Monthly Archives: June 2017

Savor Homemade Corn Tortillas

Carolyn here today to expound on the glories and benefits of homemade corn tortillas. With inexpensive corn tortillas wrapped in plastic available everywhere, why bother to make your own? Same reason to make your own bread: flavor and nutrition. The fragrance and flavor of a tortilla right off the grill is is warm and homey and the perfect base for a simple meal.

Homemade tortillas over a fire at Linda’s ranch in Mexico. (photo by Linda McKittrick.)

Corn tortillas are made with masa harina, or corn that has gone through the nixtamal process with lime and is then dried and ground (or maybe ground and dried). If you want to start from scratch with the corn,  Savor blog sister Amy can lead you through it in a previous  post here. 

Back in April, public radio had an interesting piece on a Mexican cook who maintains that tortillas made from heritage corn are vastly superior to those made from commercial bagged masa. You can read the very interesting article here.

The problem is that corn alone, whatever corn you use,  isn’t all that nutritious, lacking protein and some other nutrients. As with all foods, combining ingredients can lead to more balanced nutrition.

Grated turmeric root adds nutrition and a lovely golden color to the tortillas.

I added both garbanzo flour and amaranth flour as well as some grated turmeric to the masa  for some tortillas I made recently and the results were delicious. (See recipe below). Amaranth is high in protein and the amino acid lysine. You could also use quinoa flour for more nutrition.

 

 

 

 

 

Once you have the dough, you need to shape it. In Tucson, traditional Mexican cooks pat out tortillas in perfect rounds. It’s an art. Further south, cooks use a tortilla press, either handsome wooden ones or the more utilitarian metal.

Hermina Serino uses a wooden tortilla press in her booth at the San Phillips Farmers Market in Tucson.

Plain metal tortilla press.

The trick to getting the dough off the press in one piece is to use pieces of plastic below and on top of the ball of dough. The other trick, which I learned in a cooking class in Oaxaca, it to peel the tortilla up from the hinge end, not the lever end. The hinge end is just enough thicker to help you peel it without tearing.  Once you have it in your hand, drop it directly onto a hot griddle or frying pan. Let it cook for a few seconds, then flip and do the other side.

Peel the tortilla up from the hinge end of the press.

For even more nutrition, you can add a sprinkling of seeds (I tried both chia and barrel cactus) to the dough before pressing the tortillas.

Sprinkle some chia seeds on the tortilla dough before pressing.

Tortillas cook quickly on a well-seasoned griddle. You can see the gratings of turmeric in this picture

As you finish the tortillas, store them in a folded tea towel until ready to serve.  They are fine as they are, or if you wish to cook further, you can saute in a little bit of oil. Top with fillings of your choice: meat or vegetables and beans.

A simple meal includes one tortilla with chicken and green salsa and another with grilled beef with red salsa.

More Nutritious Tortillas

3/4 cup dried instant masa

1 tablespoon garbanzo flour*

1 tablespoon amaranth flour*

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon grated fresh turmeric or dried turmeric (optional)

1/2 cup water (approximately)

First cut a plastic bag into two large squares to use on the tortilla press. Mix the flours and the salt in a medium bowl. Add half the water and mix. Add more water slowly until you get a dough that just sticks together. You don’t want it too soft. This takes a little practice. If you add too much water, just sprinkle in a little more masa. Roll the dough into balls of about 2 tablespoons each. Heat the well-seasoned frying pan or griddle. Press a tortilla and transfer to grill. Don’t worry if every one doesn’t turn out great. Just rebundle the dough and try again. Makes 6 to 8 tortillas.

(*Purchase these flours in health food stores or make your own by grinding the dry garbanzos, amarath or quinoa until fine in a coffee or spice grinder.)


Carolyn Niethammer writes about edible wild plants and Southwestern food. Read more at www.cniethammer.com.  Buy her books at the Native Seeds/SEARCH retail store or website or on Amazon.

 

 

 

Categories: Cooking, Mexican Food, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Summer Solstice Celebrated with Saguaros

On Summer Solstice morning, a white-wing dove coos to the saguaro fruit to hasten its ripening, and takes its first taste. When red fruit opens, doves will dip in for a luscious meal and come up with red heads!  (photo JRMondt)

Have you seen it yet?–the rare red-headed white-wing dove of the desert?  “Red-headed Ok’ko-koi” is only around for a short while during the bahidaj.  He is the herald of saguaro fruit harvesting season.

These longest days of the year (and the hottest!!) are the Sonoran Desert New Year of the Tohono O’odham, the Desert People. It is the beginning of “action time” in the desert, tho’ it may look blistered and dead from inside an air-conditioned space.  Lots is happening.  Listen to sounds of quail and dove at dawn; watch scurrying lizards at noon; sense bats at night.  Desert life out there is pollinating flowers and dispersing seed in prep for monsoon moisture.

Fallen bahidaj on the rocks will be critter food.  For people, catch it before it falls. (MABurgess)

Tia Marta here to share ideas about the giant saguaro’s gifts of good food to its fellow desert helpers.  With San Juan’s Day celebrated June 24, I pause to also acknowledge the birthday of my dear friend and mentor, Juanita Ahil, who first led me into the desert on an early June morning to introduce me to some amazing desert treats, discussed in this post.

Pick the fruits that show a blush of rosy red on the top.  (MABurgess photo)

A saguaro fruit, opened with its sharp “pizza-cutter” calyx, is filled with sweet raspberry-red pulp and crunchy black seeds. (MABurgess photo)

 

Juanita would scoop out the nutritious pulp from thick fruit rinds–with thanks and blessings.  We’d take several juicy bites before filling buckets of bahidaj to make syrup.

Juanita would add water to the pulpy fruit to loosen the mass, then strain out seeds before concentrating the sweet water to syrup. (MABurgess photo)

 

 

 

Over her open fire, she would stir a pot full of fruit and water until the water turned red, then strain the mass through a basket-sieve, saving the seed for other purposes. (See blog-sister Carolyn Niethammer’s post on “Black Beauty Wafers” of saguaro seed.)  After sieving, it was the long process of boiling down the sweet water to a dark syrup–like making maple syrup.  Don’t be surprised if you see Bahidaj Sitol selling for what looks like exorbitant prices; consider the time it takes to make!  Juanita would contribute a share of her hard-produced syrup to her Tohono O’odham Community for fermenting into wine for the rain-ceremony, with prayers for the desert’s rebirth.  Surplus syrup was so concentrated, it could be kept unrefrigerated, carrying summer’s sweetness into the winter.

Here are some delectable ideas for cool, super-simple desserts with saguaro syrup:

 

Muff’s “Sonoran Melba” topped with pine nuts and chia seed (JRMondt photo)

Directions for Muff’s SONORAN MELBA WITH PINE NUTS AND CHIA

Over a serving of vanilla or vanilla-bean ice cream, pour 1-3 tsp pure saguaro syrup (bahidaj sitol).  It doesn’t take much, as it is so rich!  Sprinkle top with 1/2 tsp chia seed and 1 Tbsp of pine nuts (shelled).   Taste and go nuts in ecstasy!

Rod’s “Saguaro Split”–topped with saguaro syrup, seeds and nuts (JRMondt photo)

Recipe for Rod’s SAGUARO SPLIT:

Divide a half banana in half longitudinally. Serve a big scoop of ice cream in between–any flavor– like chocolate chip or French vanilla.  Top with saguaro syrup, seeds and nuts of choice.  [Here the “lily is guilded” for sure.  Who needs a cherry on top when you have the rare treat of saguaro syrup?!]

Setting out fresh bahidaj pulp to dry on wax paper. (MABurgess)

Try dehydrating saguaro fruit in a solar oven with the lid partially open to allow moisture to escape. It doesn’t take long. Note the rock holding the oven cover open.(MABurgess photo)

I also love to make chuñ–the dried bahidaj fruit which you can sometimes find hanging on the branches of a palo verde, the nurse tree next to the saguaro where fruit has fallen.  Scoop out the pulp from its rind, place blobs on wax paper, dry them outside under a screen or in your solar oven.  Eat and enjoy chuñ as a totally healthy snack; it is high in complex, slowly-digested sugars, vegetable protein and healthy oils in the seeds.   Or, get creative with chuñ–as in the following recipe:

 

 

 

Sweet chun dried in the sun is even better than figs! (BTW–Now– in the dry heat of Solstice-time before the monsoons–is prime time to harvest mesquite pods too!  Check out desert harvesters.org for more info.)  (MABurgess photo)

Recipe for Tia Marta’s JUNE CHUÑ healthy fruit salad:

1/2-3/4 cup diced apple (approx 1 small apple diced)

1/2 cup organic red grapes cut in half

3 Tbsp dried cherries, cranberries, or chopped dried apricots

1/2-2/3 cup organic plain lowfat yogurt

1-2 tsp agave nectar (optional, to taste)

1/4 cup chopped dried bahidaj chuñ

Mix all ingredients except chuñ ahead and chill.  Sprinkle some little chuñ chunks on each serving as topping. Serves 2 or 3.  This is fancy and sweet enough to be used as a dessert. Enjoy the natural complex carbs, sweet nutrition, and delightful crunch!

Cool “JUNE CHUN”–a fruity and crunchy salad or dessert (MABurgess)

So, Happy Desert New Year!  And happy harvesting in the coolth of early summer mornings, rejoicing in the gifts saguaro gives to its fellow desert-dwellers–from the white-wing doves and ants to us two-leggeds!

[If you are beyond the Sonoran Desert and want to try some of these desert delicacies, you can contact http://www.tocaonline.org (website of Tohono O’odham Community Action, Sells, AZ) or http://www.nativeseeds.org (NativeSeeds/SEARCH at 3061 N Campbell Ave, Tucson, AZ; or 520-622-5561) to order them.  Many other traditional desert foods are available at http://www.flordemayoarts.com.]

Braving the heat, inviting the monsoons and prepping for summer planting, NativeSeeds/SEARCH will be celebrating San Juan’s Day at the NSS Conservation Farm in Patagonia, AZ, this Saturday, June 24, 2017, 11am-3pm.  Bring a dish for the pot luck and a spray-bottle of water for blessings.  For info call 520-622-0830.

 

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

Fu Yung with Local Veggies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No matter how beautiful local veggies are, dreaming up something new and exciting to make with the same characters over and over again can be a challenge. Amy here with my latest attempt to use beautiful Tucson CSA napa cabbage (Sleeping Frog Farm) and summer squash (Crooked Sky Farm). And what to do when you have only ONE tiny ear of sweet corn? I also had ripe serrano chiles from a friend and a handful of blanched tender Foothills Palo Verde seeds. See Martha’s post for more on desert legumes.

This week’s inspiration came from my mom, who remembered the Fu Yung we used to make in our family Chinese feasts. Aunts, uncles and cousins would cook all day to make complicated meals from many world cuisines. I’ve been attempting recipes in this book since I was in high school. Following and diverting from this and a handful of other recipes is how I learned to cook.

I also had lots of eggs from watching the neighbor’s chickens. Perfect!

The first step to not skip in this recipe is to marinate thinly sliced meat in soy sauce, rice wine and cornstarch for at least 15 minutes. It calls for beef but I used half that amount of pork.

Instead of meat, strongly flavored dried Chinese mushrooms are excellent. Just soak in water, cut in tiny strips and add them with the rest of the veggies. Save the mushroom soaking liquid to make the sauce. Yum!

Cut all the veggies. This is not the dish to start cooking the longer cooking items before you cut the others. The original recipe called for spring onion and a little fresh ginger. I used carrot, cabbage, golden zucchini, young onion tops and bottoms, sweet corn and tender blanched palo verde seeds. For spice, I used garlic, ripe serrano and lots of ginger.

Then beat eggs, cornstarch and a splash of water. Next time I’ll mix the cornstarch and water before the eggs to prevent difficult to remove lumps.

In a small saucepan, measure all the sauce ingredients and set aside: chicken or mushroom broth, oyster sauce (or mushroom sauce), rice wine, sesame oil and cornstarch.

Bring everything close to the stove.

In place of a wok, I use a very large skillet on high to cook the meat in a little oil. When browned but not necessarily cooked through, remove from the pan and set aside.

Add a little more oil and cook the garlic, ginger and chile. Add the veggies and stir fry for just a minute!

Gently heat a well seasoned cast iron or nonstick pan with low or rounded sides. Splash on a bit of cooking oil and toasted sesame oil. Add the meat and veggies in an even layer and pour the eggs over all. Cook gently until almost set and browning on the bottom. Slide onto a plate. Cover with a another plate and invert. Slide back onto the pan and cook through. If there are more veggies than the eggs can hold together, it will be messy. The book suggests cutting in wedges and flipping each, but it is not as pretty.

Serve the prettiest side up, you decide. Sometime while waiting for the eggs to set, heat the sauce while whisking, until thick. Keep warm.

Cut in wedges with a pizza cutter and serve with the sauce. Of course it is best right away, but it makes a great cold breakfast or lunch. Enjoy!

Veggie and Pork (or Chinese Mushroom) Fu Yung

 

1 1/2 oz thinly sliced pork or dried, soaked Chinese mushrooms

 

Marinate for at least 15 minutes in:

2 teaspoons light soy sauce

1 teaspoon rice wine or dry sherry

1 1/2 teaspoons corn starch

 

Veggies:

Your choice! About 1 cup after stir frying

Fresh ginger, garlic and green onion to taste

 

Egg mixture:

5 large eggs

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon water

 

Sauce:

1/4 cup chicken broth or mushroom soaking liquid from above

2 teaspoons light soy sauce

1 tablespoon oyster (or mushroom) sauce

1 teaspoon rice wine or dry sherry

1/4 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

 

For frying:

Mild cooking oil, like canola or peanut

Toasted sesame oil

 

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

Turmeric

Jacqueline Soule, AKA Gardening With Soule, today.  If you have a garden (as opposed to a landscape) you will always have some task to perform. Pots of plants become overgrown, the roots crowded, and the plants need to be divided. I was recently performing this chore, and one of the plants needing attention in this warm month was turmeric.

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Turmeric (Curcuma domestica) is a member of the Ginger Family (Zingiberaceae), related to grasses, orchids, and bananas. The economically important portion of the plant is the rhizome, a large, lumpy underground storage stem (which is structurally different than a root).

turmeric pixabay 2378988

Turmeric is a tropical plant that dies back to its rhizome in the coolness of our Sonoran winters. (Yes, snow birds come here for our “warm” winters – but everything is relative.) Iris and ginger also grow from rhizomes, with iris staying above ground in winter, but ginger also retreating underground.

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Planting turmeric
Plant turmeric rhizomes horizontally and cover them with a sparse layer of soil. In the Southwest, turmeric grows best in full sun to afternoon shade. Provide ample water for this lush-leafed plant. Plant in well-drained rich to slightly sandy soil. Turmeric will do well in containers, which is how I grow them, with the lowermost inch of pot submerged in the water garden.

If you have an entirely desert landscape, turmeric won’t look right in your landscape. But – if you are like most of us in the Southwest – you have an oasis zone in your xeriscape, and thus turmeric will fit right in. Turmeric will also grow well in a water garden. So yes – you can grow them in the desert.

turmeric pixabay 2344157 crop

Turmeric in Medicine
Turmeric is popular in India and the Far East to treat stomach complaints. A paste is applied to help cure bruises, and to accelerate the formation of scabs caused by chicken pox and (in the past) smallpox. The fumes of the burning rhizomes are used to relieve colds and lung congestion. In the 1800’s turmeric was used in the United States as a stimulant and stomach tonic. Turmeric is now popular as an anti-inflammatory and to help with high cholesterol and heart issues.

turmeric pixabay 943629

Turmeric in History
In the days of alchemy, a paste made from turmeric and water was applied to paper. This paper would then change color from a saffron yellow to a reddish brown if exposed to alkaline conditions. The Latin term ‘terra merita’ (deserving or deserved earth) became shortened to termerit, and later changed into turmeric. Note that yes, there is an “r” in the word – tur-mer-ic.

In the 1500’s, books called Herbals, which were used as medical guides, mention turmeric as another name for “curcuma.” Curcuma was used as a name because the spice is highly similar to saffron, called kurkum by the Arab traders who brought it to Europe from Asia.

In 1753, when names for many plants were systematized by the Swede Linnaeus, he used the name Curcuma for the genus of plants which turmeric belongs to. The spice turmeric comes from Curcuma domestica (sometimes listed as Curcuma longa in older herb books)

turmeric pixabay 906144 crop

Turmeric for Dye
One major non-spice use of turmeric is as a coloring agent. It colors both cotton and wool without need of a mordant (fixing agent). The yellow robes of Buddhist monks were often dyed with turmeric. Turmeric powder is also used in candies, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and in some commercial brands of mustard (which is why some mustard “stains” your clothes).

turmeric pixabay 743044

Turmeric in Cooking
Turmeric is valued worldwide for the subtle flavor and brilliant color in gives to curry sauces. It can be used alone to color rice and rice pudding. In Yugoslavia, a festival bread is flavored and colored with turmeric.

My grandmother Soule used turmeric in her bread-and-butter pickles, which always included slices of onions. I remember my age 6 astonishment at the brilliant yellow hue the white onions “magically” turned after the canning was done. “Turmeric caused it,” Grandma explained. “It’s a spice that comes from plants.” Thus another step in my path to becoming a botanist was unknowingly taken.

 

JAS avatarIf you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my lectures. Look for me at your local Pima County Library branch, Steam Pump Ranch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including the latest, Month-by-Month Garden Guide for Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $26).

© Article copyright by Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. Republishing an entire blog post or article is prohibited without permission. I receive many requests to reprint my work. My policy is that you may use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Photos © Jacqueline A. Soule where marked and they may not be used.

Categories: Cooking, Dye, Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, herbs, medicinal plant, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

The New Chiltepin-Citrus “Whoa-Nelita-Margarita”

Savor Sister Linda here today celebrating all things chiltepin. In the mood for both chiletpin and a margarita last weekend, I opened my mind up W I D E  and came up with this. Because of the heat of the chiltepin I  playfully refer to it as the Whoa-Nellie/Nelita Mararita, But is could be renamed the Margarita of Lots of Vitamin-C , not a very interesting name, but a true one, as chiltepin and Citrus-Juice have so much Vitamin-C.

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THE SECRET Ingredient in this surprising Margarita, are the make-ahead-of-time fresh lime juice or orange juice (or any juice you like) ice cubes.

Squeeze fresh lime juice, or any fresh fruit juice, directly into ice cube trays and freeze. Once frozen take them out and put them in a container of zip locks so flavor is maintained and no taste of the freezer ends up in your margarita. These ice cubes are visually beautiful as well as flavorful and are great with Oh-So-Good Just Plain Water in the summer. Or add to fun drinks for kids while you are enjoying your adult cocktails.

I make these glass by glass,

1) add 1-2 crushed chiltepin to the bottom of your glass.

2) fill the glass with lime and Orange ice cubes.

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3) depending on how big your glass is and the “strength” you want add:

one Tablespoon or one shot of Patron Citron Orange Liqueur

two Tablespoons or two shots of your favorite tequila

This is the version that I like, as it is not too sweet.  But, if you are someone who likes your margaritas on the sweeter side, add honey to taste (start with at teaspoon and increase if you desire) remembering to stir well. A sprig of mint might delight your tongue as well as your eyes.

Stir Well.

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Drink on a hot summer evening. As the lime and orange ice cubes melt, the flavors of the chiltepin,  liqueur ,and tequila both deepen and widen. This is a margarita that just might help you hear the chiltepin actually speak.  

Try drinking this with summer evening guacamole and quesadillas.

I will soon be announcing my new Time Capsule Kitchen website that is dedicated to the noble chiltepin!  Stay tuned to hear those chiles speak!!!

 

 

Categories: Sonoran Native | 1 Comment

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