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.
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.
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.