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….
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.)
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)
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!
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!