Monthly Archives: January 2021

Sweet Squash Crisp

Hello Friends, Amy here with my new favorite way to enjoy winter squash. Some years I find myself with manageable butternuts or stringy cushaws that I only want to puree for soups or sweet dishes. But this year Tucson CSA had Fairytale, Cinderella, Red kuri, and various hubbards all sweet and smooth textured! Also, this fall the apples were so crisp and flavorful that I never got around to making apple crisp. To make up for this, I decided to give winter squash the apple crisp treatment.

I started by dropping a hard shelled winter squash on the patio floor. Crack!

I then scooped out the seeds, cut the skin off, and trimmed the ragged portions that bordered the central cavity. (The inner trimmings simmered in a small amount of water until tender and ended up pureed for another project.) I made the tidy pieces of raw squash into cubes and placed them in a buttered baking dish. I gave those a head start in a 350 degree F oven while I made the topping.

I never use a recipe for the topping but it works. It is different every time but still totally delicious. In the food processor I pulse together about 2 cups of oatmeal, 6 tablespoons butter, a handful of walnuts, brown sugar to taste and a dash of salt and cinnamon. If the mixture seems very dry, I add more butter or a bit of liquid (maybe some mesquite broth). Anything from wet sand to drop biscuit dough will be fine. I like to leave it coarse, but it can be blitzed if you prefer. Coconut oil works in place of the butter beautifully. Basically this is granola, which makes a great substitute for all the other ingredients. In the past I’ve added mesquite meal and different sweeteners and spices. Seriously, just go for it. It is not expected to rise or stay together anyway. Who says baking is not improvisational!

I spread this over the not quite tender squash and put in back in the oven. When the top is browned and the squash tender, it is ready. Serve hot or room temperature for dessert or breakfast. Vegetables in every course, YUM!

Categories: heirloom crops, Heirloom pumpkins & squashes, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Flavorful Crispy Crackers with Barrel Cactus, Blue Corn and Herbs

Homemade crackers with lots of flavor are good for a snack plate or alongside soup or a salad.

I’ve spent the fall working on publicizing my new book, A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage, so I when I tied my apron on this morning, I was looking forward to once again working up a new recipe. It’s something I’ve done many times previously for my five cookbooks, but I always feel the thrill of anticipation as I get out the bowls and measuring spoons. My experiments don’t always turn out great the first time, but this morning everything went smoothly.

Barrel cactus fruits are ready for harvest in the winter. With no spines, they are easy to gather.

I wanted to make crackers with barrel cactus seeds because that is one of the only wild foods available in the desert winter. Crackers are always a good accompaniment to the soups we eat in the winter and they also go great with the salads that I make for lunch from greens harvested from my garden.

Halve barrel cactus fruit and set in sun to dry. Seeds will then be easy to remove.

The most delicious homemade crackers I’ve had were made by caterer Kristine Jensen of Gallery of Food here in Tucson, so I called and asked her for some tips. Kristine talked about the importance of adding lots of flavor to the crackers and that certainly is a reason for making your own. To get that flavor, she uses a variety of flours and adds lots of herbs and spices. Her new curry-flavored crackers are very popular. She also said it is important to roll the dough very thin, spray the top of the rolled dough with olive oil, and sprinkle with coarse-ground salt.

With Kristine’s tips in mind and after looking over a few published recipes, I decided to use blue corn and low-gluten Sonoran White Wheat for a good base flavor, barrel cactus seeds for crunch, and coriander and dried rosemary (of which I had lots in my garden) for an extra punch of flavor. I rolled the cracker dough out on parchment baking paper because the dough is very fragile and not having to transfer the unbaked crackers separately to the baking pan meant fewer disasters.

Rolling the cracker dough very thin with ensure a crisp cracker. Here the dough is 1/16 inch thick.

Cut rolled out dough with a sharp knife and carefully separate pieces on paper before transferring on the parchment paper to a baking sheet.

Blue Corn Crackers with Barrel Cactus Seeds

1/2 cup Sonoran white wheat or all-purpose flour

1/2 cup blue corn meal

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon fine salt

2 tablespoons melted butter

2tablespoons olive oil

5 tablespoons water

Coarse salt

2-3 tablespoons barrel cactus seeds

2-3 tablespoons crushed dried herbs

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix the dough until well combined, then knead a little to even out the texture. Divide in half. Roll out on parchment baking paper. Brush or spray lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle salt, seeds and dried herbs on top and roll again to press into the dough. Cut into squares and gently separate. Transfer paper to a baking sheet. Bake in heated oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Check at 15 minutes, you don’t want them to burn. They should be lightly brown on the bottom. They may be a little soft but will crisp up as they cool.

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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, Southwest Food, White Sonora wheat | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

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