Monthly Archives: February 2021

Childhood favorites from scratch

Hello friends, Amy here reminiscing about a couple foods I enjoyed as a child. I grew up eating mole with turkey made from Dona Maria mole paste. My grandmother added a few ingredients, like extra chocolate and a little peanut butter, to add sweetness and depth. Its was good but the paste contains unpronounceable ingredients. For my grandmother, it reminded her of eating her mother’s scratch made mole in Aguas Calientes, Mexico. With consultation from my mom, who remembers her grandmother’s mole, I now make Mano Y Metate mole powders with more wholesome ingredients. Cooking dry spices in oil to make a fresh mole paste results in a more vibrant sauce than the premade paste. Plus the cook gets to choose the oil (vegetarian neutral oil, lard, chicken fat, etc.), and that oil does not need preservatives.

As Tia Marta announced last week, curry is in the air! When I was a kid, my sister’s friend’s mom from Japan introduced us to Japanese curry. Apparently the British introduced a westernized Indian curry to Japan in the 1800s, and cooks there made it their own. Sweet and mild, it really tastes like no other curry in the world. Recently, I learned that the spices from the Japanese curry roux bricks I used all these years is available as a powder with no oil, thickener, MSG or anything but the spices!

After consulting many recipes, I started by caramelizing lots of onions and a little garlic in butter.

I then added half as much curry powder as flour to thicken the sauce.

When the flour and spices were moistened by the butter and cooked, I had essentially made the curry paste we always used to buy. To that I added water and ground beef, like I remember my sister’s friend’s mom used. She also used plenty of diced carrots. Tucson CSA carrots are in season now but they are so pretty I left them in coins.

She also used bell pepper and apple, everything cut in tiny pieces or even grating the apple. Potatoes our family added years ago because they were in the photo on the curry paste box. It also makes for a heartier dish, which we often made while camping or backpacking.

As the veggies became tender, I added a few of the fun secret ingredients suggested online to see if I could mimic my taste memory. The suggestions included all manor of sweet and savory condiments, reminiscent of the secret ingredients cooks add to mole for background complexity. I added sake, mirin, soy sauce, miso and honey (Sleeping Frog honey via Tucson CSA). Other suggestions were ketchup, chocolate, coffee, red wine, cheese, yogurt, vanilla, banana, chutney, oyster sauce, Worcestershire sauce, tonkatsu sauce, etc.

Mine needed chile, so I added Santa Cruz Hot from Tumacacori, a kitchen staple with a bright flavor and amazing color.

As the pot simmered, I tasted. After a little more miso and soy sauce to balance the sweet onions and honey, WOW, it really worked! In fact now that I eat so seasonally, I often don’t purchase the apple and bell pepper, but they made a huge difference to this tasting like my childhood memory.

I ate it with Japanese short grain white rice as my sister’s friend’s mom did.

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

Curry Toppings with a SW Flair

Ideas for curry are in the air…On an adventurous (pre-Covid19) tour of Morocco last February 2020, as fellow travelers, we befriended a remarkable character, Kip Bergstrom, an enthusiastic foodie who seeks out the absolute “right source” for his gourmet dishes.  Diving headlong into Moroccan lamb, he found a local, caring sheep farm (for him Connecticut) and has become online chef for www.wearwoolnewlondon.com

Curry dishes call for crystallized ginger so my inventive Southwest solution is candied local fruit rinds as “side boys” or toppings!

Tia Marta here to share how Kip’s “LambStand” has inspired me to go local with lamb curry in the Southwest.  Being a mindful omnivore, I found Sky Island Brand from the 47-Ranch near Tombstone, AZ, providing lamb at Bisbee and Sierra Vista Farmers’ Markets from their arid-adapted, heritage churro sheep.

My family tradition at Easter has always been to serve lamb roast–then lamb curry soon after, so I’m getting ready.  Mom’s favorite touch to complement complex curry flavors was to dress the table with a festive array of toppings all around the main dish–what she called “curry boys” or “side boys.”  (Not sure the derivation of this term—like servants long ago around the table offering toppings?)  Regardless, these complementary dishes are a visual and gastronomic joy, so I’ve taken it as a fun challenge to create local Southwest curry toppings from local gardens and desert harvests.  These flavor combos promise to surprise and delight you in any curry dish–lamb or vegetarian….

In place of regular store-bought toppings called for in typical curry recipes, here are my creative suggestions:

Fresh from the garden, here are ingredients to make Muff’s Chirichurri Mint Sauce.

In place of regular mint sauce, I make a Southwest version of chimichurri sauce:

Muff’s Chimichurri Mint Sauce Recipe:

Ingredients: handful (1/2 Cup) fresh mint leaves from the garden

2 Tbsp chopped I’itoi’s onions (tops and all) from our mini-oasis veggie patch (also available from Mission Garden as starts (or shallots chopped)

3-4 small cloves heirloom garlic (or 2 lg garlic cloves) chopped

2-3 little chiltepin peppers whole (when I can get there before the birds–use sparingly) OR 1/2 tsp chile pepper flakes

1/2-2/3 Cup red wine vinegar,

1 Tbsp olive oil

Optional–up to 1/4 Cup fresh cilantro chopped

Chimichurri Mint Sauce Directions: Blender, chill and serve fresh in a small cruet.

In place of the traditional peanut “side” I like our local bellotas (Emory oak acorn nutmeats) or pinyon pinenuts.

In place of shaved coconut, I purchased jujube fruit from Tucson’s Mission Garden–grown in the Chinese garden section there.

In place of raisins and coconut toppings, try dried jujubes, desert hackberries, or crunchy dried chun (saguaro fruit)!

Chutney is a must as a curry topping!   Using a variation on Mom’s recipe, I make a local peach-mango and barrel cactus fruit chutney that should win prizes.  You can find a fabulous cactus-with-chia chutneys or barrel cactus seed mustard at BeanTreeFarm ordering online for easy pick-up.  

Barrel cactus fruit chutney, garden rosemary-garlic jelly, and Bean-Tree Farm’s barrel cactus mustard make great toppings!

Velvet and screwbean mesquite pods were used in making Tia Marta’s Mesquite/Membrillo Conserve–a great curry garnish!

Another goodie to use as a topping is my mesquite/membrillo conserve  that I made using quince fruit (membrillo) from Mission Garden plus a concentrated sweet syrup made by boiling down whole mesquite pods(See last October’s Savor-post.)

With fresh eggs from the Mission Garden “farm” I first boiled then pickled them for another curry complement.

In place of candied ginger, I made candied Meyer lemon-peel and grapefruit-peel from our little huerta trees and the fragrant sweet-lime peel from Mission Garden’s unusual citrus.  Click for the recipe in the SavortheSouthwest.Blog archive.

I’m topping off our SW curry meal with Rod’s amazing backyard olives (a future post?), an extra chiltepin hit, then partnering it all with a wee dram of bootleg bacanora mescal.

Your taste buds will be delighted and amazed to discover how all these different flavors blend and complement each other to enhance any curry dish!   

 

 

In a festive array around the curried lamb centerpiece, the Southwest’s low-desert bounty provides a garland of delectable complementary flavors!

I’m sending thanks to our desert gardens within and beyond the garden wall, for the plenty that our Sonoran Desert provides.    Here’s hoping these ideas might inspire you to try your own to dress up a curry dinner– lamb or vegetarian—in whatever habitat you live!

Categories: fruit, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Mesquite Apple Cake: Easy Treat for Valentine’s Day

Mesquite Apple Cake is good for breakfast or a healthy dessert. Add dried cranberries for a bit of red for Valentine’s Day. 

In my new book A Desert Feast, I write that one of the reasons Tucson was named a UNESCO City of Gastronomy is our long food history–we are eating some of the things people in our desert valley ate thousands of years ago. That includes mesquite pods. We aren’t chewing on the beans or pounding them in a bed rock mortar, but we are using the ground meal in delicious treats. Mesquite pairs well with apples and the warm spices like cinnamon.

This is an easy recipe that comes together quickly and is a good introduction to the mesquite flavor. It works well for a dessert or a sweet breakfast treat. Today I added dried cranberries to give a little bit of red for Valentine’s Day.  It’s worth the time to line your baking pan with foil or parchment paper. The bread is fragile when it comes out of the oven but will firm up as it cools. Without the paper you risk it falling apart when you take it out of the oven.

Lining your baking pan with parchment paper or foil helps ease the tender cake out of the pan.

 

By sprinkling the dry ingredients evenly over the wet batter, you can avoid the step of sifting the dry ingredients together.

Mesquite Apple Bread

 1/3 cup light brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon cardamom (optional)

2/3 cup white sugar

½  cup butter, softened (1 stick)

2 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup mesquite meal

1 3/4 teaspoon baking powder

½ cup milk

2 apples, chopped (any kind)

½ cup dried cranberries (optional)

 ½ cup powdered sugar

 2 tablespoons milk or cream

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease or spray a 9×5-inch loaf pan or line with foil or parchment paper and spray with non-stick spray to get out easily for slicing.
  2. Mix brown sugar, cinnamon, and cardamom together in a small bowl. Set aside.
  3. In another medium-sized bowl, beat white sugar and butter together using an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.
  4. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, until blended in; add in vanilla extract.
  5. Sprinkle flour, mesquite meal, and baking powder over the butter and sugar mixture and lightly combine with a fork. Then stir into the mixture until almost blended. Add milk and stir until all are combined. Stir in dried cranberries if using.
  6. Pour half the batter into the prepared loaf pan; add half the apple mixture, then half the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture. Wet a tablespoon and use the back of it to push the apple mixture into the batter.
  7. Pour the remaining batter over apple layer and top with remaining apple mixture, then the remaining brown sugar/cinnamon mixture. Again, push the apples into the batter.
  8. Using a table knife, swirl brown sugar mixture through apples.
  9. Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean, approximately 50-60 minutes. Make sure you check the center of the loaf as this is a dense cake and the ends are done before the middle. 
  10. To make glaze, mix powdered sugar and milk or cream together until well mixed. Let cool cake for about 15 minutes before drizzling with glaze.

The spikey thing next to the flower is a screwbean mesquite cluster. It is too cute to grind up for meal.

_________________________________________________________________

A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage has been named a Top Pick in the Southwest Books of the Year compilation.  Order through your favorite bookstore or here from Native Seeds/SEARCH

“Just received this absolute treasure! The wonderful stories and foodways accounts, not to mention local producers, make this an instant heirloom and everyday delight. Every food lover and food historian must get a copy of this marvel!”  — John F Swenson

Categories: Books, Cooking, Mesquite, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: