[If only this were a scratch-and-sniff site….]
‘Tis the season for the sweetest, rarest, and heart-healthy mesquite treat of the whole year– Roasted Mesquite! During this relatively cool and occasionally soppy “wintery” weather, stored mesquite pods, which may have drawn in moisture from the humid air since harvesting last summer, can be roasted or toasted for ease of milling into a fine meal. The result is a transformation into something even sweeter than the already-yummy natural raw mesquite meal.
Tia Marta here to introduce you to Roasted Mesquite and to share some creative ideas for celebrating Valentine’s (and beyond).
When mesquite pods are roasted, their complex sugars burst with an almost chocolat-y bouquet. Roasted mesquite has hints of its “botanical cousin,” the carob, from the Near East (known as Saint John’s Bread in the Bible, as it fed St. John so well through his desert wilderness retreat). Those soluble complex carbohydrates that make mesquite such a heart-healthy food–giving sustained energy, helping with cholesterol, balancing blood sugar—come flavorfully to the fore when mesquite is roasted. Take note: all fitness fans, hypoglycemics, diabetic and gluten-free cooks! Roasted mesquite is a super booster-food especially for you. Its complex sweetness and its nutrition make it a gift for everyone you love.
You can use roasted mesquite meal in so many ways. In addition to baking with it, the distinctive aroma and richness puts it into the category of seasoning or spice. Shake roasted mesquite through a big-holed spice shaker to jazz up bland dishes or for sprinkling atop coffeecakes, muffins, sundaes, custards, frapaccinos, salads….Yum, it is waiting for your inventions. I make a little mix of garlic powder, sea salt, and roasted mesquite meal, then put the combo in a shaker and keep it handy by the stove or on the table to sprinkle on about everything. Try it on your steamed greens or in quinoa. When corn-on-the-cob season rolls around, there isn’t anything better than my roasted mesquite salt dusted on it. (Mesquite orchardist and agriculturalist Mark Moody will have fresh corn with roasted mesquite at Flagstaff farmers markets this summer—don’t miss it.)
Add a tablespoon of roasted mesquite meal to any hot cereal. It does wonders for oatmeal. Mesquite is the tastiest of all nutritional supplements. Whatever you add it to, you know you are boosting flavor and nutrition—making hearts happier!
Try this delectable and easy Desert Delight–Roasted Mesquite & Red Berry Smoothie—so colorful it can make breakfast into a Valentine’s feast. So rich it can be a Valentine’s dessert served with a spoon. (You can double or triple this recipe for company):
Presoak: 1 Tablespoon chia seed in 1 Cup organic apple juice for a few minutes.
In a blender, mix:
1 cup organic plain or vanilla non-fat yogurt.
2 Tbsp. Roasted Velvet Mesquite Meal*
1 cup frozen raspberries or blueberries
2 Tbsp. prickly pear juice or nectar
your pre-soaked applejuice-chia mix
½ or whole ripe banana
1 Tbsp agave nectar (optional as desired for more sweetness)
A few ice cubes (optional as needed for chill or dilution)
Blend on medium ½ minute until smoothie is gloriously pink. Serve in parfait glass with a thin sprinkle of chia seed or pinch of roasted mesquite meal on top as a garni.
And here’s a wonderful gluten-free recipe to share with wheat-sensitive friends:
Muff’s Gluten-Free Roasted Mesquite/Almond CoffeeCake:
(This is a heavier cake that sometimes turns out more like an energy bar when sliced.)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil or butter an 8×8” pyrex baking dish and dust with rice flour.
½ cup Roasted Velvet Mesquite Meal*
¾ cup organic brown rice flour and/or amaranth flour
½ cup almond meal
¼ cup tapioca flour
2 tsp guar gum or locust bean gum (for leavening)
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp sea salt
¼ cup agave nectar
¼ cup canola or other cooking oil
¾ cup soy milk, rice milk, or almond milk
Beat separately then add in:
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
Pour into baking dish. Bake 25-35 minutes or more until cake tests done. Serve with thanks to the nutritious bean trees of the desert!
Now for a relatively “healthy” cookie try this celebration treat with roasted mesquite—
Muff’s Roasted Mesquite & White Sonora Wheat Valentine Oatmeal Cookies (with pinyones and dried red cherries to honor George Washington’s birthday too)—a great cookie for any time of year.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream together: 1 cup (2 sticks) organic butter softened, ½ cup organic brown sugar firmly packed, and ½ cup organic white sugar
Beat in and mix until creamy: 2 eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla
In a separate bowl, sift together: 1 tsp. baking soda, 1 tsp sea salt, 1 cup organic White Sonora Wheat flour**, and ½ cup Roasted native velvet Mesquite Meal*
Mix dry ingredients with moist ingredients until smooth.
Add, and mix in: 2-3 cups quick oatmeal (uncooked), ¼-1/2 cup pine nuts (pinyones) shelled, and ¾ cup dry cherries or dry cranberries.
Onto a well-greased cookie sheet, drop 1-tsp glops of cookie dough well-spaced. (You could use a heart-shaped mold or heart cookie cutter.) Press a dry cherry on top of each glop for décor.
Bake 10-12 minutes until barely golden brown, and enjoy the festive desert flavor of roasted mesquite with your Valentine!
*For purchasing Roasted Mesquite Meal–seek and ye shall find. There are only a few places where you can source this seasonal culinary treasure, if you are not roasting and milling it yourself! Find it at the wonderful NativeSeeds/SEARCH store (3061 N. Campbell Ave, Tucson, www.nativeseeds.org). Our roasted mesquite is from native Arizona velvet mesquite, Prosopis velutina, grown and milled with the highest standards. For tastes, visit the Flor de Mayo booth on Sundays at St.Phillips Farmers Market (SE corner River Rd and Campbell Ave), or order at www.flordemayoarts.com via PayPal. It is also online at www.mesquiteflour.com and from the Prickly Pops booth at Thursday Santa Cruz Farmers Market.
**The special local ingredient for the cookie recipe above, heirloom White Sonora Wheat flour, is available at two Tucson locations. Several different grinds of Hayden Flour Mills’ heirloom flour is at the Native Seeds/SEARCH store. For super-fresh-milled “live” White Sonora flour, from local, certified organic whole grain grown by BKWFarms, you can contact Tia Marta by phone or email by the Friday before pick-up at Sunday’s St Phillips Farmers Market, along with the roasted mesquite meal.
For more ideas on how to cook with mesquite—roasted or natural–check out the recipe book Eat Mesquite! published by www.desertharvesters.org, and available at the NativeSeeds/SEARCH store. Visit www.bajaaz.org, the website of Baja Arizona Sustainable Agriculture, for more mesquite details.
Newcomers as well as confirmed “desert rats” can see the actual plants which produce the local ingredients of our Valentine Cookies—mesquite trees and heirloom White Sonora Wheat growing at our special Baja Arizona parks. See and appreciate them in their winter-spring glory at the Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace Mission Garden (base of A-Mountain, Saturdays), at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, and in the ethnobotanical garden at Tohono Chul Park.
Enjoying roasted mesquite treats is indeed another way of rejoicing in the desert’s natural bounty, and of supporting appropriate, sustainable desert agriculture. Happy Valentine’s, and may your heart be happy cooking with roasted mesquite!—from Tia Marta and Rod at www.flordemayoarts.com.