Posts Tagged With: Carolyn Niethammer

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: , , | 4 Comments

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

Delicious Desert Sweets: Pindo Palm Fruit

These days I find myself looking for comfort from sweets. It’s Carolyn here today and what I hear from others, I’m not alone in my cravings. Mother Nature must have anticipated our longings, because she has provided us with some natural sweets. There are many species of palms and the fruits are usually sweet. Some like dates are really succulent; others are rather dry.

I was cooling off in a friend’s swimming pool, when round orange fruits were bouncing off a beautiful palm tree next to the pool. I couldn’t resist biting into one and found it fibrous with a large seed but really sweet. It had some of the tropical flavor of a mango, a touch of lemon, and another element, sort of dusky, all its own. My friend said it was a Pindo palm. I gathered a bag full.

The Pindo Palm fruits sometimes hide inside the tree.

At home, I felt the same excitement of discovery I felt years ago when I first started playing with unusual plants and fruits. It turns out lots of people have been using Pindo palm fruits and sometimes it is even called the Jelly Palm. For my jam, I decided to combine the Pindo juice with some peach and mango. And since everything was already so sweet, I decided to use Pomona’s Pectin so I could use way less sugar. I discussed Pomona’s Pectin in a previous post here.

Here are the palm fruits in my kitchen. I started experimenting.

Pindo Palm Jam

For palm juice

2-4 cups of Pindo  palm fruits

Water to cover

Using a large saucepan, simmer the palm fruits in the water until soft, about 15 minutes. Cool. Then plunge in your hands and squish, squish, squish until the fruit is separated from the seeds. It will be very soft and sort of dissolve into the water. Place a strainer over a large bowl and strain the liquid. Return the residue to the saucepan, add some water, and swish the fruit residue around to get the rest of the fruit. This second rinsing will recover a lot more juice. You can use a cup of the juice for the jam.  Use the rest for a drink, straight or with sparkling water or combined in a cocktail.

This is what it will look like when you squish the fruits into the cooking water.

For jam

1 soft ripe mango

1 soft ripe peach

Approximately 1 cup palm juice

2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice

2 teaspoons calcium water

½ cup sugar

1 ½ teaspoons Pomona’s pectin powder

Cut the mango flesh from the seed and chop finely. Do the same with the peach. Put chopped fruit in a 2-cup glass measuring cup and add palm juice to bring it up to 2 cups. Transfer fruit and juice to a saucepan. Add lemon juice and calcium water.

In a small bowl, combine sugar and pectin powder and stir well.

Bring fruit mixture to a full boil over high heat, stirring well. Slowly add sugar-pectin mixture, stirring constantly for 1 to 2 minutes to dissolve sugar. When jam is at a full boil, turn off the heat.

Ladle into 3 half-pint sterilized jars. Refrigerate or cover with water and boil for 10 minutes. If you are new to canning, you can find full instructions for how to do this many places on-line.

Here are two jars of jam and a center pint of Pindo Palm juice that we’ll use in cocktails. I had three jars of jam but gave one away before I took the photo.

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If you are interested in edible wild plants of the Southwest and Southwest food, check out my books Cooking the Wild Southwest, Delicious Recipes for Desert Plants, The New Southwest Cookbook, a compilation of recipes from the Southwest’s top chefs, and The Prickly Pear Cookbook, with great recipes for both pads and fruits. And remember Eat Mesquite and More: A Cookbook for Sonoran Desert Foods. In September, I’ll have a new title: A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage. There is more information about my books at www.cniethammer.com.

Buy copies on line or order from your favorite local bookstore. They will love you for it.

Categories: Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Mesquite: Not flour, broth!

This gorgeous photo shows the lifecycle of a mesquite pod. It was taken by talented photographer Jill Lorenzini whose skill at photographing wild plants never ceases to make me go “ooooh!”

This is the time of year to gather mesquite pods and look for places with hammermills that can grind them into flour or meal to use for baking. Everything is different this year and it may be some time before we can gather for a grinding event. But you can still make delicious treats with your mesquite pods by boiling them. Mesquite is one of Mother Nature’s sweetest offerings and can often replace the need for additional sugar.

It’s Carolyn today. I started playing with mesquite pods many years before Desert Harvesters began offering us the option of having our pods ground into lovely fine meal in their hammermill. I tried everything: blender, Cuisinart, Molina grain mill. Nothing worked well. I understand that a Vitamix does a decent job, but I didn’t have one. I developed a deep appreciation for those Native women who pounded pods in the rock mortar.

Desert Harvesters grinding mesquite pods in June 2018 using the hammermill.  This year we’re avoiding gatherings like this so we need to find another way to use our mesquite pods.

Without our friends at Desert Harvesters this year helping us to have beautiful fine mesquite meal at this time (maybe later, they say, stay tuned), I’m digging back into my book Cooking the Wild Southwest, to share some recipes for mesquite broth.  Here’s the basic: Take about 4 cups of broken mesquite pods and cover with about 2 quarts of water.

Start with four cups of broken mesquite pods.

Bring to a boil, cover the pot, turn down the heat, and simmer for about an hour. Cool. Next, put your hands into the broth and wring and tear the the pods in the broth, stirring and mashing the sweet pith into the liquid. This is a great place to get the kids or grandkids involved. They love the messiness of it. The object is to get as much of the pith (technically, the mesocarp) into the broth as possible. Strain the liquid through a fine wire-mesh trainer and discard the seeds and fiber. Simmer the liquid uncovered until reduced to three cups.

This is what your unstrained broth will look like.

Now we’re ready to make something delicious. Let’s start with something quick, a drink I call the Gila Monster. It’s a perfect beverage for a Sunday brunch or even dessert. It looks especially inviting in clear glass mugs.

Combine mesquite broth with cold coffee and whipped cream for a delicious brunch treat.

Gila Monster

(These proportions are a basic recipe. You can adjust to your taste. If you are including kids, use just a few tablespoons of coffee and go with mainly milk. )

Makes 6 servings.

1 1/2 cups cold coffee (use decaf for after-dinner)

2 1/2 cups cold Mesquite Broth

1/2 cup cold milk of your choice

1/2 cup coffee liqueur (optional)

Whipped cream

Cinnamon powder

Combine all ingredients in a pitcher or large bowl. Pour into glasses or cups. Top with whipped cream and a dusting of cinnamon powder.

What are some other uses for your broth? Substitute for honey in a honey-mustard salad dressing. Instead of using brown sugar on baked sweet potatoes, drizzle with some mesquite broth. Thicken your broth with cornstarch and use on pancakes. You get the idea. If you want a little more direction, like actual recipes, get a copy of Cooking the Wild Southwest and I’ll guide you step by step through recipes for mesquite broth and mesquite meal. You’ll find even more recipes in the book Desert Harvesters put together Eat Mesquite and More: A Cookbook for Sonoran Desert Foods and Living.  In addition to recipes for mesquite, it covers lots of other desert plants as well.

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If you are interested in edible wild plants of the Southwest and Southwest food, check out my books Cooking the Wild Southwest, Delicious Recipes for Desert Plants, The New Southwest Cookbook, a compilation of recipes from the Southwest’s top chefs, and The Prickly Pear Cookbook, with great recipes for both pads and fruits. And remember Eat Mesquite and More: A Cookbook for Sonoran Desert Foods. In September, I’ll have a new title: A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage. There is more information about my books at www.cniethammer.com.

Buy copies on line or order from your favorite local bookstore. They will love you for it.

 

 

Categories: Cooking, Mesquite, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Rusty Makes Barrel Cactus Jam with Less Sugar

Rusty Ramirez, cook at EXO, with one of the delicious breakfasts she serves with her homemade barrel cactus jam.

I just love to make jam. It’s Carolyn with you today and over the years in this blog I’ve shared with you lots of jam recipes, some with prickly pear, lots with citrus.  It does something to my soul to stand over a simmering pot of fruit and end up with glistening glass jars full of jewel-toned deliciousness. Today I want to talk about lemony-tasting barrel cactus jam.The issue with it and all jams is the sugar. Most jams take lots of sugar, at least as much sugar as fruit, sometimes more. Try reducing the sugar and you end up with runny jam.

But while doing research for my new book A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage, I had the opportunity to interview lots of professional cooks. What fun that was, and I always learned something.  From Rusty Ramirez, the breakfast cook at EXO Coffee Roasters here in Tucson, I learned there is a way to make jam with less sugar. You use a product called Pomona Low Sugar Pectin.

There is a book I found with recipes using this product, and if you’d like to begin making jams with less sugar, it might be a good idea to try some of these recipes before modifying them with different fruit. When I get inspired, I’ll see what I can do about prickly pear jam. If you are used to making jam the old-fashioned way, you’ll find this a somewhat different process.

 

Rusty did her own research and came up with a formula to use the Pomona Low Sugar Pectin to  make barrel cactus jam. EXO serves it for breakfast on the fabulous bread from Barrio Bread made with heritage grains.

Cut barrel cactus fruit ready to be sliced and cooked.

I won’t be able to share all the stories in A Desert Feast with you until September, but I’m going to give you a sneak peak with Rusty’s recipe now. Rusty includes the seeds in her jam. If you don’t want to do that, in a previous post, I gave you a great recipe to use the seeds in a cheesy-rich appetizer.

EXO Coffee Roasters Barrel Cactus Jam

25-30 ripe barrel cactus fruits

½ cup water

¼ cup lemon juice

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 tablespoons of  Pomona Low Sugar Pectin

4 teaspoons calcium water (instructions on how to make it are included in the pectin box)

Rinse the fruits, cut off the tops and bottoms, and chop roughly. Place the chopped fruits into a heavy-bottomed 2-quart saucepan and add water to about an inch over the fruits. Bring the water to a hard boil, and then reduce the heat to a slow boil for 30 minutes.

While the fruit is boiling, whisk together the sugar and pectin in a bowl and set aside.

When the fruit is cooked, remove from the heat and place into a fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth in a sink. You should have about 3 cups. Rinse the fruit with cold water until there isn’t much mucilage left in the fruits. They should be tender when you squeeze them.  The seeds will collect at the bottom, You can add them to the marmalade or dry them in the oven to snack on later.

Transfer the cooked and rinsed barrel cactus fruits back into the saucepan with 4 teaspoons of calcium water and the 1/4 cup of lemon juice. Stir well with a heat proof spatula. Bring the fruit to a soft boil and add the sugar/pectin mixture to the pot slowly while continuously stirring the fruit so that the pectin doesn’t clump. Before you remove the marmalade from the heat, make sure that all of the sugar/-pectin mixture has dissolved. Put your sterilized jars on a heat-resistant surface. Carefully ladle the marmalade into the jars, filling to the neck and leaving about a half inch at the top.

Cover with the lids and let the marmalade cool completely. Store in the refrigerator for up to three months.

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If you are interested in edible wild plants of the Southwest and Southwest food, check out my books Cooking the Wild Southwest, Delicious Recipes for Desert Plants, The New Southwest Cookbook, a complilation of recipes from the Southwest’s top chefs, and The Prickly Pear Cookbook, with great recipes for both pads and fruits.  In September, there will be a new title: A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage. There is more information about them at www.cniethammer.com.

Buy copies on line or order from your favorite local bookstore. They will love you for it.

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

Call It Prickly Pear, Call it Nopal. It’s time for harvest.

Every year, for thousands of years, people living in the Sonoran Desert could count on prickly pear producing succulent delicious new pads this time of year. The native varieties of Opuntia have lots of thorns and it must have been a chore to clean them when all you had was a sharp-edged stone for a tool. Carolyn here today, recalling that one of the reasons that Tucson was named a UNESCO City of Gastronomy is that modern Sonoran Desert dwellers eat some of the same foods people ate here when they were just small family groups drifting through the area, long before there were even villages. That’s quite a testament to the staying power of these local foods.

You need to pick prickly pear pads in the spring when they are only a few weeks old. As they mature they develop a woody interior structure. You can buy fresh pads year ’round in Mexican grocery stores. They are grown by farmers who know how to manipulate their plants through trimming and fertilizing to produce throughout the season.

 

A fresh prickly pear pad, tender and succulent. Very obvious that it is new growth.

Interior structure of a prickly pear pad where the green flesh has rotted away.

Today, most of us who like to pick and eat prickly pear use the Ficus indica variety that grows taller and without big thorns on the young pads. It is native to areas further south, but it can survive here in gardens. Although the big thorns are absent, there are, however, tiny stickers called glochids, and they can be dangerous so you should wear rubber gloves when working with the pads. The glochids look like small hairs but they do have barbs on the end. You don’t want them in your finger or your tongue! I tend to just scrape the sides of the pad with a serrated steak knife, then cut off the edge as in these pictures. The edge has so many thorns it is not worthwhile to try to clean it so just trim it off.

Use a serrated steak knife to clean the thorns and glochids from the prickly pear pad.

My friend Chad Borseth takes a more nuanced approach to cleaning the pads, cutting out just the glochids. He sells lots of edible wild plant products on his website Sky Island Spice Co. and has made this video of cleaning the pads. If you want a better idea of just how to go about it, take a look at the video.

The nopalitos are done when they turn olive green.

Once you have the cleaned pads, you’ll need to cut them up into strips or small squares and cook them. Now you have turned your nopal into nopalitos. You can do this in oil in a frying pan, or follow the Rick Bayless method and oil them, place on a cookie sheet and bake until olive green. The cooking shrivels them and dries up the gummy sap that is so healthful but that some people find objectionable.

You can put the cooked nopalitos into a taco, combined with meat or alone. Or, if you are introducing them to people who might be wary, include them as a new ingredient in some familiar food.  In a previous post we gave a recipe for nopalitos in pineapple salsa which is a great side dish. It comes from The Prickly Pear Cookbook. 

Another super easy familiar dish is this apple and carrot salad, with, of course, nopalitos. It is adapted from Cooking the Wild Southwest: Delicious Recipes for Desert Plants, a compilation of information on how to gather and cook 23 delicious and easily gathered desert plants.

Apple, carrot, and nopalito salad is a delicious way to introduce people to their first taste of cactus.

Apple, Carrot and Nopalito Salad

1 small cleaned prickly pear pad

1 cup shredded carrot

½ shredded apple

Dressing

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 tablespoons milk

½ teaspoon sugar, honey, or agave syrup

Sprinkle of salt

Cut the prickly pear pad into very small pieces and bake on a greased cookie sheet in a 200-degree oven until dried and slightly chewy. This should take 15-30 minutes depending on how juicy the nopalitos are. Or put them in a frying pan with just enough oil to coat the pan and cook until olive green. The pieces will shrivel.

Meanwhile make the dressing by combining the mayonnaise and milk in a small bowl. Season with the sweetner and salt. Set aside.

When the nopalitos are chewy, add the carrot, apple, and nopalitos to the dressing. Stir and serve. It looks nice on a lettuce leaf.

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If you are interested in edible wild plants of the Southwest and Southwest food, check out my books Cooking the Wild Southwest, Delicious Recipes for Desert Plants, The New Southwest Cookbook, a complilation of recipes from the Southwest’s top chefs, and The Prickly Pear Cookbook, with great recipes for both pads and fruits. There is more information about them at www.cniethammer.com.

Buy copies on line or order from your favorite local bookstore. They will love you for it.

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

Mexican Cornbread: Familiar, Comforting and Delicious

Mexican Cornbread goes with every meal. Great for breakfast, aside a salad for lunch, and the perfect accompaniment to a hearty soup for dinner.

In this food blog, we often challenge you with recipes using wild plants, unusual flavors, and special ingredients that will help you make great food with Southwest flavors.  But maybe this is time time for something familiar and comforting. Mexican Cornbread used to be in regular rotation on our dinner menu, but I’d forgotten about it.

It’s Carolyn today and this has been a head-spinning month for anyone in the food world. Which I guess includes anyone who eats, but especially those involved in getting you that food. First, I want to celebrate the incredible response of the Tucson restaurant community in the first American UNESCO City of Gastronomy. Many sit-down restaurants managed to pivot in a day to take-out establishments after our mayor declared they could no longer seat patrons. When hundreds of restaurant workers lost their jobs, some of their colleagues with funding from generous donors, stepped up to provide meals for their out-of-work buddies.

My friend Lorien who has a small in-town farm is staying away from the farmer’s market and instead is serving customers from the alleyway behind her garden. (Those are her chicken’s beautiful eggs in the photo below). This is just one example of how Tucson’s food community is adapting to the pandemic. My forthcoming book “A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage” is entering the design stage, but my editors allowed me the opportunity to quickly add an Epilogue discussing the heroic measures that help keep the food flowing in our city.

Lorien’s neighbor gets some eggs from the alley behind her Dreamflower Garden.

So, on to the recipe. There is a standard method for putting all the ingredients together, but I’d bet if you just dumped everything in the bowl at once and stirred, it probably would be fine.

Most of the ingredients for Mexican Cornbread are pantry staples.

Ready for the oven.

 

This recipe is remarkably forgiving. Since I store my cornmeal at the back of the fridge and hadn’t seen it recently, I was surprised to find that I didn’t have quite enough yellow cornmeal. I certainly wasn’t going to run to the store for one item, so I  filled in with blue cornmeal of which I had an abundance. I prefer to use whole wheat flour, but you might want to use white flour. You probably don’t have buttermilk. Instead add a tablespoon of vinegar to regular milk. It will help the baking soda to do its work.  Here in the Southwest, we are used to eating spicy food, so we’d use at least some pepperjack cheese and add some jalapeños. But the cornbread is delicious in the milder version as well.

If you live in an area where prickly pear cactus are growing new pads and you are itching to use them, feel free to add some nopalitos to this recipe. Here, in a previous post, are full instructions on how to prepare them.  Nopalitos will add additional nutrition to your cornbread.

Mexican Cornbread

1 cup cornmeal

1 cup flour

1/2 cup melted butter

1 tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

3/4 cup buttermilk or milk

1 cup cream-style canned corn

1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chiles (chopped)

1/4 cup minced jalapeño peppers (optional)

1 ½  cups shredded longhorn, pepperjack or cheddar cheese

Instructions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cornmeal, melted butter, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda.

In another bowl, whisk the eggs with the buttermilk. Add melted butter. Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients and mix just until blended. Stir in the cream-style corn and chopped chiles. Add jalapeños if using. Stir to blend.

Pour half the mixture into the prepared baking pan. Sprinkle half of the shredded cheese over the batter.

Spoon remaining batter over the cheese layer and then top with the remaining cheese.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until lightly browned around the edges.

Just out of the oven.

Unless you have a large family or are really hungry, you’ll have some cornbread left. This is a good thing. It makes a lunch salad a satisfying meal, it is great beside a supper soup, and any leftovers can be fried in a little butter for breakfast. Add an over easy egg.  Oh my!

Try frying Mexican Cornbread for breakfast.

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Carolyn Niethammer has written about the food of the Southwest for more decades that she is willing to admit to. She is excited that The New Southwest Cookbook has been recently re-released. The New Southwest Cookbook can help you up your game with easy but innovative recipes. The dishes originated with top chefs using familiar Southwest ingredients in delicious new ways. These chefs were well-trained and knew how to layer flavors to come up with either new spins on the old favorites or entirely unique ways of blending the iconic chiles, corn, beans, and citrus.  The New Southwest Cookbook can be ordered from your favorite bookstore or ordered from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or the publisher.

Categories: Mexican Food, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

Herb-y Salad Dressing for Spring

Herbs, citrus, and a little onion and jalapeno make a sprightly dressing for spring greens.

It’s Carolyn here today to share with you what’s going on at my house. The lettuce in my salad garden is doing very well this year and we are eating at least one or two big salads every day. The homegrown greens are full of vitamins and flavor.

  Garden lettuce is full of flavor and vitamins.

I usually make a simple vinegar & oil dressing, but that’s getting a little boring. I remembered that The New Southwest Cookbook has a great recipe for salad dressing from La Cocina de Luz, a popular restaurant in Telluride, Colorado.  La Cocina de Luz makes the dressing with cilantro and lime and a hint of jalapeno, all distinctively Southwest flavors.

                                     Dill

                                Cilantro

I have abundant cilantro in my garden, although with the warming weather it is beginning to flower and make the little balls known as coriander which I will harvest in a few weeks. I know that there are cilantro-haters out there who think the herb tastes soapy, so I tried substituting dill in the dressing recipe. I also have lots of dill in the garden. It makes a dressing that is just as delicious in a very different way.

Herb Lime Dressing

¼ teaspoon minced jalapeno chile

3 tablespoons minced white or yellow onion

¼ cup fresh-squeezed lime juice

½ cup canola or neutral-flavored oil

2-3 tablespoons white sugar or agave syrup

½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup cilantro leaves or dill fronds

Combine all ingredients except herbs in a blender and process until creamy. Taste and correct the salt/sugar/lime relationship to your taste if necessary. Add herbs and pulse until the cilantro is in small flakes and evenly distributed. Do not over blend or you lose contrast. Serve within 24 hours over torn lettuce.

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Ready to expand your Southwest recipe repertoire beyond the basic enchiladas and tacos? The New Southwest Cookbook can help you up your game with easy but innovative recipes. The dishes originated with top chefs using familiar Southwest ingredients in delicious new ways. These chefs were well-trained and knew how to layer flavors to come up with either new spins on the old favorites or entirely unique ways of blending the iconic chiles, corn, beans, and citrus.  The New Southwest Cookbook can be ordered from your favorite bookstore or ordered from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or the publisher.

 

 

Categories: Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Green Chile Makes Zippier Mac n’ Cheese

A recent discussion somewhere on social media had people recalling their favorite foods as kids. For many, it was macaroni and cheese. Carolyn here today recalling that when my dad worked late, my mom would let me and my brother choose what we wanted for dinner. It was always macaroni and cheese. Specifically Kraft macaroni and cheese in the blue box. Recently when planning a kid-friendly dinner for my 4-year-old nephew I remembered my own childhood and made macaroni and cheese, but from scratch. He wouldn’t eat it, didn’t even recognize it. Not like what he gets at daycare. Not like the stuff in the box.

If you have moved beyond daycare food, this version of the old favorite includes ingredients that raise the flavor level many notches. It is almost  impossible to eat just one serving. The roasted poblano chiles add a deep chile flavor that isn’t too spicy. The recipe originated with Chef Robert McGrath at Roaring Fork restaurant in Scottsdale and is included in the recently re-released New Southwest Cookbook. that includes dozens of recipes that bring Southwest flavors to salads (Chile Lime Dressing), entrees (Pork with Prickly Pear Glaze), and desserts (Pumpkin Flan) . This mac n’ cheese recipe takes a little more time than dumping out the box, but it is so worth it.

Poblano chiles are broader and fleshier than the more widely available Anaheims. Roast them on a grill or under a broiler until blistered black, then transfer to a lidded casserole dish or plastic bag to steam before peeling and removing the seeds .If you have fresh corn on the cob, roast it along with the chiles. If not, canned or frozen kernels will do fine.

Roast chiles on a grill or under a broiler until all skin is blistered.

 

Open chiles and clean out seeds and ribs. Chop until you have a puree.

Chop chile flesh until you have a puree.

This is billed as four servings. Nobody eats just one serving so plan accordingly.

Green Chile Macaroni and Cheese

1/4 cup diced red bell pepper

1/2 cup sweet corn kernels

1/4 cup diced red onion

2 teaspoons chopped garlic

1 teaspoon corn oil

2 cups cooked macaroni

1/2 – 3/4 cup puree of roasted peeled poblano chile

2/3 cup grated hot pepper jack cheese

1/4 cup heavy cream or half and half

Kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Sauté the bell pepper, corn, red onion and garlic in oil in a medium heavy saucepan or deep frying pan over medium heat until the vegetables are soft. Add the macaroni, poblano puree, and jack cheese, and stir until cheese is melted. Fold in heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Ready to expand your Southwest recipe repertoire beyond the basic enchiladas and tacos? The New Southwest Cookbook can help you up your game with easy but innovative recipes. The dishes originated with top chefs using familiar Southwest ingredients in delicious new ways. These chefs were well-trained and knew how to layer flavors to come up with either new spins on the old favorites or entirely unique ways of blending the iconic chiles, corn, beans, and citrus.  The New Southwest Cookbook can be ordered from your favorite bookstore or ordered from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or the publisher.

 

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

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