Posts Tagged With: A Desert Feast

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

Mesquite Apple Cake: Easy Treat for Valentine’s Day

Mesquite Apple Cake is good for breakfast or a healthy dessert. Add dried cranberries for a bit of red for Valentine’s Day. 

In my new book A Desert Feast, I write that one of the reasons Tucson was named a UNESCO City of Gastronomy is our long food history–we are eating some of the things people in our desert valley ate thousands of years ago. That includes mesquite pods. We aren’t chewing on the beans or pounding them in a bed rock mortar, but we are using the ground meal in delicious treats. Mesquite pairs well with apples and the warm spices like cinnamon.

This is an easy recipe that comes together quickly and is a good introduction to the mesquite flavor. It works well for a dessert or a sweet breakfast treat. Today I added dried cranberries to give a little bit of red for Valentine’s Day.  It’s worth the time to line your baking pan with foil or parchment paper. The bread is fragile when it comes out of the oven but will firm up as it cools. Without the paper you risk it falling apart when you take it out of the oven.

Lining your baking pan with parchment paper or foil helps ease the tender cake out of the pan.

 

By sprinkling the dry ingredients evenly over the wet batter, you can avoid the step of sifting the dry ingredients together.

Mesquite Apple Bread

 1/3 cup light brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon cardamom (optional)

2/3 cup white sugar

½  cup butter, softened (1 stick)

2 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup mesquite meal

1 3/4 teaspoon baking powder

½ cup milk

2 apples, chopped (any kind)

½ cup dried cranberries (optional)

 ½ cup powdered sugar

 2 tablespoons milk or cream

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease or spray a 9×5-inch loaf pan or line with foil or parchment paper and spray with non-stick spray to get out easily for slicing.
  2. Mix brown sugar, cinnamon, and cardamom together in a small bowl. Set aside.
  3. In another medium-sized bowl, beat white sugar and butter together using an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.
  4. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, until blended in; add in vanilla extract.
  5. Sprinkle flour, mesquite meal, and baking powder over the butter and sugar mixture and lightly combine with a fork. Then stir into the mixture until almost blended. Add milk and stir until all are combined. Stir in dried cranberries if using.
  6. Pour half the batter into the prepared loaf pan; add half the apple mixture, then half the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture. Wet a tablespoon and use the back of it to push the apple mixture into the batter.
  7. Pour the remaining batter over apple layer and top with remaining apple mixture, then the remaining brown sugar/cinnamon mixture. Again, push the apples into the batter.
  8. Using a table knife, swirl brown sugar mixture through apples.
  9. Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean, approximately 50-60 minutes. Make sure you check the center of the loaf as this is a dense cake and the ends are done before the middle. 
  10. To make glaze, mix powdered sugar and milk or cream together until well mixed. Let cool cake for about 15 minutes before drizzling with glaze.

The spikey thing next to the flower is a screwbean mesquite cluster. It is too cute to grind up for meal.

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A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage has been named a Top Pick in the Southwest Books of the Year compilation.  Order through your favorite bookstore or here from Native Seeds/SEARCH

“Just received this absolute treasure! The wonderful stories and foodways accounts, not to mention local producers, make this an instant heirloom and everyday delight. Every food lover and food historian must get a copy of this marvel!”  — John F Swenson

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

Watch The Savor Sisters Demo Wild Foods at Native Plants Christmas Party

 

The Tucson Chapter of the Arizona Native Plant Society has asked the Savor Sisters–Tia Marta, Amy, and me, Carolyn, to demonstrate cooking some virtual appetizers and “libations” for their on-line Christmas Party. You can join in on Thursday, December 10,  at 7 p.m. MST at a zoom meeting with this link. Amy’s making something with her delicious mole mix, Tia Marta is doing a wild rhubarb pudding, and I’m making a delicious goodie with a mixture of quinoa and popped amaranth seeds bound with agave syrup and coated with chocolate. This is a 21st century version of a treat previously made by the Aztecs. I’m also taking everyone on a field trip to a local craft brewery where the head brewer tells us about all the heritage ingredients that go in his beers.

My newest book, A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage, is more a book of stories with just a few recipes to illustrate past and present food trends. So I went back to my previous cookbook, Cooking the Wild Southwest: Delicious Recipes for Desert Plants to find the perfect recipe for this event.

Hank Rowe at Catalina Brewing adds desert flavors such as prickly pear and mesquite to his brews. Come along to hear Hank tell about his beers at the on-line Native Plant Society Party.

When you pour the amaranth into a hot wok, the golden seeds will pop and become like tiny kernels of popcorn. Work quickly and don’t let the seeds burn or they will be bitter.

 

Using two forks, dip each ball into the melted chocolate. They are fragile, so if any break, don’t panic or be upset. Just eat them immediately! Transfer coated balls to refrigerator to harden.

Aztec Delight

This recipe is from my book Cooking the Wild Southwest: Delicious Recipes for Desert Plants. In the video, you can watch the little amaranth seeds pop to a snowy cloud.

¼ cup chia seed

¼ cup amaranth seed

2-3 tablespoons agave syrup

½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

            In a wok or heavy bottomed pan over medium heat parch the chia seed for just a minute or two, stirring constantly. Transfer to a coffee grinder or blender and grind to a powder. Put into a bowl.  Repeat with the amaranth grain.  It is possible the amaranth grain will pop while being parched, resulting in a light cloud, like very tiny popcorn kernels. If that happens, fine; if not, equally fine. Combine the ground chia and amaranth in a bowl and begin adding the agave syrup and stirring until you have a stiff dough that holds together.

            Form balls the size of a large olive. Put the chocolate chips in a heat-proof bowl and melt in the microwave or over hot water.  If using the microwave, heat for one minute, check, then continue heating in 30 second increments until melted. If too stiff, add a few drops of neutral oil, like grapeseed.

            Line a plate with waxed paper or plastic wrap.  Using the tines of a fork, roll each ball of the chia/amaranth dough in the chocolate. These balls are rather fragile so be careful. If one breaks apart, the best way to deal with that catastrophe is to eat it immediately.  Transfer the perfect ones to the plate.  Refrigerate until the chocolate has hardened.

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Still looking for a Christmas gift for your foodie friend? In my new book A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary History, you’ll read stories of how early residents existed on wild foods, how agriculture developed and the people built massive irrigation ditches with only wooden tools and baskets, and how the arrival of the Spanish changed everything. I also visit today’s farmers and talk about their challenges and how Tucsonans are learning to garden and grow their own food, starting with school and community gardens. You can order it from your local bookstore (they’ll love you for that) , from Native Seeds/SEARCH, or Amazon.

 

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

Quince: Having Fun with an Old Fruit

Quinces come with a fuzz that must be washed off before cooking.

There are some people who like to cook, but want an explicit recipe to follow. Then there are others who dare to plunge in with new ingredients, new techniques, making it up as they go along. It’s Carolyn today and for all of my professional life, through five cookbooks, I’ve belonged to the later group. Most of my experimental cooking over the years has involved wild plants, but this week I began to make friends with an old-fashioned cultivar: the quince. There is plenty of advice for how to cook quinces, I’d just never done it before. And the advice isn’t foolproof. 

Quince is native to rocky slopes and woodland margins in Western Asia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Georgia and from northern Iran to Afghanistan. It was brought to the New World by the Spanish and is very popular in Sonora, Mexico. Several years ago, the Kino Fruit Tree Project propagated cuttings from quince trees in Sonora and many of those cuttings have grown into huge and prolific trees in the Mission Garden in Tucson. I write about these in my new book A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary History. Quinces aren’t as popular as apples, to which they are related, because they can’t be plucked from the tree and eaten. They are hard and astringent and they need to be cooked to be good. 

After looking through a number of recipes, I decided to take a risk and combine a couple of them. One bit of advice that ran through all the recipes was not to peel the quinces because that’s where much of the pectin (the jelling factor) lies. I decided to use half quince and half green apple and chose a technique of grating the fruit rather than chopping it. Then I mixed the sugar with the fruit, lemon juice, and water and cooked it. I kept having to add more water to get the fruit soft. Because I had added the sugar right away, the mixture jelled before it was adequately soft. 

Green apple on the left, quince on the right. Related but different.

This is a case of I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Quince, even when shredded is a hard fruit and takes a long time to cook. When I finally gave up, the resulting jam was rather chewy. 

Quince, when cooked with sugar, turns slightly pink.

In the middle of my experiment, I reached out to gardening and cooking expert Dena Cowan for advice. Maybe I should have done that first. Here is her response:  “For the past two years I have been making it in the crock pot! I cook the whole quinces first in a pot full of water for about 10 or 15 minutes, just to make it easier to cut them. (If you have a microwave, you can put the whole fruit in it for a minute). No need to peel. I cut around the core and wrap all the cores in cheesecloth. Then I dice the rest of the quince. I put the diced quince, the cores in the cheesecloth, and the cane sugar into the crock pot, stir it up, and leave it overnight. In the morning I mush the core and use what in Spain they call a “chino” (basically a strainer) to get the gelatin out of the cooked core. Then I mush all the quince with a masher and leave it a couple of hours more.”

Ultimately, I used my jam as filling for some turnovers. The texture is perfect for them. I have about a cup left. We can use it on toast or I might try it as an alternate filling in a recipe I have used for fig or date bars. 

Quince-Apple Preserves

2 quinces, unpeeled

2 green apples, unpeeled

¼ cup lemon juice

½ cup water (be prepared to add more)

2 cups sugar

Cut washed fruit in quarters and remove cores. Grate apples into a bowl; grate quince into heavy-bottomed medium saucepan. Add water to grated quince and cook over low heat until soft, about 15 minutes. Add grated apple, lemon juice, sugar, and more water if necessary. Cook over medium heat, watching closely and adding more water as necessary, around another 15 minutes. The mixture is done when it turns pink. Makes about 1 pint.

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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 | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Harvest-time Happenings at Mission Garden

Tohono O’odham ha:l–the traditional desert pumpkin with its corky attachment and rich orange center–is ripening in autumn heat at Mission Garden…..

A colorful harvest is happening at Tucson’s Mission Garden, and it’s time to celebrate!   Tia Marta here with an invitation:   Every Saturday for the weeks of autumn there will be foodie festivities to enjoy at Mission Garden. Come masked and socially-distanced for open-air learning, tasting, photography and fun.  There’s a big one this coming Saturday Oct.17, 2020 not to miss!

O’odham tepary beans hold the record for desert adaptation, high nutrition, rich flavor, and long sustainable cultivation right here in the Sonoran Desert.  Come get a taste of this rich heirloom Sat.Oct.17.

This colorful heirloom bean mix, known as Tom’s Mix, is like a multi-cultural metaphor–bringing the agricultural wisdom of 14 different Southwestern cultures together in one incredibly delectable soup. You can taste it Oct.17 at Mission Garden!

Tohono O’odham 60-day corn could be the fastest maturing and most desert-adapted corn known. It was domesticated by the Desert People long ago. Mission Garden’s volunteers are honoring it and helping to bring it into wider cultivation. Come taste a tortilla made with this ancient and nutritious desert crop!

Ancient Chapalote corn (known from 4100-year-old archaological sites in the Tucson area) and pre-Columbian Tohono O’odham 60-day corn are celebrated at Mission Garden. What a beautiful way to pay proper respect on Indigenous Peoples’ Day! Our mutual thanks to Native ancestors for these gifts from the past which can help us into an unsure future!

All of these Three Sisters–Corn, Beans and Squash–are grown together at Mission Garden in traditional ways, demonstrated in different “time-line” gardens.  Come observe and learn how you might plan your own garden next summer season.

As the evenings get cooler, it will be time to plant a winter/spring crop of ancient White Sonora Wheat, a golden, low-gluten wheat-berry introduced to our area by Padre Kino over 300 years ago. It will be packaged and available for sale at the Mission Garden’s Oct.17 gastronomy book launch event.

Tastes of the Southwestern heirloom bean Tom’s Mix soup and tastes of traditional O’odham Tepary Beans will be available at Mission Garden, Saturday, October 17, 10am-12noon.  Look for the Flor de Mayo table under the north ramada that day.  Also available will be packaged White Sonora Wheatberries with recipes for cooking them for pilaf or for marinated wheatberry salad.  For more wheatberry recipes check out this post.   A portion of the Oct.17 sale of these heirloom foods will go to support Mission Garden’s programs.

Author Carolyn Niethammer and her latest Southwestern foods book will be in the limelight this Saturday Oct.17 at Mission Garden. A DESERT FEAST describes in delicious detail a 4100-year history of foodways in Tucson, Arizona–named UNESCO’s first International City of Gastronomy!

All of Carolyn Niethammer’s books are gastronomic inspirations, but THIS one —A Desert Feast–bears the crown!  It is rich in history and recipes.  Come get your copy signed Oct.17 and discuss traditional foods–wild and domestic– with the author herself.

You can find many fantastic recipes for tepary beans, Tom’s Mix, and wheat berries in this SavortheSouthwest.blog archive using the search box.  Try some of the great recipes on the link SavortheSouthwest post written for healthy menus and specialized diets.  Tom’s Mix and Teparies make fabulously flavorful bean salads, dips, stews, and hummus.  These bean mixes and white Sonora Wheatberries are also available online at www.NativeSeeds.org and at www.flordemayoarts.com .  Also check Tohono Chul Park, Tucson Presidio and Old Town Artisans for Flor de Mayo heirloom foods.

For a full schedule of Mission Garden weekend events, the Membrillo Fest, 60-day corn tortillo demos etc, please see the website www.tucsonsbirthplace.org.

 

Categories: Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Desert Feast” Tells Story of a Heritage Grain

In 2015 Tucson was named the first U.S. UNESCO City of Gastronomy. That word “gastronomy,” as defined by UNESCO, isn’t about fancy restaurants, but rather it refers to a region’s entire food system. A Desert Feast, Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary History, my new book, draws on thousands of years of food history to explain the UNESCO designation. The book traces the influences of Native American, Mexican, mission-era Mediterranean, and ranch-style cowboy traditions. It is is a food pilgrimage, full of stories and recipes stretching back to the earliest residents of the Santa Cruz Valley. You’ll read how the earliest farmers first learned to grow corn beginning in 2100 BC, where the Hohokam built elaborate their elaborate irrigation canals, and how the arrival of the Spanish changed everything.

Like life, the big story is made up of many small stories. One of them is how in the late 1690s, Father Eusebio Kino brought winter wheat to Upper Sonora, filling an important food niche. Today we still eat this crop, ground into flour for delicious pastries or eaten whole as in this salad, in the photo below.

The volunteers at the Mission Garden in Tucson always grow a large field of Sonoran White Wheat to take us back to an earlier time when fields of this grain grew along the banks of the Santa Cruz River.

Volunteers harvest Sonoran winter wheat in the Mission Garden in the spring.

 Sonoran White Wheatberry Salad

Sonoran White Wheatberry Salad with dried fruit.

This is modified from a dish made by Chef Janos Wilder and served at Downtown Kitchen+Cocktails in Tucson. Chop all the fruit into pieces about the size of raisins. This takes well to a fruit flavored vinaigrette. If you have any fruit vinegars or olive oil, this is a good place to use them.

1 cup dry wheatberries

1/3 cup chopped dates (about 6)

1/3 cup chopped apricots or golden raisins

½ cup chopped apple

1 shredded carrot

1/3 cup sunflower seeds

1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese

1 cup shredded baby spinach

Dressing:

4 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon honey or agave syrup

1 teaspoon mustard

2 tablespoons fruit vinegar

Cover wheatberries with 2 cups water, bring to a boil, cover and turn heat down to a simmer. Cook  45-60 minutes until tender but chewy.  Transfer to a medium bowl and add fruit, carrots and seeds. Make the dressing put the oil in a cup and stir in the honey and mustard. Dribble the vinegar in while whisking vigorously with a fork. Add to other ingredients and stir to combine.  Refrigerate. Just before serving stir in shredded spinach and top with crumbled goat cheese.

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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: Sonoran Native | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

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