Southwest Food

Sweet Squash Crisp

Hello Friends, Amy here with my new favorite way to enjoy winter squash. Some years I find myself with manageable butternuts or stringy cushaws that I only want to puree for soups or sweet dishes. But this year Tucson CSA had Fairytale, Cinderella, Red kuri, and various hubbards all sweet and smooth textured! Also, this fall the apples were so crisp and flavorful that I never got around to making apple crisp. To make up for this, I decided to give winter squash the apple crisp treatment.

I started by dropping a hard shelled winter squash on the patio floor. Crack!

I then scooped out the seeds, cut the skin off, and trimmed the ragged portions that bordered the central cavity. (The inner trimmings simmered in a small amount of water until tender and ended up pureed for another project.) I made the tidy pieces of raw squash into cubes and placed them in a buttered baking dish. I gave those a head start in a 350 degree F oven while I made the topping.

I never use a recipe for the topping but it works. It is different every time but still totally delicious. In the food processor I pulse together about 2 cups of oatmeal, 6 tablespoons butter, a handful of walnuts, brown sugar to taste and a dash of salt and cinnamon. If the mixture seems very dry, I add more butter or a bit of liquid (maybe some mesquite broth). Anything from wet sand to drop biscuit dough will be fine. I like to leave it coarse, but it can be blitzed if you prefer. Coconut oil works in place of the butter beautifully. Basically this is granola, which makes a great substitute for all the other ingredients. In the past I’ve added mesquite meal and different sweeteners and spices. Seriously, just go for it. It is not expected to rise or stay together anyway. Who says baking is not improvisational!

I spread this over the not quite tender squash and put in back in the oven. When the top is browned and the squash tender, it is ready. Serve hot or room temperature for dessert or breakfast. Vegetables in every course, YUM!

Categories: heirloom crops, Heirloom pumpkins & squashes, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Flavorful Crispy Crackers with Barrel Cactus, Blue Corn and Herbs

Homemade crackers with lots of flavor are good for a snack plate or alongside soup or a salad.

I’ve spent the fall working on publicizing my new book, A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage, so I when I tied my apron on this morning, I was looking forward to once again working up a new recipe. It’s something I’ve done many times previously for my five cookbooks, but I always feel the thrill of anticipation as I get out the bowls and measuring spoons. My experiments don’t always turn out great the first time, but this morning everything went smoothly.

Barrel cactus fruits are ready for harvest in the winter. With no spines, they are easy to gather.

I wanted to make crackers with barrel cactus seeds because that is one of the only wild foods available in the desert winter. Crackers are always a good accompaniment to the soups we eat in the winter and they also go great with the salads that I make for lunch from greens harvested from my garden.

Halve barrel cactus fruit and set in sun to dry. Seeds will then be easy to remove.

The most delicious homemade crackers I’ve had were made by caterer Kristine Jensen of Gallery of Food here in Tucson, so I called and asked her for some tips. Kristine talked about the importance of adding lots of flavor to the crackers and that certainly is a reason for making your own. To get that flavor, she uses a variety of flours and adds lots of herbs and spices. Her new curry-flavored crackers are very popular. She also said it is important to roll the dough very thin, spray the top of the rolled dough with olive oil, and sprinkle with coarse-ground salt.

With Kristine’s tips in mind and after looking over a few published recipes, I decided to use blue corn and low-gluten Sonoran White Wheat for a good base flavor, barrel cactus seeds for crunch, and coriander and dried rosemary (of which I had lots in my garden) for an extra punch of flavor. I rolled the cracker dough out on parchment baking paper because the dough is very fragile and not having to transfer the unbaked crackers separately to the baking pan meant fewer disasters.

Rolling the cracker dough very thin with ensure a crisp cracker. Here the dough is 1/16 inch thick.

Cut rolled out dough with a sharp knife and carefully separate pieces on paper before transferring on the parchment paper to a baking sheet.

Blue Corn Crackers with Barrel Cactus Seeds

1/2 cup Sonoran white wheat or all-purpose flour

1/2 cup blue corn meal

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon fine salt

2 tablespoons melted butter

2tablespoons olive oil

5 tablespoons water

Coarse salt

2-3 tablespoons barrel cactus seeds

2-3 tablespoons crushed dried herbs

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix the dough until well combined, then knead a little to even out the texture. Divide in half. Roll out on parchment baking paper. Brush or spray lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle salt, seeds and dried herbs on top and roll again to press into the dough. Cut into squares and gently separate. Transfer paper to a baking sheet. Bake in heated oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Check at 15 minutes, you don’t want them to burn. They should be lightly brown on the bottom. They may be a little soft but will crisp up as they cool.

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A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage tells the history of how residents of the Santa Cruz Valley have fed themselves over thousands of years, why they are still eating some of the same foods over that time, and how that led to Tucson’s designation of the first American city to earn the coveted UNESCO City of Gastronomy. You can order the book from your favorite bookstore, on-line, or from the Native Seeds/SEARCH bookstore.

Categories: Cooking, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, White Sonora wheat | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

Easy Cinnamon Swirls with Sweet Southwest Glaze

Quick cinnamon swirl biscuits can dress up any celebratory breakfast. These have special Southwest surprises inside–Read on!

Here’s an easy and festive treat for warm winter breakfasts!  Get your ingredients out now in prep for New Year’s morning, Three King’s Day, for Orthodox New Years, or a birthday delight.

Tia Marta here to share how, using a quick biscuit dough, you can insert your favorite wild desert berries and seeds to make a sweet swirl–no long waiting on yeast-rising for this goodie.  Dig out those wild seeds and juices you harvested last summer (always thinking ahead)….

Roll out your biscuit dough and spread with your mix of pinyon nuts, agave syrup, and dried berries. Then, roll up the dough tightly into a “log” shape.

Before rolling up your dough “log” sprinkle with saguaro seed, chia or popped amaranth.

RECIPE–SOUTHWEST CINNAMON SWIRLS

Ingredients for dough: 

2 cups sifted flour (*heirloom white Sonora wheat with 1/4 cup amaranth flour makes a great mix)

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp sea salt

1/3 cup butter

3/4 cup milk of any kind

*white Sonora wheat is available at Barrio Bread Tucson; whole wheatberries for home milling are available at NativeSeedsSEARCH  or from www.flordemayoarts.com .

Ingredients for inner swirl (use what you have):

1/4 cup agave nectar (or or mesquite syrup, or desert honey which will spread more slowly)

1/4 cup pine nuts (de-hulled) (OR, chopped AZ walnut or pecan meats, or crushed bellota acorn meats)

1/4 cup dried berries (desert or canyon hackberry, dry saguaro fruit, cherries, raisins, cranberries)

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/8 cup saguaro seeds (OR popped amaranth seed, or wild chia seed)

Directions for inside swirl:  Mix together all swirl ingredients (except seeds) for spreading on dough.

Directions for dough:  Sift dry ingredients together.  Cut in butter to pea size or smaller into dry mixture.  Add milk and stir to form dough ball.  Knead with fingers 10-20 “turns”.  Pat dough out on flour-dusted board.  With flour-dusted rolling pin, roll dough to about 1/2 inch thickness.

Place dough swirls on ungreased cookie sheet to bake 12-14 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450F.  Spread gooey cinnamon/agave syrup/nut mixture evenly onto flattened dough.  Sprinkle with desert seeds. Then tightly roll the flattened and bedecked dough into a “log”.  With a sharp knife, cut rounds of the “log” 1/2 inch thick and place each swirl on an uncreased cookie sheet.  Bake 12-14 minutes.  Serve hot with melted butter, or top with (tah-dah!) Tia Marta’s saguaro or prickly pear glaze (recipe follows).

Serve cinnamon swirls HOT out of the oven!

Buttered Desert Cinnamon Swirls — yum!  For an even more decadent topping, top with a glaze….

RECIPE–Tia Marta’s Easy Saguaro Glaze and Southwest Hard Sauce

Ingredients:  2-3 Tbsp softened butter

1/2 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar

1/3 cup saguaro syrup, prickly pear syrup, or mesquite syrup

Directions:  Beat softened butter with confectioners’ sugar until smooth.  Gradually add up to 1/3 cup saguaro syrup or other desert fruit syrup mixing thoroughly to spreadable consistency.  Apply to tops of cinnamon swirls.  (You may want to make this glaze ahead and chill before spreading, but no-chill works for me.)

There’s only one more step to make this the most fabulous Southwest Hard Sauce:   Add 1 tsp of local agave mescal (try bacanora) to your glaze spread and voila–You have created a hard sauce!   (Goes great on brown-bread, bread pudding, holiday fruit dishes, or to make your cinnamon swirls into a rich dessert.)

Use home-made saguaro, prickly pear, or mesquite syrup for a delightsome glaze, or find great ready-made syrups from Cherie’s Desert Harvest also available at www.nativeseeds.org.

May the New Year 2021 bring you little swirls of joy, adventure and nutrition given generously by our Southwest desert plants–Feliz Año Nuevo! from Tia Marta

o

 

 

 

Categories: Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, White Sonora wheat | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Atole, a mug of warm comfort

Hi friends, Amy here with a hot drink way more satisfying and nourishing than hot cocoa for a quiet, cold night. Atole is a drinkable porridge that can be flavored to suit your taste and whim. Of course, fond family memories of making and enjoying it this time of year make it all the sweeter.

The ingredients are flexible and it is a great way to showcase a small amount of wild harvested or specialty food items.

Corn tortilla meal, in this case from a very starchy blue corn, was treated with lime, dried and ground for making tortillas or tamales. Of course it also comes in white and yellow varieties, but all colors are much starchier than grocery store corn meal. There are also toasted starchy corn meals specifically for making atole. If you don’t have of these on hand, you can substitute corn starch or a mix of corn starch and regular corn meal.

I used water but milk of any sort (cow, coconut, almond, rice) is great. Local honey is delicious, but any sweetener, including granulated sugar, is fine. Or the drink can be left unsweetened.

I shelled and ground acorns from Emory Oak trees (Quercus emoryi), that are mild and edible as is. Other species of acorns are more bitter but can be leached by putting the shelled acorns, whole or ground, in cold water for a few minutes and draining. Repeat the leaching of tannins this way until they are not bitter, to your taste. Mesquite meal is excellent in place of, or in addition to, the acorn meal.

Atole is great with or without chocolate. Cocoa powder works perfectly, but instead I toasted raw cacao nibs in a dry pan until shiny and fragrant, then ground them. For spice, I added a chiltepin to the molcajete with the nibs. A coffee grinder is also a excellent way to grind the acorns and nibs.

I also added a spoon of Mano Y Metate Mole Negro powder for spice. Cinnamon or vanilla would also be welcome additions. Everything goes together cold in a pan and thickens as it comes to a simmer.

Due to ingredient variation, more liquid may be needed to make drinkable. Adjust the seasonings and add a pinch of salt to taste.

Enjoy, stirring often to keep everything suspended. Mmmmm… Stay safe and warm!

Atole de bellota
From Amy Valdés Schwemm of Mano Y Metate

Per serving:

1 cup water or milk (cow, coconut, nut, grain, etc)
1 tablespoon corn masa meal (or corn starch)
1 tablespoon acorn meal (or mesquite meal or more corn)

To taste:
1 tablespoon cacao nibs (or cocoa powder)
1 tablespoon Mano Y Metate Mole Negro powder (see ManoYMetate.com)
1 tablespoon honey
1 chiltepin
A dash of salt

If stating from whole acorns, shell and grind. If bitter, cover with water, soak for 30 minutes and drain. Repeat as necessary for your taste.

Toast the cacao nibs until shiny and fragrant, then grind with the chiltepin.

Put the water in a small pan and whisk in the acorn and corn meals. Heat, stirring often, until slightly thick. Add the rest of the seasonings and stir until well combined. Drink in mugs, stirring with a spoon to suspend the coarser parts as you enjoy.

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, heirloom crops, heirloom grains, herbs, Libations, Mesquite, Mexican Food, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Holiday Citrus Treats and Zoom Invite

MEYER LEMONS and heirloom citrus fruits are ripening at Mission Garden orchard and in my own little desert oasis. Every part of this glorious fruit can add to festivities.  Read on to see how to even use citrus RIND in delectable confections!

Tia Marta here to share an easy and festive recipe my Great Aunt Rina used to make for the holidays when I was young–Citrus-Rind Candy.  With a combination of grapefruit, tangerine and orange–rare and special in early 1900s New England–she made sweet confections.  Now, in the Sonoran Desert where a diversity of citrus abounds thanks to introductions by early missionaries, I’m expanding on Aunt Rina’s inspiration.

Heirloom sweet lime is growing in profusion at Mission Garden. I can hardly wait to use its surprisingly sweet juice in a libation–then, to harness its unusually fragrant rind to make a confection.  It’s the ultimate “recycling” reward!

With citrus, nothing gets put in the compost except the seeds.  Check out two great posts for holiday libations with heirloom SWEET LIME and explore others thru the SavortheSouthwest Searchbox.

Meyer Lemon Rind Confection Step 1: After juicing lemon, cut rind into strips and put in saucepan.

RECIPE for MEYER LEMON-RIND CONFECTION:

Place 1 qt sliced lemon peel in saucepan.  Cover with 2 cups granulated sugar or 1 1/2 cups agave nectar.  (No water is needed as there is enough moisture in the rind’s white pulp to supply it.)  Mix well and simmer slowly until sugary liquid thickens, being careful not to scorch or caramelize.  Remove from pan and spread out slices on wax paper to cool, dry, and begin to crytallize.  Dust with powdered sugar.  If this candy remains pliable and sticky, you can dust again with powdered sugar.

A little bundle makes a fun old-fashioned stocking-stuffer, or, served on a buffet platter with other sweets it offers a “bitter-sweet” alternative.

Meyer lemon-rind confection is a welcome flavor surprise offering a pleasant bitter note with the sweet.

Processing (de-hulling) pine nuts from our native pinyon trees is an ordeal….

…but the rewards of our local pinyones (pine nutmeats) are a joy to the tastebuds! Our native pinyon pine nuts (Pinus cembroides and Pinus edulis) are bigger and tastier than Italian pignolas.

To add a local wild ingredient to your holiday confection, try adding some Southwest pinyones.  (New World pinyones is a local industry waiting to happen.  Thousands of years of Indigenous harvests of pinyon nuts should teach us what a treasure this desert tree gives!)

Of course you can cheat for this recipe and buy delicious Italian stone-pine nuts already de-hulled from Trader Joe’s.

The best “sticking ingredient” for attaching pinyon nutmeats to your citrus-peel confection is–tah dah you got it!!–our sublime western-hemisphere contribution to human bliss–chocolate! 

For the ultimate in Meyer lemon delicacies, try dipping your crystallized lemon-rind into melted chocolate, then while it is still hot and molten, imbed a sprinkle of pine nuts.  There’s no more decadent and delectable combo of flavors!

For more great ideas, you are cordially invited to join our Arizona Native Plant Society December Zoom meeting, Thursday, December 10, 2020, at 7pm for a delightful virtual pot luck — Native Plant Desserts and Libations!  Tia Marta will join Tucson’s culinary artists Carolyn Niethammer (author of the new book A Desert Feast) and Amy Valdes Schwemm (molera extraordinaire and creator of ManoyMetate mole mixes) with creative ideas and virtual “tastes” live.  To join the zoom go to www.aznps.com/chapters/tucson in early December for details, or send an email to NativePlantsTucson@gmail.com to request Zoom login.  The meeting will also be streamed on Facebook, starting at 7:00 pm Dec.10.

Happy holiday cooking with our local heirlooms!

Tia Marta’s heirloom products and Southwest foods artwork are available at www.flordemayoarts.com, www.nativeseeds.org, www.tohonochul.org, and in person over the holidays at Tucson’s Mission Garden.

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, fruit, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Turkey Mole Shepherd’s Pie

Hello Friends, Amy here with comforting dish of turkey in rich Mole Dulce topped with buttery, browned mashed potatoes. I made a single size portion and just devoured it myself. Perfect to change up leftover turkey or special enough for the main event in a very non-traditional year.

I started with cooked turkey in turkey broth from my freezer. Of course, chicken would also be perfect here.

Then I cooked a rounded spoon of Mano Y Metate Mole Dulce powder in enough oil to make a paste. I let it get darker in color and bubbly.

By this time, the turkey broth was mostly defrosted.

Then I added the broth to the mole paste.

When the mole was smooth and thick, I added the turkey…

and placed it in a little oven safe dish. Of course, you can stop here and just enjoy it with tortillas!

But to make something different, I continued. So after covering with mashed potatoes, I put it to bake.

The top browned easily, but I really let it go until the whole thing bubbled and glistened. I ate the whole thing in the beautiful autumn sun.

Enjoy and stay safe!

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

Prickly Pear Coconut Frozen Pops

Hello friends, it’s Amy here with my new favorite late summer treat. Pink prickly pear pops are creamy and easy to bite, yet vegan using coconut milk. For a prickly pear peach sorbet using cream and honey, try Carolyn’s recipe from last season. Also, try Tia Marta’s Prickly Pear-Mesquite-White Sonora Wheat Muffins (Ihbhai c Kui Wihog Pas-tihl).

 

With the drought, there are very few prickly pears out in the wild this year.

However, the young plants in my yard near water harvesting basins set a decent amount of fruit, especially for their size.

Even though the fruit may look purple sooner, I usually wait until September to harvest. If picked before total ripeness, the firm flesh holds onto the juice and it is more difficult to extract. To check, I simply pluck them off the plant with kitchen tongs. Ideally, the fruit separates easily from the plant and the skin with no tinge of green at the base tears the fruit open a bit (see the holes in the bottoms of the fruit in the photo below). If juice runs where the tongs squeeze the flesh, it’s definitely ready!!!! 

I then blend the whole fruit, spines and all.

The hard seeds remain intact, while the pulp and skins are pureed. Then I strain the slurry through a cloth napkin or other piece of fabric. Cheese cloth is not fine enough.

This strains out the seeds, pulp, pieces of skin, spines and the tiny, skin-irritating glochids.

It drains slowly, so sometimes I tie the ends of the fabric, hanging it to drip in the refrigerator. 

The clear juice is ready to make treats or savory food right away, or freeze for later. As an extra precaution, I let the juice stand, then pour the clear liquid from the top, sacrificing the bottom inch from the vessel to leave behind any sediment.

To make pops, I heated some juice with lemon and sugar, then thickened it slightly with cornstarch to make a thin syrup.

After taking it off the heat, I added a can of coconut milk. Add a little lemon or orange extract, if you like.

When completely chilled in the refrigerator over night, it is ready to be frozen in an ice cream maker.

If you just pour the mixture into the pop molds, it will freeze as hard as ice. But this method makes pops that are easy to bite.

Of course, it can be eaten now as soft serve or frozen in one container to enjoy as a sorbet. But spooned into reusable pop molds, it is portion controlled!!!

Prickly pear coconut frozen pops (or sorbet) 

By Amy Valdes Schwemm

1 cup prickly pear juice

1 ½ cups sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ cup lemon juice

1 tablespoon cornstarch

13-15 oz coconut milk

lemon or orange extract (commercial or 100 proof vodka infused with zest) to taste

Bring first four ingredients to a gentle boil. Dissolve cornstarch in 2 tablespoons water in a small dish. Add to pan, and simmer for one minute. Add coconut milk and extract. Remove from heat to cool and refrigerate until well chilled. Pour into ice cream maker and freeze. Firm in freezer, either in pop molds or a lidded container. Enjoy!

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

Mesquite and Chocolate: A Love Story

Mesquite Chocolate Mousse for two

 

Cooks and those they cook for all love chocolate. It’s Carolyn today and I see in other food blogs I follow that people light up for chocolate recipes. Our readers loved Amy’s recipe for Chocolate Mole Dulce Cake a few weeks ago. Today I’m going to give you a recipe for combining chocolate and mesquite. The two flavors enhance each other perfectly, making for creamy, caramel-y, chocolate-y deliciousness. And rich. You always want rich with chocolate.

I usually make my mesquite broth starting with pods. Most mesquite pods appear in late June to early July, but there is usually a small fall crop as well. Even with our very scanty rains this year, I see lots of new mesquite pods on trees in our neighborhood. The crop is much smaller than the early summer crop, but you can probably find enough pods to make this recipe. If all you have is the mesquite meal from a previous year, that will work as well.

For the liqueur in the recipe, which is optional, you can use coffee liqueur (like Kahlua), maybe hazelnut, or whatever you have on hand and like. Or you might even substitute a little strong coffee.

Gather a basket of mesquite pods. Remember to gather only from the tree, never from the ground. Some people say the ones with red stripes are sweeter. I can’t tell the difference myself.

Mesquite Broth

To make mesquite broth, slowly simmer 2 cups of broken pods in 4 cups of water for about an hour until they are very soft. When cool, wring and tear them (hands in!) to release the sweet goodness into the water. Strain.  You can get more details in my previous post on mesquite broth here. If you don’t have the pods, you can make broth with mesquite meal. For this recipe, combine 1/2 cup mesquite meal with 1 1/2 cups water and stir until completely dissolved. You may have to use a whisk. If your mesquite meal is coarse and doesn’t totally dissolve, strain before making the Mesquite Mousse.

These wine glasses contain a rather large serving of this rich dessert. But it is so delicious, you’ll probably finish it off anyhow.

Mesquite Mousse

2 cups mesquite broth

1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk

½ cup water

6 tablespoons cornstarch

2 beaten eggs

¼ cup liqueur (optional)

¼ cup cocoa

¼ cup sugar

Combine mesquite broth and milk in saucepan. In small bowl, combine water and cornstarch and stir until smooth. Add to mesquite mixture. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickness of pancake batter. Turn off heat and let cool for about eight minutes. Stir occasionally to keep skin from forming. If it has a few lumps, beat with a whisk until smooth. Meanwhile beat eggs in small bowl.

Please follow the next step carefully. If you try to rush, you will end up with bits of scrambled eggs. Here we go: When mesquite mixture has cooled somewhat, add about a fourth cup of mesquite mixture to the beaten eggs and stir. Add another fourth cup and stir, and then add a half cup. Add egg-mesquite mixture to the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly for about four minutes.

Divide the mixture, taking out half which is about two cups. Put it in another saucepan, and stir in ¼ cup cocoa and ¼ cup sugar. Stir over low heat until cocoa is incorporated, about 2 minutes.

Layer mesquite and chocolate mixtures in small wine glasses and chill until set.

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In just two weeks my new book A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage will have the official publication date. It’s already in the warehouse and ready to ship. Five years ago Tucson was named a UNESCO City of Gastronomy and this is the story of why a desert town received that honor. All history is a series of stories and A Desert Feast tells in lively stories how the residents of the Santa Cruz Valley developed from hunter-gatherers to corn growers to cattle raisers to today’s sophisticated consumers where prickly pear even goes in our local craft beer. We’re going to have a big rollout party in October, but if you can’t wait, ask your local bookstore to order it for you. For more mesquite recipes, check out Cooking the Wild Southwest: Delicious Recipes for Desert Plants. 

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

Peanut Butter Bellota Bars

As we are sequestering, we Sonoran Desertofiles should all be out harvesting juicy tunas, ok more on that later, because….

It’s also bellota time!  In mid-August, we went on a bellota quest. Three of us set out, socially distanced, up into Arizona’s oak woodland near the border.  Two inspiring foodie-pals, Dr.Letitia McCune “BotanyDoc.com” and Mission Garden mover-shaker Emily Rockey, y yo–Tia Marta–were on a treasure hunt to relocate the wonderful, giving trees where my Tohono O’odham mentor Juanita Ahil used to gather wi-yo:thi.  Our quarry:  the little acorns of Emory oak.

Socially distanced bellota-rustlers under giant Emory oaks near the border

Yes we found them, with thanks–Ah such plenty!  Fruit of Quercus emoryi  are the only acorns I know of in the world that don’t need to be leached of their tannins before eating.  You can eat them fresh off the tree.

Quick-wash the dust off your bellota harvest

…then quick-dry or “roast” your bellotas in the hot sunshine

Bellotas are increditbly nutritious– full of complex carbs that help balance blood sugar and almost 50% rich oil similar in quality to olive oil.

But they require some work, and can be difficult to de-hull to extract each little morsel of goodness inside–the nutmeat.

Always check for holes–We aren’t the only ones who eat bellota.  Nature needs to feed all her creatures.

There are lots of ways to crack the shell.  I  like to crack them ever-so-gently when placed longitudinally between opposite molars, then manually remove the shell.  Jesus Garcia, the Desert Museum’s primo ethnobotanist, demonstrates the “traditional Sonoran” method using his incisors to cut a “waistline” around the midriff of the acorn so two perfect half-cups of shell release a perfect nutmeat.  Experiment to find your own favorite method.

Don’t use the rolling pin method unless your bellota shells are very brittle–or you’ll be hunter/gatherer once again, indoors.

…A tedious process no matter what. Hey, try shelling bellotas while listening to audiobooks or good music.

As with your molars, if you’re careful, cracking bellota shells with pliers can yield perfect nutmeats.

Ingredients you’ll need for Peanut Butter Bellota Bars (shelled bellotas to left, mesquite flour to right)

This easy recipe combines sweets, like mesquite pod flour and piñon nuts, with the excitingly bitter notes of bellotas.  Bellota Bars, with chocolate, are a decadent dessert served with ice-cream.  Without chocolate (less melt-able), they are an energizing bar great for hikes and picnics.

RECIPE — Tia Marta’s Peanut Butter Bellota Bars —

Ingredients:

1/2 C chunky organic peanut butter

1/3 C butter

1   C sugar

1/2  C  brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1  C  flour (any flour combo works–I used 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour & 1/2 cup barley flour)

1/4 C  mesquite flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/2 C  shelled pinyon nuts. (optional)

1/2  C high cacao chocolate morsels (optional)

Topping:   1/4  C shelled bellotas (Quercus emoryi acorn nutmeats)

As you sprinkle bellotas on top, pat the dough evenly into all corners of your pyrex baking dish.

Recipe Directions:  Preheat oven to 350F.  Cream peanut butter and butter.  Add sugar and brown sugar.  Beat in eggs.  Add vanilla and beat until smooth.  Separately, sift flours, baking powder and salt together.  Mix these dry ingredients into wet ingredients thoroughly.  Add optional pinyones and/or chocolate morsels according to your “richness palette.”  Press dough into a 8×8″ greased pyrex pan.  Sprinkle bellotas as “topping”.  Bake 30-35 minutes.  Cool, then cut into delectable chewy energy bars.

When cool, cut into small squares, as they are super-rich and energy-packed.

If you can’t harvest your own bellotas, you can buy them this time of year, before Dia de San Francisco in October, at most Mexican markets or along the road to Magdalena, Sonora.  They will keep a long time in your frig or freezer for future joyful cracking.  Nature’s wild bounty is so diverse in our borderlands desert!

Find many of our Southwest traditional foods respectfully captured in my artwork at www.flordemayoarts.com for all to enjoy.

Check our SavortheSouthwest blog archive for other bellota recipe ideas and anecdotes.

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

Chocolate Mole Dulce Cake

Hello friends, Amy here feeling completely indulgent and impractical today. Lately my meals have featured lots of summer squash and cold dishes with fresh basil, so I wanted something sweet and different. 

Also, in the low desert summer, some people go months without turning on the oven. However, wanting to use mole powder in a creative way was a great excuse to play. This recipe is based off of Wacky Cake, a vegan World War II era chocolate cake I remember from my elementary school cafeteria. 


Although the original recipe calls for mixing all the ingredients directly in an ungreased 8×8 pan, I decided to sift the all purpose flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt into a bowl. 

I also sifted in 3 tablespoons of Mano Y Metate Mole Dulce powder. 

Water, apple cider vinegar, oil and vanilla make an easy batter to mix by hand.

After pouring in a greased bunt pan, it baked at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.

Smelling wonderful, it slowly cooled…

While waiting, I made a glaze of powdered sugar, cocoa powder and vanilla thinned with coconut milk. 

I alternately drizzled on the glaze and sprinkled with more Mole Dulce powder.

Chocolaty sweet and also salty spicy, this is one I’ll make again. The measurements are easily cut in half for a short bunt or a smaller baking dish. If you’re looking for something richer (with eggs, lots of butter and twice the sugar) try Mole Dulce brownies. But you can eat bigger pieces of this cake. !Buen provecho!

Mole Dulce Cake

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

4 tablespoons cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

3 tablespoons Mano Y Metate Mole Dulce powder

1 cup water

6 tablespoons oil (I used coconut oil)

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla

For glaze

1/3 cup powdered sugar

4 teaspoons cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons coconut milk

For topping

Mole Dulce powder

Sift dry ingredients into a bowl. Measure wet ingredients in a separate bowl and combine with the dry. Or make a well in the dry ingredients, quickly measure the wet ingredients directly into the well, and combine. Pour into an ungreased 8 inch x 8 inch pan or greased bunt pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes or until cake tester or toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely before unmolding, drizzling with glaze, and sprinkling more Mole Dulce powder on top.

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

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