Monthly Archives: April 2021

Quiche Sonoraine a la Cholla Bud

“Quiche Sonoraine” inspired by Quiche Lorraine–This perfect Sonoran Desert breakfast joins many tasty and nutritious elements from Baja Arizona! (MABurgess photo)

Delicious Cholla buds (ciolim)–aka Cylindropuntia versicolor–a desert staple, are plump and ready to harvest into early May. Don’t delay! Gather them with thanks before they open.

Tia Marta here to inspire you with another way to go out and appreciate our beautiful and bountiful desert!

(MABurgess photo)

Step 1–Harvest your Cholla

Cholla buds can be picked carefully using any tongs, here being plucked with traditional O’odham wa:wo “chop-sticks.” (MABurgess photo)

Step 2–De-spine cholla buds.

Step 3— Simmer 15-20 minutes. When softened and done, you can use them in a variety of dishes.

Today it’s Cholla Bud Quiche in 9 easy steps!

Step 4a–Preheat oven to 375F.

Step 4bMake your crust:

Sift dry ingredients then mix together:

1 cup white Sonora wheat flour

1 tsp sea salt

3/4 cup amaranth flour

1/4 cup mesquite flour

Mix in:

6-8 Tbsp cold water

Form into ball by hand.

Roll out on floured board.

Step 5–

Finish crust by lifting rolled dough using the rolling pin, slipping rolled dough up and into pyrex pie dish.

Pinch dough along the edge to create a “bowl” or dike to hold the custard mix.

Step 6–

Line the pie shell with egg white.

Step 7–

Lay three layers of quiche surprises:

-a layer of grated cheddar or other favorite cheese

-a layer of cooked cholla buds to fully cover the cheese and crust floor

-a sprinkle of broken crisp bacon (optional)

Step 8–

Make the custard mix with:

4 beaten eggs

1/4-1/2 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp I’itoi’s onions or chives (optional)

2 cups scalded milk

Pour custard mix into pie shell over cholla buds.

Step 9–Bake at 375F for 40 minutes or until quiche tests done. For a little extra kick when done, dust the top with a sprinkle of Mano Y Metate Mole Adobo Powder or chilpotle powder or Spanish pimenton.(MABurgess)
Enjoy Quiche Sonoraine–Cholla Bud Quiche –either hot from the oven or chilled. And rejoice in the many ingredients–wild-harvested or grown locally –that are available to us in the Sonoran Desert!

Caution: As you harvest your cholla buds do be on the lookout for spines and critters!

Soon you will be able to sign up for online classes in desert harvesting at Tucson’s Mission Garden. Check out www.missiongarden.org or contact the program coordinator.

As for ingredients, you can find dried cholla buds, white Sonora wheatberries for milling, and fresh eggs all at the Mission Garden entrance, Wednesdays-Saturdays 8am-12noon. Mission Garden is making plans for two important events–the San Ysidro Fiesta celebrating the White Sonora Wheat Harvest Saturday May 15, and a mesquite pod milling event TBA.

White Sonora wheat flour may be available through NativeSeedsSEARCH or Barrio Bread. Amaranth flour from Bob’s Red Mill is available at most groceries. Mano y Metate Mole Adobo and other mole powders are available via NativeSeedsSEARCH and many other Southwest specialty shops.

I applaud heirloom foods artists Amy Valdes Schwemm, Nancy Reid at NSS and Carolyn Niethammer for their cholla inspirations. You can find other fun cholla bud recipes by entering “cholla” in the SavortheSouthwest.blog search box.

Every bite of Quiche Sonoraine reminds us of the desert’s nutritional and delectable gifts!

Categories: Sonoran Native | Tags: | 2 Comments

Curry puffs with cholla and palo verde

Hello! Amy here playing with the cholla buds I just harvested! NOW is the time to harvest and our own Tia Marta is teaching a workshop THURSDAY, April 22 on Earth Day! Register here.

The unopened flower buds of the cholla cactus are a real favorite, and one annual harvest I collect every year no matter how busy life gets. It is a very narrow harvesting window, usually in April, depending on the year and elevation. Simply bush off the spines with a bouquet of creosote or bursage, pluck with tongs and boil in water for 5 minutes. They taste tart with a slightest hint of internal texture like nopalitos. But that doesn’t convey how delicious they are.

Plentiful in the desert, harvesting does not hinder its reproduction, which is usually from “cuttings”. But this is the first year my backyard had enough to harvest! Grown with no irrigation at all, it is totally sustainable, low maintenance agriculture. Plus beautiful in the yard!

There are countless ways to enjoy cholla buds, but yesterday I snuck them in Chinese curry pastries, a treat I remember from childhood, from the tiny Chinese bakery that was near my house.

I started with ground beef, onion and garlic. Of course, mixed veggies could be used instead.

Then I added beautiful Tucson CSA carrots and Chinese curry powder. I’m sure any curry powder would work perfectly.

I had some young foothills palo verde seeds from last spring in the freezer. I blanched the harvest and stashed for another day. Learn more about them here.

The delicious, sweet immature seeds taste like young green peas…and also take as much work to shell as green peas.

The filling complete, I folded a spoonful into premade puff pastry.

Gilding with beaten egg is essential to make them look like how I remember them at Lai Wah bakery.

After a few minutes in the oven, it smelled unbelievable.

I can hardly wait to make them for my sister and brother.

Categories: Cooking, Edible Flowers, Edible Landscape Plant, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Grapefruit and Poppy Seeds: Cooking from Neighborhood Abundance

Spring finds Southern Arizona desert communities deep in citrus of all kinds. Our grapefruit tree died but I never lack for grapefruit because there are so many productive trees in Tucson owned by people who either don’t like grapefruit or have way more than they can use. This recipe also uses poppy seeds that I grow in my garden. I planted some years ago and do harvest the seeds carefully, but once again, there are so many seeds some drop to the ground and carefully wait out the summer heat to reappear the next winter.

Grapefruits are abundant now in desert communities.

The desert Southwest is awash in citrus every spring. This includes oranges, grapefruits, tangerines and little fruits such as calamondins. Many folks who have a grapefruit tree in their yard find they have way too many, either because they don’t like them or the trees have produced way more than they care to eat. Iskashitaa, a nonprofit that organizes refugees and local citizens into harvest groups, gathers the unwanted fruit and distributes it to those in need or those willing to pay for it. This year has seen a really bountiful harvest. 

Zeru, from Eritrea, an Iskashitaa volunteer, is thrilled with this one-day harvest of grapefruit and lemons.

Our grapefruit tree died and our replacement tree hasn’t gotten organized yet to produce fruit, but the two grapefruit lovers in our household have been blessed by gifts from our neighbor and the Iskashitaa bounty.

This recipe for Grapefruit Poppy Seed Bread gets a little crunch from tiny poppy seeds. I grow my own in my garden. I don’t even have to sow them anymore. Plenty of seeds spill when we’re harvesting them and by January they are coming up in the lettuce garden. They destroy the tidy look of the lettuce in rows, but I can’t bear to pull them out, so by now the garden is messy with poppies, nasturtiums, and lettuce somewhere down under everything. 

Oriental poppies produce thousands of tiny seeds and self-sow easily. Those round objects are the seed pods and when they dry, it is easy to shake out the seeds. Always some fall to the ground and nestle there until they decide to grow the following winter.

This Grapefruit Poppy Seed Bread has a sweet fruity flavor but it’s hard to detect that it is actually grapefruit. So if you aren’t that keen on grapefruit, this might be a good way to use up some fruit.

Some tips before we get to the recipe. I always line my pans with parchment baking paper or foil to help get the loaves out in one piece. This particular bread seems very tender when it first comes out so the lining is important. 

Here’s a picture of poking the bread with a skewer to let the syrup penetrate the bread easier.

Use a skewer, a toothpick, or even a fork to make holes to allow the glaze to penetrate.

And the beautiful finished bread. This is what you are aiming for. 

Finished grapefruit bread with drizzled glaze

Grapefruit Poppy Seed Bread

1 cup butter, softened

1-2/3 cups sugar, divided

3 large eggs, room temperature

3/4 cup yogurt

3 tablespoons poppy seeds

¼ cup grated grapefruit zest

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup grapefruit juice

Glaze:

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 tablespoons grapefruit juice

1 tablespoon grapefruit zest

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, cream butter and 1-1/3 cups sugar until light and fluffy, 5-7 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in yogurt, poppy seeds, grapefruit zest and vanilla. In another bowl, whisk flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into creamed mixture.

Transfer to a greased 9×5-in. loaf pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 55-65 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl microsafe bowl, mix grapefruit juice, 1 tablespoon grapefruit zest, and remaining sugar. Microwave for 1 minute to make a simple syrup. Set aside.

Remove bread from oven. Immediately poke holes in bread with a fork; slowly pour juice mixture over bread. Cool in pan 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. The bread is very tender at this point. The cooling in the pan is a necessary step.

In a small bowl, mix glaze ingredients. Carefully remove bread from pan and set on a wire rack and continue to cool; drizzle glaze over bread.

A few pieces of grapefruit bread make a lovely breakfast or a treat when hunger gnaws in the afternoon.

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I’m thrilled to announce that my new book A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage has won two awards. It was named a Top Pick in the Southwest Books of the Year list and also won a PubWest award for design. The latter was particularly satisfying because it honored Leigh McDonald and Sara Thaxton who did the extremely complex layout that makes the book so visually stunning. It was as if they entered my brain and executed exactly what I had been hoping for.  Order your copy from your local book store, from Native Seeds/SEARCH, or on-line.

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, fruit, Sonoran Native | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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