Winter is here, and out-of-town company is sure to invade our relatively sunny climes in Baja Arizona. Tia Marta here with some ideas for local Sonoran Desert goodies that you can make ahead to have at-the-ready for creating a glorious buffet or instant party.
With freezing nights everyone is harvesting citrus like mad. What to do with all those lemons your neighbor has generously dumped at your door? Right!–save space and squeeze the wonderful juice into a plastic bowl to freeze and use as a floating ice-block or as lemon ice cubes.
Zoom in to check out the buffet table details: On the cheese plate note the thin slices of barrel cactus fruit as rings atop the cheese wedge, adding a zesty touch to the spread. Squares of white manchego cheese top squares of sweet local cajeta de membrillo, a lovely conserve made with heirloom quince fruits from Mission Garden. My special veggie dip is laced with “chives” of chopped I’itoi’s Onion and fresh oregano from my garden, moringa leaves from friend Wanda’s tree, and a single crushed dry chiltepin pepper for a picante kick.
In place of olives or pickles I like to feature my pickled cholla flower buds or nopalito pickles. In place of mixed nuts I serve bellotas (Emory oak acorns) or pinyon nuts, both supporting local harvesters (see Southwest Foraging). Instead of peanuts I like to present Incan corn nuts (not local, from Peru, but a bow to Native tradition.)
For luscious “local cookies” I use a basic toll-house cookie recipe (calling for 2 cups flour) by substituting 1/2 cup mesquite flour, 1/2 cup amaranth flour, and 1 cup white Sonora wheat flour, plus an extra egg and a cup of pine nuts in place of pecans. These treats will get snarfed up as soon as you put them on the table. (See Dec13 post for other cookie recipes)
SPARKLY PRICKLY PEAR CHERRY PUNCH RECIPE:
In a big clear punchbowl mix:
1 block of frozen pure prickly pear juice (OR, 1 bottle of Cheri’s Desert Harvest Prickly Pear Syrup plus ice cubes)
1 pint (half jar) Trader Joe’s pure Cherry Juice
1 liter chilled ginger ale
Serve with joy!
(As ice block is thawing in the punchbowl and the punch is consumed around it, add the remaining pint of cherry juice and another liter of chilled ginger ale over the block.)
With a bag of prickly pear tunas frozen whole from last September’s hasty harvest, I thawed them to extract the juice to then refreeze as a cactus-fruit ice-block. It is an easy process–but timely action required. If you haven’t harvested from the desert, Cheri’s Desert Harvest Prickly Pear Syrup is available at NativeSeedsSEARCH Store, 3061 N.Campbell Avenue or at other special Southwest food shops.
To make your own cholla or nopalito pickles, as March approaches, watch for announcements of cholla bud harvesting workshops. Tia Marta may schedule classes through Mission Garden or www.flordemayoarts.com.
Happy entertaining with a local Southwest flair!