Sonoran Native

When Drought Led to Famine, What Did People Eat?

Here in the Southwest, we’re heading into our second year of severe drought after a few years of normal drought. Because we humans live in the Twenty-First Century, we can live on food grown and imported from rainier regions or grown with water pumped from deep in the earth. But what about the indigenous people who lived here centuries ago, how did they cope with drought? What did they eat when the rains didn’t come or were spotty?

It’s Carolyn here today, and I began to look for some answers in the new book Famine Foods: Plants We Eat to Survive (University of Arizona Press, 2021) by Paul E. Minnis, an archaeologist/ethnobotanist. Dr. Minnis writes: “Food shortages of various kinds and severities have been a part of humanity for as long as humans have existed.” Later, he writes, “Out of these experiences, humans have developed a range of responses to deal with these problems including the use of famine foods.”

Although Minnis looks at how people respond to food shortages world-wide, I was particularly interested in what he had to say about the Southwest. Because famines only occurred every so often, there was the chance that plants that weren’t eaten regularly, but could be eaten might be forgotten. The Zuni of New Mexico embedded ethnobotanical knowledge by making plants integral parts of ritual paraphernalia so people had to remember where to gather them and they also included knowledge of plants in ritual liturgy. So even if someone had not actually eaten a plant, they had heard of it.

People facing food shortages also changed their minds about what they considered proper food. During the Second Century in Greece, peasants facing food shortages would eat acorns they had stored to feed their pigs. However on the California Coast, centuries later, Native Americans subsisted to a great part on acorns and considered them a fine and preferred source of food.

Here are some wild foods that sustained desert dwellers in Southern Arizona for millenia even in droughtrs: saguaro, mesquite, barrel cactus, and both prickly pear pads and fruits (pictured above). My colleagues and I have written about all of these numerous times over the years, not as famine foods, but as ways to bring the desert into your life.

This years saguaros are blooming further down on the arms. Botanists believe this may be related to the drought. More fruit means more opportunity for baby saguaros. (Photo by Doug Kreutz)

Another way Native Americans faced food shortages is what Minnis calls “social banking.” In 1939, the town chief of Acoma, a New Mexico Pueblo said, “The people of Zuni are coming. They have no crops. They are coming to work for us. Some day we might have to go to them when our crops are small.” The Tohono O’odham when facing food shortages would sometimes go visit their cousins the Akimel O’odham who had an easier time growing crops with the Gila River water. Because there were no draft animals, it was easier to move the people to the food rather than try to transport large quantities of food.

To learn more about how people all over the world have survived food shortages and famine, get a copy of Famine Foods and learn about human resilience.

Want to know more about history of food in the Southwest? My new award-winning book A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage covers more than 4,000 years of food history, from the hunter-gatherers, to the Early Agriculturalists to today’s farmers.

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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!

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, heirloom crops, heirloom grains, Mesquite, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, White Sonora wheat | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Coriander: Herb Gives Depth to Southwest Spice Blends

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Dried balls of coriander from my garden.

First, I’d like to welcome all of our 401 followers. The three of us-Tia Marta, Amy and, me, Carolyn Niethammer–realize that we write about quirky subjects and we will never attract the numbers of readers as do bloggers who concentrate on such things as chocolate and whipped cream. Here you’ll most likely find foods that hide their goodness beneath spines, spices that tingle on the tongue,  plants that have fed humans for thousands of years. We love having you as a community of cooks who love trying wild foods and getting creative with Southwest flavors. We come to you every 10 days with something seasonal and delicious.

It’s getting very warm in our Southwestern desert city and garden plants that don’t like hot weather are giving up. This includes cilantro that has been such a lovely addition to so many foods all winter. But it doesn’t go away entirely. First it flowers, then it leaves tiny balls that when dried we call coriander. Some people call both the fresh herb and the dried coriander, but each of them has a distinct flavor so giving them each their own name seems fair.  

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Fresh cilantro likes cooler weather in the garden.

 

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After the cilantro leaves dry up, the flowers produce these tiny balls that we call coriander.

Coriander combines beautifully with other Southwestern herbs, giving them a twang, a tiny bit of sweetness, and a depth of flavor that works to meld the other flavors. It is widely used in East Indian dishes.  Below is a beginning recipe, but you should feel free to customize it to your own taste. Then you can use it as a rub for pork or chicken, you can add it to sauces that need a little something,  use it while stir-frying veggies, and even just use it as a dipping spice for pita bread or fat flour tortillas.

Southwestern Spice Rub

Go very light on the salt or it can overwhelm the other flavors. Taste the blend without the salt first; you may decide you don’t need it. 

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic

1/2 teaspoon chile powder of choice

1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seed (optional)

pinch of salt (optional) 

Combine all herbs and flavorings. Taste and adjust. Use as a rub or a dipping spice.

Put a small puddle of good olive oil on a plate, dip your pita in the oil and then your coriander spice mix. Delicious!


Why was Tucson named the first US UNESCO City of Gastronomy? How about 8,000 years of food history, the first agriculture in what we now call the United States, the first irrigation, and the fact that people in the Santa Cruz Valley still eat some of the same foods that the Native population enjoyed all those years ago. You can read the whole fascinating story in my new book “A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage.” And find recipes for these foods in “Cooking the Wild Southwest: Delicious Recipes for Desert Plants.”

Categories: Cooking, Gardening, herbs, Sonoran herb, Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Quiche Sonoraine a la Cholla Bud

“Quiche Sonoraine” inspired by Quiche Lorraine–This perfect Sonoran Desert breakfast joins many tasty and nutritious elements from Baja Arizona! (MABurgess photo)

Delicious Cholla buds (ciolim)–aka Cylindropuntia versicolor–a desert staple, are plump and ready to harvest into early May. Don’t delay! Gather them with thanks before they open.

Tia Marta here to inspire you with another way to go out and appreciate our beautiful and bountiful desert!

(MABurgess photo)

Step 1–Harvest your Cholla

Cholla buds can be picked carefully using any tongs, here being plucked with traditional O’odham wa:wo “chop-sticks.” (MABurgess photo)

Step 2–De-spine cholla buds.

Step 3— Simmer 15-20 minutes. When softened and done, you can use them in a variety of dishes.

Today it’s Cholla Bud Quiche in 9 easy steps!

Step 4a–Preheat oven to 375F.

Step 4bMake your crust:

Sift dry ingredients then mix together:

1 cup white Sonora wheat flour

1 tsp sea salt

3/4 cup amaranth flour

1/4 cup mesquite flour

Mix in:

6-8 Tbsp cold water

Form into ball by hand.

Roll out on floured board.

Step 5–

Finish crust by lifting rolled dough using the rolling pin, slipping rolled dough up and into pyrex pie dish.

Pinch dough along the edge to create a “bowl” or dike to hold the custard mix.

Step 6–

Line the pie shell with egg white.

Step 7–

Lay three layers of quiche surprises:

-a layer of grated cheddar or other favorite cheese

-a layer of cooked cholla buds to fully cover the cheese and crust floor

-a sprinkle of broken crisp bacon (optional)

Step 8–

Make the custard mix with:

4 beaten eggs

1/4-1/2 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp I’itoi’s onions or chives (optional)

2 cups scalded milk

Pour custard mix into pie shell over cholla buds.

Step 9–Bake at 375F for 40 minutes or until quiche tests done. For a little extra kick when done, dust the top with a sprinkle of Mano Y Metate Mole Adobo Powder or chilpotle powder or Spanish pimenton.(MABurgess)
Enjoy Quiche Sonoraine–Cholla Bud Quiche –either hot from the oven or chilled. And rejoice in the many ingredients–wild-harvested or grown locally –that are available to us in the Sonoran Desert!

Caution: As you harvest your cholla buds do be on the lookout for spines and critters!

Soon you will be able to sign up for online classes in desert harvesting at Tucson’s Mission Garden. Check out www.missiongarden.org or contact the program coordinator.

As for ingredients, you can find dried cholla buds, white Sonora wheatberries for milling, and fresh eggs all at the Mission Garden entrance, Wednesdays-Saturdays 8am-12noon. Mission Garden is making plans for two important events–the San Ysidro Fiesta celebrating the White Sonora Wheat Harvest Saturday May 15, and a mesquite pod milling event TBA.

White Sonora wheat flour may be available through NativeSeedsSEARCH or Barrio Bread. Amaranth flour from Bob’s Red Mill is available at most groceries. Mano y Metate Mole Adobo and other mole powders are available via NativeSeedsSEARCH and many other Southwest specialty shops.

I applaud heirloom foods artists Amy Valdes Schwemm, Nancy Reid at NSS and Carolyn Niethammer for their cholla inspirations. You can find other fun cholla bud recipes by entering “cholla” in the SavortheSouthwest.blog search box.

Every bite of Quiche Sonoraine reminds us of the desert’s nutritional and delectable gifts!

Categories: Sonoran Native | Tags: | 2 Comments

Curry puffs with cholla and palo verde

Hello! Amy here playing with the cholla buds I just harvested! NOW is the time to harvest and our own Tia Marta is teaching a workshop THURSDAY, April 22 on Earth Day! Register here.

The unopened flower buds of the cholla cactus are a real favorite, and one annual harvest I collect every year no matter how busy life gets. It is a very narrow harvesting window, usually in April, depending on the year and elevation. Simply bush off the spines with a bouquet of creosote or bursage, pluck with tongs and boil in water for 5 minutes. They taste tart with a slightest hint of internal texture like nopalitos. But that doesn’t convey how delicious they are.

Plentiful in the desert, harvesting does not hinder its reproduction, which is usually from “cuttings”. But this is the first year my backyard had enough to harvest! Grown with no irrigation at all, it is totally sustainable, low maintenance agriculture. Plus beautiful in the yard!

There are countless ways to enjoy cholla buds, but yesterday I snuck them in Chinese curry pastries, a treat I remember from childhood, from the tiny Chinese bakery that was near my house.

I started with ground beef, onion and garlic. Of course, mixed veggies could be used instead.

Then I added beautiful Tucson CSA carrots and Chinese curry powder. I’m sure any curry powder would work perfectly.

I had some young foothills palo verde seeds from last spring in the freezer. I blanched the harvest and stashed for another day. Learn more about them here.

The delicious, sweet immature seeds taste like young green peas…and also take as much work to shell as green peas.

The filling complete, I folded a spoonful into premade puff pastry.

Gilding with beaten egg is essential to make them look like how I remember them at Lai Wah bakery.

After a few minutes in the oven, it smelled unbelievable.

I can hardly wait to make them for my sister and brother.

Categories: Cooking, Edible Flowers, Edible Landscape Plant, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Grapefruit and Poppy Seeds: Cooking from Neighborhood Abundance

Spring finds Southern Arizona desert communities deep in citrus of all kinds. Our grapefruit tree died but I never lack for grapefruit because there are so many productive trees in Tucson owned by people who either don’t like grapefruit or have way more than they can use. This recipe also uses poppy seeds that I grow in my garden. I planted some years ago and do harvest the seeds carefully, but once again, there are so many seeds some drop to the ground and carefully wait out the summer heat to reappear the next winter.

Grapefruits are abundant now in desert communities.

The desert Southwest is awash in citrus every spring. This includes oranges, grapefruits, tangerines and little fruits such as calamondins. Many folks who have a grapefruit tree in their yard find they have way too many, either because they don’t like them or the trees have produced way more than they care to eat. Iskashitaa, a nonprofit that organizes refugees and local citizens into harvest groups, gathers the unwanted fruit and distributes it to those in need or those willing to pay for it. This year has seen a really bountiful harvest. 

Zeru, from Eritrea, an Iskashitaa volunteer, is thrilled with this one-day harvest of grapefruit and lemons.

Our grapefruit tree died and our replacement tree hasn’t gotten organized yet to produce fruit, but the two grapefruit lovers in our household have been blessed by gifts from our neighbor and the Iskashitaa bounty.

This recipe for Grapefruit Poppy Seed Bread gets a little crunch from tiny poppy seeds. I grow my own in my garden. I don’t even have to sow them anymore. Plenty of seeds spill when we’re harvesting them and by January they are coming up in the lettuce garden. They destroy the tidy look of the lettuce in rows, but I can’t bear to pull them out, so by now the garden is messy with poppies, nasturtiums, and lettuce somewhere down under everything. 

Oriental poppies produce thousands of tiny seeds and self-sow easily. Those round objects are the seed pods and when they dry, it is easy to shake out the seeds. Always some fall to the ground and nestle there until they decide to grow the following winter.

This Grapefruit Poppy Seed Bread has a sweet fruity flavor but it’s hard to detect that it is actually grapefruit. So if you aren’t that keen on grapefruit, this might be a good way to use up some fruit.

Some tips before we get to the recipe. I always line my pans with parchment baking paper or foil to help get the loaves out in one piece. This particular bread seems very tender when it first comes out so the lining is important. 

Here’s a picture of poking the bread with a skewer to let the syrup penetrate the bread easier.

Use a skewer, a toothpick, or even a fork to make holes to allow the glaze to penetrate.

And the beautiful finished bread. This is what you are aiming for. 

Finished grapefruit bread with drizzled glaze

Grapefruit Poppy Seed Bread

1 cup butter, softened

1-2/3 cups sugar, divided

3 large eggs, room temperature

3/4 cup yogurt

3 tablespoons poppy seeds

¼ cup grated grapefruit zest

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup grapefruit juice

Glaze:

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 tablespoons grapefruit juice

1 tablespoon grapefruit zest

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, cream butter and 1-1/3 cups sugar until light and fluffy, 5-7 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in yogurt, poppy seeds, grapefruit zest and vanilla. In another bowl, whisk flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into creamed mixture.

Transfer to a greased 9×5-in. loaf pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 55-65 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl microsafe bowl, mix grapefruit juice, 1 tablespoon grapefruit zest, and remaining sugar. Microwave for 1 minute to make a simple syrup. Set aside.

Remove bread from oven. Immediately poke holes in bread with a fork; slowly pour juice mixture over bread. Cool in pan 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. The bread is very tender at this point. The cooling in the pan is a necessary step.

In a small bowl, mix glaze ingredients. Carefully remove bread from pan and set on a wire rack and continue to cool; drizzle glaze over bread.

A few pieces of grapefruit bread make a lovely breakfast or a treat when hunger gnaws in the afternoon.

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I’m thrilled to announce that my new book A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage has won two awards. It was named a Top Pick in the Southwest Books of the Year list and also won a PubWest award for design. The latter was particularly satisfying because it honored Leigh McDonald and Sara Thaxton who did the extremely complex layout that makes the book so visually stunning. It was as if they entered my brain and executed exactly what I had been hoping for.  Order your copy from your local book store, from Native Seeds/SEARCH, or on-line.

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, fruit, Sonoran Native | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Hot Cross Buns–Sonoran Desert style

Do you remember the old gradeschool song “Hot Cross Buns–Hot Cross Buns…”? It refers to a traditional Easter-time holiday bread served in many English-speaking countries. Variations of similar festive sweet citron breads abound on every continent.

Prickly-pear-glazed Hot Cross Buns for Easter breakfast–using wild desert foods in a spring ritual

Tia Marta here to share this old favorite with a Southwest twist–not your typical Easter bread, but indeed a celebration of desert foods and an adaptation to local cultures!

When I was young we always had Hot Cross Buns served at this time. I thought they looked like eggs with a cross on top.  Traditionally they were made with white flour, and citron in the dough, topped with white crosses.

Now, in my imagination, I’m envisioning how Tucson’s Presidio women of the late 1700s might have prepared celebratory sweet citron buns.  They would have used Padre Kino’s white Sonora wheat flour and perhaps citron prepared from orange or sweetlime rinds grown at the original San Augustin Mission Garden by the missionaries.  For sweetener, perhaps in place of rare sugar or honey, maybe they used syrup made by neighboring Tohono O’odham harvesters from mesquite pods or agave heart, or maybe molasses from African sorghum introduced in the San Augustin garden.

Cross Bun ingredients: White Sonora Wheat, amaranth flour, diced citrus peel, dried saguaro fruit, ManoYMetate Adobo mole mix spice, and agave nectar….add amaranth flour for flavor and nutrition

Inspired by these imaginings…. in place of citron I used my candied citrus rind from Tucson’s Mission Garden sweetlimes and Meyer lemon (see my post from Nov.2020). Then I got crazy and added bits and pieces of dried saguaro cuñ (pronounced choon) frozen from last summer’s harvest. For the dough, I made a mix of white Sonora wheat and amaranth flour.  For the glaze cross, instead of standard milk-glaze I used prickly pear juice (frozen from squeezed tunas last August) as the liquid to make a glorious pink instead of white design. I enjoy making yeast breads and this one is relatively quick.

 RECIPE–Muff’s Sonoran Desert Hot Cross Buns

Here’s what you will need:

1)   little bowl for the sweetener mix

2)   big mixing bowl for the sifted flour and dough prep

3)   small sauce pan to scald the milk

4)   greased baking sheet

5)   little bowl for making glaze

ingredients: 

2 Tbsp warm water (105-115F)

1 Tbsp active dry yeast

For sweet additions: ¼ cup agave nectar (or mesquite syrup), ¼ cup dried saguaro fruit with seeds– cuñ (or desert hackberries), ¼ tsp ground cinnamon OR ManoYMetate Adobo Mole powder mix, 2 Tbsp finely chopped citrus rind from your favorite local citrus (or rind-candy)

For liquid mixture: 1 cup milk to scald, 1 additional Tbsp agave nectar or sugar, 2 Tbsp butter, 1/4 tsp sea salt, 1 lg egg

For flour mixture: 1 cup white Sonora wheat flour, 1 cup bread flour, and 2/3 cup amaranth flour (OR 2 cups white Sonora wheat flour and 2/3 cup amaranth flour)

For glaze: 1/2 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar, 2 tsp prickly pear juice or syrup, and 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Directions: In a large (warm) mixing bowl, put 2 Tablespoons warm water (105-115F)

Sprinkle 1 Tablespoon or 1 package of active dry yeast.  Agitate and stir with wooden spoon then let stand to activate.

In a small bowl separately to make the “citron” sweetener,  mix:  agave “nectar” syrup, dry saguaro fruit, cinnamon or Mole Adobo, and chopped citrus rind.

Into a large bowl, sift flour mixture.

In the small saucepan, scald milk, then stir in 1 T agave nectar, butter and salt, then pour into mixing bowl to semi-cool. Beat in egg. (Next step with this liquid mixture….)

For dough: Gradually mix flour into liquid mixture. Mix the sweet ingredient mixture into the dough. Cover dough bowl with tea towel and put in warm place to rise to double in size (ca.35-50 minutes). Turn dough out on a floured board to knead several strokes. With buttery fingers, form dough into balls. Place dough balls (about 18 of them) on a greased cookie sheet to rise again covered, until doubled in size. If desired, brush dough with melted butter. Preheat oven to 425F while dough is rising.

Dough balls brushed with butter and rising

When dough balls have risen, bake 15-18 minutes until golden brown. While buns are baking, make your glaze: Mix sifted confectioners’ sugar with prickly pear juice and vanilla to a thick creamy texture. When buns are still warm, apply glaze in a cross across the tops, or another design of spring’s rebirth.

The Easter bunny joins us for breakfast festivities

Hopefully this colorful recipe and its ideas might inspire you—indeed liberate you!— to take your own favorite recipes and use wild desert foods and heirlooms in place of commercial ingredients where they easily fit.  Happy experimenting with desert ingredients!

Flor de Mayo white Sonora wheat-berries available at Mission Garden and NativeSeedsSEARCH

Ideas–There will be a harvest celebration at Mission Garden in May of Padre Kino’s white Sonora wheat–not to miss! Find White Sonora Wheat-berries available for milling (or for planting next fall) at Tucson’s Mission Garden and NativeSeedsSEARCH grown organically by Marana’s BKWFarms. Milled flour is sometimes available fresh from Barrio Bread. Amaranth flour is available from Bob’s Red Mill or Natural Grocers. For prickly pear juice, make plans to harvest tunas next August when ripe, or try Cherie’s Desert Harvest’s syrup.

Categories: Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Pipian Empanadas

Good morning, friends! Amy here playing in the kitchen, not a recipe in sight. With an idea to make empanadas, I started with dry corn masa meal (aka Maseca, Minsa). I don’t know where to get organic in small quantities, but I have it on hand that I use as an ingredient in Mano Y Metate mole powders. It is a starchy flour corn treated with lime and used for tortillas and tamales.

I added a pinch of salt and enough warm water to make a soft dough.

Then I kneaded in a splash more water to make a smoother dough.

It’s important to let the dough rest for the corn rehydrate.

For a filling, I made some Pipian Picante. Made with Santa Cruz Hot Red Chile, it’s only medium spicy. It’s only picante compared to the original Pipian Rojo made with Santa Cruz Mild Red Chile. My latest way to make mole powder into a sauce is to put the unmeasured quantity of mole powder into the pan, then add oil slowly until it looks like a paste consistency.

After cooking the paste, I added turkey broth and cooked turkey. Of course you could use veggie broth and a combination of whole cooked beans or vegetables you like.

I wanted a thick sauce that would not leak out of the empanadas.

Now that my dough had rested, I took a small bit and formed a ball. I placed it on sheet of plastic grocery bag, cut open and flattened to the counter. (If you wanted to put fun additions in to the masa, now would be the time.)

I folded the bag over the ball, sandwiching it between layers of plastic. Then I pressed the ball with a dinner plate.

Most plates have little rim on the bottom which makes for a uniform disk in a good thickness!

My guide is to add just less filling that it seems will fit.

After crimping the edges, I transferred to a hot, dry cast iron comal, flat side down.

Flip!

For extra insurance against raw dough near the interior, I covered with a lid to steam a bit.

If it was still doughy, my backup plan was to fry after or instead of dry cooking. But I didn’t need to do that, it was totally cooked and delicious.

It seems like a miracle that the filling squeezes out when bitten but not before. And that I didn’t need to fry. That was so much easier than I thought and really good. Here’s wishing you fun in the kitchen and Spring miracles all around!

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

Childhood favorites from scratch

Hello friends, Amy here reminiscing about a couple foods I enjoyed as a child. I grew up eating mole with turkey made from Dona Maria mole paste. My grandmother added a few ingredients, like extra chocolate and a little peanut butter, to add sweetness and depth. Its was good but the paste contains unpronounceable ingredients. For my grandmother, it reminded her of eating her mother’s scratch made mole in Aguas Calientes, Mexico. With consultation from my mom, who remembers her grandmother’s mole, I now make Mano Y Metate mole powders with more wholesome ingredients. Cooking dry spices in oil to make a fresh mole paste results in a more vibrant sauce than the premade paste. Plus the cook gets to choose the oil (vegetarian neutral oil, lard, chicken fat, etc.), and that oil does not need preservatives.

As Tia Marta announced last week, curry is in the air! When I was a kid, my sister’s friend’s mom from Japan introduced us to Japanese curry. Apparently the British introduced a westernized Indian curry to Japan in the 1800s, and cooks there made it their own. Sweet and mild, it really tastes like no other curry in the world. Recently, I learned that the spices from the Japanese curry roux bricks I used all these years is available as a powder with no oil, thickener, MSG or anything but the spices!

After consulting many recipes, I started by caramelizing lots of onions and a little garlic in butter.

I then added half as much curry powder as flour to thicken the sauce.

When the flour and spices were moistened by the butter and cooked, I had essentially made the curry paste we always used to buy. To that I added water and ground beef, like I remember my sister’s friend’s mom used. She also used plenty of diced carrots. Tucson CSA carrots are in season now but they are so pretty I left them in coins.

She also used bell pepper and apple, everything cut in tiny pieces or even grating the apple. Potatoes our family added years ago because they were in the photo on the curry paste box. It also makes for a heartier dish, which we often made while camping or backpacking.

As the veggies became tender, I added a few of the fun secret ingredients suggested online to see if I could mimic my taste memory. The suggestions included all manor of sweet and savory condiments, reminiscent of the secret ingredients cooks add to mole for background complexity. I added sake, mirin, soy sauce, miso and honey (Sleeping Frog honey via Tucson CSA). Other suggestions were ketchup, chocolate, coffee, red wine, cheese, yogurt, vanilla, banana, chutney, oyster sauce, Worcestershire sauce, tonkatsu sauce, etc.

Mine needed chile, so I added Santa Cruz Hot from Tumacacori, a kitchen staple with a bright flavor and amazing color.

As the pot simmered, I tasted. After a little more miso and soy sauce to balance the sweet onions and honey, WOW, it really worked! In fact now that I eat so seasonally, I often don’t purchase the apple and bell pepper, but they made a huge difference to this tasting like my childhood memory.

I ate it with Japanese short grain white rice as my sister’s friend’s mom did.

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

Curry Toppings with a SW Flair

Ideas for curry are in the air…On an adventurous (pre-Covid19) tour of Morocco last February 2020, as fellow travelers, we befriended a remarkable character, Kip Bergstrom, an enthusiastic foodie who seeks out the absolute “right source” for his gourmet dishes.  Diving headlong into Moroccan lamb, he found a local, caring sheep farm (for him Connecticut) and has become online chef for www.wearwoolnewlondon.com

Curry dishes call for crystallized ginger so my inventive Southwest solution is candied local fruit rinds as “side boys” or toppings!

Tia Marta here to share how Kip’s “LambStand” has inspired me to go local with lamb curry in the Southwest.  Being a mindful omnivore, I found Sky Island Brand from the 47-Ranch near Tombstone, AZ, providing lamb at Bisbee and Sierra Vista Farmers’ Markets from their arid-adapted, heritage churro sheep.

My family tradition at Easter has always been to serve lamb roast–then lamb curry soon after, so I’m getting ready.  Mom’s favorite touch to complement complex curry flavors was to dress the table with a festive array of toppings all around the main dish–what she called “curry boys” or “side boys.”  (Not sure the derivation of this term—like servants long ago around the table offering toppings?)  Regardless, these complementary dishes are a visual and gastronomic joy, so I’ve taken it as a fun challenge to create local Southwest curry toppings from local gardens and desert harvests.  These flavor combos promise to surprise and delight you in any curry dish–lamb or vegetarian….

In place of regular store-bought toppings called for in typical curry recipes, here are my creative suggestions:

Fresh from the garden, here are ingredients to make Muff’s Chirichurri Mint Sauce.

In place of regular mint sauce, I make a Southwest version of chimichurri sauce:

Muff’s Chimichurri Mint Sauce Recipe:

Ingredients: handful (1/2 Cup) fresh mint leaves from the garden

2 Tbsp chopped I’itoi’s onions (tops and all) from our mini-oasis veggie patch (also available from Mission Garden as starts (or shallots chopped)

3-4 small cloves heirloom garlic (or 2 lg garlic cloves) chopped

2-3 little chiltepin peppers whole (when I can get there before the birds–use sparingly) OR 1/2 tsp chile pepper flakes

1/2-2/3 Cup red wine vinegar,

1 Tbsp olive oil

Optional–up to 1/4 Cup fresh cilantro chopped

Chimichurri Mint Sauce Directions: Blender, chill and serve fresh in a small cruet.

In place of the traditional peanut “side” I like our local bellotas (Emory oak acorn nutmeats) or pinyon pinenuts.

In place of shaved coconut, I purchased jujube fruit from Tucson’s Mission Garden–grown in the Chinese garden section there.

In place of raisins and coconut toppings, try dried jujubes, desert hackberries, or crunchy dried chun (saguaro fruit)!

Chutney is a must as a curry topping!   Using a variation on Mom’s recipe, I make a local peach-mango and barrel cactus fruit chutney that should win prizes.  You can find a fabulous cactus-with-chia chutneys or barrel cactus seed mustard at BeanTreeFarm ordering online for easy pick-up.  

Barrel cactus fruit chutney, garden rosemary-garlic jelly, and Bean-Tree Farm’s barrel cactus mustard make great toppings!

Velvet and screwbean mesquite pods were used in making Tia Marta’s Mesquite/Membrillo Conserve–a great curry garnish!

Another goodie to use as a topping is my mesquite/membrillo conserve  that I made using quince fruit (membrillo) from Mission Garden plus a concentrated sweet syrup made by boiling down whole mesquite pods(See last October’s Savor-post.)

With fresh eggs from the Mission Garden “farm” I first boiled then pickled them for another curry complement.

In place of candied ginger, I made candied Meyer lemon-peel and grapefruit-peel from our little huerta trees and the fragrant sweet-lime peel from Mission Garden’s unusual citrus.  Click for the recipe in the SavortheSouthwest.Blog archive.

I’m topping off our SW curry meal with Rod’s amazing backyard olives (a future post?), an extra chiltepin hit, then partnering it all with a wee dram of bootleg bacanora mescal.

Your taste buds will be delighted and amazed to discover how all these different flavors blend and complement each other to enhance any curry dish!   

 

 

In a festive array around the curried lamb centerpiece, the Southwest’s low-desert bounty provides a garland of delectable complementary flavors!

I’m sending thanks to our desert gardens within and beyond the garden wall, for the plenty that our Sonoran Desert provides.    Here’s hoping these ideas might inspire you to try your own to dress up a curry dinner– lamb or vegetarian—in whatever habitat you live!

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

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