17, 10am-12noon.  Look for the Flor de Mayo table under the north ramada that day.  Also available will be packaged White Sonora Wheatberries with recipes for cooking them for pilaf or for marinated wheatberry salad.  For more wheatberry recipes check out this post.   A portion of the Oct.17 sale of these heirloom foods will go to support Mission Garden’s programs.

Author Carolyn Niethammer and her latest Southwestern foods book will be in the limelight this Saturday Oct.17 at Mission Garden. A DESERT FEAST describes in delicious detail a 4100-year history of foodways in Tucson, Arizona–named UNESCO’s first International City of Gastronomy!

All of Carolyn Niethammer’s books are gastronomic inspirations, but THIS one —A Desert Feast–bears the crown!  It is rich in history and recipes.  Come get your copy signed Oct.17 and discuss traditional foods–wild and domestic– with the author herself.

You can find many fantastic recipes for tepary beans, Tom’s Mix, and wheat berries in this SavortheSouthwest.blog archive using the search box.  Try some of the great recipes on the link SavortheSouthwest post written for healthy menus and specialized diets.  Tom’s Mix and Teparies make fabulously flavorful bean salads, dips, stews, and hummus.  These bean mixes and white Sonora Wheatberries are also available online at www.NativeSeeds.org and at www.flordemayoarts.com .  Also check Tohono Chul Park, Tucson Presidio and Old Town Artisans for Flor de Mayo heirloom foods.

For a full schedule of Mission Garden weekend events, the Membrillo Fest, 60-day corn tortillo demos etc, please see the website www.tucsonsbirthplace.org.

 

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“A Desert Feast” Tells Story of a Heritage Grain

In 2015 Tucson was named the first U.S. UNESCO City of Gastronomy. That word “gastronomy,” as defined by UNESCO, isn’t about fancy restaurants, but rather it refers to a region’s entire food system. A Desert Feast, Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary History, my new book, draws on thousands of years of food history to explain the UNESCO designation. The book traces the influences of Native American, Mexican, mission-era Mediterranean, and ranch-style cowboy traditions. It is is a food pilgrimage, full of stories and recipes stretching back to the earliest residents of the Santa Cruz Valley. You’ll read how the earliest farmers first learned to grow corn beginning in 2100 BC, where the Hohokam built elaborate their elaborate irrigation canals, and how the arrival of the Spanish changed everything.

Like life, the big story is made up of many small stories. One of them is how in the late 1690s, Father Eusebio Kino brought winter wheat to Upper Sonora, filling an important food niche. Today we still eat this crop, ground into flour for delicious pastries or eaten whole as in this salad, in the photo below.

The volunteers at the Mission Garden in Tucson always grow a large field of Sonoran White Wheat to take us back to an earlier time when fields of this grain grew along the banks of the Santa Cruz River.

Volunteers harvest Sonoran winter wheat in the Mission Garden in the spring.

 Sonoran White Wheatberry Salad

Sonoran White Wheatberry Salad with dried fruit.

This is modified from a dish made by Chef Janos Wilder and served at Downtown Kitchen+Cocktails in Tucson. Chop all the fruit into pieces about the size of raisins. This takes well to a fruit flavored vinaigrette. If you have any fruit vinegars or olive oil, this is a good place to use them.

1 cup dry wheatberries

1/3 cup chopped dates (about 6)

1/3 cup chopped apricots or golden raisins

½ cup chopped apple

1 shredded carrot

1/3 cup sunflower seeds

1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese

1 cup shredded baby spinach

Dressing:

4 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon honey or agave syrup

1 teaspoon mustard

2 tablespoons fruit vinegar

Cover wheatberries with 2 cups water, bring to a boil, cover and turn heat down to a simmer. Cook  45-60 minutes until tender but chewy.  Transfer to a medium bowl and add fruit, carrots and seeds. Make the dressing put the oil in a cup and stir in the honey and mustard. Dribble the vinegar in while whisking vigorously with a fork. Add to other ingredients and stir to combine.  Refrigerate. Just before serving stir in shredded spinach and top with crumbled goat cheese.

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A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage tells the history of how residents of the Santa Cruz Valley have fed themselves over thousands of years, why they are still eating some of the same foods over that time, and how that led to Tucson’s designation of the first American city to earn the coveted UNESCO City of Gastronomy. You can order the book from your favorite bookstore, on-line, or from the Native Seeds/SEARCH bookstore.

 

Categories: Sonoran Native | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Prickly Pear Coconut Frozen Pops

Hello friends, it’s Amy here with my new favorite late summer treat. Pink prickly pear pops are creamy and easy to bite, yet vegan using coconut milk. For a prickly pear peach sorbet using cream and honey, try Carolyn’s recipe from last season. Also, try Tia Marta’s Prickly Pear-Mesquite-White Sonora Wheat Muffins (Ihbhai c Kui Wihog Pas-tihl).

 

With the drought, there are very few prickly pears out in the wild this year.

However, the young plants in my yard near water harvesting basins set a decent amount of fruit, especially for their size.

Even though the fruit may look purple sooner, I usually wait until September to harvest. If picked before total ripeness, the firm flesh holds onto the juice and it is more difficult to extract. To check, I simply pluck them off the plant with kitchen tongs. Ideally, the fruit separates easily from the plant and the skin with no tinge of green at the base tears the fruit open a bit (see the holes in the bottoms of the fruit in the photo below). If juice runs where the tongs squeeze the flesh, it’s definitely ready!!!! 

I then blend the whole fruit, spines and all.

The hard seeds remain intact, while the pulp and skins are pureed. Then I strain the slurry through a cloth napkin or other piece of fabric. Cheese cloth is not fine enough.

This strains out the seeds, pulp, pieces of skin, spines and the tiny, skin-irritating glochids.

It drains slowly, so sometimes I tie the ends of the fabric, hanging it to drip in the refrigerator. 

The clear juice is ready to make treats or savory food right away, or freeze for later. As an extra precaution, I let the juice stand, then pour the clear liquid from the top, sacrificing the bottom inch from the vessel to leave behind any sediment.

To make pops, I heated some juice with lemon and sugar, then thickened it slightly with cornstarch to make a thin syrup.

After taking it off the heat, I added a can of coconut milk. Add a little lemon or orange extract, if you like.

When completely chilled in the refrigerator over night, it is ready to be frozen in an ice cream maker.

If you just pour the mixture into the pop molds, it will freeze as hard as ice. But this method makes pops that are easy to bite.

Of course, it can be eaten now as soft serve or frozen in one container to enjoy as a sorbet. But spooned into reusable pop molds, it is portion controlled!!!

Prickly pear coconut frozen pops (or sorbet) 

By Amy Valdes Schwemm

1 cup prickly pear juice

1 ½ cups sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ cup lemon juice

1 tablespoon cornstarch

13-15 oz coconut milk

lemon or orange extract (commercial or 100 proof vodka infused with zest) to taste

Bring first four ingredients to a gentle boil. Dissolve cornstarch in 2 tablespoons water in a small dish. Add to pan, and simmer for one minute. Add coconut milk and extract. Remove from heat to cool and refrigerate until well chilled. Pour into ice cream maker and freeze. Firm in freezer, either in pop molds or a lidded container. Enjoy!

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, fruit, Gardening, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mesquite and Chocolate: A Love Story

Mesquite Chocolate Mousse for two

 

Cooks and those they cook for all love chocolate. It’s Carolyn today and I see in other food blogs I follow that people light up for chocolate recipes. Our readers loved Amy’s recipe for Chocolate Mole Dulce Cake a few weeks ago. Today I’m going to give you a recipe for combining chocolate and mesquite. The two flavors enhance each other perfectly, making for creamy, caramel-y, chocolate-y deliciousness. And rich. You always want rich with chocolate.

I usually make my mesquite broth starting with pods. Most mesquite pods appear in late June to early July, but there is usually a small fall crop as well. Even with our very scanty rains this year, I see lots of new mesquite pods on trees in our neighborhood. The crop is much smaller than the early summer crop, but you can probably find enough pods to make this recipe. If all you have is the mesquite meal from a previous year, that will work as well.

For the liqueur in the recipe, which is optional, you can use coffee liqueur (like Kahlua), maybe hazelnut, or whatever you have on hand and like. Or you might even substitute a little strong coffee.

Gather a basket of mesquite pods. Remember to gather only from the tree, never from the ground. Some people say the ones with red stripes are sweeter. I can’t tell the difference myself.

Mesquite Broth

To make mesquite broth, slowly simmer 2 cups of broken pods in 4 cups of water for about an hour until they are very soft. When cool, wring and tear them (hands in!) to release the sweet goodness into the water. Strain.  You can get more details in my previous post on mesquite broth here. If you don’t have the pods, you can make broth with mesquite meal. For this recipe, combine 1/2 cup mesquite meal with 1 1/2 cups water and stir until completely dissolved. You may have to use a whisk. If your mesquite meal is coarse and doesn’t totally dissolve, strain before making the Mesquite Mousse.

These wine glasses contain a rather large serving of this rich dessert. But it is so delicious, you’ll probably finish it off anyhow.

Mesquite Mousse

2 cups mesquite broth

1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk

½ cup water

6 tablespoons cornstarch

2 beaten eggs

¼ cup liqueur (optional)

¼ cup cocoa

¼ cup sugar

Combine mesquite broth and milk in saucepan. In small bowl, combine water and cornstarch and stir until smooth. Add to mesquite mixture. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickness of pancake batter. Turn off heat and let cool for about eight minutes. Stir occasionally to keep skin from forming. If it has a few lumps, beat with a whisk until smooth. Meanwhile beat eggs in small bowl.

Please follow the next step carefully. If you try to rush, you will end up with bits of scrambled eggs. Here we go: When mesquite mixture has cooled somewhat, add about a fourth cup of mesquite mixture to the beaten eggs and stir. Add another fourth cup and stir, and then add a half cup. Add egg-mesquite mixture to the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly for about four minutes.

Divide the mixture, taking out half which is about two cups. Put it in another saucepan, and stir in ¼ cup cocoa and ¼ cup sugar. Stir over low heat until cocoa is incorporated, about 2 minutes.

Layer mesquite and chocolate mixtures in small wine glasses and chill until set.

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In just two weeks my new book A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage will have the official publication date. It’s already in the warehouse and ready to ship. Five years ago Tucson was named a UNESCO City of Gastronomy and this is the story of why a desert town received that honor. All history is a series of stories and A Desert Feast tells in lively stories how the residents of the Santa Cruz Valley developed from hunter-gatherers to corn growers to cattle raisers to today’s sophisticated consumers where prickly pear even goes in our local craft beer. We’re going to have a big rollout party in October, but if you can’t wait, ask your local bookstore to order it for you. For more mesquite recipes, check out Cooking the Wild Southwest: Delicious Recipes for Desert Plants. 

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Peanut Butter Bellota Bars

As we are sequestering, we Sonoran Desertofiles should all be out harvesting juicy tunas, ok more on that later, because….

It’s also bellota time!  In mid-August, we went on a bellota quest. Three of us set out, socially distanced, up into Arizona’s oak woodland near the border.  Two inspiring foodie-pals, Dr.Letitia McCune “BotanyDoc.com” and Mission Garden mover-shaker Emily Rockey, y yo–Tia Marta–were on a treasure hunt to relocate the wonderful, giving trees where my Tohono O’odham mentor Juanita Ahil used to gather wi-yo:thi.  Our quarry:  the little acorns of Emory oak.

Socially distanced bellota-rustlers under giant Emory oaks near the border

Yes we found them, with thanks–Ah such plenty!  Fruit of Quercus emoryi  are the only acorns I know of in the world that don’t need to be leached of their tannins before eating.  You can eat them fresh off the tree.

Quick-wash the dust off your bellota harvest

…then quick-dry or “roast” your bellotas in the hot sunshine

Bellotas are increditbly nutritious– full of complex carbs that help balance blood sugar and almost 50% rich oil similar in quality to olive oil.

But they require some work, and can be difficult to de-hull to extract each little morsel of goodness inside–the nutmeat.

Always check for holes–We aren’t the only ones who eat bellota.  Nature needs to feed all her creatures.

There are lots of ways to crack the shell.  I  like to crack them ever-so-gently when placed longitudinally between opposite molars, then manually remove the shell.  Jesus Garcia, the Desert Museum’s primo ethnobotanist, demonstrates the “traditional Sonoran” method using his incisors to cut a “waistline” around the midriff of the acorn so two perfect half-cups of shell release a perfect nutmeat.  Experiment to find your own favorite method.

Don’t use the rolling pin method unless your bellota shells are very brittle–or you’ll be hunter/gatherer once again, indoors.

…A tedious process no matter what. Hey, try shelling bellotas while listening to audiobooks or good music.

As with your molars, if you’re careful, cracking bellota shells with pliers can yield perfect nutmeats.

Ingredients you’ll need for Peanut Butter Bellota Bars (shelled bellotas to left, mesquite flour to right)

This easy recipe combines sweets, like mesquite pod flour and piñon nuts, with the excitingly bitter notes of bellotas.  Bellota Bars, with chocolate, are a decadent dessert served with ice-cream.  Without chocolate (less melt-able), they are an energizing bar great for hikes and picnics.

RECIPE — Tia Marta’s Peanut Butter Bellota Bars —

Ingredients:

1/2 C chunky organic peanut butter

1/3 C butter

1   C sugar

1/2  C  brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1  C  flour (any flour combo works–I used 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour & 1/2 cup barley flour)

1/4 C  mesquite flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/2 C  shelled pinyon nuts. (optional)

1/2  C high cacao chocolate morsels (optional)

Topping:   1/4  C shelled bellotas (Quercus emoryi acorn nutmeats)

As you sprinkle bellotas on top, pat the dough evenly into all corners of your pyrex baking dish.

Recipe Directions:  Preheat oven to 350F.  Cream peanut butter and butter.  Add sugar and brown sugar.  Beat in eggs.  Add vanilla and beat until smooth.  Separately, sift flours, baking powder and salt together.  Mix these dry ingredients into wet ingredients thoroughly.  Add optional pinyones and/or chocolate morsels according to your “richness palette.”  Press dough into a 8×8″ greased pyrex pan.  Sprinkle bellotas as “topping”.  Bake 30-35 minutes.  Cool, then cut into delectable chewy energy bars.

When cool, cut into small squares, as they are super-rich and energy-packed.

If you can’t harvest your own bellotas, you can buy them this time of year, before Dia de San Francisco in October, at most Mexican markets or along the road to Magdalena, Sonora.  They will keep a long time in your frig or freezer for future joyful cracking.  Nature’s wild bounty is so diverse in our borderlands desert!

Find many of our Southwest traditional foods respectfully captured in my artwork at www.flordemayoarts.com for all to enjoy.

Check our SavortheSouthwest blog archive for other bellota recipe ideas and anecdotes.

Categories: Cooking, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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