Monthly Archives: January 2016

Oh Yum! Tasty Mesquite Meal Enhances Pie Crust and Waffles

Bodie Robins offers a selection of delicious gluten-free baked goods at farmers markets in Tucson and Sierra Vista.

Bodie Robins offers a selection of delicious gluten-free baked goods at farmers markets in Tucson and Sierra Vista.

For thousands of years, mesquite pods were the primary food of people who lived on the Sonoran Desert. It’s Carolyn here today recalling that when I first started researching and experimenting with mesquite in 1972, hardly anybody was eating this sweet nutritious food. Although a few Tohono O’odham kept up with the old ways, it was on the verge of being forgotten.

Until recently,  it wasn’t easy to process mesquite pods. Early Native women made mesquite meal by pounding the pods in bedrock mortars. By the 1970s it hadn’t gotten much easier. But fortunately for all of us someone (I recall it was at the Desert Museum) figured that the pods could be crushed and sifted by a hammermill, a common piece of farm equipment. After some years, Desert Harvesters took up the challenge and offered to grind the pods of all comers for a modest fee. Getting a beautiful, smooth tasty flour was now easy. And the world of mesquite baking opened up.

Mesquite crust adds extra deliciousness to Big Skye's fruit pies.

Mesquite crust adds extra deliciousness to Big Skye’s sweet potato and fruit pies.

Bodie Robins of Big Skye Bakers is one of the folks who have brought mesquite baking into the twenty-first century selling mesquite baked goods at farmers’ markets in Tucson and Sierra Vista.

Bodie, an architectural designer, began baking with mesquite as therapy in 2008 when construction took a dive with the recession. His first experiment produced some dog biscuits that he shared with his neighbors. He decided there might be a future in mesquite baking when his neighbors admitted they were eating the dog biscuits themselves. With salsa!

Bodie took his product to a farmers’ market. But it turns out not enough people were willing to pay for high-end mesquite dog biscuits (many dogs are willing to just chew the pods, unbaked), so he began to experiment with other baked goods, trying various combinations of flours until he produced a version he liked.

Today he sells pies with mesquite crust, cookies, and cupcakes. Many of his customers are attracted by the gluten-free nature of Bodie’s mesquite pie crust. One very grateful middle-aged customer was thrilled to find a pie crust he could eat and told Bodie he hadn’t been able to eat pie since he was 15 years old.

Bodie entices his customers with a little table setting at his farmers market booth. Personally, I'm ready to dig right in.

Bodie entices his customers with a little table setting at his farmers market booth. Personally, I’m ready to dig right in.

A perfect loaf of gluten-free bread eluded Bodie until recently when extensive experimenting has finally led to a mixture of mesquite meal, brown rice flour, tapioca and sweet potato flour that turns out a delicious loaf.

“My customers are particular about the foods they buy and eat,” he says .  “They like to learn about mesquite. There’s a romance to it – an arts and crafts movement about food. I get everything from savvy young college kids to the elderly.”

Bodie gathers the mesquite pods he uses himself and has them ground at the Baja Arizona mill at the Sierra Vista farmers’ market. He goes through up to 200 pounds a year and if he runs out, he can grind a few pounds in his Vitamix. He produces his goods in his home kitchen under the home baker cottage industry law.

You can find Bodie and his Big Skye specialty baked goods at the Rillito Farmers’ Market in Tucson on Sunday mornings from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and at the Sierra Vista Farmers’ Market on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m

Here’s a delicious recipe for waffles that Bodie developed. This recipe includes wheat flour, but if you are gluten sensitive, experiment with some other flours to find a mixture that works for you.

Mesquite waffles make a delicious breakfast or lunch.

Mesquite-Pecan waffles make a delicious breakfast or lunch.

Cinnamon-Pecan Mesquite Waffles

Ingredients

2 eggs separated

2 1/2 cups milk

¼ cup olive oil

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup whole-wheat flour

½ cup mesquite meal

1 cup finely chopped pecans

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

Directions

  1. Lightly oil and pre heat waffle iron.
  2. Separate eggs reserving the whites in a bowl and set aside. In another bowl mix egg yolks, milk and oil.
  3. Mix all dry ingredients together
  4. Add liquids to dry ingredients. Gently mix until smooth.
  5. Beat the egg whites until stiff.
  6. Fold in the egg whites to the waffle mix.
  7. Place 1/2 cup of batter onto hot waffle iron. Close lid. Bake until golden Repeat with remaining batter.

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Want more mesquite recipies? Check out my cookbook Cooking the Wild Southwest, Delicious Recipes for Desert Plants. You can buy it at the Native Seeds/SEARCH Store at 3061 North Campbell Avenue, in Tucson, or order it off the NSS website or from Barnes&Noble. If you need mesquite flour, buy it from Martha Burgess’s Flor de Mayo stand at the St. Phillip’s Farmers’ Market in Tucson on Sundays or order it here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Cooking, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Adobe House to Commercial Kitchen

Hello friends, Amy here, admitting the reason I’ve been busier than usual. Along with increased demand for mole during the holidays, I also needed to make a new home for Mano y Metate. I moved in just after Christmas.

To keep the 1945 adobe sound, new wooden beams suspend the exhaust hood.

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The smallest place I could find is much bigger than Mano y Metate needs, so I am renting the space to other users as well.

We had to cut the floor for new electrical and plumbing. To commemorate, we scraped and sealed the floor clear.

We have ten sink basins in less than 1,000 square feet. Safety first!

You can really appreciate something when you know what it is, inside and out.

The electrical box had charred and melted pieces, maybe from many years ago. The tale of a near death experience?

The grease interceptor and new sewer lines.

New walkway for wheels and feet.

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If you are seriously interested in renting, email me your business plan to casa del metate at gmail dot com.

 

 

Categories: Sonoran Native | 2 Comments

Glorious Garlic Chives

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The mountains of Michoacan in 1990. That road sign is only a slight exaggeration.

Jacqueline Soule this week with a charming and easy-to-grow herb – garlic chives.  This herb offers a dish the hint of garlic and the fresh crispness of scallions. 

The first time I ate garlic chives that I know of was chopped and sprinkled on my soft tacos at a little roadside food stop in a forgotten town in Michoacan. The woman serving us was so taken with my questions about the plant that she sent her son scurrying home to dig up some bulbs to give me. Since I was on a plant collecting trip I had all the permits I needed to legally bring the bulbs back to the USA with me.  These tough perennials have been surviving in my gardens in various USDA zones and even indoors in pots for the next 30 plus years.

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Garlic chives are tough plants that survive with little extra water and taste great.

Garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) make a graceful green statement in the landscape, are low water users, and bloom in September and October with a fireworks-like burst of white bloom on a tall stalk held above the grassy green leaves.

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Blooms are white, followed by easy to harvest seed heads.

Originally from the Mongolian steppes, plants tolerate our alkaline soils and thrive in zones 10 to 4. Despite the tuberous name, the part you eat are the leaves. Harvest anytime to add raw or cooked to any dish where you desire a mild garlic flavor.

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Garlic chives are equally edible when vegetative, in bloom or in seed – quite unlike many other herbs.

Use garlic chive leaves how you would use scallions. We like them in stir-fry and omelets, or just a few to give zing to salad. They are also great in soup, even in simple soup made to hydrate and warm on a cool winter day.

Plant grow readily from seed, and can spread through the garden, appearing in watered areas. It is easily removed if it comes up where you don’t want it. If you are trying to eat only plants that are in season, these are always in season! Garlic chives great addition to the garden, even if you never plan to eat any.

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No matter what your garden style, garlic chives can fit right in.

JAS avatarIf you wish tips on gardening in the Southwest, please visit my facebook page Gardening With Soule.  If you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my lectures. Look for me at your local Pima County Library branch, Tumacacori (Fruits & Herbs of the Old Missions, 12:30, Thursday February 4th, 2016), Steam Pump Ranch, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including the latest, “Southwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening,” written for Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $23).

© This article and these photos are copyright by Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. Republishing an entire blog post or article is prohibited without permission. I receive many requests to reprint my work. My policy is that you may use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Photos may not be used.

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, herbs, Kino herb, medicinal plant, Southwest Food | Tags: , | Leave a comment

On Fire

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A (Controlled) Fire

 

Happy New Year. Aunt Linda here this January 1st, to celebrate transformational fire.

When do you cook or bake with fire?  Like so much in life we can take fire, and it’s transformative power, for granted.

A recent National Geographic article, A Brief History of Cooking With Fire,  is thought provoking. In it Rebecca Rupp, introduces us to Harvard anthropologist and primatologist Richard Wrangham, whose 2009 book Catching Fire; How cooking Made Us Human, suggests that the control of fire and the discovery of cooking may account for the dramatic changes in our ancestors physiology (reduction of large gut to a smaller one, and an increase in brain size). I encourage you to explore this on your own and come to your own conclusions. My personal  recommendation is Michael Pollan’s 2013 book, COOKED for a thorough and insightful perspective.

It is clear that fire was of critical importance to our ancestors. Rupp, in her article ) link below for full article,  writes:  ” Otzi, the 5000-year-old Iceman discovered in 1991 by hikers in the Italian Alps, cautiously carried his fire along with him, in the form of embers wrapped in maple leaves and stored in a birchbark box. As back-up, he was also equipped with a fire-starting kit, consisting of iron pyrites, flint, and tinder fungus. The Neolithic technique seems to have involved grinding the fungus until it was fine and fluffy, then piling it in a mollusk shell, and striking sparks with the flint and pyrite until the tinder ignited.” SEE: http://theplate.nationalgeographic.com/2015/09/02/a-brief-history-of-cooking-with-fire/

To return from our 5000 year old Otzi,  (who you can meet yourself in a small museum in the Alps; he is not the sole property of science, but available to all of us. I know this because I have seen him),  to January 1st, 2016, I encourage you to see fire with fresh eyes.

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Cooking empanadas with fire/embers above and below

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This humble way of cooking requires a very sophisticated understanding of fire , embers, and heat. How cold or warm the ambient temperature around the oven is, affects the baking of the holiday cookies and empanadas.

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Baking with fire also requires heat tolerance. The smoke imparts a flavor that I adore. It warms twice, once upon baking, then upon eating.

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We cooked/baked into the night. As the temperature drops outside, the embers kept us warm.

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We built this simple grill with a grate and some brick in the back yard. Marinated zucchini is steaming in the foil.

 

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This is the same grill as the photo above, you can see that works well for vegetarians, meat eaters, or the general omnivore.

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You do not need a hearth or grill like the ones above. You can use a fireplace to roast  marsh mellow for smores, or hot dogs (meat or vegan) or even wrap potatoes in foil and bake in the embers.

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If you explore more about the nutrition of cooked food, youmay be surprised at how nutritious it is. One example: 90% of a cooked egg is digested; only 65% of a raw egg is digested. See footnote page 61, of COOKED.

 

This was sent by T who posted a comment but could not post the fire photo that she was “ignited” by – so here it is. (I could not figure out how to get it larger). Taken January 2nd, 2016. Thanks for your enthusiasm T!

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Thank you!

 

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Note: Last night, at New Years Eve dinner, the ceramicists at the table reminded me that clay needs fire to bake, as well. Good point! The making of pots, whether ancient or modern, functional or decorative, requires fires’ transformative quality to go from a raw to fired state.

There is a beautiful 20 minute video of Maria Martinez, of San Ildefonso Pueblo, NM which includes her building a firing mound/kiln. It was shot in 1972, when Maria was in her mid 80’s.  I include it here, though I know most modern folk wont have the patience for it. The reverence it shows, is an inspiration for me personally. Continue reading

Categories: Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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