“Home for the holidays” takes on even more significance than ever this year if we invite food to our table that has been born and raised here in Baja Arizona—in addition to our loved ones feasting with us.
Tia Marta here to share festive ideas for using two of our most exciting local staples—mesquite meal and White Sonora Wheat—in holiday baking. And, even more importantly, I provide access to these lovely local and often hard-to-find ingredients, ready for your culinary creativity!
Delicious Arizona velvet mesquite meal, with its naturally sweet complex sugars (that actually help balance blood sugar!) is available at Native Seeds/SEARCH (3061 N Campbell, Tucson) and at our Flor de Mayo booth at Sunday St Phillips farmers’ market (N Campbell at River Rd). We mill it either as natural meal, or roasted, which has a glorious chocolate-y flavor almost like its bean-tree counterpart,carob or St John’s bread, from the Mediterranean region. Our natural mesquite meal is considered a raw food for those on a raw foods diet. We mill it with a cool method taking hours instead of minutes, unlike most hammermill methods which heat the pods with rapid grinding thereby caramel-izing the sugar content. Both our raw and solar-roasted mesquite meals are so fine they can be used as flour. Happily, they sift and cook easily the way one might cook with whole wheat flour.
The trick with mesquite meal cookery is to not use too much, as it is so rich. My rule of thumb is: In recipes for baking, substitute mesquite for up to one quarter of the flour called for in the recipe. Both flavor and nutrition remain even if you are more sparing than this—for example substituting 1/6 or 1/8 mesquite for other flour. Use your own taste as the test. Even a small percentage of mesquite can give a great “bouquet” flavor and many nutritional benefits of dietary fiber, protein, and complex carbs for sustained energy.
Mesquite has no gluten so it can be a welcome flavor-enhancer in gluten-free recipes using more bland rice or amaranth flours, or to pleasantly over-ride the beany bouquet of garbanzo flour. My favorite combo of all is mesquite with almond meal. Here’s an idea for a delicious gluten-free tea cake for holiday potlucks—a generous option to share with wheat-free pals. This one can be a heavier cake, and if it turns out more like a brownie or energy bar in your oven, that’s fine too!
Muff’s Gluten-free Mesquite-Almond Tea Cake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil an 8×8” pyrex baking dish and dust with rice flour.
½ cup native velvet mesquite pod meal (roasted or natural)
½-3/4 cup brown rice flour and/or amaranth flour
½ cup almond meal
¼ cup tapioca flour
2 tsp locust bean gum or guar gum
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp sea salt
½ cup agave nectar or honey as desired
¼ cup canola oil or other cooking oil
¾ cup almond milk (soy or rice milk ok)
1 lg or 2 small eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
Pour into baking dish. Bake 25-35 minute or more until it tests done. Serve with hot tea and thanks to the bean trees!
For a local-foods partnership, White Sonora Wheat and velvet mesquite flour are a match made in culinary heaven. Here’s a super-easy and fast recipe, a variation on Scottish shortbread for celebration times:
Sonoran Shortbread Recipe – with Heirloom White Sonora Wheat and Mesquite!
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Cream: 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
Sift together: 1 ¾ -2 cups fresh-milled organic heirloom White Sonora Wheat flour 1/8-1/4 cup mesquite meal (roasted or raw) ½ cup confectioner’s sugar ¼ tsp salt
If your flour is fresh-milled you may need to play around with recipe quantities. Blend dry ingredients into butter. Pat dough into an ungreased 9×9″ baking dish, pressing down with fingers. Pierce dough with fork at 1/2” intervals. BAKE 25-35 minutes. Cut in small bite-sized squares to serve. For extra fancy desserts, top with whipped cream (or vanilla ice cream) and fresh strawberries. Share at a party and enjoy the new “old” tradition with a dose of nutrition to boot!
If you are a do-it-yourselfer in the kitchen, and you want the freshest wheat-flour for baking or tortilla-making, we can help you with access to live fresh flour. Within a few days of milling, flour retains nutrients and vitality of the living seeds from which it was ground. Those live-food benefits are gone from flour transported and left on store shelves even a short time. Solution: Buy local. If you can contact me—with response—by the Friday before Sunday’s farmers’ market, I can mill organic White Sonora Wheat, grown by BKWFarms locally, fresh for your baking, for you to pick up at Sunday market. Phone me at 520-907-9471 with your milled-flour request. Move over, King Arthur!
You can’t get it any fresher unless you have your own mill. If you have a hand-crank grain mill, electric grain mill, or appropriate Vita-mix, you can find heirloom whole White Sonora Wheat-berries at the NativeSeeds/SEARCH store (www.nativeseeds.org), or from Flor de Mayo (www.flordemayoarts.com), and at the Flor de Mayo Sunday market booth.
[Interestingly, we have heard from a few wheat-sensitive customers at our market table that they have actually tried, at their own initiative, our low-gluten White Sonora Wheat and have reported no reaction to it. This is not to say it is for everyone, but it brings up an intriguing question to test. We are now pursuing research into this ancient ca360-year-old, pre-Green-Revolution heirloom wheat’s DNA to determine possibly why it may not have some of the problem constituents that modern hybrid wheats contain.]
Do visit our Flor de Mayo tent on Sunday’s St Phillips market under the mesquite trees for some treats-du-jour and some White Sonora Wheat goodies like tortillas and pumpkin scones to take home, plus giant Tohono O’odham pumpkins grown at San Xavier. For the next few Sundays we will feature (tah-dah) the most delectable, local, totally organic White Sonora Wheat tortillas you ever tasted. Talk about real! And try our White Sonora and Tohono O’odham Pumpkin scones, made with native local Tohono O’odham Ha:l cushaw squash, rich in beta-carotenes. Where else but Tucson could one find such delicacies? This is why Tucson really should be named an International City of Gastronomy—because we cherish and grow and use our amazing desert-adapted, delicious native foods! Come and enjoy some tastes with your coffee or tea at St Phillips Square or carry them home.
May our local Mesquite and White Sonora Wheat add joy to your holiday table and guests, with a bow to harvesters and farmers from the past, and a hopeful look to the future for sustainable desert agriculture!