Cooking

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

Rosie Bravo’s Chimichangas

Hello, Amy here. Once I lived next door to Rosie, who made food that her husband Arturo peddled in the neighborhood. She made Sonoran classics including tamales de res, THE BEST tamales de elote, Mexican interpretations of Chinese food (for parties), and her own creations. One of Rosie’s creations was a spicy bean burrito, wrapped in bacon and fried, served with her own salsa roja.

Inspired by Sonoran Hot Dogs wrapped in bacon, she had no name for this delicious lunch, but it seems to me to classify as a chimichanga. The chimichanga has a few often sited origin stories, but it is a logical thing to fry stuffed flour tortillas just like you do corn tortillas!

 

To replicate Rosie’s dish, I started with Mano y Metate Adobo Powder. I cooked a couple tablespoons of powder in a splash of grape seed oil until it got bubbly and slightly brown.

 

Then I added a couple cups of cooked pinto beans and their cooking liquid. (Yes, these were from the freezer.) Of course, any bean would be delicious.

I let them defrost and reduced the liquid until it was almost dry. Then I mashed the beans by hand.

I heated a big wheat flour tortilla in by biggest pan JUST until pliable, an important step in making any burrito. Skipping this step makes for cracked, loosely rolled burritos. That is never good, but for this project would be a disaster.

The beans have to be spread pretty thinly, because these are only rolled without folding the ends, and because they have to be sturdy enough to fry.

Then a strip of bacon (or two) are wrapped around the burrito and fastened with toothpicks. (Yes, you could totally just fry the burrito without the bacon!)

Fry until golden and crispy. I had to add a little splash of oil to the pan, but by no means was it deep fried. Simply roll the chimichanga to brown on all sides. The bacon shrinks and attaches firmly to the tortilla as it cooks. If you started with a good flour tortilla, it might shed flakes of crispy dough, so handle gently.

I suggest eating immediately. (Yes, before you cook the next one.) Rosie used to pack each in small brown paper bag, to keep them crispy. But they are still wonderful at room temperature. ¡Buen Provecho!

 

 

 

Categories: Cooking, heirloom beans, heirloom crops, heirloom grains, Mexican Food, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized, White Sonora wheat | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s Masa Time!–Making Tortillas with “Fast” Corn

Pearly kernels of Tohono O’odham 60-day corn (MABurgess photo)

Gardening is hardly an “instant-gratification” activity (altho’ the gardening process from the git-go is instantly gratifying to soul and body).  But if you want to try the fastest seed-to-harvest corn cycle on the Planet, next summer try growing Tohono O’odham 60-day Hu:ñ!  It’s the closest thing to instant-gratification-gardening.  Trust the Desert People–the Tohono O’odham of southern Arizona and northwest Sonora– to have selected and perfected a flour corn fit for the rainfall vagaries of a Sonoran Desert summer!  Seeds of this precious crop have been conserved and multiplied over the years by the caring folks at NativeSeedsSEARCH and are available for Southwest gardeners to plant.

Tia Marta here, inspiring you to try your hand at making corn tortillas with this ancient, local, and well-adapted corn!  Volunteers at Tucson’s Mission Garden just harvested their monsoon crop of Tohono O’odham 60-day dried cobs, and they invited MaizTucson’s Carlos Figueroa to make masa with it and to provide tastes of tortillas made with this special heirloom corn.

Three kinds of heirloom corn kernels ready for nixtamalization. Tohono O’odham 60-day corn is at lower right (blue corn at top, traditional nixtamal corn lower left)

He explained how he boiled the kernels until they were softening, then he added slake lime (food grade calcium hydroxide) and let it stand overnight.  [There are detailed instructions online how to make nixtamal.]  He ground the  nixtamal in a stone mill to make the masa, adding enough of the reserved cooking liquid to have the right dough consistency.

Form your masa into a ball about the size of a golf ball before putting into your tortilla press or rolling with rolling pin.

He formed the masa into balls for placing between two sheets of wax paper in a tortilla press.  No problem if you do not have a press.  A rolling pin works fine with your dough sandwiched in wax paper.

60-day corn tortillas and blue corn on the grill at Mission Garden

a 60-day corn tortilla on the grill with blue corn tortilla

forming a basin in the soft masa as it heats on the griddle, to make quesadilla-style cheese-and-salsa melt or “Southwest pizza”

 

After pressing, he showed how to peel one sheet of wax paper and put the dough side into his hand for easy placing onto a very hot grill.  Instead of a grill, I use an ungreased iron skillet on the stovetop.  Grill your round of masa until it begins to puff on top, then flip it to allow it to puff up on the other side.  You may want to flip it twice before it is grilled through.  The great news is that MaizTucson has ready-to-use masa from Tohono O’odham 60-day Corn available for sale at some farmers markets, so you can take the gardening-later short-cut!

Serve your tortillas hot –as with the preceding delicious recipe for tomatillo stew (scroll back to the Oct.20 post in this same blog!)  You could also create a fancy appetizer by pinching masa dough into a little basin.  After it is grilled, fill it with grated cheese, chopped tomatoes or salsa and melt it in a quick oven for a “Southwest pizza”.

MaizTucson has prepared masa from the heirloom Tohono O’odham 60-day corn grown at Tucson’ Mission Garden.  Check the MaizTucson instagram for where to buy it.  (MABurgess photo)

Talk about sustainability!  Think about the month of water saved by growing a short-season corn compared to normal 90-day  corn varieties.  All the more reason for happy tortilla-grilling and eating with this desert-adapted, highly nutritious Tohono O’odham 60-day corn masa!

Your homemade corn tortillas will go really well with Tia Marta’s heirloom bean soup mixes!

Tom’s Mix Southwest Bean Mix–14 delicious heirlooms with recipes

Native American-grown Tepary Bean Mix with recipes, available at http://www.flordemayoarts.com and other southwest specialty stores

For Southwest heirloom foods and gift ideas for the holiday season check out my website www.FlordeMayoArts.com and order early.  Or you can find my jojoba herbal soaps, notecard and canvas art tote creations, sacred sage bundles, white Sonora wheat berries, and colorful heirloom bean  and tepary mixes at special stores–Tohono Chul Museum Shop, NativeSeedsSEARCH store, Presidio Museum in the center of Tucson, Old Town Artisans, Wiwpul Du’ag East at San Xavier Mission Plaza, Saguaro National Park West bookstore, and Caduceus Cellars in Jerome, AZ.

Notecard and canvas tote artwork by Martha Ames Burgess, http://www.flordemayoarts.com

Luxurious herbal jojoba soaps created by Martha Ames Burgess, made with local desert plants and healing jojoba

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

What to do with tomatillos? Carne en su Jugo

Hello, Amy here, with tomatillos from my Tucson CSA share. Some people asked me what to do with them if they don’t like salsa. Try a soup! Carne en su jugo, meat stewed in is own juices, is a traditional Mexican dish that features tomatilos and makes a little meat go a long way. Mole Verde powder contains lots of green chile and cilantro, so I used that for seasoning and it worked perfectly.

Start by sorting, soaking and boiling pinto beans.

Use any cut of beef; trim and cut into tiny bites. Boil the trimmings to make a broth. Cut a few slices of bacon into tiny bites and fry to make it crispy and render the fat. Set aside the bacon and save the fat in the pan.

Then husk and boil tomatillos in water.

They will start bright green but are done when soft and dull green.

Drain the tomatillos. Then peel and mash, or just puree whole in the blender.

Next, brown the beef in the bacon fat. Salt to taste. Add some sliced garlic and onion, to taste. I used elephant garlic and red onion from Tucson CSA. Then add some home made beef broth and stew until tender.

Add the pureed tomatillos. In a separate pan, I cooked a couple tablespoons of Mole Verde powder in a little oil and then thinned with more beef broth. All that went into the pot, too. Salt to taste again.

Spoon in some cooked pintos. Cook for a few minutes for the flavors come together and the stew thicken a little. At the last moment, stir in the crunchy bacon or sprinkle on top of each serving. Eat with hot corn tortillas. Enjoy!


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

Magical Cereal-ism this Week in Baja Arizona

An important conference focused on ancient heirloom grains is about to happen this week at University of Arizona.  All cerealists are invited!–and that means any of us who love baking and cooking with our local white Sonora wheat, Pima Club wheat, quinoa, kamut, and other heritage grains.

It’s the Heritage Grain Forum — Tuesday and Wednesday, September 3 and 4, 2019.  In the words of organizer Dr. Gary Paul Nabhan, it will “celebrate grain-shed advances in the Santa Cruz river valley & the rest of the West.”

Padre Kino’s White Sonora Wheat, grown organically by BKWFarms, Marana.  Wheatberries available at NativeSeedsSEARCH store.  A new crop will be grown again and viewable at MissionGarden, Tucson, this winter and harvested at their San Isidro Feast in May. (photo MABurgess)

The upcoming conference meets at UA Building ENR2 (1064 E Lowell Street on UA campus just north of 6th Street) in the Haury Auditorium.   For anyone interested in hearing some of the mover-shaker-foodies who helped make the UNESCO City of Gastronomy designation happen for Tucson, come meet them:

Tuesday Sept 3, 4:00-5:30 pm for a lecture on their book Grain by Grain by authors Bob Quinn & Liz Carlisle, with bread + cracker tastings.

Then on Wednesday Sept 4: 8:30am-12:00 noon you can participate in talks + roundtables led by Vanessa Bechtol (SCVNHA), Joy Hought (NSS), Don Guerra (BarrioBread),Jeff Zimmerman (HaydenFlourMills), Ramona & Terry Button (Ramona Farms), Gary Nabhan (author, UA SW Center),  & others, with commentaries by Quinn & Carlisle + more tastings!

I’m excited to meet these amazing Cerealists!

Muff’s heirloom grain scones made with white Sonora wheat, Ramona Farms roasted O’las Pilkan Chui (Pima Club wheat), and wild blueberries.  These are really rich and nutritious, made with eggs and cream in addition to our local heirloom flours and fruits.

Getting in the heirloom grain mood–and fortified with fruits picked up on recent travels–I dived into baking scones using local flours.  Here are my recipe variations on scones in honor of the event:

Muff’s Date Scones (or Wild Berry Scones) Recipe:

Preheat oven to 450 degreesF (A solar oven might work on a very clear day at noon hours, but not today).

In large bowl, sift together:   1 1/2 cups fresh-milled white Sonora wheat flour (or kamut flour, or einkorn)

1/4 cup Ramona Farms Pilkan Haak Chu’i (roasted Pima Club O’las Pilkan) flour

2 1/4 tsp baking powder

1 Tbsp sugar

1 tsp sea salt

Organic eggs, organic mild, Ramona’s roasted heirloom wheat, and raw organic sugar assembled for scone-making. Cut in cold butter into golden white Sonora Wheat mixture.

Make a well in the dry ingredients then pour in wet ingredient mixture. Stir minimally to make dough with few strokes.

Cut into dry ingredients with 2 knives or pastry cutter:   1/4 Cup cold butter

In a separate bowl, beat, and reserve 2 tablespoons for glaze:    2 eggs  

Add to beaten eggs:    1/2 cup cream (or milk)

Chop (optional) fruit– (suggestions:  local dry dates, wild hackberries, wild blueberries)

I chose a dry date (Khadrawy, but Medjool is perfect too) because it is easy to chop into discrete pieces which stay visible and taste-able in your scone!

Pat out dough on floured board, then place chopped fruit or berries on the dough layer, ready to be folded over.

Make a dry-ingredient “well” and pour in liquid ingredients.  Mix with short, quick strokes.  Less handling the better.  Place dough on floured board.  Pat dough to 3/4 inch thick.

Place optional fruit on 1/2 dough then fold dough over once or more.  Lightly roll over each fold with rolling pin.  Cut into diamond shapes and fold if desired.

Fold dough over chopped fruit or berries a few times, rolling very lightly over each fold. (A Light touch is key! Don’t overdo.)

Brush with reserved beaten egg.  Sprinkle with raw sugar grains.

Onto pressed scone dough brush egg “glaze” and sprinkle with raw sugar (or mesquite meal if you are a desert-purist).

Bake about 15 minutes.

Piping hot with butter–Muff’s date scones made with Ramona Farms roasted O’las Pilkan Chui (Pima Club wheat flour roasted), kamut flour, and chopped Dateland dates.  Who needs clotted cream or lemon curd when it tastes so good already?

Most of these heirloom ingredients–grown in Arizona–may be purchased ready to use at the NativeSeedsSEARCH store (3061 N Campbell Ave, Tucson).  Small trial size packets of heirloom grain with informative labels are available there provided by Flor de Mayo.

Enjoy the rich flavor and nutrition of our heirloom grains– and their stories!  Maybe see you at the conference?…

[Search with keyword “white Sonora” or “wheat” in the search-box at top of this blog page for many other fabulous heirloom grain recipes!]

 

 

 

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

Chilaquiles with Mole Dulce y Negro

Hello Friends, this is Amy.

Chilaquiles are breakfast favorite, made with fried corn tortillas, sauce, cheese and toppings. The sauce can be smooth red chile or a fresh salsa, but today I used mole. I mixed two varieties of mole in one dish: Mole Dulce adds the sweetness and Mole Negro the heat. Feel free to use whatever mole you have and what suits your taste.

It all starts with old corn tortillas. I cut two tortillas per person into bite sized pieces and left on the counter to dry for a bit, so they fry better. Whenever I go to a restaurant and they are too generous with the tortillas, I wrap them up and take them home to make chilaquiles!

Then the tortilla pieces are fried in shallow oil until toasty brown and crisp. Any frying oil will be fine; I used grape seed.

For the sauce, I used half Mole Dulce and half Mole Negro from the mole powders I make (ManoYMetate.com).

Heat a splash of mild oil, add the mole powders and cook until fragrant and a shade darker. Add broth and simmer for a few minutes until thick. I had turkey broth handy so that’s what I used.

Unlike enchiladas, chilaquiles are eaten before the sauce completely softens the crunchy tortillas. SOOOOO good! So it’s important to have all the toppings ready. I like to rinse raw onion and drain. Crumbled queso fresco, crema, cilantro, green onion, avocado, roasted green chile, radishes, cucumbers, lettuce/cabbage, pickled carrots…whatever you like.

Once all the elements are prepared, set the table and assemble the people. Fried eggs and/or beans traditionally accompany chilaquiles, so have those ready, too. Scrambled or with a runny yolk are both excellent. Start the eggs in another skillet.

Now, add the toasty, crisp tortillas to the hot mole along with a handful of cheese, if you like, and stir briefly. It doesn’t even have to be completely combined.

 

Plate everything and enjoy for breakfast or any time of the day.

¡Buen Provecho!

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

Beat the Heat with Mesquite Treats!

Naturally sweet solar-oven baked mesquite peanut butter cookies are easy and fun! (MABurgess photo)

It’s blasting HOT outside!  Dry mesquite pods are rattling and falling off the trees!  It’s mesquite harvest time–so gather them quick before they take on any monsoon moisture.

Even in this heat my sweetie wants a dessert and can’t stand store-bought stuff.  OK, I got the solar oven out preheating in the sun.  I’ll bake some old time peanut butter cookies this time with a Southwestern twist–with mesquite!  (And, we’ll keep the heat out of the kitchen.)

For mesquite peanut butter cookies, in addition to mesquite meal you’ll need:  butter, brown sugar, vanilla, flour, baking soda, chunky peanut butter, and honey. Amaranth flour is a great option available at Safeway, Sprouts, WholeFoods, and NaturalGrocers.

Add crunchy peanut butter to creamed butter/honey/brown sugar, beat in egg and vanilla….Then stir in sifted flour mixture to make cookie dough….

Tia Marta here to share a quick and easy mesquite cookie recipe.  No problem–If you don’t mill your own mesquite pods you can find fresh LOCAL mesquite meal at the NativeSeedsSEARCH store .

 

MUFF’S MESQUITE PEANUT BUTTER COOKIE RECIPE:

Preheat solar oven (or indoor oven) to 375 degreesF.

Beat until creamy:  1/2 cup butter, 1/3 cup local honey, and 1/2 cup brown sugar.

Beat in:  1 egg, 1/2 – 3/4 cup chunky organic peanut butter,1 tsp vanilla

Sift together:  1 cup whole wheat flour and 1/4-1/2 cup mesquite meal (optional–substitute 1/4 cup amaranth flour for 1/4 cup of other flour), 1/2 tsp sea salt, 1/2 tsp baking soda

Stir dry ingredients into moist ingredients for dough.  Roll dough into 1″ balls.  Put on cookie sheet and press with fork. (see photo–Who knows where these traditional patterns come from?  Different cultures have different patterns for peanut butter.  Rombauer’s Joy of Cooking shows a linear pattern from her German tradition.)

Bake:  about 12minutes in conventional oven OR about 20 minutes in solar oven–until done.

Make small balls of cookie dough and roll each in mesquite meal….

On cookie sheet, press each ball of dusted cookie dough with fork in criss-cross pattern….ready to bake….

Preheat solar oven to around 350-375 degrees, then bake about 20 minutes (depending on the sun’s intensity) or until done. The sweet bouquet of cookie-bliss will let you know they are ready! (MABurgess photo)

My “serving suggestion” is to enjoy mesquite peanut butter cookies any time–especially with GOV (good old vanilla) ice cream or an ice-cold glass of tea on a hot day! (MABurgess)

Now here’s another quickie cool and refreshing mesquite treat, if you don’t have time to bake, but using similar ingredients.  It’s a Mesquite Peanut Butter Malted Milkshake— ready in a jiffy:

For a fast cool-down treat, blender up a mesquite peanut butter malted milkshake! You’ll have a meal-in-a-glass in no time–full of complex carbs, calcium, protein, and renewal! (MABurgess photo)

Muff’s Mesquite Peanut Butter Milkshake RECIPE:

In blender mix:

2 cups 1% organic milk (or optional rice, almond or soy milk OR frozen RiceDream)

1 Tbsp. mesquite meal

1/4 cup organic agave “nectar” or syrup

1/2 cup organic chunky peanut butter

2 tsp vanilla extract (or 1 Tbsp Mexican vanilla)

1 Tbsp Carnation dry malted milk (optional)

a few chunks of ice

Blender the mix until frothy and serve in chilled glass.  Enjoy the rich nutrition and sweet refreshment of this mesquite meal-in-a-glass!

Carob powder is ground from the pods of a Near-Eastern bean tree, like an Eastern “sister” of mesquite with many similar nutritional components.  For a super-tasty cool shake that satisfies all the food groups (except chocolate!) and helps chill a summer day, add 1/4 cup carob powder to your blender mix.

Add carob as you blender your mesquite peanut butter shake and voila you’re transported into the gourmet snack dimension! (MABurgess photo)

Check out the Iskashitaa Refugee Network to see if they have carob available currently.  And find wonderful local mesquite flour ready for cooking at NativeSeedsSEARCH, (3061 N. Campbell Avenue, Tucson; 520-622-5561), along with great mesquite recipe books by DesertHarvesters.org.   Find Freddie Terry, the Singing Beekeeper, with superior local honey at the Rillito Park Farmers Market Sundays.  To order your own Solar Oven, check out www.flordemayoarts.com or contact 520-907-9471 to locate good used solar ovens.

Let’s adapt to heat with these low-tech tools, desert foods, and recipes.  Enjoy the monsoons and happy eating with local mesquite!

 

 

 

 

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

Brown Goddess Dressing; Copycat Recipe?

Brown Goddess Dressing!!!! A mole vinaigrette over a cucumber salad with mint and candied pepitas!!!!!


Long a fan of salad on the same plate next to a mole-sauced entree, the idea of a mole vinaigrette sounded familiar and spectacular. I came across a 2017 article mentioning this salad from a restaurant named Lalito, opened by chef Gerardo Gonzalez in New York. The restaurant is still there but Chef Gonzalez is not, and there’s no sign of any Brown Goddess Cucumber Salad, or anything else with the dressing on their current menu posted online. Not ever eating there myself, who knows.

With no further direction, I attempted Mole Dulce candied pepitas. I started with a cup of pumpkin seeds dry toasting in a pan on medium heat.

After they darkened and smelled toasty, I added a tablespoon Mano Y Metate Mole Dulce powder, a tablespoon sugar and a half teaspoon salt.

Stirring, I added a couple tablespoons of water and cooked until sticky and glossy. Then I transferred to a plate to cool.

For the Brown Goddess Mole Vinaigrette, I used the same skillet to cook a tablespoon Mole Dulce powder in a tablespoon of mild oil (grape seed) over medium heat.

When it was a fragrant paste, I added a tablespoon white wine vinegar and cooled completely.

I tossed two small sliced cucumbers into the room temperature pan, topped with tiny spearmint leaves and few candied pepitas.

After taking a photo and eating some, I sliced the third (slightly opaque from my too cold fridge) cucumber, and remixed all. Topped with the rest of the mint leaves and a handful of pepitas, it was a great little summer meal.

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

Fern Shoots Are Delicious Spring Treat

Young bracken fern with shoots perfect for harvest.

As long as I’ve been writing about wild foods–and that is many decades–I’ve read about eating the just-emerging shoots of ferns, a great delicacy. But since practically all of my foraging has been in the desert, I’ve never had a chance to gather this mountain treat. Then last year, we became part owners of a cabin on Mt. Lemmon, next to Tucson, at 8,000 feet. The hill behind the cabin is covered with FERNS due to a fire on the mountain about 15 years ago. As soon as I saw them last summer, I began plotting my gathering experience.

First, I had to figure out if my ferns were edible. I turned to John Slattery’s book Southwest Foraging, and he assured his readers that only one kind of fern grows in Southern Arizona, the bracken fern, and that it is edible. He did advise cooking it in two changes of water to deal with “carcinogenic substances.”

We’ve had a unusually cool spring in Southern Arizona, so cool that we didn’t get up to our cabin until late May. But spring was very slow coming that high (it had snowed earlier in May), and the ferns were just coming up. I was in luck. I only picked a handful because I wasn’t sure I’d even like them and I didn’t want to waste any.

However, a rinse, the two changes of cooking water, and a quick saute in butter and lemon juice provided a little snack with a slightly nutty taste just as delicious as promised. There will be no second chance this year, it’s a fleeting season. By the time we get to the mountain cabin again the ferns will be unfurled. But I will for sure be up there next year in May and this time I will gather more!

Cleaned young ferns ready for cooking.

 

Shoots nicely cooked with butter and lemon juice and ready for eating.

Update:  I did my original gathering and cooking in the third week of May. We returned to the cabin the first week of June and there were still ferns just emerging and the tops of others further along were still furled and tender. I had forgotten to take butter and lemon juice, so I cooked the tips in olive oil and drizzled a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar over them. Great! So depending on the year, the fern season at 8,000 feet runs for maybe a month.

_____________________________________

Carolyn Niethammer writes about edible wild plants of the desert Southwest. You can see her books at http://www.cniethammer.com. In the fall of 2020 her book on why Tucson was named a UNESCO World City of Gastronomy will be released by the University of Arizona Press. In it she details the last 10,000 years of culinary history of the Santa Cruz Valley and why the inhabitants of the area are still eating the same things after all these years!

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

Raspberry Beet Stem Turnovers

Amy here today, with beautiful red beets! You know, beet stems look like rhubarb…what if…

I had beets from Tucson CSA and from a friend’s garden. There are plenty of beet root dishes I make, like roasted beet salads, pickled or fermented beets, and borscht. Also, I LOVE cooked beet greens, with their salty, mineral character, sautéed in olive oil and garlic or many other ways. I usually chop the stems and cook along with the leaves, but they have a different texture and make the dish more red than green. Like in beans simmered with greens, or in a quiche, I want less of that hue. What to do with extra beet stems? Since they look like rhubarb, would they work as a substitute????


Rhubarb, and wild desert rhubarb (See Tia Marta’s desert rhubarb upside down cake and pie on this blog) are much more tart that beet stems, so I could add lemon. Strawberries are the classic pair with rhubarb, but raspberries have the tartness I wanted. I harvested wild raspberries in the mountains last summer for the freezer, but they were long gone. A little carton of raspberries from the store had the same volume as the chopped beet stems I had, so that’s what I used.


I simmered the beet stems, raspberries, a lot of lemon juice and zest, sugar and a shot of vanilla, then thickened with cornstarch. A delicious compote. It totally worked!!!!!
There wasn’t enough to fill a pie plate, so I made a few turnovers.


A simple short pastry: butter cut into all-purpose flour, a pinch of salt, a bit of cold water to make it come together, and refrigerated until firm.

After dividing the dough into 8 balls, I rolled one thinly. Then filled with the compote, moistened the edges with water and folded. On ungreased parchment paper, I crimped, poked steam vents, wet the tops with water and sprinkled with sugar. Maybe next time they’ll get egg wash or fancy sugar.


At 425 degrees F they took 20 minutes to get golden brown top and bottom.


They came out flakey, tart, and beautiful color. Don’t waste those beet stems!

Raspberry and Beet Stem Turnovers

by Amy Valdés Schwemm

Filling:

1 cup red beet stems, chopped

1 cup red raspberries

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon cornstarch

Pastry:

1 cup all purpose flour

5 tablespoons cold butter

dash of salt, if using unsalted butter

1/3 cup cold water

 

Cut butter (and salt if using unsalted butter) into flour to make uneven crumbs. Add water to make a dough, form a ball and refrigerate until firm.

Simmer the beet stems with sugar and lemon juice until tender. Add raspberries and lemon zest, and cook until reduced and the raspberries fall apart. Mix the cornstarch in a tablespoon of water, add to the pan and cook until clear and thickened. Stir in vanilla and allow to cool.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Divide the dough into 8 balls. Roll one ball into a thin circle and fill with two tablespoons of the compote. Moisten the edges with water and fold. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper; no need to grease. Crimp the edges with a fork or fingers and poke steam vents in the top with a fork or knife. When all are formed, wet the tops with water or a beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown, top and bottom.

Enjoy!

Categories: Cooking, fruit, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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