Mexican Food

A Gastronomy Tour thru Time–from Ancient to Now!

Bedrock mortar hole where ancient desert people milled mesquite, legume pods, and other seeds  (MABurgess photo)

All around us in the desert–in our own Tucson Basin and beyond–there is evidence in the rocks that people long ago were gathering, processing, growing and eating bountiful desert plant foods.  The same plants (mesquite beans, amaranth, chia, corn…) are providing us today with a smorgasbord of yummy ingredients for new culinary creativity.  The pre-history and history of our diverse food cultures–not to mention the amazing inventiveness of our local chefs, farmers and gardeners–led UNESCO to name Tucson the first International City of Gastronomy in the US!

Tia Marta here to tell you about upcoming GASTRONOMIC TOURS created to celebrate our diverse local food heritage.  Are you ready for total immersion in culinary bliss?  Tucson’s Presidio Museum is sponsoring tours of our food heritage in the heart of Old Town.  Look for announcements about The Presidio District Experience:  A Progressive Food Heritage and History Tour.

Tucson’s Presidio San Augustine Museum–a living-history treasure at the center of downtown where visitors can envision life of 18th century Spanish conquistadores and their families on the new frontier.

In the style of progressive dinners or “round-robins” the tour will begin at the Tucson Presidio Museum, developing a sense of Tucson’s setting and cultures over the recent 10,000 years.  Participants will enjoy samples of traditional wild-harvested desert foods, then surprising Spanish introductions.  Next tourers venture forth afoot to taste Hispanic and Anglo family traditions plus nouvelle cuisine desert-style at some of our one-of-a-kind historic restaurants.  Past meets present in a symphony of taste sensations with spirits, entree, bebidas or dessert at each new venue.

These tours are educational-plus!  Feeding not only body and satisfaction-center, knowing Tucson’s gastronomic history feeds the mind and soul as well.  Tours are scheduled for Sunday afternoon, March 25, April 8, 15 or 29, from 1pm-3:45pm.  Check out , go to the event calendar and click on Heritage Tour for details and registration for each date.

Seedlings of heirloom white Sonora wheat seed from NativeSeeds/SEARCH and BKWFarms, planted early Feb and gladly doused by mid-February rains, growing rapidly, to be harvested in May (MABurgess photo)

Now, with the goal of merging plant knowledge with many food cultures into one tasty recipe, I’d like to share a quick and easy idea to enhance a pot luck or dinner for a few:  Muff’s Multi-Heritage Biscuits. 

A traditional milling of amaranth with stone mano on a metate.  Today, hard amaranth seed can be easily ground in a grain mill or coffee mill.  Traditional Tohono O’odham gatherers ate “rain spinach” or juhuggia i:wagi (Amaranthus palmeri) when summer rains started, then harvested these ollas of small seeds from the spiny stalks later when the weeds dried.   Plan to harvest your wild amaranth (aka pigweed) seed next September if monsoon rains are good.  Amaranth grain is 15-18% protein and high in iron, fiber and phytonutrients!  (MABurgess photo)

One of many species of Sonoran Desert saltbush, traditionally used by Tohono O’odham.  It can be dried and pulverized as baking powder. (Atriplex hymenolytra) (MABurgess photo)

Bringing together Amaranth, Mesquite, and sea salt from Tohono O’odham traditional fare, and Hispanic White Sonora Wheat introduced by Missionary Padre Kino, in a very Anglo-style biscuit from my Southern background,  here is a fast, tasty, local and nutritious complement to any meal:

Muff’s Multi-Heritage Biscuits 

You will need:

1/2 cup mesquite flour [from NativeSeedsSEARCH or desert]

1/2 cup amaranth flour [home-milled from NativeSeedsSEARCH’s whole grain, or Bob’s Red Mill amaranth flour]

1 cup white Sonora wheat flour (or Pima Club wheat flour)  [from Ramona Farms, San Xavier Coop Association, or NativeSeedsSEARCH]

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp sea salt

1/3 cup butter

3/4 cup milk (or sour milk, rice milk, soy milk)

Mixing organic white Sonora wheat flour from BKWFarms, plus amaranth flour, roasted mesquite flour, and butter for Muff’s Mixed Heritage Grain Biscuits (MABurgess photo)

Preheat oven to 450 degreesF.  [You can use a solar oven but it will not get quite that hot.  Solar biscuits come out harder–reminiscent of cowboy hard-tack.]. Sift together flours, baking powder, and sea salt.  Cut in the butter to small pellet size.  Add milk.  Stir until soft dough forms.  Either drop by spoonfuls onto cookie sheet for “bachelor biscuits” OR, turn the dough ball out onto a floured board.  Knead a few turns.  Pat or roll lightly to about 1/2-inch thickness.  Use any shape cookie cutter to form biscuits–small for bite-size, large for cowboys, initialed for kids.  Bake on ungreased cookie sheet 12-15 minutes until barely golden.  Serve hot, rejoicing in the diversity of heritage foods still available from local farmers or in nearby desert!

Rolling out mesquite, amaranth, white Sonora wheat biscuit dough with Mayo Indian palo chino rolling pin purchased from NativeSeedsSEARCH (MABurgess photo)

Muff’s Mixed Heritage Grain (Mesquite-Amaranth-White Sonora Wheat) Biscuits hot from the oven (MABurgess photo)










A landmark in the heart of Tucson’s Old Town, this restaurant, shops and music venue occupy the oldest existing structure in the neighborhood, across Court Street from Tucson Presidio Museum

Two heirloom wheat flours introduced by Missionaries (White Sonora “S-moik Pilkan” and Pima Club “Oras Pilkan”) grown by a traditional Piman farmer at Ramona Farms; also grown at San Xavier Coop Association and organically at BKWFarms Inc in Marana (available at NativeSeeds/SEARCH store)               (MABurgess photo)











You can find many traditional desert foods and artworks depicting these botanical and culinary treasures at   Flor de Mayo native heritage foods can be purchased at ArtHouse.Centro in Old Town Artisans at LaCocina Courtyard, NativeSeeds/SEARCH store and online catalog, at Tumacacori National Historic Site, Tucson Presidio Museum Shop, Saguaro National Park Bookstore, and Tohono Chul Park Museum Shop.  Join us at Mission Garden ( Saturday, March 31, 2018 for a public tour by Herbalist Donna Chesner and ethnobotanist Martha Ames Burgess about Desert Foods as Medicine.

Hoping to see you in Old Town for a gastronomic tour this spring! Plan now for some of that immersion experience in local culinary bliss….


Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, heirloom crops, heirloom grains, Mexican Food, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, White Sonora wheat | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Black Bean Mole Negro

Hello, Amy here on a cool, rainy day in Tucson! For an upcoming potluck, my classmates have requested I bring a dish with “my spices”. For this group, it needs to be vegetarian, so I’m making my friend Barb’s black bean, sweet potato dish. She says it’s her mix of a couple recipes, a stew and a chili. It is always a hit and I know it will wait patiently in a slow cooker from morning until lunch break.

I started with a collection of veggies from my Tucson CSA share and a tin of Mano Y Metate Mole Negro.

In the fall Crooked Sky Farms sent us dry beans, and roasted chiles that I squirreled away in the freezer. Recently the shares have included Beauregard sweet potatoes, yellow onion, cilantro, I’itoi onion, and bountiful celery! Normally I love celery leaves, but I used very few today because these were so strong. I’ll dry them to use as a seasoning.

Once defrosted, I peeled, stemmed and seeded the chiles, saving all the juice.

I started by cooking the onion in oil. Then went in a clove of garlic and the celery, sweet potato, and chile. After all was soft and starting to brown, I added a tin of Mole Negro.

When all was smelling delicious, I added a can of tomatoes and some water.

Previously, I had sorted and soaked a pound of beans. I cooked them in a slow cooker until tender.

Then into the veggies with the cooked beans and all their broth. Simmer for a bit, salt to taste, and done! Garnish with cilantro and I’itois.


Categories: Cooking, heirloom beans, heirloom crops, herbs, Mexican Food, Sonoran herb, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Easy Homemade Chorizo, Vegan Cauliflower or Traditional

Cauliflower chorizo on bean tosdada

Hello, Amy here on a cold sunny day looking for spicy comfort food. I remember my grandfather made huge batches of great homemade chorizo, usually from beef, and froze it in half or quarter pound balls for use later. We had it for breakfast mixed into skillet fried potatoes like hash, or scrambled into eggs and wrapped in hot flour tortillas. Also, he would mix it into mashed pinto beans for tostadas.

It turns out that Mano Y Metate Adobo powder is nearly all you need to season homemade chorizo. I’ve made it with beef, lamb, a mix of pork and beef, or tofu with great success. Extra firm non-silken tofu, squeezed of excess water, was surprisingly realistic when well fried and scrambled into eggs.

But I recently heard of someone making chorizo out of cauliflower, and sure enough, a quick internet search turned up plenty of variations. Cooks added all manner of creative ingredients with cauliflower to simulate a meaty taste and texture. I happened to have a huge beautiful head of cauliflower from Tucson CSA/Crooked Sky Farms, so I simply substituted cauliflower for raw meat to start. YUM! While searching, I also found a dozen places to substitute cauliflower for other traditional ingredients. Potatoes, wheat, rice, look out!

The following measurements are strictly to taste, and you can always spike with some crushed chiltepin or hot crushed red chile.

I put about half a pound of ground beef with a tin of Adobo powder and two teaspoons of vinegar. Yes, the whole tin. If you use less, it could be bland. I did the same with a cup of (packed) cauliflower I had minced in the food processor.

If possible, marinate in the refrigerator for a couple days.

Then fry in a skillet until brown. The cauliflower needed quite a bit of oil to brown, the beef none. Salt to taste.

Then I heaped the cauliflower chorizo on a bean tostada, and garnished with cilantro and I’itois green onion. I’ll be serving that at a vegetarian potluck very soon!

Categories: Cooking, heirloom beans, Mexican Food, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Mole Dulce Latte and Hot Chocolate

Hello all, Amy here on bright, cold day. My friends at EXO Coffee make Mole Dulce Lattes, and they are amazing. They discovered Mano Y Metate mole, developed the recipe, and only later did we meet!

I can’t make coffee like that, but I wanted to make a hot drink for myself at home. So I decided to try Mole Dulce Hot Chocolate.

I started with half a tin of Mano Y Metate Mole Dulce powder (about 1 oz). In a dry pan I toasted it over low heat, stirring constantly until it got a shade darker and I started to smell the spices and cough just a bit from the chile. You can see oil from the almonds and the melting chocolate on the wooden spoon.

Then I added one cup of water and simmered for about 15 to 20 minutes.

Mole Dulce powder is made with A LOT of chocolate.  I use Xocolatl, a handmade Oaxacan drinking chocolate imported by a sweet Tucson family and available seasonally at the Rillito Farmers’ Market and online. (Tell the young salesperson Isaac we sent you.) The only ingredients in Xocolatl are cacao beans from Chiapas (60%), cane sugar, Mexican/Ceylon cinnamon and almonds. It is wonderful eaten straight, where you’ll notice its coarse ground texture, formerly found in chocolates like Ibarra, before they changed their recipe. Xocolatl also comes in 70%.

I melted 6 small sticks (about 125g) of Xocolatl Classic into the pan, making a glossy chocolate sauce, with some suspended solids from the mole and chocolate giving it interesting texture.

Then I added 4 cups of milk from Danzeisen Dairy from Laveen, Arizona. When I was a kid, my mom would buy raw milk with a cream layer in bottles like these from a drive through milk store. What the milks then and now do have in common are freshness, lower ‘food miles’ (less transportation fuel from farm to consumer), and returnable bottles with a deposit. Plus, the bottles are so pretty!

Now, for the frothy topping. The saying goes that as much work as someone put into the foam layer on the top of your chocolate mug, that’s how much they love you. I heard you could get this by pouring from one container into another from as high as you can, but I found this is messy, possibly dangerous and disappointing.

But there’s a tool designed for this purpose. My grandmother had a molinillo just like this.

However, she didn’t let us use it, just like the fancy dishes, the living room, or anything else that grandkids would certainly ruin or break. These are now available at big Mexican grocery stores, and are so fun to use! They have free-spinning rings and holes which act like wires on a whisk. (Of course, a metal whisk works at least as well.) To use a molinillo, put the handle between your palms, rolling back and forth to spin it in the liquid. Yes, this is when you sing the cho-co-la-te song, singing and spinning as fast as you can! Then sit and savor your warm, frothy, sweet, spicy, rich cup slowly.



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

Savory Cinnamon

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special for Savor the Southwest by Jacqueline A. Soule, Ph.D.

Many of our winter dishes include cinnamon. Cinnamon is traditionally spice used in winter cooking, like pumpkin pie, snickerdoodles, and gingerbread.  Growing up in Tucson, our hot cocoa always had a sprinkle of cinnamon in it.  I remember the first time I encountered “American Cocoa” made with tons of sugar and marshmallows.  Even at age eight I thought it way too sweet.  I prefer a nice “Mexican Cocoa,” and part of what makes it so good is the cinnamon.

hot chocolate 1058197_1280

Mexican Cocoa Mix
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup chopped Mexican chocolate (such as Ibarra)
1 cup powdered creamer
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
Blend this together well and store in a quart jar.
To make the cocoa, place 1/3 cup of mix in a mug and stir in 1 cup boiling water.

This can make a nice gift – place in a quart canning jar with a few whole sticks of cinnamon around the inside.  Those cinnamon sticks are great for stirring the cocoa with, and can be nibbled on for hours.  Avoid excessive cinnamon stick consumption however, it can have a laxative effect.

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The Botany of Cinnamon
The word “cinnamon” is directly from Hebrew and is found in the Old Testament – where “kinamon” is mentioned in the same context as the treasures of gold, silver, myrrh, and frankincense.  In those long ago days, the rolled “sticks” of cinnamon bark came overland from the rainforests of Sri Lanka on the backs of beasts of burden such as elephants, dromedaries, and camels.  It was so sought after, it was one of the spices that spurred world exploration.

The spice itself comes from the inner bark of an evergreen rainforest tree which is now grown in large plantations.  The bark is carefully harvested to not kill the tree. As the bark dries it curls into “sticks” or “quills,” which are used whole or ground.  Meanwhile, leftover parts and pruned branches are used to make the essential oil sold as “Cinnamon Oil.”


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There are numerous species of cinnamon.  The most popular for culinary use is the pungent and slightly sweet Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamonum zeylanicum).  With a very cinnamon fragrance, “Cassia Oil” comes from Cinnamonum cassia, with the immature fruits called cassia buds used as a spice.  Camphor from Cinnamonum camphora was one of the raw materials in the manufacture of celluloid.  Now camphor is primarily used medicinally.

JAS avatarIf you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my lectures. Look for me at your local Pima County Library branch, Steam Pump Ranch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including the latest, Month-by-Month Garden Guide for Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $26).

© 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 courtesy of Pixabay.

Categories: Cooking, herbs, medicinal plant, Mexican Food | 1 Comment

Roasted Veggies with a hint of Pipian

Happy Thanksgiving week! Amy here, planning the menu with the cooking team, which is pretty much everyone in our family. It’s fun to mix it up and offer something interesting for the big meal, but it can’t stray too far… on Thursday.

A few years ago my sister and I spiced the veggies with a dusting with Mano Y Metate Pipian Picante powder and a splash of Alfonso olive oil before going into the screaming hot oven.

This was a Tucson CSA mix of small Red La Soda potatoes, Glendale Gold onions, a Beauregard Sweet Potato and cubes of this unknown winter squash. If I had carrots or mild turnips, I would have added them, too.

Pipian Picante is medium spicy, but for a mild dish, use Pipain Rojo. The two Pipian are nearly the same recipe, but Pipain Rojo is made with Santa Cruz Mild Chile from Tumacacori, Arizona, while Pipian Picante uses Santa Cruz Hot Chile. This chile is fruity and flavorful. It’s bright red in color and the flavor matches the color. Of all the varieties of mole powder that I make, these two are the only ones that use only one type of chile, because this chile is special enough to stand on its own. By the way, if you’re looking for a fun road trip to take out of town guests, the little Santa Cruz Chili and Spice Sore is fun and right across from the mission.

Both Pipian Rojo and Pipian Picante are made with lots of pepitas, or pumkin seeds, along with almonds and a few sesame seeds. It also features plenty of coriander (cilantro) seeds and canela, the soft, easy to break sticks of Ceylon cinnamon.

Sweet cinnamon, sweet chile, and evaporated cane juice in the Pipian go great with the beautiful winter squash that usually looks sweeter than it is. And the kick in the chile is great on the sweet onion and sweet potato. The finished dish is unquestionably savory and spicy. I hope you like it as much as we do. Add a sprig of rosemary from the garden if you have it, just for fun.


Now, for Friday after Thanksgiving, I recommend Enmoladas with Turkey. These are enchiladas made with mole instead of just chile. Please forgive the candlelit photo, but this is all I could take before it was devoured! For the recipe, go to my very first post on this blog, and substitute leftover turkey for the amaranth greens filling.

Thank you to my family that helped me sell mole at the Desert Botanical Garden and Tohono Chul, and my friends that helped me fill and label tins to prepare for the events. Mil Gracias.

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, heirloom crops, Heirloom pumpkins & squashes, herbs, Kino herb, Mexican Food, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Easy to Grow – Caraway

Jacqueline Soule (Gardening with Soule in the land of El Sol) this week to share a wonderful plant to raise this winter.

Caraway has a long history of use as both a culinary and medicinal plant. Evidence of the seed has been found among Mesolithic (middle stone age) food remains, indicating that it has been used by humans for over 10,000 years. Caraway is also mentioned in the Ebers Papyrus, an Egyptian medicinal manuscript from 1500 B.C.E. Caraway was used in Roman cooking, and Olde English cooking as well, since it is listed in the “Form of Curry,” a cookbook written by Richard the II’s cook in 1390 C.E.

caraway seeds pixa 290973_1280

The entire caraway plant is useful. Leaves, roots, flowers, and seed are all edible. As a spice, primarily the seed is used; by Austrians in beef dishes; by Germans to season pork; by Hungarians in goulash; and by Swedes and Norwegians to flavor their bread. Caraway seed is also tasty in eggs, cheeses, baked goods, pastries, fish dishes, or with many types of steamed vegetables, in pickles, or in fruit dishes such as compote, apple sauce, or some chutneys. I mix caraway seed or leaves with tofu and stir-fry for a pleasantly different flavor. Others use the leaves raw in either green or fruit salads, or in soups and stews. The roots may be eaten raw, steamed, or added to soups and stews.

potatoes with caraway pixa 1638520_1280

With all these wonderful uses of the plant, you may wonder if caraway will grow in the southwest. The answer is a resounding yes! Start caraway seeds in October in your winter garden. Or plant the seedlings any month without a freeze. If you intend to harvest the roots, be sure that you keep the soil evenly moist throughout the season, otherwise they can be bitter. Caraway can be grown in the yard, in the oasis area of a xeriscape. It also does well in containers at least two feet deep.

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Ethnomedicinally, caraway is used to promote digestion, stimulate the appetite, and relieve cases of diarrhea. In most cases it is prepared as an infusion, and has a slightly sweetish taste to it. There is no known indication of toxicity, but all plants contain defensive compounds to deter pests, thus it is best consumed in small doses. People with food allergies to other members of the carrot family, such as dill or cilantro, should also avoid caraway.

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Caraway is easily grown, a prolific seed producer, and a delicious addition many dishes. Adding some caraway to your garden or yard is a green action. It will reduce, at least a little bit, importation of caraway seed from eastern Europe, the principle growers. It can also add a wonderful new flavor dimension to your food.

caraway and salt bread pixa231678_1280

JAS avatarIf you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my lectures. Look for me at your local Pima County Library branch, Steam Pump Ranch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including the latest, Month-by-Month Garden Guide for Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $26).
© 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 courtesy of Pixabay.

Categories: Beekeeping, dye plant, Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, herbs, Kino herb, medicinal plant, Mexican Food, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Wild Satisfaction: A Simple Sandia (Watermelon)-Pomegranate Margarita; (and for the Intrepid Sipper, Chiltepin)



Savor Sister Linda here on this beautiful, lightly drizzling, evening in the Old Pueblo. It is nearly time for the Wild Chile harvest in the mountains in Sonora. The rains have brought life back to the very parched land. I have to admit that I had begun to loose faith that it would ever rain, even though I am generally friendly with cycles in life and seasons.  It is so hard to watch the land get so dry that even it shows it’s ribs;  and not just the hoofed creatures that depend upon it.  Now,  because of all the reconditioning and regenerating brought by the rains, we’ll soon be harvesting chiltepin.  I’ll be be musing and meandering in this blog about the rare Wild Chiles,  and how they are harvested, dried, and used – and likely about how darned transformative it is to simply be in their midst. Today I am in the mood for something simple and satisfying to kick off the season. I look around my kitchen at the red, ripe fruits of late summer/early fall and have decided to craft an adult beverage. And because I always have chiltepin on hand, I added it to the mix of ingredients as well.

I am not at all sure how smart it is to write after sampling a few versions of this Sandia Margarita, but here goes. This Recipe is for 2 people and served in smallish glasses. It takes about five minutes to prepare.

Combine the follow ingredients:
1 cup fresh watermelon
2 Tablespoons fresh pomegranates
Juice of one fresh lime – or two if you like lime flavor.
1.5 OZ Tequila Silver (this amount is a starter amount – wax and wane as you desire. Use good quality tequila, you’ll feel better in the morning)
1 chiltepin
Blend, and blend it well.  Otherwise you’ll have glumps of sandia/watermelon which is distracting; and the seeds of pomegranate will stick in your teeth. Instead: blend it all until satisfyingly smooth. 
Put into beautiful glass and garnish as you would like. I garnished one glass with just pomegranate seeds. Another with Pomegranate and one crushed chiltepin on top.

Natures Beauty ….



Scoop put one cups worth of watermelon …


…. place watermelon in blender.


Add 2 Tablespoons of pomegranate seeds and juice of one fresh lime.


1.5 Silver Tequila. 



Blend and Garnish as you would like; pomegranate seeds add color and a nice crunch.


Add one crushed chiltepin for a surprisingly satisfying “heat”  that  balances out the cooling property of the watermelon.


Categories: Edible Landscape Plant, fruit, Gardening, Mexican Food, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: | Leave a comment

Huevos Rancheros with Mole


Hello, Amy here, full from a hardy brunch. Earlier this week my friend invited me to lunch at the Tucson Botanical Garden, where we enjoyed a lamb empanada, calabacitas tamal and huevos rancheros made with mole, black tepary beans and queso fresco. It was ALL soooo good, but I think you can guess my favorite!

Café Botanica is delicious, adorable (the old adobe Friends’ House, inside or on the patio) has really nice staff, and is open 8am-2pm daily. You do have to pay admission or be a member to get to the café, so we wandered, looking at plants in the shade and a gallery or two after our meal. Perfect afternoon.

I had never heard of huevos rancheros with mole, and I had to make it at home, often! Since I was only making brunch for two, I used dry corn tortilla meal I had on hand instead of buying or making a batch of highly perishable fresh masa. Maseca is a common brand name in Tucson grocery stores, or online.

Café Botanica used parsley in their masa for flavor and color, so I chopped a few leaves of quelites (young amaranth greens) raw and mixed them into the masa. This of course is optional, but quelites are so prolific this year with our above average rainfall this summer. Recently Carolyn used amaranth seed her in corn tortillas.

Add enough water to make a soft dough. Mix about a quarter cup meal to a few tablespoons water and adjust as necessary. If it is too dry, it will crack. If it is too wet, it will stick to your hands. Form into two balls, cover, and let rest for a few minutes. Then reassess the moisture.

Place the ball in a plastic bag and flatten with a tortilla press, a dinner plate or a rolling pin.

Thoroughly heat a comal (a dry cast iron griddle) over medium heat and put tortilla to cook. Flip a few times until both sides are covered with brown spots. No need to keep them hot, they’ll be fried!

Next I made a small amount of Mano y Metate Mole Dulce with oil and veggie broth. Other varieties of mole would work, and any broth you like. Since the dish was vegetarian, I decided to keep with the theme.

Café Botanica used black tepary beans, but I used a summer squash from the Tucson CSA. I had never heard of Tromboncino before this year, and we love the taste and its trombone shapes! As a mature, winter squash, it resembles its relative the butternut. Even as a baby, it is slightly yellow on the inside with tender skin and really nice flavor. I sautéed it with onion, salt and pepper.

Next fry the tortillas in a little bit of oil until beautiful brown and fragrant.

Fry eggs over medium, or to taste. These eggs were from a friend of a friend. The deep color of the yolk is due to the hen’s diet and I bet these birds eat plenty of fresh greenery and insects.

Assemble the dish: tortilla, squash, egg. You could melt some cheese over the tortilla if you want.

Finally, top with the Mole Dulce and I’itoi onion tops. My new favorite.

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

Blessed Monsoon Weeds!

Yikes–look what has happened all around us!

Verdulagas — purslane — exploding in the garden. (photo by ChadBorseth, NativeSeedsSEARCH store mgr.)

With our recent record-breaking rainfall in Baja Arizona, weeds continue to go rampant. Now, what to do with them? Tah-dah–Eat them before they eat up all your garden space!

Tia Marta here—admitting I actually don’t believe in weeds at all—Weeds are gifts to be used, relished gastronomically and nutritionally, admired as amazing strategists,… appreciated!  Weeds are much-maligned plants with a different way of surviving than our regular “garden variety” plant.  They know genetically how to hustle to “make hay while the sun shines.”  So if you need to deal with a bounty of weeds coming on like gang-busters in your garden or nearby in the desert, I’d like to share some fun ways to consume and internalize them.  If we are what we eat, perhaps their “energies” may be a form of speed on some ethereal plane.

Fresh young quelites  (Amaranthus palmeri), aka pigweed and carelessweed, popping up with summer rains–ready to pick!  (MABurgess photo)

Quelite, weed of many names– careless weed, pigweed, Amaranthus palmeri, known as “rain spinach” or Juhukia i:wagi to the Tohono O’odham–is popping up in great green swaths wherever rainwater has pooled. It grows faster than one can imagine. The scourge of cotton farmers, it is, on the flip side, a positive boon to traditional harvesters—Native, Hispanic, African or Asian. As climate change digs its teeth into desert environments, our native Amaranth “weed” holds great potential as a rapid-responder “dry-land” crop for the future.

When flower stalks of Amaranthus palmeri emerge, leaves toughen. Be sure to harvest only the tender leaves. (MABurgess photo)

Mature, drying Amaranthus palmeri image taken at Mission Garden. The seedhead is spiny but contains nutritious seeds! (MABurgess photo)

The nutrition of Amaranth, our rain spinach, is way up at the top of the chart. Consider that 100g of young shoots provides 42 calories packed with 3-4 grams of protein, 3mg iron, and 4-11 mg of available calcium.

If your Amaranth patch matures faster than your harvesting schedule allows, don’t fret–all is not lost. As long as there are soft, non-fibrous leaves to pick, they are fair game for steaming or stir-frying as greens or quelites. Later, when the arching spike of spiny seed capsules matures and dries, you can harvest seeds (carefully with gloves) and winnow the tiny grains in the breeze. THEY are fabulously nutritious too. Amaranth seed is 15-18% protein—far higher than most cereals. They can be cooked as hot cereal or ground into flour– full of healthy, gluten-free carbs and fiber. Amaranth weed seed baked into bread adds a pleasing and healthy crunch. If you want quantity and lack patience to harvest wild carelessweed, the NativeSeedsSEARCH store, 3061 N Campbell Ave, Tucson, has grain-amaranth for cooking or milling, also popped amaranth for adding to baked goods or confections for Dia de Los Muertos. [More to come on that topic in early November.]

Caution:  Here’s a trick plant that may look like Amaranth but it is a perennial that leafs out with summer rains, especially in the Tucson Mtns area–Ambrosia cordifolia–not good for eating–better for soil stabilization. (MABurgess photo)

Delicious and healthy grain amaranth and popped amaranth, available at the NativeSeedsSEARCH store for cooking.

Another “weed” that is probably at this very minute creating mats of green in your garden is verdulaga. Traditional Tohono O’odham know it as ku’ukpulk, and some gardeners refer to the same puffy-leafed ground-sprawler as purslane (Portulaca oleracea). It can be added fresh to any salad for a juicy, succulent texture and tang. And check the nutrients, especially if your body needs available calcium. Every 100g (a little less than ½ cup) of verdulagas provides 0.3mg iron, 19mg calcium, high omega-3-fatty acids and lots of vitamins A&C. Rinse your verdulagas in a bowl of water, then toss the water back in the garden where the many teensy seeds that have dropped to the bottom can go for a “second round.”

Caution:  Another “trick plant” is this purslane- look-alike called “horse purslane”-Trianthema portulacastrum. It will taste a little soapy if you try it. (MABurgess photo)

Picked and washed true verdulaga/purslane, ready to make into pesto (MABurgess photo)

Here is an idea for Monsoon Pesto made with tasty weeds! Pestos of course can be made with almost any greens—e.g. with kale in the winter—so why not use what Nature provides locally and now?  Both amaranth or verdulaga can be used in your favorite pesto recipe for a healthy and tasty Southwest vacation from basil. [A word of caution: If you harvest from the wild, be sure to collect at least 50 feet from a roadway, or upstream from any road along an arroyo. Know your plants when harvesting!]



2+ cups well-packed, fresh, washed Amaranth or Purslane greens
2-3 cloves heirloom garlic
¼ cup pinyones shelled (pine nuts), or any other fresh nutmeats, or soft seeds such as pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
2/3 cup cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt or ancient Utah salt, and ground pepper, to taste (all optional)
½ cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese

In a food processor, combine wild weed greens (Amaranth or verdulaga), garlic, and pinyones, and process on the  “pulse” setting until finely chopped.
With processor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until the texture is smooth and fine.
Add the cheese and pulse briefly just to combine ingredients.
Taste, then season with salt and pepper as needed. (It may not need any.) Give one last pulse after seasoning.
(Pesto can be stored in frig or freezer.)
Serve on crackers with cream-cheese, in pasta, on pizza made with local white Sonora wheat flour for another local twist, or simply spread on good bread for a fantastic snack, as seen below!

Monsoon Weed Pestos–The top row is Purslane Pesto with Pine Nuts. The darker green is “Pigweed & Pepita Pesto” made with pumpkin seeds–(here served on harvest seed bread squares)–Both Weed Pestos are SO delicious (MABurgess photo)

As you taste either of these nutritious weed pestos with eyes closed, you can SAVOR the wild Southwest bouncing back into its burgeoning monsoon mode and relish the desert’s rhythms. This is Tia Marta’s wish for you– Happy weeding and eating your way through monsoon season!

Amaranthus palmeri seedheads growing too tall for a selfie –but soon ready to harvest for seed

(You can read about Winter/Spring Weeds in my blog from February 14, 2014. Interestingly, the weeds that flourish with our Sonoran Desert summer rains in the heat are totally different from the species that sprout in winter with cool/wet conditions here. The metabolism of winter vs. summer weeds involves totally different biochemical strategies—tho’ they are all similarly nutritious.)



Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, heirloom crops, heirloom grains, Mexican Food, Sonoran herb, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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