Southwest “Seed Cakes” –inspired by Little Women–really?

This new cookbook–inspired by treats and festive meals in the book Little Women–was my inspiration for the “Southwest Seed Cakes”!

It’s hot off the press and already has us salivating! — a fun book to bring back memories, and to share with kids or grandkids in the kitchen. The two authors of The Little Women Cookbook are not only devourers of books themselves, but also creative foodies. (Tia Marta here, speaking with some familiarity, as the first author, Jenne Bergstrom–prima librarian and ace cook–is the talented daughter of one of my best friends.)

So of course my first inclination, after savoring the culinary moment in LIttle Women that each page brings forth vividly, is to see how you and I might adapt those endearing old recipes to our contemporary Southwest fare. On page 64, when I contemplated Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy’s caraway “seed cakes”, it was an image of saguaro seeds that popped into my mind….

At Solstice saguaro harvest time, I used the dried flower calyx to open fruits and dry them for later. NOW I get to enjoy them again in a Seed Cake…

Hooray–here’s a new way to use the bahidaj cuñ that my Tohono O’odham friend and mentor Juanita-baḍ long ago taught me to harvest. I’ve had them sealed and frozen since June. For the following recipe I could have used barrel cactus seeds (collected last spring) or the nutritious amaranth seed (collected last fall), but for this first experiment I wanted to try just one kind of seed. You’ll see that many of our local Southwest heirlooms lend themselves to this “Seed Cake” treat:

For the flour in the Seed Cakes recipe, I created a mix of amaranth seed flour, mesquite pod flour, and heirloom white Sonora wheat flour which I milled from whole kernel wheat in my Wondermill.

Southwest “Seed-Cakes” Recipe:

(You’ll need a small bowl, a sifting bowl, and a large mixing bowl, muffin tins w/cups if desired, and a beater.)

Ingredients:

2-3 Tbsp dried saguaro seed, with pulp is better (alternatively barrel cactus seed or amaranth seed)

8 oz. (2 sticks) butter (plus more for greasing muffin tins if you don’t have paper liners)

1/2 cup agave “nectar” (agave syrup)

1/2 cup sugar (use sugar to “dredge” remaining agave syrup out of measuring cup to get it all)

4 eggs

2 Tbsp mescal or brandy (optional) or prickly pear juice (to soften seeds)

2 1/4 cups flour (I used 1 3/4 cups heirloom white Sonora wheat flour, 1/2 cup mesquite pod flour, and 1/4 cup amaranth flour)

1/2 tsp sea salt

Directions: Preheat oven to 350F. Put seeds in small bowl with mescal or juice to “hydrate”. In large bowl, cream butter, agave nectar and sugar until fluffy. In separate bowl, sift together flours and salt. To the creamed butter, add eggs, and beat at high speed til smooth (2-3 minutes). Gradually add the flour mixture to the wet mixture, mixing on medium speed until well combined. Stir in seeds and remaining liquid.

Pour batter into greased muffin tins, to 3/4 full per cup.

Bake 18-20 minutes……or

…..until muffins turn golden brown and test done with a thin skewer.

Serve with iced tea on the patio, or for birthday celebrations, or have ready when friends pop in–so versatile.

These tastes of the desert are nutritious too! Mesquite flour and amaranth flour are packed with protein, complex carbs and fiber for sustained energy. White Sonora wheat is a low-gluten flour with its own sweet character. Seeds have vegetable proteins and beneficial oils.

So enjoy every Seed Cake bite!

My copy of The Little Women Cookbook is already opening to new pages that will sprout delectable ideas for cool weather and holidays to come….Stay tuned. It’s such fun to adapt our time-honored local ingredients to favorite old-time recipes in totally new combinations!

This “Southwest Seed Cake” recipe made 14 large muffins and 24 minis!

Where to locate ingredients: Find mesquite flour on the NativeSeedsSEARCH online catalog. Plan to safely harvest your own mesquite pods next year and have them milled at one of several milling events. Amaranth flour (Bob’s Red Mill is easy to use) can be found at Sprouts and Natural Grocers. Amaranth seed is available via NativeSeedsSEARCH. White Sonora wheat grain is celebrated every May at Mission Garden‘s San Ysidro Fiesta. Find this heirloom flour from the first grower BKWFarmsInc (organic), or from Barrio Bread or NativeSeedsSEARCH. Harvesting your own desert seeds for “Seed Cakes” is the most satisfying activity of all. Amaranth will be ready to gather in September and October. And put on your calendar to harvest your own bahidaj kaij (saguaro fruit seed) next June!

May these “Seed Cakes”, from The Little Women Cookbook and Tia Marta, inspire you to celebrate our desert’s bounty with your own creativity!

Spicy Joys of Zhoug!

So, what in the world is Zhoug?? Tia Marta here to share a fun new taste experience. An exploratory-cook neighbor introduced us to this wonderfully flavor-filled sauce that hails originally from Yemen, Israel, the Middle East. It’s a bright green, savory thrill that can embolden–and bedeck–many totally different dishes. Zhoug tastes a little like a Chimichuri sauce from Argentina…

With Spring exploding in the desert, NOW is the time to harvest greens from your winter garden–quick–before they bolt–to make into spicy Zhoug sauce!

Most of the Zhoug sauce ingredients can be grown locally in the Sonoran Desert, some in winter, a few in summer. Many are available right now–fresh for the picking. Cilantro is my green of choice, because, “when it rains it pours.” There are lots of other greens options. Some peoples’ palates are not attuned to cilantro, so almost any leafy green fortunately can be used for Zhoug! Try fresh Italian parsley, crinkly parsley, or mint leaves–or try acelgas leaves from the Mission Garden.

Many ingredients for Zhoug saurce can be grown easily in your own backyard garden plot….
Harvest picante chiltepines from your own garden--or find them at NSS or the Mexican food section at the grocery.

Wild chiltepin peppers make the best Zhoug spice of all!

Recipe for Zhoug! sauce:

Ingredients: 2+ packed cups of slightly chopped cilantro or other leafy greens (2 bundles of cilantro) (with chopped stems ok)

4 medium cloves garlic (chopped) (try heirloom garlic from NativeSeedsSEARCH or MissionGarden)

1/2-3/4 tsp chiltepin peppers, ground (e.g.saved from summer-fall garden Tucson)

1 medium jalapeno, seeds removed (summer-fall garden Tucson)

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp cardamom, ground

3/4-1 tsp cumin seed, ground. (winter garden Tucson)

3/4 cup olive oil

2 Tbsp lemon juice (from your own or your neighbor’s tree, or from Iskashitaa Refugee Network)

For processing Zhoug sauce, put all your fresh “dry” ingredients in, then add the final olive oil and lemon juice just before blending (or poured in as you blend).

Directions: In a food processor, starting with your fresh greens, garlic, herbs & spices, then adding your wet ingredients, blend all to your desired consistency. I like to see little flecks of leaves still in the sauce as in the photo.

Glorious green Zhoug sauce can be used as a dip with chips, melba toast, sourdough slices… Invent your own spicy canape!

There is almost no end of ideas for Zhoug sauce! Zhoug will enliven tacos, beans, lentils, pita sandwiches, eggs, roasted veggies, hummus, grilled meats…..Wow. Try adding 1-2 Tbsp of Zhoug to 1 cup plain yogurt….

Our favorite is fish with Zhoug. We swooned over mahi mahi shown here with our Meyer lemon slices and Zhoug!

So get creative with our harvest of winter garden greens, and have fun creating new Zhoug dishes with that perfect chiltepin kick. Salud! from Tia Marta

Quiche Sonoraine a la Cholla Bud

“Quiche Sonoraine” inspired by Quiche Lorraine–This perfect Sonoran Desert breakfast joins many tasty and nutritious elements from Baja Arizona! (MABurgess photo)

Delicious Cholla buds (ciolim)–aka Cylindropuntia versicolor–a desert staple, are plump and ready to harvest into early May. Don’t delay! Gather them with thanks before they open.

Tia Marta here to inspire you with another way to go out and appreciate our beautiful and bountiful desert!

(MABurgess photo)

Step 1–Harvest your Cholla

Cholla buds can be picked carefully using any tongs, here being plucked with traditional O’odham wa:wo “chop-sticks.” (MABurgess photo)

Step 2–De-spine cholla buds.

Step 3— Simmer 15-20 minutes. When softened and done, you can use them in a variety of dishes.

Today it’s Cholla Bud Quiche in 9 easy steps!

Step 4a–Preheat oven to 375F.

Step 4bMake your crust:

Sift dry ingredients then mix together:

1 cup white Sonora wheat flour

1 tsp sea salt

3/4 cup amaranth flour

1/4 cup mesquite flour

Mix in:

6-8 Tbsp cold water

Form into ball by hand.

Roll out on floured board.

Step 5–

Finish crust by lifting rolled dough using the rolling pin, slipping rolled dough up and into pyrex pie dish.

Pinch dough along the edge to create a “bowl” or dike to hold the custard mix.

Step 6–

Line the pie shell with egg white.

Step 7–

Lay three layers of quiche surprises:

-a layer of grated cheddar or other favorite cheese

-a layer of cooked cholla buds to fully cover the cheese and crust floor

-a sprinkle of broken crisp bacon (optional)

Step 8–

Make the custard mix with:

4 beaten eggs

1/4-1/2 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp I’itoi’s onions or chives (optional)

2 cups scalded milk

Pour custard mix into pie shell over cholla buds.

Step 9–Bake at 375F for 40 minutes or until quiche tests done. For a little extra kick when done, dust the top with a sprinkle of Mano Y Metate Mole Adobo Powder or chilpotle powder or Spanish pimenton.(MABurgess)
Enjoy Quiche Sonoraine–Cholla Bud Quiche –either hot from the oven or chilled. And rejoice in the many ingredients–wild-harvested or grown locally –that are available to us in the Sonoran Desert!

Caution: As you harvest your cholla buds do be on the lookout for spines and critters!

Soon you will be able to sign up for online classes in desert harvesting at Tucson’s Mission Garden. Check out www.missiongarden.org or contact the program coordinator.

As for ingredients, you can find dried cholla buds, white Sonora wheatberries for milling, and fresh eggs all at the Mission Garden entrance, Wednesdays-Saturdays 8am-12noon. Mission Garden is making plans for two important events–the San Ysidro Fiesta celebrating the White Sonora Wheat Harvest Saturday May 15, and a mesquite pod milling event TBA.

White Sonora wheat flour may be available through NativeSeedsSEARCH or Barrio Bread. Amaranth flour from Bob’s Red Mill is available at most groceries. Mano y Metate Mole Adobo and other mole powders are available via NativeSeedsSEARCH and many other Southwest specialty shops.

I applaud heirloom foods artists Amy Valdes Schwemm, Nancy Reid at NSS and Carolyn Niethammer for their cholla inspirations. You can find other fun cholla bud recipes by entering “cholla” in the SavortheSouthwest.blog search box.

Every bite of Quiche Sonoraine reminds us of the desert’s nutritional and delectable gifts!

Curry Toppings with a SW Flair

Ideas for curry are in the air…On an adventurous (pre-Covid19) tour of Morocco last February 2020, as fellow travelers, we befriended a remarkable character, Kip Bergstrom, an enthusiastic foodie who seeks out the absolute “right source” for his gourmet dishes.  Diving headlong into Moroccan lamb, he found a local, caring sheep farm (for him Connecticut) and has become online chef for www.wearwoolnewlondon.com

Curry dishes call for crystallized ginger so my inventive Southwest solution is candied local fruit rinds as “side boys” or toppings!

Tia Marta here to share how Kip’s “LambStand” has inspired me to go local with lamb curry in the Southwest.  Being a mindful omnivore, I found Sky Island Brand from the 47-Ranch near Tombstone, AZ, providing lamb at Bisbee and Sierra Vista Farmers’ Markets from their arid-adapted, heritage churro sheep.

My family tradition at Easter has always been to serve lamb roast–then lamb curry soon after, so I’m getting ready.  Mom’s favorite touch to complement complex curry flavors was to dress the table with a festive array of toppings all around the main dish–what she called “curry boys” or “side boys.”  (Not sure the derivation of this term—like servants long ago around the table offering toppings?)  Regardless, these complementary dishes are a visual and gastronomic joy, so I’ve taken it as a fun challenge to create local Southwest curry toppings from local gardens and desert harvests.  These flavor combos promise to surprise and delight you in any curry dish–lamb or vegetarian….

In place of regular store-bought toppings called for in typical curry recipes, here are my creative suggestions:

Fresh from the garden, here are ingredients to make Muff’s Chirichurri Mint Sauce.

In place of regular mint sauce, I make a Southwest version of chimichurri sauce:

Muff’s Chimichurri Mint Sauce Recipe:

Ingredients: handful (1/2 Cup) fresh mint leaves from the garden

2 Tbsp chopped I’itoi’s onions (tops and all) from our mini-oasis veggie patch (also available from Mission Garden as starts (or shallots chopped)

3-4 small cloves heirloom garlic (or 2 lg garlic cloves) chopped

2-3 little chiltepin peppers whole (when I can get there before the birds–use sparingly) OR 1/2 tsp chile pepper flakes

1/2-2/3 Cup red wine vinegar,

1 Tbsp olive oil

Optional–up to 1/4 Cup fresh cilantro chopped

Chimichurri Mint Sauce Directions: Blender, chill and serve fresh in a small cruet.

In place of the traditional peanut “side” I like our local bellotas (Emory oak acorn nutmeats) or pinyon pinenuts.

In place of shaved coconut, I purchased jujube fruit from Tucson’s Mission Garden–grown in the Chinese garden section there.

In place of raisins and coconut toppings, try dried jujubes, desert hackberries, or crunchy dried chun (saguaro fruit)!

Chutney is a must as a curry topping!   Using a variation on Mom’s recipe, I make a local peach-mango and barrel cactus fruit chutney that should win prizes.  You can find a fabulous cactus-with-chia chutneys or barrel cactus seed mustard at BeanTreeFarm ordering online for easy pick-up.  

Barrel cactus fruit chutney, garden rosemary-garlic jelly, and Bean-Tree Farm’s barrel cactus mustard make great toppings!

Velvet and screwbean mesquite pods were used in making Tia Marta’s Mesquite/Membrillo Conserve–a great curry garnish!

Another goodie to use as a topping is my mesquite/membrillo conserve  that I made using quince fruit (membrillo) from Mission Garden plus a concentrated sweet syrup made by boiling down whole mesquite pods(See last October’s Savor-post.)

With fresh eggs from the Mission Garden “farm” I first boiled then pickled them for another curry complement.

In place of candied ginger, I made candied Meyer lemon-peel and grapefruit-peel from our little huerta trees and the fragrant sweet-lime peel from Mission Garden’s unusual citrus.  Click for the recipe in the SavortheSouthwest.Blog archive.

I’m topping off our SW curry meal with Rod’s amazing backyard olives (a future post?), an extra chiltepin hit, then partnering it all with a wee dram of bootleg bacanora mescal.

Your taste buds will be delighted and amazed to discover how all these different flavors blend and complement each other to enhance any curry dish!   

 

 

In a festive array around the curried lamb centerpiece, the Southwest’s low-desert bounty provides a garland of delectable complementary flavors!

I’m sending thanks to our desert gardens within and beyond the garden wall, for the plenty that our Sonoran Desert provides.    Here’s hoping these ideas might inspire you to try your own to dress up a curry dinner– lamb or vegetarian—in whatever habitat you live!

Tepary Time!

When cooked, these beautiful O’odham tepary beans keep their pleasing integrity, and lend themselves to a diversity of delectable dishes. Read on!

Ancestors of the O’odham–the Desert People and their relatives the Pima or River People–more than 4000 years ago, were gathering wild tepary beans (ba:wi) from the mountains in what we now call the US/Mexico borderlands.  They found a way to cultivate these precious beans in summer floodwater gardens and eventually domesticated them!  Tia Marta here hailing the gift ba:wi (Phaseolus acutifolius) is to the world–especially in hot, dry climates!

Mixed Tepary Bean soup is perfect for chilly days of winter for an easy and delicious stick-to-the-ribs lunch.  It only needs a little salt to bring out the rich flavor of teparies.  Other spices can elaborate, but teparies stand on their own just fine.

To make a fancier bean soup, mash cooked teparies for a pleasant creamy texture. Mushroom powder, or kelp, or pimenton, can lead this creamy soup into different delectable directions!….

When a chilly storm sets in in the desert, tepary beans can warm the soul and body.

The most important ingredient in cooking teparies is TIME, t-i-m-e.  Plan ahead by soaking your teparies the day before, for at least 8-10 hours.  To hasten the soaking process, you could bring a pound of teparies and about 8-10 cups water to a quick boil then let them sit in the same water for several hours.  Drain the soaking water and add 8-10 cups good drinking water for cooking.  Bring to a boil then simmer  (adding more water if needed) for up to 2-3 hours until beans test soft–just beyond al dente.  At this point you can create anything with your cooked teparies.  Good hearty soups can be the first satisfying treat.

It is so easy to mash your cooked, drained teparies. To refry teparies, just add some olive oil or butter to your fry pan and mash them as they bubble–the good old fashioned way. Or the quick fix:  whirl them to desired creaminess in the food-processor.

Partially mashed then refried teparies complement eggs and toast or tortilla for a hearty and delicious breakfast!

It’s worth being reminded–mentally jolted–that teparies’ gift of super-nutrition is off the charts:   One fifth of a tepary serving is protein!  Their slowly-digested complex carbs measure 22% Daily Value and their dietary fiber is a whopping 100%-173%–both acting as perfect balancers of blood-sugar and digestive support.  When it comes to important minerals, consider tepary’s iron at 20-30%; calcium for bones at 20-25%; magnesium 10-40% and potassium 48% as electrolytes and body building blocks.

Energize your refried teparies with your favorite chile spices, cumin powder, and/or hot sauce and voila! –you have an instant healthy dip that keeps for a week in the frig–if it doesn’t get eaten up right away! “Serving suggestion”–serve teparies with blue corn chips for a complete protein.  Yummmm!

The BEST vegetarian burrito you will ever eat!!–This is the famous Tepary Burrito made with our local red and white mixed O’odham ba:wi–full of flavor, substantial high-protein nutrition, and sustained energy!

You can dress teparies up or down with garlic, chiles mild or picante, cumin seed, toasted onions, oregano, cilantro, cheeses, or even a ham hock–variations are endless.  Check out archived recipe ideas by writing “tepary” in the search box above.

You can find our delectable red-and-white Native American Tepary Mix in person at Tucson’s amazing Mission Garden Wednesdays thru Saturdays, 8am-2pm (come masked for a special socially distanced experience).  The Native American Tepary Mix is also available online at NativeSeedsSEARCH, and www.flordemayoarts.com.  Individual tepary bean colors are available from Ramona Farms and NativeSeedsSEARCH.

Happy tepary tasting–to your good health! 

 

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.

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.

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.

 

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.

An Exultation of Figs!

Fig alert!–They are ripening all over Baja Arizona!  Salivating allowed– Figs provide much more than yummy fruit and blessed shade.  Come learn more about their super nutrition, their lore and history, and their gentle medicine traditions at Tucson’s Mission Garden–read on!

Find your favorite fig in Tucson’s most productive orchard, perhaps have a taste, and if you crave to grow one of your own edible tree, visit TODAY and TOMORROW, July 17 and 18, at Mission Garden for the Monsoon Plant Sale!  It’s right at the base of A-Mountain on Mission Road from 8am-noon.  (Come masked, social-distanced, and honoring each other’s safety.)

Tia Marta here inviting you to also join me by Zoom next Tuesday July 21, 2020, for an online Fig Workshop.   Take a deep dive into the gifts that figs have provided for people here in the Sonoran Desert for centuries, and in the Old World for millennia.  Fig traditions are so rich.  A diversity of recipes abound for the domestic fig (Ficus carica), not only for the sweet fruits but also for leaves.  And do you know how many ailments can be alleviated with the versatile fig?  We will learn to identify the 7 heirloom varieties of figs growing productively at Mission Garden, discuss their heritage and share amazing recipes.

Figs ripen fast and action is needed to preserve their goodness for later.

It’s like the legendary zucchini drops in Vermont at the height of zucchini season.  When your neighbor drops a bushel of figs on your doorstep, preserving them any way you can is in order.  Try sun-drying them under insect protection such as this picnic net “umbrella”  or in a solar oven with the lid propped open 1/2 inch to let moisture escape.

For a fancy and fast dessert, wash & chill fresh figs with stems on, dip in fudge sauce then in your favorite crushed nutmeats. Set on a platter in frig until celebration time!

 

When Padre Kino introduced the fig, higo, and higuera (fig tree in Spanish), to the O’odham of the Pimeria Alta, it was adopted right away and given the name su:na. Su:na je’e (fig tree) was planted in many Native gardens.

At our Zoom Fig Workshop we will present Hispanic, Anglo and nouvelle recipes for making delicious entrees, preserves, compotes, cookies, and even your own fig “mead elixir”!  We’ll discuss fig anatomy, insect relationships, cultivation, culture….

This is a tantalizing taste of things to come in our Fig Workshop– Agave-Caramelized Figs with Yogurt!

Muff’s Agave-caramelized Figs with Yogurt

Directions:

“Poach” halved figs in 2-3 Tbsp agave nectar with sprigs of rosemary for ca 5 minutes each side.

On a serving of plain yogurt, sprinkle chia seed, then spoon caramelized figs and sauce over yogurt.  Serve warm or chilled.  Enjoy the fig bounty!

For lots of ideas go also to other archived posts on this www.savorthesouthwest.blog such as Carolyn’s Fig Jam or Amy’s pickled fig recipes or enter “figs” on the search box.

Full, illustrated recipe instructions for many of our Mission Garden heirloom figs will be shared at the Zoom Workshop July 21, 2020.   Tia Marta hopes to see you at the Zoom Workshop or at the Mission Garden Monsoon Plant Sale SOON!

[For complete instructions on the planting and care of your new fig tree, or other edible trees in your landscape, check out the instructional video at the SWAAN website Southwest Agroforestry Action Network, a good resource.]

Note:  There are many amazing fig (Ficus) species in warm parts of our Sonoran Desert in Sonora and Baja California, and in other parts of the New World, which were used and appreciated by Indigenous People–but that is another story in itself for later….!