Books

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.

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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

The New Southwest Cookbook: Recipe Inspiration

All of my kitchen appliances, including the stove from the dismantled island, are sitting on the back patio as two workers go about putting in a new kitchen floor in our 100-year-old house. Forty-two years ago, my mother-in-law Dorothy and I spent days on our knees scraping off linoleum and the black gunk beneath to reveal the reddish fir floor underneath. But that has begun to splinter, and its time is up.

Unable to cook and photograph something yummy for today’s column, I’m going to talk about my re-released The New Southwest Cookbook and what adventurous home cooks can learn from the talented chefs from all over the Southwest who contributed recipes to the book.

In the early 1990s, professional chefs began to look at our traditional Southwestern ingredients and come up with new and delicious ways to combine them. The one element that seems to characterize the best of the recipes is a willingness to go for bold flavors enhanced by chiles, citrus and herbs. Not just a squirt or a sprinkle, but lots. Even if you don’t have time to go all out on a recipe, using flavorings generously can elevate a weeknight recipe.

Preparing for the new kitchen floor. The pipe in the foreground is where the stove should be.

I took the Tequila Braised Country-style ribs to a recently widowed neighbor who loved them. Rub the ribs with brown sugar, 5-spice, and lots of garlic and marinate overnight. Then bake in a sauce of caramelized onions, garlic, tequila, orange juice, tomatoes, and chipotle. The recipe came from a chef in Albuquerque.

Another winner is roasted poblano chiles stuffed with a mixture of goat and cream cheese, dried cranberries, corn kernels, mint, and basil. The recipe originated at the Hilton in Santa Fe.

My favorite recipe in the book and the one I’ve made for company so often that the page is spattered in Chicken with Citrus, Prickly Pear and Chipotle. It was invented by Sue Scheff, a popular Tucson caterer. It involves marinating chicken thighs in a citrus chile mixture, then coating them in mustard and herbs before roasting. They are topped with a prickly pear-chipotle-orange sauce. It is dreamy with flavors that explode in your mouth (in a good way.). For a company dinner it is a wow entree that isn’t expensive.

Southwest cuisine often incorporates citrus juices and lots of fresh herbs such as  mint, cilantro, and basil.

Another favorite is Green Chile Macaroni from Roaring Fork in Scottsdale. It’s a more complex take on the dish with added vegetables and pureed poblano chiles. It goes well beside roasted salmon or grilled steak or burgers.

These recipes do not require complicated techniques and have few exotic ingredients. Those ingredients not available outside the Southwest, such as prickly pear syrup, can be easily found on-line. The prime factor that leads to their deliciousness is the creativity of the chef who invented them.

If you are an adventurous cook, you can possibly follow the ideas and come up with something fabulous. Or if you like to follow a recipe, at least the first time,  you can order The New Southwest Cookbook directly from the publisher, Rio Nuevo, or from your independent bookstore, or Amazon or Barnes & Nobel.

 

 

 

 

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

Epic Eggs

At the start of October, Monica King posted about lucky chickens and using their eggs, and then I got the review copy of the book Epic Eggs. Then the fact that the name of the month begins with a sort-of egg-shaped letter . . . This is not the first time the universe has demonstrated its inter-connectivity to me.

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No mater where you are in the chicken-keeping spectrum, Epic Eggs (Voyageur Press) is a useful volume. Not merely useful, it is also nicely written by Jennifer Sartell, a long-time poultry farmer.

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First – if you have no desire whatsoever in keeping chickens, Epic Eggs has highly useful information about cooking eggs that explains the science of egg cooking without jargon – the antics of Alton Brown, which were fun in their own way.

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Next – If you were ever thinking about keeping chickens, Epic Eggs is a wonderful book to start with. Jennifer shares stories of her starting out keeping chickens, and some pitfalls to avoid. She includes numerous photos of her own chicken operation, which includes geese, ducks, turkey, and guinea fowl. She talks about the merits of these and various chicken breeds.

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If you already have chickens, it’s still a great book full of useful tips, in part due to the discussion on the various breeds, plus a chapter on adding to the flock.

 

For the daydreamer – I greatly enjoyed the chapter on which color eggs come from which breeds, and spent some time considering which I would like to have clucking and making their odd happy noise as they scratch around the yard. It is an indefinable noise that I think of as chicken purring.

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What I like about having a book like this is that it is ever so much easier to gain information without wading past web pages that in reality have nothing at all to do with the information I am searching for. That said, Jennifer has fascinating notes scattered throughout – like the “Egg Flip Cheat” or “Eggs for 007,” Ian Fleming’s original James Bond, and which eggs he preferred! I leave that for you to discover. Time for me to go make scrambled eggs with chopped fresh herbs from the garden for breakfast!

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Garlic chive leaves are fresh and ready to use all year long.

Jacqueline Soule business portrait. Tucson, AZ. © 2012 Mark Turner

Want to learn more? Look for my free lectures at your local Pima County Library branch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening (Cool Springs Press, $23).

© 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 may not be used.

Categories: Books, Chickens, Cooking | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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