Holiday Citrus-Mesquite Bars

OK, anyone can put sugar, butter and flour together, but if you give yourself carte blanche to invent new local variations on old-time favorites you can come up with some winners, especially for special winter occasions. Tia Marta here to share what I did with traditional lemon bars for a totally Southwest flair:

Try this delicious locally-inspired RECIPE for HOLIDAY CITRUS BARS:

You will need a 9×13″ baking dish and mixing bowls

Ingredients for crust:

1 and 1/2 cups flour mix (I used 1 cup organic fine whole wheat and 1/2 cup white Sonora wheat flour*)

1/2 cup mesquite meal (in place of crushed graham crackers used in other recipes)

3/4 cup butter, softened room temperature

1/2 cup powdered sugar

Ingredients for top layer:

2 cups regular sugar

1/2 cup lemon juice (lime juice or tangerine juice also are delish)

1-2 Tbsp lemon-zest (I used minced Meyer lemon rind; lime- or tangerine-zest would be great)

4 lg. eggs

optional wild desert fruits (I used saguaro fruit; prickly pear or hackberries would work great)

!/4 cup flour (added separately for this top-layer mixture)

*white Sonora wheat flour is available from Barrio Bread milled with heirloom grain grown by BKW Farms in Marana

Directions follow with pictures:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

To begin crust, sift flour mixture, mesquite meal, and and powdered sugar together.

(Since the crust is not leavened, you can make it gluten-free by using tapioca flour as your binder and amaranth flour with the mesquite flour.)

Mix crust ingredients–flours, confectioners’ sugar, and softened butter– to make a “dough”.

Press “dough” into the bottom of the 9×13″ baking pan, relatively evenly (maybe 3/4-1/2″ thick. Be sure to crimp down the edges with a clean knife so the thickness of dough is not tapered thin.

Bake crust at 350F until light brown, about 20-25 minutes. Keep oven on….

Grate 1-2 tablespoons lemon, lime or tangerine zest.

We have Meyer lemons which have such a mild sweet rind that I experimented by mincing, instead of zesting them. I had juiced the fruits previously, and had frozen the rinds for zesting and for making limoncello (that’s another fantastic blog by SavorSisterCarolyn!) . For the top-layer mixture I used 3 tablespoons of minced Meyer lemon rind.

While crust is baking, beat together the top-layer ingredients: sugar, citrus juice, minced or zested rind, 4 eggs, and 1/4 cup flour as thickener. (If you are using a pyrex bake pan, make sure this mixture is warm enough so as not to shock the hot pyrex when poured on crust.)

When crust is light brown and done, bring out of the oven. Pour top-layer mixture onto the crust.

To provide festive decoration and texture, I garnished the top with saguaro fruit collected last June, frozen and now thawed.

Return the now double-layered pan back into oven. Continue baking for another 20-25 or until top layer “sets” firmly.

When done, place on raised rack to cool evenly. Dust the top with powdered sugar.

When cool, separate crust from edge with sharp knife to make removal easier. Slice into small squares. These bars are so deliciously RICH –small is better!

Good and gooey –with that wonderful mesquite flavor, the crunch of saguaro seed,

…and the internalized hope that–with this–we can let the desert plants know how important they are to us!

Enjoy a cold-weather tea-time, a citrus harvest with purpose, or a Thanksgiving dessert made with your own variation on this Citrus Bar treat!

As winter festivities draw near, for more great ideas….check out our earlier blog post Southwest Style Holiday Buffets.

A joyous holiday to all from Tia Marta!

[Mesquite flour or saguaro fruit are special tastes of what makes Tucson an International City of Gastronomy! But these desert foods are not available just anywhere. Plan ahead–the way traditional Tohono O’odham harvesters have always known to do– future culinary opportunities will open to you if ye desert goodies while ye may, that is, when they are in season. Here’s a word of encouragemen from Tia Marta: Put it on your 2023 calendar now. Set aside time in mid-late June, tho’ it is super hot, to collect saguaro fruit, peel and freeze it in sealed container. Also mid-late June before the rains, gather brittle dry mesquite pods for community milling, and freeze the meal in sealed containers. In mid-late August, gather whole prickly pear tunas to freeze in paper and plastic, for juicing later. YOU WILL BE SO GLAD LATER THAT YOU SET ASIDE THESE DESERT FRUITS. Use the SEARCH box on this blog for instructions about harvesting a cornacopia of desert delicacies and staples.]

Delicious Beverages to Make from Pomegranate and Hibiscus

A lovely hot drink made from pomegranate rind and hibiscus flowers.

Hello! It’s Carolyn today and after nine years of Savor the Southwest, we have an updated look. All the old posts for wild food and Southwest specialties are still in the archives, although they all have the new look.

Today I’m going to talk about tea–well actually “infusions,” since tea must refer to the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. Fall is pomegranate season in Tucson and many people in the warm Southwest have the trees in their yards. Pomegranates are one of the Old World Mediterranean crops brought to the area by Father Eusebio Kino in the early 1700’s. 

Many people let their precious pomegranates go to waste because they don’t know how to get out the seeds and then how to eat them. An easy way to do this is to quarter the fruit and then submerge the pieces in a bowl of cold water. Pick the seeds out with your fingers. The seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl and the fiber will float. 

Pomegranate being cleaned in a bowl of water. 

The cleaned seeds can be sprinkled on fruit salads or squeezed for juice. But what of the peels? I was amazed to learn recently that the dried pomegranate rinds can make a great tea–whoops, infusion. The imparter of this old-fashioned knowledge was Josefina Lizárraga, who comes often to Mission Garden to share her tips for dealing with local fruit. She is affectionately called La Madrina del Jardín. According to Josefina, the drink is also good to soothe colds or flu.

Josefina with pomegranate at the Mission Garden. (photo by Emily Rockey) 

Another delicious drink can be made from hibiscus flowers from the variety Hibiscus sabdariffa, easily grown in the summer and dried for year round use.  Mexicans use it to make a drink called jamaica (Ha-my-ca). In Cairo the juice is heavily sugared for a popular drink called karkadai.

While either the pomegranate or hibiscus teas are good alone, try combining them for a fruity, herby treat. If you have mint in your garden, you could even add a few sprigs of that. 

Hibiscus sabdariffa, also called Jamaica.

Té de Granada (Pomegranate Tea)

Recipe by Josephina Lizarraga (as told to Emily Rockey)

Bring 2-3 cups of water to a boil. Put 1.5-2 teaspoons of ground pomegranate rind in a pan or teapot.

When water boils, pour over ground pomegranate skin. Allow to steep 10-15 minutes. The pomegranate will settle to the bottom. Alternately, if you don’t grind the skins, you can leave them in 1-2 inch pieces and boil them for 15-20 minutes.

Enjoy simply as it is, or add sugar or honey.

Drink anytime, or for soothing colds or flu, add honey and lemon.

Jamaica (Hibiscus) Tea

1 quart water

1/2 cup dried hibiscus flowers

1/4-1/2 cup sugar

Ginger slices, cinnamon stick, lime juice (optional)

Bring the water to a boil and pour over the hibiscus flowers and other flavorings you choose. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Steep about 20 minutes or until desired strength. You can also mix half and half with club soda for something a little fancier.

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Want more recipes for prickly pear and other wild foods? You’ll find delicious ways to bring these healthy plants to your table in my cookbook Cooking the Wild Southwest: Delicious Recipes for Wild Plants and The New Southwest Cookbook. The links take you on-line, but consider ordering from your local bookstore. They will love you for it. Interested in the history of food in the Southwest? A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage takes you through the last five thousand years, from prehistory through the challenges faced by today’s farmers.

Easy Summer Corn Treat: Coctel de Elote

Hello friends! Amy here celebrating the harvest on the Autumn Equinox.

At Mexican Raspado places, I never order the shaved ice with sweet syrup, fruit, ice cream, etc. I always get Coctel de Elote, a corn soup served hot and it is DELICIOUS even in hot weather. It can be made with very immature flour or dent corn varieties also known as starchy “field corn” varieties. These are the same corn varieties that are allowed to mature dry on the plant and made into tortillas, tamales and countless other creations. But elote for coctel de elote can also be sweet corn and that’s what I had from my share at Tucson Community Supported Agriculture.

I started by cutting the kernels off the cob, with a sharp little knife within a big bowl.

The kernels can be cut pretty deeply, and the juicy insides scraped into the bowl with the rest.

Then the kernels are boiled in just enough water to cover, with a dash of salt. The cobs go in to extract every bit of their goodness to the soup and to add their own distinctive flavor to the broth.

After simmering for a few minutes, the corn was tender. I poured my soup for one into a small jar to serve, leaving the cobs behind. Then, butter!

At the raspado place, they will ask what toppings would you like, but the only answer is everything, the works!

I started with some Mano Y Metate Mole Powder, Pipian Picante. I think any mole powder would be great here, and the traditional would be plain chile powder or a dash of hot sauce.

I then juiced a lime into the glass. But this wasn’t enough and I resorted to lemon juice I had frozen in quantity from the spring. Also, homemade mayonnaise (just an egg yolk with mild oil whisked into it until it is thick), store bought creama (Mexican sour cream). Basically, just keep adding and tasting until it is irresistible. Then a final sprinkling of fresh cheese (in this case, homemade goat cheese) sprinkled on top.

Enjoy with a long spoon in the short, hot afternoon.

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!

Brown Figs and Black Plums: Savor the Lush Sweet Dark Fruits of Summer

Dark plums and brown figs aren’t brilliantly colored but they bring deep sweetness to summer jam.

When we think of summer fruits, we usually think of jewel tones: the glowing amber of peaches, deep garnet of cherries and raspberries, the sapphire of blueberries, and bright gold of pineapple. But reddish brown figs and dark (sometimes called “black”) plums are also summer fruits with deep flavor and sweetness that combine in an easy jam.

It’s Carolyn with you today and I just love to make jam. When I saw that the fig tree where I glean had some ripening figs, I got up at 6 a.m. and headed out on a seven-block walk to fill a basket. 

Decades ago my friend Suzy had a big fig tree, and I learned to protect my arms when harvesting because of rubbing something off of the fuzzy leaves. But my memory of the problem faded over thirty years, and this morning I harvested with bare arms, reaching deep into the interior of the old fig tree to grab the earliest ripening fruit. On the walk home, my forearms were on fire. Tip: wear long sleeves when harvesting figs. The irritation abated after I got home and washed off whatever was causing the problem, but don’t make my mistake. 

A lovely basket of figs.

Making the jam  couldn’t be easier. Cut the plums and figs into half-inch chunks and combine with the sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a low simmer. Stir occasionally, making sure it doesn’t scorch. Cook until a thermometer registers 220 degrees F. If it seems plenty thick at 218 degrees, you can stop there. Ladle into clean, boiled jars. This makes less than a pint so you probably don’t need to seal the jars; you’ll eat it up quickly.

Cut the figs and plums into half-inch chunks.

Your homemade jam will be delicious on toast, especially if you also add some goat or ricotta cheese. The picture shows some whole wheat toast made by my husband Ford. 

Fig and Plum Jam is delicious on toast. Add goat or ricotta cheese for added richness.

Easy Fig and Plum Jam

1 cup chopped ripe figs

1 cup chopped black plums (about 2)

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and stir to combine. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until thermometer registers 218-220 degrees F. Since you are cooking such a small amount, this won’t take too long. Ladle into sterile jars and refrigerate until use. The recipe can be doubled. In that case, for unrefrigerated storage, be sure to use jars with two-section lids that seal. For long-term storage process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

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For more great recipes using Southwest foods, check out my cookbooks. The New Southwest Cookbook has recipes from some of the Southwest’s top chefs. Cooking the Wild Southwest includes recipes for foods you can gather in the wild.   The  Prickly  Pear  Cookbook  teaches you how to gather and prepare prickly pear pads and fruit.  Recipes in these books will get you started. Soon you’ll be coming up with great recipes on your own. 

Nopalitos for a Healthy Side Dish

The Savor Sisters, Amy, Carolyn, and Tia Marta, are good friends, but busy lives mean we rarely get together. Recently we gathered for a memorial service.

For nine years now, we Savor Sisters have regularly brought you interesting and unusual recipes for both wild and heritage foods of the Southwest.  If there is a delicious Southwest food, we’ve probably written about it. We concentrate on the food, not ourselves. But recently we found ourselves at the same event, celebrating the life of ecologist Tony Burgess.  Thought you might be interested in the faces behind the recipes.

Gather prickly pear pads when they are young and tender.

In the spring, I like to remind people that it’s time to gather and cook fresh nopales or prickly pear pads. Although all prickly pear pads are edible, you want to look for the Ficus indica,  the kind imported from Mexico with fewer spines.  (The native Engelmann Opuntia produce better fruit.) Gather the pads in your or a neighbor’s yard (ask!) using tongs or buy them from a Mexican grocery store.

Although this variety of prickly pear lacks the big spines of the native variety, they still have very small spines that need to be removed before cooking. In this column we’ve discussed many times how to clean them.  Here are the instructions with photos. Wild food enthusiast, Chad Borseth, has put together a helpful video on cleaning freshly harvested nopal pads. You can watch it here. Chad doesn’t have gloves on and is courting disaster. I suggest you wear rubber gloves, just the kind you get at the grocery for washing dishes are adequate.  Also, keep a tweezers handy. If you get a sticker in your finger, just take it out. Don’t make a big deal out of it.

Once you have cleaned the prickly pear pads, you can cut them into small pieces (nopalitos) or strips, coat them with a little oil, and either fry or grill or bake in the oven. When they turn olive green, they are done. 

Nopales are delicious and also really healthy. Medical studies have confirmed the folk wisdom that they are great at reducing blood sugar and cholesterol. In fact one study showed that just two small pads eaten daily can control non-insulin dependent diabetes and prevent it from worsening.

Today, I want to give you some easy ideas what to do with the nopales once you’ve cooked them. Whenever you are introducing a new unusual food to people who might be a little skeptical (or maybe it is you who is skeptical!), it is good to include them in something familiar. So here are some of my favorites. Be creative and include nopales in your family favorites.

Tomato Nopalito Salsa: In a bowl combine 1/2 cup tomato salsa (homemade or commercial), 1/2 cup cooked black beans, 1/2 cup cooked nopalitos, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro, 1 tablespoon lime juice. Serve with chips and watch it disappear. 

Grilled Chicken with Nopalito and Pineapple Salsa

Pineapple Salsa:  Combine cooked nopalitos with crushed pineapple, red pepper, onion, garlic and other flavorings. Terrific as a topping for grilled chicken.  See complete recipe in previous post here.

Fundido de Nopalito: In a small black iron frying pan, brown 1/4 cup chorizo until cooked. Add 1/4 cup cooked nopalitos, and top with 1/4 cup shredded Mexican or Monterrey jack cheese. Heat in 400 degree oven until cheese melts. Serve with soft tortillas or chips. This recipe makes a small amount so be prepared to make more right away.

Nopalito tacos: Cooked nopales have the texture and bite of meat so they make great vegetarian tacos. Use nice soft flour tortillas (the small ones). For tacos, cut your nopales in strips. Top with salsa and cheese. Add chicken or fish if you like. 

Use your own recipe for Apple and Carrot Salad and add nopalitos in small dice.

Apple, Carrot and Nopalito Salad:  This is a Southwest twist on an American classic. Use your own recipe or follow the directions here. 

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Want more recipes for prickly pear and other wild foods? You’ll find delicious ways to bring these healthy plants to your table in my cookbooks Cooking the Wild Southwest: Delicious Recipes for Wild Plants and The Prickly Pear Cookbook. The links take you on-line, but consider ordering from your local bookstore. They will love you for it. 

Treat yourself day: Scallops with Mole Verde

Hello Friends, I’ve always wanted to try mole with scallops since I saw saw it in a book. It paired a very modern white chocolate mole with scallops. Wanting to treat myself to a special meal today, I thought I would give it a go with my own mole.

I started with Mano Y Metate Mole Verde powder, sautéed in mild oil and thinned with chicken broth.

I broke out a stash of wild rice that a friend had given me as a gift. It was collected on lakes in northern Minnesota and parched over a wood fire.

For a wild salad, I harvested some sorrel, parsley and garlic chives from the garden.

For bite I added some volunteer mustard greens aka “wild arugula” and for creaminess some avacado.

The scallops only needed a rinse, a pat dry and a sprinkle of salt.

I seared in part oil and part butter on a hot skillet

Which went FAST!!!!

I hope you take the time for self care and make yourself a treat today, too. Love, Amy

Barrel Cactus Fruit and Lemon Combine for Tangy Winter Treat

Barrel cactus fruit and lemons are tasty winter companions.

When I look back at the many blog posts we Savor Sisters have written over the years, frequently there are recipes including barrel cactus at this time of year. In a season where most other plants are resting and waiting out the cold desert nights, barrel cactus are providing glowing yellow fruit in abundance. January is also the season for citrus in the Southwest and there is no shortage of delicious baking recipes using lemon.

It’s Carolyn today and I’m going to modify a lemon recipe I’ve made a couple of times during the pandemic, a time many of us were amusing ourselves with baked goods. The original recipe starts with lemon, but I’m adding poached lemon-y barrel cactus fruit along with the crunchy seeds to make more of a good thing. However, you can making this recipe the super-easy way by just using the barrel cactus seeds and skipping the poached fruit topping. Suit yourself. In any case, you’ll end up with something delicious.  The recipe includes turmeric, a spice that has healthful properties. I’m not sure I can taste it, but it adds a bright yellow color that psychologically enhances the lemon flavors as we taste with our eyes as well as our mouth.

Preparing the Barrel Cactus Seeds and Slices

It is easiest to get the seeds by gathering your cactus fruit in advance. Halve the fruit and put it out in the sun. Once the fruit is dry, the seeds release more easily.  Now for the fruit topping. (You can skip this if you wish.) Choose four of the best barrel cactus fruit halves. Scoop out the seeds as well as you can and add to the others that are drying. Using your sharpest knife, slice the fruit as thinly as possible. Try to get about 36 slices. Put the slices in a small frying pan, cover with water, and simmer for a couple of minutes. Drain, return to the pan, add two tablespoons of water and two tablespoons of sugar. Simmer for about a minute, remove slices and dry on a sheet of waxed paper. 

Slice the fruit thinly and rinse off the seeds, catching them in a sieve. Don’t clog your drain!

Some time during the 2000s, I began to learn about lining baking pans with parchment paper to help release cakes and breads. It takes extra time but does help with sticking. 

Consider lining your baking pan with parchment paper. When positioning your candied cactus fruit, lay the pieces crosswise to help in slicing.

Lemon Barrel Cactus Cake

Nonstick cooking spray or oil for greasing pan

1½ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2-3 tablespoons barrel cactus seeds

¾ teaspoon ground turmeric

2 lemons

1 cup granulated sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling

¾ cup  Greek yogurt

2 large eggs, beaten

½ cup (1 stick), melted

36 (or so) candied barrel cactus slices

  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 4-by-9-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray or butter, and line it with parchment, leaving some overhang on both of the longer sides so you’re able to easily lift the cake out after baking.
  2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and turmeric in a large bowl.
  3. Grate 2 tablespoons zest from 2 lemons into a medium bowl. Halve the zested lemons and squeeze 2 tablespoons juice into a small bowl.  You’ll have extra juice, so save the remainder for another use.
  4. Add 1 cup sugar to the lemon zest in the medium bowl; rub together with your fingertips until the sugar is fragrant and tinted yellow. Whisk in the Greek yogurt, beaten eggs and the 2 tablespoons lemon juice until well blended.
  5. Using a spatula, add the wet mixture to the flour mixture, stirring just to blend. Fold in the melted butter. Stir in the barrel cactus seeds. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top. Arrange barrel cactus slices on top if using and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar.
  6. Bake until the top of the cake is golden brown, the edges pull away from the sides of the pan, and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. (If the loaf is getting too dark, lay a piece of foil on top to prevent burning.) Let cool before slicing.

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Want more recipes using wild foods of the Southwest? You’d find ideas for collecting and using 23 easily recognized and gathered desert foods in Cooking the Wild Southwest: Delicious Recipes for Desert Foods. If you are interested in prickly pear, The Prickly Pear Cookbook will teach you how to gather pads and fruits and turn them into tasty treats. Just click on the titles for more information. You can learn more about me on my website.

Mole Marinated Roast Poultry

Happy November full moon! Amy here today experimenting with roast poultry.

I wanted to make a roast chicken with mole as a seasoning, rather than as a sauce. Something exciting but still traditional enough for a roast chicken or turkey. Also, I couldn’t decide which variety of mole to use. So I separately mixed some Mano Y Metate Adobo and Mole Negro powders with olive oil and rubbed them one on each side of a chicken. I slid some under the skin and in the cavity. I sprinkled a little salt everywhere, too.

I trussed the wings and legs with dental floss.

I let it marinate uncovered in the refrigerator for 36 hours. Supposedly this helps the skin get crisp when baking.

In that time the mole dyed the skin a deep color, but it looked dull. So I moistened it with a little more olive oil and set in a 375 degrees F oven.

As it baked, I basted it a few times with its own drippings.

After it was almost to temperature (160 degrees F) I cranked the oven to 400 to crisp the skin for the last few minutes. Then I removed it from the oven, and while resting ensured the breast temperature climbed over 165F.

The skin was crisp and spicy! The meat was savory, flavorful and complex but less spicy. It was bold and special without feeling wild and crazy, or that the sides needed to work around the mole theme.

As for Mole Negro vs Adobo, I think the extra heat of the Mole Negro was my favorite, but the Adobo made the prettier crust and would be my choice for a serving a crowd.

I considered making mole sauce to spoon on the plate, but instead put some of the drippings into and on top of the mashed potatoes. Delicious!!!!!

The bones and drippings made an incredibly rich colored broth with hints of mole. It was spicier than I thought it would be. I can’t wait to make it into soups, the best part of roasting a bird. Enjoy the weather and happy cooking!

Mesquite Popcorn: Two Old Foods Combine for a New Snack

Native people in the Southwest have been growing popcorn and collecting mesquite pods for more than 4,000 years.  Not sure if they ate them together, but we can!

I have a simple, delicious recipe for you today, but first an announcement. It’s Carolyn this week thinking back to 2011 when I began my first food blog shortly after my book “Cooking the Wild Southwest” was published. I wrote the blog myself for a few years under the title “Carolyn’s Southwest Kitchen,” then thought it would be more fun for me and the readers if other authors joined in.  Writers have come and gone but today Tia Marta and Amy Schwemm and I are the regulars. Together we and our former colleagues have published 338 columns on wild greens, other edible wild plants, traditional chile recipes, delicious mole dishes and all manner of delicious Southwestern foods. Those columns will remain in the blogosphere and you can still search them. Recently, we’ve sent you a post every ten days, but knowing that everyone is so busy, we’re dropping back to one post a month. You will hear from each of us four times during the year in regular rotation.

Sprinkling mesquite meal on popped corn is so simple and so delicious I can’t believe I never thought of it before. It came about because I was giving a cooking demonstration to a small group and I knew they would get hungry as they watched me cook their dinner. The demo was in conjunction with my new book A Desert Feast.” It is my answer to why Tucson was named a UNESCO City of Gastronomy.  The answer is complex but one reason is that we are still eating some of the same foods people here have eaten for thousands of years. Throughout the dinner, I wanted to include a range of foods that had been eaten in the over the last 4,000 years in Southern Arizona and popcorn seemed like a good idea for a snack to keep my audience’s hunger at bay for the 45 minutes I’d need to put their complete meal together.  If I could season it with mesquite meal, that would help me tick off one of the earliest foods. It was a hit!  You’ll love it too.

Sprinkle mesquite meal on plain or buttered popcorn for a naturally sweet treat.

Mesquite Popcorn

6 cups popped corn

2-4 tablespoons melted butter (optional)

6 tablespoons fine mesquite meal

Put the popped corn in a bowl large enough to allow mixing. Drizzle on the melted butter if using. Sprinkle on the mesquite meal, tossing until well combined.

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Want more recipes for mesquite and delicious wild foods of the desert? Find them in my book “Cooking the Wild Southwest: Delicious Recipes for Desert Plants.” And if you want to know why Tucson was named a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, I tell the whole 4,000-year story in my newest book “A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary History.” Buy them from your local bookstore or order on-line.