Sonoran Native

Yellow squash blossoms with blue corn

 

Hello all, Amy here with my two little summer squash plants growing in the garden. 

They’ve been flowering beautifully, but I’ve only eaten one patty pan. 

Each squash plant produces flowers that make pollen (male flowers) and flowers that make fruit (female flowers). Each flower only opens for one day. On that day insects (or a human with a tiny paint brush) pollinate from one flower to the next, from the same or different plants, resulting in the famous swelling summer squash. Without pollination, the little fruit withers and dries. Looking at the stem below the flower is the fastest way to determine a fruit or pollen producing flower. Since I don’t plan to save seed and both plants are of the same species, I’m mingling pollen from the pale green patty pans and the yellow patty pans. I won’t see the difference in this year’s crop. Often pollen producing flowers bloom days before any fruit bearing flowers appear, so those are fair game to eat. Unfortunately, I also had many days with only female flowers and no pollen! I did not have any cheese on hand to stuff them like Carolyn used in this recipe, but I did have some lovely heirloom blue corn meal.

 

 

After dipping in beaten egg, I dusted the blossoms (a few male flowers from my Tucson CSA share and the females from my garden) in the salted cornmeal.

I also sliced a yellow crookneck from the share and treated it the same.

Then into hot oil…

While that was going, I RAN out to find something fresh to garnish this crispy little dish.

 I found garlic chives, flat leaf parsley and a volunteer “wild” tomato I’ve been babying in a pot since last summer.

After a final sprinkling of sea salt, I ate it immediately, very hot! 

A delicate treat from the garden. There’s plenty of summer left to eat giant green baseball bats. 

Categories: Cooking, Edible Flowers, Gardening, Heirloom pumpkins & squashes, Mexican Food, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Call It Prickly Pear, Call it Nopal. It’s time for harvest.

Every year, for thousands of years, people living in the Sonoran Desert could count on prickly pear producing succulent delicious new pads this time of year. The native varieties of Opuntia have lots of thorns and it must have been a chore to clean them when all you had was a sharp-edged stone for a tool. Carolyn here today, recalling that one of the reasons that Tucson was named a UNESCO City of Gastronomy is that modern Sonoran Desert dwellers eat some of the same foods people ate here when they were just small family groups drifting through the area, long before there were even villages. That’s quite a testament to the staying power of these local foods.

You need to pick prickly pear pads in the spring when they are only a few weeks old. As they mature they develop a woody interior structure. You can buy fresh pads year ’round in Mexican grocery stores. They are grown by farmers who know how to manipulate their plants through trimming and fertilizing to produce throughout the season.

 

A fresh prickly pear pad, tender and succulent. Very obvious that it is new growth.

Interior structure of a prickly pear pad where the green flesh has rotted away.

Today, most of us who like to pick and eat prickly pear use the Ficus indica variety that grows taller and without big thorns on the young pads. It is native to areas further south, but it can survive here in gardens. Although the big thorns are absent, there are, however, tiny stickers called glochids, and they can be dangerous so you should wear rubber gloves when working with the pads. The glochids look like small hairs but they do have barbs on the end. You don’t want them in your finger or your tongue! I tend to just scrape the sides of the pad with a serrated steak knife, then cut off the edge as in these pictures. The edge has so many thorns it is not worthwhile to try to clean it so just trim it off.

Use a serrated steak knife to clean the thorns and glochids from the prickly pear pad.

My friend Chad Borseth takes a more nuanced approach to cleaning the pads, cutting out just the glochids. He sells lots of edible wild plant products on his website Sky Island Spice Co. and has made this video of cleaning the pads. If you want a better idea of just how to go about it, take a look at the video.

The nopalitos are done when they turn olive green.

Once you have the cleaned pads, you’ll need to cut them up into strips or small squares and cook them. Now you have turned your nopal into nopalitos. You can do this in oil in a frying pan, or follow the Rick Bayless method and oil them, place on a cookie sheet and bake until olive green. The cooking shrivels them and dries up the gummy sap that is so healthful but that some people find objectionable.

You can put the cooked nopalitos into a taco, combined with meat or alone. Or, if you are introducing them to people who might be wary, include them as a new ingredient in some familiar food.  In a previous post we gave a recipe for nopalitos in pineapple salsa which is a great side dish. It comes from The Prickly Pear Cookbook. 

Another super easy familiar dish is this apple and carrot salad, with, of course, nopalitos. It is adapted from Cooking the Wild Southwest: Delicious Recipes for Desert Plants, a compilation of information on how to gather and cook 23 delicious and easily gathered desert plants.

Apple, carrot, and nopalito salad is a delicious way to introduce people to their first taste of cactus.

Apple, Carrot and Nopalito Salad

1 small cleaned prickly pear pad

1 cup shredded carrot

½ shredded apple

Dressing

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 tablespoons milk

½ teaspoon sugar, honey, or agave syrup

Sprinkle of salt

Cut the prickly pear pad into very small pieces and bake on a greased cookie sheet in a 200-degree oven until dried and slightly chewy. This should take 15-30 minutes depending on how juicy the nopalitos are. Or put them in a frying pan with just enough oil to coat the pan and cook until olive green. The pieces will shrivel.

Meanwhile make the dressing by combining the mayonnaise and milk in a small bowl. Season with the sweetner and salt. Set aside.

When the nopalitos are chewy, add the carrot, apple, and nopalitos to the dressing. Stir and serve. It looks nice on a lettuce leaf.

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If you are interested in edible wild plants of the Southwest and Southwest food, check out my books Cooking the Wild Southwest, Delicious Recipes for Desert Plants, The New Southwest Cookbook, a complilation of recipes from the Southwest’s top chefs, and The Prickly Pear Cookbook, with great recipes for both pads and fruits. There is more information about them at www.cniethammer.com.

Buy copies on line or order from your favorite local bookstore. They will love you for it.

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Enjoy Ya Cholla!

With so much plenty around us in the desert–like this glorious staghorn cholla (Cylindropuntia versicolor)–2-leggeds can be rewarded while social-distancing with healthy outdoor exercise and super nutrition.  Read on…… (MABurgess photo)

The cholla bloom is in full swing!  The low desert in Baja Arizona continues to explode with color late April into early May, with several species of cholla cactus punctuating the landscape colorfully with a rainbow of colors-and a fiesta of flavor.  When the first flower buds open on cholla, traditional O’odham harvesters knew this short window of time is for feasting on this nutritious food, and for drying and storing enough for the rest of the year.

Tia Marta here to share creative and fun ideas for the generous harvest available without getting near a grocery.  For detailed “how-to” ideas, view this earlier SavortheSouthwest post and a short video from a  NativeSeedsSEARCH workshop.

Why harvest unopened buds? Note how loosely opening petals grab spines and don’t let go. After brushing and screening off spines, cleaned buds must be boiled or roasted before eating. (MABurgess photo)

Enjoy my article A Budding Meal _ Martha Ames Burgess EdibleBajaAZ 2014 explaining how Tohono O’odham Elder Juanita Ahil harvested cholla, or, check out www.desertharvesters.org for guidance.

Jambalaya a la Cholla made with andouille sausage, sauteed garlic and celery, cooked cholla buds, served with brown rice. Find great jambalaya recipes online–just add prepared cholla buds!

Jambalaya a la Cholla was our centerpiece dinner shared on Zoom with pals.

When you venture into harvesting, be sure to start with three awarenesses:  giving thanks for this plentiful gift from the desert,  watching for snakes, and checking the wind for where spines might blow.

These off-the-wall ideas for sure are not traditional ways of cooking cholla.  Hopefully these ideas can inspire you to get creative with cholla.  As desert dwellers we should all have a deep respect for this much ignored or maligned cactus.  Cholla reminds us that there is no time for boredom.

Try diluting the pucker-up sourness of sauerkraut by adding chunks of apple, caraway seed, and…tah-dah…cooked cholla buds for a wonderful addition!

Try this variation on a favorite comfort food–Add prepared cholla buds to creamed chicken or chicken stew.

Using a simple dill pickling recipe online, I packed 20-minute-boiled buds into canning jars with snips of fresh oregano and I’itoi’s onion from my garden, then filled jars with a cider vinegar and spice mix. After a 15-minute waterbath jars were ready for storage or use as gourmet hors d’oeuvres.

Deviled eggs made with chopped pickled cholla buds are a perfect hot-weather lunch or unusual buffet feature.  Try spicing up your deviled eggs with curry powder for a great complement to cholla!

If planning for future food is on your mind, consider drying your cholla buds. Compare sizes on my drying screen of freshly boiled buds (right) and tiny, stone-hard dry buds(left) ready for storage. If fully dried patiently over several days, buds will keep for years in a glass jar.

For the best in local libation to allay woes of social distancing, quaff a Sonoran quarantini made with Tucson’s ThreeWells Mt.Lemmon gin and garnished with a pickled cholla bud in place of an olive, plus a bulb of I’itoi’s onion. It can’t get more festively flavorful and local than that!

Read more about traditional cholla bud use by Native cultures in Dr.Wendy Hodgson’s Food Plants of the Sonoran Desert (University of Arizona Press).  Find more cactus cookery ideas in Cooking the Wild Southwest by Savor-Sister Carolyn Niethammer (also UofA Press).

Tia Marta wishes you happy cholla harvesting in our beautiful desert spring!

Dried cholla buds are available online at www.nativeseeds.org and at www.flordemayoarts.com.  You can find them also at the SanXavier Co-op.  For cooking with the sun on these hot days, order handy solar ovens at www.flordemayoarts.com or check craigslist for used solar ovens.

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, Libations, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Backyard Wolfberry Salsa

I planted a one gallon container wolfberry bush in a water harvesting basin on a dry corner of the yard in 2015. That first summer I watered it sporadically, then after that I left it alone to compete with the grass and weeds. Five years later, it’s a seven foot tall by seven foot wide bird sanctuary. Wolfberry certainly once grew wild on this land, in the floodplain of the Santa Cruz River, about a third of a mile from the current channel.

Actually I planted several species of wolfberry, and a Baja species has only lavender flowers now, but has a very long fruiting season.

This Tucson native Fremont wolfberry, however, has a short bountiful spring fruiting in years with good winter rains. If you look closely, you’ll see a few white flowers among the red berries.

The North American wolfberries are close relatives of the gojiberry from China and distant relatives of tomatoes. Wolfberries are slightly sweet but taste and look somewhat like little tomatoes, so are also called tomatillos.

Harvesting in the thorny branches is meditative to me, unlike for the flitting verdins working the other side of the bush.

In the absence of fresh tomatoes, I decided to make a salsa. Also in the yard are I’itoi’s bunching onion.

Our Tucson wild oregano, oreganillo, is also known as Aloysia wrightii or Wright’s beebrush. It tastes somewhat like Mediterranean Mint family oregano, somewhat like other Verbena family Mexican oregano species. It definitely has a lemony scent that I sometimes catch in the breeze before I spot the scraggly plants hiding in plain sight in the wild. The leaves never get much larger than this.

Putting all this together, I broke out last year’s stash of backyard grown chiltepin and the salt I collected a few years ago near the Sea of Cortez.

In the molcajete, I started with the chiltepin and salt.

The diced I’itoi’s onions

And the fresh wolfberries and oreganillo

When making Mano Y Metate mole powders, I sift the largest particles from the lime treated masa meal. I’ve been making this leftover coarse meal into a mush and frying it. From frozen to crispy in the time it took to make the salsa.

I ate in the yard, contemplating the bounty of the desert.

 

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, fruit, Gardening, heirloom crops, heirloom grains, herbs, Kino herb, Mexican Food, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Mexican Cornbread: Familiar, Comforting and Delicious

Mexican Cornbread goes with every meal. Great for breakfast, aside a salad for lunch, and the perfect accompaniment to a hearty soup for dinner.

In this food blog, we often challenge you with recipes using wild plants, unusual flavors, and special ingredients that will help you make great food with Southwest flavors.  But maybe this is time time for something familiar and comforting. Mexican Cornbread used to be in regular rotation on our dinner menu, but I’d forgotten about it.

It’s Carolyn today and this has been a head-spinning month for anyone in the food world. Which I guess includes anyone who eats, but especially those involved in getting you that food. First, I want to celebrate the incredible response of the Tucson restaurant community in the first American UNESCO City of Gastronomy. Many sit-down restaurants managed to pivot in a day to take-out establishments after our mayor declared they could no longer seat patrons. When hundreds of restaurant workers lost their jobs, some of their colleagues with funding from generous donors, stepped up to provide meals for their out-of-work buddies.

My friend Lorien who has a small in-town farm is staying away from the farmer’s market and instead is serving customers from the alleyway behind her garden. (Those are her chicken’s beautiful eggs in the photo below). This is just one example of how Tucson’s food community is adapting to the pandemic. My forthcoming book “A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage” is entering the design stage, but my editors allowed me the opportunity to quickly add an Epilogue discussing the heroic measures that help keep the food flowing in our city.

Lorien’s neighbor gets some eggs from the alley behind her Dreamflower Garden.

So, on to the recipe. There is a standard method for putting all the ingredients together, but I’d bet if you just dumped everything in the bowl at once and stirred, it probably would be fine.

Most of the ingredients for Mexican Cornbread are pantry staples.

Ready for the oven.

 

This recipe is remarkably forgiving. Since I store my cornmeal at the back of the fridge and hadn’t seen it recently, I was surprised to find that I didn’t have quite enough yellow cornmeal. I certainly wasn’t going to run to the store for one item, so I  filled in with blue cornmeal of which I had an abundance. I prefer to use whole wheat flour, but you might want to use white flour. You probably don’t have buttermilk. Instead add a tablespoon of vinegar to regular milk. It will help the baking soda to do its work.  Here in the Southwest, we are used to eating spicy food, so we’d use at least some pepperjack cheese and add some jalapeños. But the cornbread is delicious in the milder version as well.

If you live in an area where prickly pear cactus are growing new pads and you are itching to use them, feel free to add some nopalitos to this recipe. Here, in a previous post, are full instructions on how to prepare them.  Nopalitos will add additional nutrition to your cornbread.

Mexican Cornbread

1 cup cornmeal

1 cup flour

1/2 cup melted butter

1 tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

3/4 cup buttermilk or milk

1 cup cream-style canned corn

1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chiles (chopped)

1/4 cup minced jalapeño peppers (optional)

1 ½  cups shredded longhorn, pepperjack or cheddar cheese

Instructions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cornmeal, melted butter, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda.

In another bowl, whisk the eggs with the buttermilk. Add melted butter. Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients and mix just until blended. Stir in the cream-style corn and chopped chiles. Add jalapeños if using. Stir to blend.

Pour half the mixture into the prepared baking pan. Sprinkle half of the shredded cheese over the batter.

Spoon remaining batter over the cheese layer and then top with the remaining cheese.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until lightly browned around the edges.

Just out of the oven.

Unless you have a large family or are really hungry, you’ll have some cornbread left. This is a good thing. It makes a lunch salad a satisfying meal, it is great beside a supper soup, and any leftovers can be fried in a little butter for breakfast. Add an over easy egg.  Oh my!

Try frying Mexican Cornbread for breakfast.

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Carolyn Niethammer has written about the food of the Southwest for more decades that she is willing to admit to. She is excited that The New Southwest Cookbook has been recently re-released. The New Southwest Cookbook can help you up your game with easy but innovative recipes. The dishes originated with top chefs using familiar Southwest ingredients in delicious new ways. These chefs were well-trained and knew how to layer flavors to come up with either new spins on the old favorites or entirely unique ways of blending the iconic chiles, corn, beans, and citrus.  The New Southwest Cookbook can be ordered from your favorite bookstore or ordered from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or the publisher.

Categories: Mexican Food, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Rescued sourdough crackers

Hello, Amy here today in the waste not want not kitchen. Feeding a sourdough culture usually creates more dough than an irregular baker needs, especially baking for one. I never like to waste, but now I have an elevated purpose for my cause….

Since my all sourdough pizza experiment was such a success, I tried the supposedly easier task of making a crust from older, less active, refrigerated “discard” sourdough with added commercial baking yeast for extra insurance. The dough never rose AT ALL.

So I decided to make crackers. Good save, and at the first taste I was so glad that I had not salted the tops! Also, I discovered what may have happened to my pizza dough. The recipe called for weighing all the ingredients except the tiny amounts of salt and yeast. But I glibly went online for weight equivalents. This would be fine had I used my fancy mole weighing scale at work instead of my less precise home scale. The excess salt must have inhibited the yeast and sourdough. Anyway…so today I have crackers!

Basically, I rolled the dough very, very thin, cut to size and placed on a greased baking sheet.

I sprinkled the tops with either za’atar or with Mano Y Metate Mole Verde powder. The one on the right is Mole Verde (featuring cilantro, parsley, epazote). On the left is za’atar (a Middle Eastern spice mix made with thyme). Both have sesame and look so similar!!!!

After baking, the crackers were crisp. Unfortunately, there was no sourdough flavor, but the toasty wheat and the herbaceous spice blends were delicious.

To serve, I mashed back beans to make a quick hummus like dip.

A clove of garlic, a squeeze of lemon, a splash of olive oil and in place of tahini, whole sesame.

I topped with home cured olives and ate it all myself.

The next day, the less thin of the crackers were pretty hard. So they got crushed, mixed with toasted seeds, and served on top of a cream of cauliflower soup. It was an unreasonably good combination that stared with cauliflower stems cooked in leftover in pasta water. I’m not sure I could replicate any of this, but here’s hoping we keep each other inspired as we do with what we have. Love, Amy

 

Categories: Cooking, heirloom beans, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Herb-y Salad Dressing for Spring

Herbs, citrus, and a little onion and jalapeno make a sprightly dressing for spring greens.

It’s Carolyn here today to share with you what’s going on at my house. The lettuce in my salad garden is doing very well this year and we are eating at least one or two big salads every day. The homegrown greens are full of vitamins and flavor.

  Garden lettuce is full of flavor and vitamins.

I usually make a simple vinegar & oil dressing, but that’s getting a little boring. I remembered that The New Southwest Cookbook has a great recipe for salad dressing from La Cocina de Luz, a popular restaurant in Telluride, Colorado.  La Cocina de Luz makes the dressing with cilantro and lime and a hint of jalapeno, all distinctively Southwest flavors.

                                     Dill

                                Cilantro

I have abundant cilantro in my garden, although with the warming weather it is beginning to flower and make the little balls known as coriander which I will harvest in a few weeks. I know that there are cilantro-haters out there who think the herb tastes soapy, so I tried substituting dill in the dressing recipe. I also have lots of dill in the garden. It makes a dressing that is just as delicious in a very different way.

Herb Lime Dressing

¼ teaspoon minced jalapeno chile

3 tablespoons minced white or yellow onion

¼ cup fresh-squeezed lime juice

½ cup canola or neutral-flavored oil

2-3 tablespoons white sugar or agave syrup

½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup cilantro leaves or dill fronds

Combine all ingredients except herbs in a blender and process until creamy. Taste and correct the salt/sugar/lime relationship to your taste if necessary. Add herbs and pulse until the cilantro is in small flakes and evenly distributed. Do not over blend or you lose contrast. Serve within 24 hours over torn lettuce.

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Ready to expand your Southwest recipe repertoire beyond the basic enchiladas and tacos? The New Southwest Cookbook can help you up your game with easy but innovative recipes. The dishes originated with top chefs using familiar Southwest ingredients in delicious new ways. These chefs were well-trained and knew how to layer flavors to come up with either new spins on the old favorites or entirely unique ways of blending the iconic chiles, corn, beans, and citrus.  The New Southwest Cookbook can be ordered from your favorite bookstore or ordered from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or the publisher.

 

 

Categories: Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Mole Negro Sourdough Pizza

Hello, Amy here with a results of a fun project. My Uncle Bob recently gave my mom a sourdough culture, and she sent the whole thing home with me.

The pancakes and multigrain crepes were delicious! But now that I have this culture going, what I really wanted was pizza. After a few days in the refrigerator, it was sluggish. So, I fed it and fed it, every 12 hours for a week, until it was as almost as active as when it came from my uncle. The gift came with these instructions. Before each feeding, it looked like a flour and water paste, as expected. But after bubbling on the counter for 12 hours, it was shiny, stretchy, over twice the volume, and ready to make into bread!

I added water, salt and more flour to make a dough. Mostly white flour with a handful of whole wheat.

After the first rise, the dough was irresistible to fold down, and I forgot to take a photo. But the after the second rising (below), it was airy and smelled sour and yeasty.

Flattened into a round on a cornmeal lined surface, I let it rise again.

For sauce I used leftover Mano Y Metate Mole Negro with turkey!

Then I topped it with grated jack cheese (because that’s what I already had on hand) and thoroughly preheated the oven to blasting (500 degrees F).

After carefully sliding it onto a preheated cast iron griddle in the oven and baking for about 15 minutes…

The smell was unbelievable!!!!!

To restrain myself from burning my mouth, I focused on garnishing it. Cilantro from the garden is just barely ready to harvest.

I also sliced some white onion and cut the pie to hasten the cooling.

The crust was puffy with bubbles, sour and delicious, and the crust so crisp the slice did not flop. Plus the coarse cornmeal gave additional crunch and taste.

Thanks for the inspiration, Uncle Bob!

 

Categories: Cooking, Gardening, Mexican Food, Sonoran Native, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Savor–with your Sniffin’ Sense!

I was down on hands and knees in olfactory ecstasy, to sniff my lonesome but persistent hyacinth’s sweet bouquet.  Each February it appears in my little orchard’s undergrowth to remind me that spring is on the way. (MABurgess)

I was out on a trail and caught a whiff of what seemed like Avon perfume ahead. Surprised to find that it was blooming mistletoe in the palo verde tree!

You know spring is springing when a waft of sweet scent catches you unaware.  What a great way to SAVOR THE SOUTHWEST!  Tia Marta here to share some olfactory sensations and some ideas for carrying them to your breakfast table or teatime in an aromatic cup.

Mescalbean is a favorite ornamental from the Chihuahuan Desert planted in my Southern Arizona garden. Last night, walking from the driveway I was hit by the scent of grape Kool-aid. Finally traced it to the nocturnally-active flowers of this beautiful “Texas mountain laurel.”

I first met lemongrass on an adventurous trip in central Sonora.  As we walked by a kitchen garden in the lovely Rio Sonora town of Banamichi, an elderly gardener hailed us, inviting us in for a cup of the most refreshing tea–té de limón.  Inspired by her, I’ve been growing it in my own kitchen garden ever since.  I love to snip it to steep and serve as a quick pick-me-up tea on a cool day.  With a few sprigs bundled and cooked in a pot of whole chicken soup, it makes the best lemon-chicken you ever tasted!  Lemongrass is the gift that keeps on giving; it multiplies, and plants can be gladly shared.

My lemongrass made it through the winter freezes and is rich with concentrated lemon essence.

 

Te de limon has a blast of lemon flavor and is full of nutrition–no need to even add sweet.  It is packed with vitamins A, C, and B complex, plus calcium, magnesium, potassium and other important trace minerals.

Scratch the rind of a lemon–especially a Meyer–and your sniff sense will soar into heaven. Add a wedge of lemon rind or tangerine rind to hot tea. Or harvest a couple of young leaves for a simply fine herbal tea!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steep 3-5 fresh young leaves of a lemon tree, tangerine or lime tree for a gentle no-caffein tea. Its aroma is a soothing gift….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was Magdalena Mahieux, at her family’s farm west of Hermosillo, who introduced me to té de oja.  For breakfast she instructed me how to go harvest my own fresh leaves for morning tea from their lime tree.  Come to find out it is not only refreshing, it is a traditional medicine for calming nervousness and insomnia when made in concentration.

Flowers of our native Goodding’s verbena are sending out their sweetness into the desert air. Soon they will form round mounds of lavender in arroyos and along the highway.

Harvest the fragrant flower stalks of Goodding’s verbena for a calming tea. It can a soothing “slow-down” for active children or adults!

 

 

 

 

Goodding’s verbena is a delightful addition to your garden–and to your olfactory enjoyment.  It is a native (not related at all to lemon verbena) that will re-seed itself to return year after year with its glorious long-lasting lavender color and sweet scent.

Happy sniffing into spring as you savor the Southwest with all your senses!

Tia Marta’ artwork and heirloom foods can be found at www.flordemayoarts.com.  For native desert plants go to Desert Survivors Nursery , www.desertsurvivors.org.

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Cooking, herbs, medicinal plant, Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

Green Chile Makes Zippier Mac n’ Cheese

A recent discussion somewhere on social media had people recalling their favorite foods as kids. For many, it was macaroni and cheese. Carolyn here today recalling that when my dad worked late, my mom would let me and my brother choose what we wanted for dinner. It was always macaroni and cheese. Specifically Kraft macaroni and cheese in the blue box. Recently when planning a kid-friendly dinner for my 4-year-old nephew I remembered my own childhood and made macaroni and cheese, but from scratch. He wouldn’t eat it, didn’t even recognize it. Not like what he gets at daycare. Not like the stuff in the box.

If you have moved beyond daycare food, this version of the old favorite includes ingredients that raise the flavor level many notches. It is almost  impossible to eat just one serving. The roasted poblano chiles add a deep chile flavor that isn’t too spicy. The recipe originated with Chef Robert McGrath at Roaring Fork restaurant in Scottsdale and is included in the recently re-released New Southwest Cookbook. that includes dozens of recipes that bring Southwest flavors to salads (Chile Lime Dressing), entrees (Pork with Prickly Pear Glaze), and desserts (Pumpkin Flan) . This mac n’ cheese recipe takes a little more time than dumping out the box, but it is so worth it.

Poblano chiles are broader and fleshier than the more widely available Anaheims. Roast them on a grill or under a broiler until blistered black, then transfer to a lidded casserole dish or plastic bag to steam before peeling and removing the seeds .If you have fresh corn on the cob, roast it along with the chiles. If not, canned or frozen kernels will do fine.

Roast chiles on a grill or under a broiler until all skin is blistered.

 

Open chiles and clean out seeds and ribs. Chop until you have a puree.

Chop chile flesh until you have a puree.

This is billed as four servings. Nobody eats just one serving so plan accordingly.

Green Chile Macaroni and Cheese

1/4 cup diced red bell pepper

1/2 cup sweet corn kernels

1/4 cup diced red onion

2 teaspoons chopped garlic

1 teaspoon corn oil

2 cups cooked macaroni

1/2 – 3/4 cup puree of roasted peeled poblano chile

2/3 cup grated hot pepper jack cheese

1/4 cup heavy cream or half and half

Kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Sauté the bell pepper, corn, red onion and garlic in oil in a medium heavy saucepan or deep frying pan over medium heat until the vegetables are soft. Add the macaroni, poblano puree, and jack cheese, and stir until cheese is melted. Fold in heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Ready to expand your Southwest recipe repertoire beyond the basic enchiladas and tacos? The New Southwest Cookbook can help you up your game with easy but innovative recipes. The dishes originated with top chefs using familiar Southwest ingredients in delicious new ways. These chefs were well-trained and knew how to layer flavors to come up with either new spins on the old favorites or entirely unique ways of blending the iconic chiles, corn, beans, and citrus.  The New Southwest Cookbook can be ordered from your favorite bookstore or ordered from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or the publisher.

 

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

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