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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

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

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

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

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

Tomatillo Mustard Seed Chutney

 

Hello there, Amy here with too many tomatillos! I had eaten plenty of salsa this season and was ready for something different from the bounty of my Tucson Community Supported Agriculture share.

 

I remembered my friend making an East Indian tomato chutney with mustard seeds and curry leaves, and a hint of tamarind for tartness. Tomatillos are already more tart than tomatoes, so this seemed perfect.

 

I collected the ingredients, including urad dahl, a dry black lentil, spilt and peeled. Feel free to omit. Also asafetida, a strong smelling spice that is totally optional, and curry leaves, which I grow in a pot. 

 

After washing the tomatillos, I prepared everything else.

I fried the urad dahl in coconut oil until golden brown.

Then I added chopped onion, garlic, jalapeno and a pinch of salt, and cooked until soft.

I cooked and smashed the tomatilos to a paste and transferred to a blender, but it would be just as good chunky.

In more coconut oil, I fried the mustard seeds until they were popped, followed by curry leaves and a pinch of asafetida.

In went the puree and I simmered it with the water that rinsed out the blender. After it thickened a bit, it was ready. One batch I made included mostly ripe tomatillos and suited my taste perfectly. The second batch was very firm, green tomatillos, so in went a pinch of sugar and another spoon of coconut oil.  I enjoyed with mung beans and rice. Happy summer!

 

1 teaspoon urad dahl

1 small onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 jalapeno, chopped or dried red chiles, or chile powder (to taste)

1 basket (or 2) tomatillos, well rinsed and chopped

2 teaspoons mustard seeds

Curry leaves (leaflets from 2 leaves stripped from the mid-vein)

A pinch of asafetida

Coconut oil

Salt to taste

Fry the urad dahl in coconut oil until well browned. Add onion, garlic, and jalapenos and cook until soft. Add tomatillos and salt to taste. Simmer until saucy then puree in a blender.

In more coconut oil, fry the mustard seeds until they mostly finish popping. Add curry leaves and fry until crisp. Add asafetida and stir for few seconds before adding puree. Rinse out the blender with a few tablespoons water and add to the pot. Cook for a few minutes to thicken and for flavors to combine. Cool and enjoy.

 

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

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: , , , , , | 3 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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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