Holiday Citrus-Mesquite Bars

OK, anyone can put sugar, butter and flour together, but if you give yourself carte blanche to invent new local variations on old-time favorites you can come up with some winners, especially for special winter occasions. Tia Marta here to share what I did with traditional lemon bars for a totally Southwest flair:

Try this delicious locally-inspired RECIPE for HOLIDAY CITRUS BARS:

You will need a 9×13″ baking dish and mixing bowls

Ingredients for crust:

1 and 1/2 cups flour mix (I used 1 cup organic fine whole wheat and 1/2 cup white Sonora wheat flour*)

1/2 cup mesquite meal (in place of crushed graham crackers used in other recipes)

3/4 cup butter, softened room temperature

1/2 cup powdered sugar

Ingredients for top layer:

2 cups regular sugar

1/2 cup lemon juice (lime juice or tangerine juice also are delish)

1-2 Tbsp lemon-zest (I used minced Meyer lemon rind; lime- or tangerine-zest would be great)

4 lg. eggs

optional wild desert fruits (I used saguaro fruit; prickly pear or hackberries would work great)

!/4 cup flour (added separately for this top-layer mixture)

*white Sonora wheat flour is available from Barrio Bread milled with heirloom grain grown by BKW Farms in Marana

Directions follow with pictures:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

To begin crust, sift flour mixture, mesquite meal, and and powdered sugar together.

(Since the crust is not leavened, you can make it gluten-free by using tapioca flour as your binder and amaranth flour with the mesquite flour.)

Mix crust ingredients–flours, confectioners’ sugar, and softened butter– to make a “dough”.

Press “dough” into the bottom of the 9×13″ baking pan, relatively evenly (maybe 3/4-1/2″ thick. Be sure to crimp down the edges with a clean knife so the thickness of dough is not tapered thin.

Bake crust at 350F until light brown, about 20-25 minutes. Keep oven on….

Grate 1-2 tablespoons lemon, lime or tangerine zest.

We have Meyer lemons which have such a mild sweet rind that I experimented by mincing, instead of zesting them. I had juiced the fruits previously, and had frozen the rinds for zesting and for making limoncello (that’s another fantastic blog by SavorSisterCarolyn!) . For the top-layer mixture I used 3 tablespoons of minced Meyer lemon rind.

While crust is baking, beat together the top-layer ingredients: sugar, citrus juice, minced or zested rind, 4 eggs, and 1/4 cup flour as thickener. (If you are using a pyrex bake pan, make sure this mixture is warm enough so as not to shock the hot pyrex when poured on crust.)

When crust is light brown and done, bring out of the oven. Pour top-layer mixture onto the crust.

To provide festive decoration and texture, I garnished the top with saguaro fruit collected last June, frozen and now thawed.

Return the now double-layered pan back into oven. Continue baking for another 20-25 or until top layer “sets” firmly.

When done, place on raised rack to cool evenly. Dust the top with powdered sugar.

When cool, separate crust from edge with sharp knife to make removal easier. Slice into small squares. These bars are so deliciously RICH –small is better!

Good and gooey –with that wonderful mesquite flavor, the crunch of saguaro seed,

…and the internalized hope that–with this–we can let the desert plants know how important they are to us!

Enjoy a cold-weather tea-time, a citrus harvest with purpose, or a Thanksgiving dessert made with your own variation on this Citrus Bar treat!

As winter festivities draw near, for more great ideas….check out our earlier blog post Southwest Style Holiday Buffets.

A joyous holiday to all from Tia Marta!

[Mesquite flour or saguaro fruit are special tastes of what makes Tucson an International City of Gastronomy! But these desert foods are not available just anywhere. Plan ahead–the way traditional Tohono O’odham harvesters have always known to do– future culinary opportunities will open to you if ye desert goodies while ye may, that is, when they are in season. Here’s a word of encouragemen from Tia Marta: Put it on your 2023 calendar now. Set aside time in mid-late June, tho’ it is super hot, to collect saguaro fruit, peel and freeze it in sealed container. Also mid-late June before the rains, gather brittle dry mesquite pods for community milling, and freeze the meal in sealed containers. In mid-late August, gather whole prickly pear tunas to freeze in paper and plastic, for juicing later. YOU WILL BE SO GLAD LATER THAT YOU SET ASIDE THESE DESERT FRUITS. Use the SEARCH box on this blog for instructions about harvesting a cornacopia of desert delicacies and staples.]

Delicious Beverages to Make from Pomegranate and Hibiscus

A lovely hot drink made from pomegranate rind and hibiscus flowers.

Hello! It’s Carolyn today and after nine years of Savor the Southwest, we have an updated look. All the old posts for wild food and Southwest specialties are still in the archives, although they all have the new look.

Today I’m going to talk about tea–well actually “infusions,” since tea must refer to the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. Fall is pomegranate season in Tucson and many people in the warm Southwest have the trees in their yards. Pomegranates are one of the Old World Mediterranean crops brought to the area by Father Eusebio Kino in the early 1700’s. 

Many people let their precious pomegranates go to waste because they don’t know how to get out the seeds and then how to eat them. An easy way to do this is to quarter the fruit and then submerge the pieces in a bowl of cold water. Pick the seeds out with your fingers. The seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl and the fiber will float. 

Pomegranate being cleaned in a bowl of water. 

The cleaned seeds can be sprinkled on fruit salads or squeezed for juice. But what of the peels? I was amazed to learn recently that the dried pomegranate rinds can make a great tea–whoops, infusion. The imparter of this old-fashioned knowledge was Josefina Lizárraga, who comes often to Mission Garden to share her tips for dealing with local fruit. She is affectionately called La Madrina del Jardín. According to Josefina, the drink is also good to soothe colds or flu.

Josefina with pomegranate at the Mission Garden. (photo by Emily Rockey) 

Another delicious drink can be made from hibiscus flowers from the variety Hibiscus sabdariffa, easily grown in the summer and dried for year round use.  Mexicans use it to make a drink called jamaica (Ha-my-ca). In Cairo the juice is heavily sugared for a popular drink called karkadai.

While either the pomegranate or hibiscus teas are good alone, try combining them for a fruity, herby treat. If you have mint in your garden, you could even add a few sprigs of that. 

Hibiscus sabdariffa, also called Jamaica.

Té de Granada (Pomegranate Tea)

Recipe by Josephina Lizarraga (as told to Emily Rockey)

Bring 2-3 cups of water to a boil. Put 1.5-2 teaspoons of ground pomegranate rind in a pan or teapot.

When water boils, pour over ground pomegranate skin. Allow to steep 10-15 minutes. The pomegranate will settle to the bottom. Alternately, if you don’t grind the skins, you can leave them in 1-2 inch pieces and boil them for 15-20 minutes.

Enjoy simply as it is, or add sugar or honey.

Drink anytime, or for soothing colds or flu, add honey and lemon.

Jamaica (Hibiscus) Tea

1 quart water

1/2 cup dried hibiscus flowers

1/4-1/2 cup sugar

Ginger slices, cinnamon stick, lime juice (optional)

Bring the water to a boil and pour over the hibiscus flowers and other flavorings you choose. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Steep about 20 minutes or until desired strength. You can also mix half and half with club soda for something a little fancier.

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Want more recipes for prickly pear and other wild foods? You’ll find delicious ways to bring these healthy plants to your table in my cookbook Cooking the Wild Southwest: Delicious Recipes for Wild Plants and The New Southwest Cookbook. The links take you on-line, but consider ordering from your local bookstore. They will love you for it. Interested in the history of food in the Southwest? A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage takes you through the last five thousand years, from prehistory through the challenges faced by today’s farmers.

Easy Summer Corn Treat: Coctel de Elote

Hello friends! Amy here celebrating the harvest on the Autumn Equinox.

At Mexican Raspado places, I never order the shaved ice with sweet syrup, fruit, ice cream, etc. I always get Coctel de Elote, a corn soup served hot and it is DELICIOUS even in hot weather. It can be made with very immature flour or dent corn varieties also known as starchy “field corn” varieties. These are the same corn varieties that are allowed to mature dry on the plant and made into tortillas, tamales and countless other creations. But elote for coctel de elote can also be sweet corn and that’s what I had from my share at Tucson Community Supported Agriculture.

I started by cutting the kernels off the cob, with a sharp little knife within a big bowl.

The kernels can be cut pretty deeply, and the juicy insides scraped into the bowl with the rest.

Then the kernels are boiled in just enough water to cover, with a dash of salt. The cobs go in to extract every bit of their goodness to the soup and to add their own distinctive flavor to the broth.

After simmering for a few minutes, the corn was tender. I poured my soup for one into a small jar to serve, leaving the cobs behind. Then, butter!

At the raspado place, they will ask what toppings would you like, but the only answer is everything, the works!

I started with some Mano Y Metate Mole Powder, Pipian Picante. I think any mole powder would be great here, and the traditional would be plain chile powder or a dash of hot sauce.

I then juiced a lime into the glass. But this wasn’t enough and I resorted to lemon juice I had frozen in quantity from the spring. Also, homemade mayonnaise (just an egg yolk with mild oil whisked into it until it is thick), store bought creama (Mexican sour cream). Basically, just keep adding and tasting until it is irresistible. Then a final sprinkling of fresh cheese (in this case, homemade goat cheese) sprinkled on top.

Enjoy with a long spoon in the short, hot afternoon.

Treat yourself day: Scallops with Mole Verde

Hello Friends, I’ve always wanted to try mole with scallops since I saw saw it in a book. It paired a very modern white chocolate mole with scallops. Wanting to treat myself to a special meal today, I thought I would give it a go with my own mole.

I started with Mano Y Metate Mole Verde powder, sautéed in mild oil and thinned with chicken broth.

I broke out a stash of wild rice that a friend had given me as a gift. It was collected on lakes in northern Minnesota and parched over a wood fire.

For a wild salad, I harvested some sorrel, parsley and garlic chives from the garden.

For bite I added some volunteer mustard greens aka “wild arugula” and for creaminess some avacado.

The scallops only needed a rinse, a pat dry and a sprinkle of salt.

I seared in part oil and part butter on a hot skillet

Which went FAST!!!!

I hope you take the time for self care and make yourself a treat today, too. Love, Amy

Mole Marinated Roast Poultry

Happy November full moon! Amy here today experimenting with roast poultry.

I wanted to make a roast chicken with mole as a seasoning, rather than as a sauce. Something exciting but still traditional enough for a roast chicken or turkey. Also, I couldn’t decide which variety of mole to use. So I separately mixed some Mano Y Metate Adobo and Mole Negro powders with olive oil and rubbed them one on each side of a chicken. I slid some under the skin and in the cavity. I sprinkled a little salt everywhere, too.

I trussed the wings and legs with dental floss.

I let it marinate uncovered in the refrigerator for 36 hours. Supposedly this helps the skin get crisp when baking.

In that time the mole dyed the skin a deep color, but it looked dull. So I moistened it with a little more olive oil and set in a 375 degrees F oven.

As it baked, I basted it a few times with its own drippings.

After it was almost to temperature (160 degrees F) I cranked the oven to 400 to crisp the skin for the last few minutes. Then I removed it from the oven, and while resting ensured the breast temperature climbed over 165F.

The skin was crisp and spicy! The meat was savory, flavorful and complex but less spicy. It was bold and special without feeling wild and crazy, or that the sides needed to work around the mole theme.

As for Mole Negro vs Adobo, I think the extra heat of the Mole Negro was my favorite, but the Adobo made the prettier crust and would be my choice for a serving a crowd.

I considered making mole sauce to spoon on the plate, but instead put some of the drippings into and on top of the mashed potatoes. Delicious!!!!!

The bones and drippings made an incredibly rich colored broth with hints of mole. It was spicier than I thought it would be. I can’t wait to make it into soups, the best part of roasting a bird. Enjoy the weather and happy cooking!

Mesquite Popcorn: Two Old Foods Combine for a New Snack

Native people in the Southwest have been growing popcorn and collecting mesquite pods for more than 4,000 years.  Not sure if they ate them together, but we can!

I have a simple, delicious recipe for you today, but first an announcement. It’s Carolyn this week thinking back to 2011 when I began my first food blog shortly after my book “Cooking the Wild Southwest” was published. I wrote the blog myself for a few years under the title “Carolyn’s Southwest Kitchen,” then thought it would be more fun for me and the readers if other authors joined in.  Writers have come and gone but today Tia Marta and Amy Schwemm and I are the regulars. Together we and our former colleagues have published 338 columns on wild greens, other edible wild plants, traditional chile recipes, delicious mole dishes and all manner of delicious Southwestern foods. Those columns will remain in the blogosphere and you can still search them. Recently, we’ve sent you a post every ten days, but knowing that everyone is so busy, we’re dropping back to one post a month. You will hear from each of us four times during the year in regular rotation.

Sprinkling mesquite meal on popped corn is so simple and so delicious I can’t believe I never thought of it before. It came about because I was giving a cooking demonstration to a small group and I knew they would get hungry as they watched me cook their dinner. The demo was in conjunction with my new book A Desert Feast.” It is my answer to why Tucson was named a UNESCO City of Gastronomy.  The answer is complex but one reason is that we are still eating some of the same foods people here have eaten for thousands of years. Throughout the dinner, I wanted to include a range of foods that had been eaten in the over the last 4,000 years in Southern Arizona and popcorn seemed like a good idea for a snack to keep my audience’s hunger at bay for the 45 minutes I’d need to put their complete meal together.  If I could season it with mesquite meal, that would help me tick off one of the earliest foods. It was a hit!  You’ll love it too.

Sprinkle mesquite meal on plain or buttered popcorn for a naturally sweet treat.

Mesquite Popcorn

6 cups popped corn

2-4 tablespoons melted butter (optional)

6 tablespoons fine mesquite meal

Put the popped corn in a bowl large enough to allow mixing. Drizzle on the melted butter if using. Sprinkle on the mesquite meal, tossing until well combined.

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Want more recipes for mesquite and delicious wild foods of the desert? Find them in my book “Cooking the Wild Southwest: Delicious Recipes for Desert Plants.” And if you want to know why Tucson was named a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, I tell the whole 4,000-year story in my newest book “A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary History.” Buy them from your local bookstore or order on-line.

Mole Nachos

Hello Friends,

Amy here, sharing a classic dish that I’ve made several times recently. Years ago my young niece showed me how she made nachos. I didn’t grow up with them, and had never before gotten into making or eating nachos. Ava’s authoritative recipe in the microwave was such a delight that afternoon. So even if I make my own version now, I always think of her when I do.

I like to start with corn tortillas. Thin ones are best, and if they’re dried out a little, even better.

I fry them in a shallow layer of neutral oil until crispy and brown.

Then sprinkle them generously with salt right after coming out of the oil.

Freshly grated cheese is a must. I like jack, but of course anything that melts is good!

My niece used leftover beans and so did I. These are mayocoba beans cooked with just water, garlic and salt.

For sauce and spice, I made some Pipian Picante with my Mano Y Metate mole powder and the oil left after frying tortillas.

Then I added some leftover carnitas to it!

Since it is chile season, I roasted some from the Tucson CSA over the gas stove inside. After evenly charring, I put them in a lidded dry, cold saucepan, allowing them to steam in their own heat. Then the skins slip off easily.

Tucson CSA has had a good heirloom tomato year, so they go in whatever dish I’m making on the day they are ripe. And I sliced some white onion thinly.

I put the tortillas, cheese and beans to heat in the oven.

A thin layer of tortillas makes for more edges that can get crisp, but a full sheet pan with extra sauce and cheese is good, too! After baking, I top with the pork in Pipian Picante, tomato, onion and green chile. I recommend eating immediately like I did with my niece, enjoying the outdoors.

MoleVerde Sweetcorn Cornbread

Hello Friends, Amy here with summer sweet corn and tomatoes! I canned some tomatoes and froze some corn kernels for later.

I started with my favorite cornbread recipe. When I make Mano Y Metate mole powders I use masa harina, made from corn that has been treated with lime (as in limestone, not the citrus) and coarsely ground to make tamales. It is too coarsely ground to make mole but it is the only one I can get non-GMO in small quantities. I only need a couple 50 pound bags a year, not a pallet of 50 pound bags at once! So I sift it for the mole powders, leaving me with surplus of very coarse meal that certainly has a higher portion of the germ and bran. That makes it more nutritious but not at all starchy. For cornbread, I use three fourths cup of this coarse meal and one quarter cup wheat flour, even though the original recipe does not call for any wheat.

In lieu of yogurt or buttermilk, I used one and a half cups fresh milk with a one and a half tablespoons cider vinegar. Also a tablespoon mesquite honey from Sleeping Frog Farm, an egg, a quarter teaspoon each of salt and baking soda.

I like crust. So I start by preheating an eight inch skillet (or any baking pan, it does not have to be cast iron to be improved by preheating) at 425 degrees. When it is to temperature, I let 2 tablespoons oil or lard melt in the pan. Butter works too but it does get very toasty. My friend rendered this lard from a local pig.

For the best crust, I put the oiled pan back in the very hot oven. When the oil is to temperature, I pour the batter in the pan and it immediately bubbles and puffs!

Tucson CSA has not shared any green chile, yet, but hopefully it will very soon. Inspired by Mole Dulce dry sprinkled on brownies, I sprinkled the top of the cornbread with Mole Verde powder.

Also, fresh tomato slices, for color. It’s been a good year for tomatoes at Crooked Sky Farms, lots of heirlooms and Romas.

After 20 something minutes in the oven, it was golden. No need for a toothpick test here! Spicy crusty exterior and creamy sweet corn studded interior.

Breakfast outside on a steamy desert morning, watching the plants in the yard grow explosively with the summer rains.

Brown butter pecan ice cream

Hello friends, happy summer. Amy here, sharing a dream come true: goat sitting! Friends that were home all last year became new goat parents during quarantine, but are finally traveling and busy again. Ten years ago I co-milked a huge mama goat in my neighborhood with three other families. Eventually the goats moved to the grassland southeast of Tucson but sharing the responsibilities of milking twice a day suits me well.

Lyric is a miniature milk goat that lives a mile from my house. Her baby Skunky was born in February completely black and white, like a spotted skunk. Twice a day they go on guided foraging excursions in their urban neighborhood. Lyric is easy going, but Skunky gets stir crazy without her walks.

While Lyric is the easiest going goat imaginable, it still takes all my concentration and both hands to milk. I’ll have more photos someday. Lyric provides two cups twice a day, so I’m freezing it, saving up to make cheese. But a batch of ice cream only takes a pint!

I didn’t want to buy cream and I didn’t want rock hard ice milk. Wondering if I could add enough butter to make it work, I found this recipe and adapted it to make butter pecan. I started with just over 2 cups milk, a scant 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder (ground vanilla pods) and 1/8 teaspoon salt over low heat.

I separated 4 room temperature egg yolks and used the whites for another meal.

After mixing a small amount of the hot milk to the yolks, I added the mix to the pot. I stirred while heating slowly until the mixture was barely thickened. Then I strained the thin custard to remove any traces of egg white and cooled it somewhat in the refrigerator.

Meanwhile, I made the flavor. A friend from Bisbee gave me pecans from her tree.

I browned 5 tablespoons unsalted butter! (Remember, this is making it like ice CREAM instead of ice MILK.) Then I added over half a cup of broken pecans to toast in the butter. Yes, it smelled as good as it looks.

I added the slightly cooled custard to the browned liquid butter.

and poured the whole into a little electric ice cream maker. Some butter did solidify into tiny bits, which remained in the finished product. But the nutty butter pieces combined with the nut pieces and it is actually a DELICIOUS result. Rich and flavorful.

Soon it firmed up to soft serve. After a time in the freezer, it made perfectly delicious, not too hard. ice cream.

Enjoy!

Sprouted White Sonora Wheat-berry Mesquite Brunch-cake

White Sonora wheat-berry sprouts in a mesquite coffee cake makes a festive local brunch treat–and celebrates May-June harvests in the Sonoran Desert!

With the local Baja Arizona heirloom wheat harvest of White Sonora completed at Mission Garden at the living history San Ysidro Fiesta (May 22, 2021), and with the organic White Sonora wheat harvest still happening at BKW Farms in Marana–AND with the mesquite pods beginning to ripen all over the desert– now is a great time to celebrate both harvests in one delightful coffee cake!

Tia Marta here with a fun recipe that heralds the upcoming Mesquite Milling event Saturday, June 26, 2021, at Mission Garden. Mark your calendar for this special morning to bring your fresh-picked, dry, cleaned pods to be milled by one of possibly three hammer-millers into wonderful flour to freeze and use all year long. Check www.missiongarden.org for details and instructions for harvesting. (While you are in your calendar be sure to note mid-May of 2022 for the next year’s San Ysidro Fiesta–not to miss.)

Head over to Mission Garden or order online from NativeSeedsSEARCH to purchase whole white Sonora wheat-berries. (They, of course, are not really berries–they are kernels of the ancient low-gluten wheat that Padre Kino and other early missionaries brought to the Southwest, conserved by NativeSeedsSEARCH.)

To sprout wheat-berries, soak them overnight, then sprout for 2 more days by running fresh water over them and draining them about 3 times per day until tiny roots or white grass blades begin to emerge. Don’t wait–This white-tendril stage is the sweetest you will ever taste!! (Note–Plan your baking day ahead. If the emerging tendrils begin to turn green they will toughen rapidly. You can slow the sprouting process somewhat by refrigeration.)

BRUNCH CAKE RECIPE:

Blender 1/2-2/3 cup of sprouted wheat-berries with 3/4 cup milk (or buttermilk, or sour milk).

In a mixing bowl, cream together 1/4-1/3 cup sugar and 1/4 cup butter. Beat in 1 egg, then mix in the blendered sprouted wheat-berries and milk.

In a separate bowl, sift together 1 cup flour (I use white Sonora wheat flour but any flour will work), 1/4 tsp. sea salt, 2 tsp. baking powder, and 1/3 cup mesquite meal or flour.

(I’m using up my last year’s mesquite flour anticipating next month’s harvest and the milling event…)

Preheat oven to 375F.

Optional add-ons: Add 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or 1 tsp of grated lemon, tangerine, or other citrus rind.

Beat dry ingredients into liquid ingredient mixture to make batter….

Pour batter into a 9″ baking pan. Top with sliced fruit or your favorite desert delicacies (hackberries, chia, barrel cactus fruit slices and/or barrel cactus seeds….). Sliced bananas, apples, kiwi will all work fine.

Bake at 375F for 25 minutes or until cake tests done….

How delectable can it get…. when you savor ancient wheat sprouted to its most vibrant, life-giving potential, then you add the sweetness of nutritous mesquite flour from the desert’s back-40, celebrating it all in a fun coffee-cake? Tia Marta here hoping you can share this with favorite friends outside on a shady patio together!