Easy Summer Corn Treat: Coctel de Elote

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Treat yourself day: Scallops with Mole Verde

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which went FAST!!!!

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

Mole Marinated Roast Poultry

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

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

I trussed the wings and legs with dental floss.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mole Nachos

Hello Friends,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then I added some leftover carnitas to it!

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

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

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

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

Brown butter pecan ice cream

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy!

Sprouted White Sonora Wheat-berry Mesquite Brunch-cake

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

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

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

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

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

BRUNCH CAKE RECIPE:

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

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

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

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

Preheat oven to 375F.

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

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

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

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

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

Nopalitos Pulao

Hello friends, Amy here making something different out of the same characters I always eat, again and again and again. Eating more locally and seasonally encourages creativity! Nopalitos, young prickly pear cactus pads of many species, are DELICIOUS but like okra need special care to not let them overpower the texture of a meal. Start by harvesting a tender young pad that still has its true leaves, the little cones at the top of the pads seen in the photo below. As the pad matures, the leaves yellow, fall, and a woody internal structure develops. This might be the last I harvest before a new flush of pads comes with summer rains.

Any large spines or tiny glochids can be quickly singed to ash over an open flame, holding the pad with tongs.

Singed nopalitos can be safely touched and if they turn from bright green to pale olive, they are cooked and ready to be eaten.

To showcase this little harvest I made pulao, an extremely flexible rice pilaf from India. I started with a traditional recipe changing to local veggies and nuts. Whole cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, star anise, Indian bay, fennel and black cumin can be toasted in oil or ghee. I wish I had whole nutmeg or mace to add at the beginning, because I forgot to add them as ground spices later.

Then onion, garlic, ginger and a whole green chile (a serrano frozen from last autumn’s harvest) went in to fry. Followed by Tucson CSA carrots.

Then Tucson CSA zucchini, soaked basmati rice and mint from the garden.

After several years without, I now have a great spearmint patch again. A smart gardener gives plant starts away to friends and family for backups and last year I was a grateful recipient. Anybody need some?

After water, salt and 20 minutes covered over low heat, it was ready.

After fluffing, I toasted some local pecans and sprinkled them as well as the nopalitos on top. A totally new taste for my usual veggie friends. If you like this, you make like Tia Marta’s cholla bud jambalaya.

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.

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!

Broccoli Leaves Make Chips, Not Compost

Crispy, salty broccoli chips are low calorie, and high nutrition and satisfaction.

For my winter garden, I always buy broccoli plants rather than growing my own from seed. This year, my little four-pack included a strange variety. One was a typical broccoli plant and the others were odd but fun variants, including a Romanesco.

The variants have huge leaves. I was going to chop them up for compost or give them to a friend with chickens, but then I decided having committed inputs like water and fertilizers, I should get some benefit. A quick internet scan introduced me to broccoli chips. 

First step is to tear them into chip-sized pieces, put them in a bowl and drizzle just a tiny bit of olive oil on them. Just a tiny bit and rub it all over.

 

Then lay the pieces on a sheet pan and sprinkle with salt or seasoning. Go for a Southwest flavor with red chile, chipotle, or cumin with the salt but use a light hand.  The spoon is there to give you an idea of the size. I lined my pan with foil because the pans are new and I don’t want them stained like my old pans. 

 

Bake in a 350 degree F. oven for about 15 minutes. They need to be absolutely dry and crisp or you’ll end up with a mouth full of fiber when you eat them.

 

Put them out as snacks. They go fast.  Every chip comes with lots of fiber and Vitamin A. 

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I’m thrilled to announce that since my last post 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.