Monthly Archives: December 2016

Chile Rellenos, Reimagined

To make this dish, start with some nice roasted chiles.

To make this dish, start with some nice roasted chiles.

Carolyn here today, feeling a little nostalgic. My mother taught me how to cook,  beginning with stirring Jello when I was five years old. Then later there was junior high home ec and a Girl Scout cooking badge.  Mom would be 102 next week if she were alive and she would have been a more adventurous cook if her kids had been more adventurous at the table.   I wouldn’t say my brother and I were picky eaters, but we didn’t want anything too unusual. It wasn’t until I spent the summer in Europe between my junior and senior year in college that I began to broaden my palate and did a complete change. For the next decade, I wasn’t interested in any food that wasn’t authentically ethnic.

So when Mom told me she had this new recipe called Chile Cheese Puff, I couldn’t have been less interested. The name alone sounded so Family Circle or Good Housekeeping, absolutely everything my friends and I were not in the early 1970s. (Remember, much of what we call The Sixties happened in the early Seventies). But at some point I came around, tried the recipe and liked it. And when I needed some chile recipes for my second cookbook The Tumbleweed Gourmet, I included Chile Cheese Puff. For some reason I didn’t think to rename it.

This book went out of print long ago, but there are still used copies on Amazon.

This book went out of print long ago, but there are still used copies on Amazon.

Basically this is a baked chile relleno. Without the deep frying, it is much healthier, but almost as delicious. It’s a great dish to make for a light dinner when you need inspiration. If you live in the Southwest, you probably already have all the ingredients on hand. This recipe calls for stuffing the chiles with jack cheese, but you could use beans or mashed squash as well.  You can roast and peel your own chiles, usually Anaheims but poblanos are delicious. Or get the ones in a can.

Chile Cheese Puff

2 cans (4 oz each) whole green chiles

or

6 to 7 fresh peeled chiles

1/4 pound jack cheese (or beans, squash or tofu)

2 cups milk

4 eggs

1/3 cup instant flour (Wondra)

1/2 teaspoon salt

Dash pepper

1/2 pound gated longhorn or cheddar cheese

Grease a 6 inch by 9 inch baking dish. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Clean seeds and ribs from chiles, trying not to tear them. Cut jack cheese in strips and stuff chiles. Alternately, stuff with mashed beans, squash or tofu.

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These chiles had very thin walls and shredded when I peeled them. For this dish, it doesn’t matter. Just reassemble them, with half on the bottom and half covering your filling.

Arrange chiles flat in a row in prepared baking dish.

Divide eggs. In a medium bowl, whip whites until frothy, whip in yolks. Add flour, milk, salt, pepper and gently combine.

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Pour over chiles. Sprinkle with gated cheese. Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 45 minutes until puffed and golden.

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Add a salad and you have a great light meal.

Add a salad and you have a great light meal.

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Carolyn Niethammer’s five cookbooks cover wild foods of the southwest deserts and other southwest cuisine. Find her books at the Native Seeds/SEARCH retail store, on Amazon or order from your favorite independent bookstore.

Categories: Cooking, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

Luscious Lemons

Jacqueline Soule here today, a few days after winter solstice with the holiday entertaining frenzy in full swing.  Making old favorite recipes and experimenting with new ones.
juicer-1602902Since my lemon trees produced prodigiously this year I am working using all these lemons in new and fun ways.  Today I will share three ways to make lemony alcoholic drinks – to give as gifts NEXT holiday season.   All you need are lemons (or other fruit – see notes below), inexpensive vodka, sugar, and some bottles.
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Fruit. If you do not have lemons, these recipes will work with other fruit or even edible flowers. I have successfully used currants, elderberry, orange, blackberry, red clover flowers, and dandelion flowers.  Most cordials are half syrup (1 cup juice to 1 cup sugar) and half alcohol.

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Alcohol.  I use the cheapest vodka there is because aging it with fruits and sugar smooths out the flavor and makes the vodka’s humble origins quite unnoticeable.  You could also use the pure grain alcohol, sold as Everclear.  You just need something that is at least 40 percent alcohol by volume (ABV).  You want enough alcohol in the mix to kill any bacteria or fungi that might want to inhabit your beverages.  Dilution can occur after decanting and before consumption.

Time.  These drinks are best aged for a minimum of 6 months.  The absolute tastiest I have made is some dandelion cordial that is going on 6 years old now, and every year it just gets smoother and mellower.  I imagine that at some point this time advantage will be lost but I only made 8 jars so the experiment has 2 more years to run.

 

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Remember to label your creation and include the date.  Sharpie is easily erased with rubbing alcohol.

Label.  Always label what you have!  Include the date!  Sharpies write on glass and are easily erased with some rubbing alcohol.  You can make fancier labels for gift giving when the time comes.

Lemon Vodka
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One lemon sliced finely and layered into bottle of choice.
Top with inexpensive vodka.
Invert a few times to eliminate air bubbles.  Add more vodka as needed.
For the first 2 weeks invert every 2 or three days to eliminate air bubbles.
Age for a minimum of 6 months.

Lemon Cordial with Lemons
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Slice lemon finely.
Coat with sugar.
Layer into bottle.
Fill bottle with these sugared lemon slices.
Top with inexpensive vodka.
Invert a few times to eliminate air bubbles. Add more vodka as needed.
For the first 2 weeks invert every 2 or 3 days to eliminate air bubbles and dissolve sugar.
The sugar against the fruit helps draw out the juice.
Age for a minimum of 6 months.

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Lemon Juice Cordial

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Juice lemons.
For 1 cup lemon juice, add one cup sugar and one cup inexpensive vodka.
Shake well.
For the first 2 weeks shake every 2 or 3 days until all sugar is dissolved.
Age for a minimum of 6 months.

Enjoy!  I am looking forward to sampling these cordials this summer, when a refreshing lemon drink is in order.  Or perhaps next winter solstice – as a warmed up lemony drink.

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JAS avatarIf you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my lectures. Look for me at your local Pima County Library branch, 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, Month-by-Month Garden Guide for Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press, $26).

 

© Article 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 © Jacqueline A. Soule – they may not be used.

Categories: Cooking, fruit | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

For a Spicy Solstice….

Chiltepin pepper from the wild, growing at Tohono Chul Park (Burgess photo)

Chiltepin pepper plant, originally from the wild, growing in the Tohono Chul Park landscape (Burgess photo)

It’s chile time in Baja Arizona!  The local goodness of our Sonoran Desert foods can assert itself tastefully—yea, vehemently!—into other imported cuisines. Tia Marta here to share a wonderful new wrinkle to celebrate this holiday season, by wedding the local “vehemence” of our chiltepin pepper with an imported tradition.

In decades since the 1940s, industrial ag and interstate grocery service have tried to make Baja Arizona into a food colony (but we are tastefully fighting back). Fossil fuels transport outside traditions to us that we do cherish and that help keep families together, like the many food traditions we celebrate at Tucson Meet Yourself in October each year.  At the top of the import list for Yuletide is one borrowed from East-coast First Nations. (See Renewing America’s Food Traditions by Gary Paul Nabhan, UA Press, for more.) This imported gift from Native People of Southern New England and coastal New Jersey bogs that I’m referring to for holiday feasts is naturally the cranberry. Thank Goodness for trade routes!

Ingredients for Chiltepin-Cranberry Relish--some local, some transported

Ingredients for Chiltepin-Cranberry Relish–my own Meyer lemon and chiltepines, plus transported cranberries, agave nectar, and red onion

Local and import come together sensationally in my recipe for a raw, vegan Chiltepin-Craberry Relish.
Yes, it is picante, sweet and tangy—and delicious! It was inspired by amazing cook and baker Cindy Burson of Country Harvest who won People’s Choice at a fair with her version. (Cindy’s Southwest treats can be enjoyed at Sunday’s Rillito Farmers Market and Wednesday’s Green Valley Farmers Market.)

Dried chiltepines for the relish--They make a great snack, great flavoring for Tom's Mix SW Heirloom Beans, and super in any salsa

Dried chiltepines to use in the cranberry relish–They also make a great snack, great flavoring for Tom’s Mix SW Heirloom Beans, and super in any salsa.

Muff’s Fresh and Easy CHILTEPIN-CRANBERRY RELISH RECIPE

Ingredients:

3 cups fresh organic cranberries, washed

1/2 medium red onion, diced

8-12 dry chiltepin peppers for picante palettes, depending on “heat” desired (4-6 chiltepines for less picante).  Start with less, then add more later if higher “vehemence” is needed.

1/2 cup local raw honey or agave nectar

2 Tbsps lemon or lime juice

1-2 Tbsps tangerine rind or Meyer lemon rind, chopped

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (optional ingredient)

Directions:

In a food processor, pulse all the fresh ingredients and juice at least 6 to 8 times, keeping the texture coarse.

Chill in a covered bowl in refrigerator overnight or at least 8 hours, for time to meld the flavors.

Stir the mixture;  do a taste test.  Add more honey or agave nectar, or chiltepines as needed for the sweet toote or picante palette.

Spicy Chiltepin-Cranberry Relish can keep its freshness, flavor, and color in the frig for at least a week.

Note texture of fresh relish--not too fine. (Tarahumara and Mayo spoons like this for serving can be found at the NativeSeeds/SEARCH store)

Note texture of fresh relish–not too fine. (Tarahumara and Mayo spoons like this for serving can be found at the NativeSeeds/SEARCH store)

Even the conservative palette will relish this holiday condiment—perfect for Christmas dinner or festive smorgasbords. Chiltepin adds a glorious kick to the sweet tart of cranberries, with a non-lingering wave of excitement to the tastebuds! You will find Chiltepin-Cranberry Relish as a fine complement not only to turkey or ham. Try it with bagels and cream cheese. Use it as a savory side, or with a salad, on any holiday platter. It’s a celebration of East meeting Southwest—Enjoy!

Here I've used Chiltepin-Cranberry Relish served with creamcheese-on-rye canapés

Here I’ve used Spicy Chiltepin-Cranberry Relish served as creamcheese-on-rye canapés

We harvest chiltepines one by one as we need them, from our own chiltepin plants. Birds appreciate our chiltepin bushes as much as we do! Some of our plants I propagated from wild chiltepines in Arispe, Sonora, and Baboquivari. Some, purchased at Tohono Chul Park’s Chiles and Chocolate event, were propagated by experts Charles DiConcini and blog sister Linda McKittrick from Sierra Madrean plants. To buy healthy, productive plants for your own garden, be sure to put the NativeSeeds/SEARCH Valentine’s Plant Sale on your calendar for February.

Fresh-picked mature chiltepin peppers--Caution: do not rub eyes after picking chiltepines!

Fresh-picked mature chiltepin peppers–Caution: do not rub eyes after picking chiltepines!

To source fresh dried chiltepin peppers for cooking and eating, visit the NativeSeeds/SEARCH store (3061 N Campbell Ave, Tucson or http://www.nativeseeds.org) or stop by Cindy’s Country Harvest booth at Rillito Farmers Market Sunday.  You can see live chiltepin plants in fruit at Tohono Chul Park and at Mission Garden in Tucson.

Chiltepin-filled Heart Ornaments available at NativeSeeds/SEARCH Store for holiday decor and spice into the New Year!

Chiltepin-filled Heart Ornaments are available at NativeSeeds/SEARCH Store for holiday decor and spice into the New Year!

Another great idea:  A couple of chiltepines added to Southwest Heirloom Bean Tom’s Mix makes it a perfect potluck crowd-pleaser. You can find SW Heirloom Bean Tom’s Mix at NativeSeeds/SEARCH, or for online gifts at http://www.flordemayoarts.com.

Tom's Mix 14-Heirloom Bean Mix makes a perfect gift from the Southwest--made spicy with chiltepines! Find them at NativeSeeds/SEARCH store, Tohono Chul Museum Shop, Wiwpul Du'ag at San Xavier Plaza, and the UNICEF Store in Monterrey Village, Tucson; or online www.flordemayoarts.com

Tom’s Mix 14-Heirloom Bean Mix makes a perfect gift from the Southwest–made spicy with chiltepines! Find them at Rillito Sunday Farmers Market, NativeSeeds/SEARCH store, Tohono Chul Museum Shop, Wiwpul Du’ag at San Xavier Plaza, and the UNICEF Store in Monterrey Village, Tucson; or online http://www.flordemayoarts.com

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, Sonoran herb, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Pepitas, Squash Bees, and The Power of Small Things

Linda here, writing to you this chilly, December morning.

Several people asked me about squash this week. What a surprise! –  as squash is  often a bit under-appreciated.

I adore squash. It is rare in that every part of the plant can be eaten – leaves, shoots, flowers (both the male and female flowers), and its seeds.

 

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Pumpkin Seeds (hulled) roasted with chiltepin

Let’s spend a moment with the Squash Bee. We think of squash as growing in the garden, that is, a domesticated plant. And it is. But Sophie D. Coe, in America’s First Cuisines reminds us that they were (as were so many of our not domesticated foods) WILD. She writes: “Their original distribution in the wild can be traced by the ranges of various species of bees of the genus Peponapis, whose sole source of nectar and pollen are the squashes, and specific species of squashes for specific species of bees at that.”

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Squash Bees – from a poster at a squash stand.

There have often been times in our shared human history (and present!) where food is scarce. People planned ahead for times of hunger. In terms of squash, it was prepared by cutting in into strips and dried for use later.

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This print was made by Jean Bales (1946-2004) and it titled Cushaw Melons: Pumpkin Harvest and Drying the Pumpkin (1980).

Most of you have favorite squash recipes that you turn to for you Holiday Tables. I want to remind you to not throw away the seeds when you are preparing your squash.

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A squash growing through the fence.

Before we get into the recipe maybe we better spend a moment on How to “get into” the squash. Think squash like the one growing on the fence can be tricky to cut open with a knife. A friend from Mexico showed me a simple trick that has changed my squash-culinary-life.

It is this: Use gravity.

Meaning: Drop the darned thing on the ground until it cracks open, then scoop out the seeds and save for the garden and for the recipe below. Then you can get your knif into the rind and cut for roasting or steaming of what have you.

Today’s recipe: Roasted Pumpkin Seeds (Pepitas) with chiltepin. 

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The key to this VERY tasty treat, is to roast on VERY low heat. I use heat around 175 (under 200 degrees for sure).

I put a handful of pumpkin seeds (hulled or not) on a baking sheet in a preheated oven.

Add a tablespoon of Braggs Liquid Aminos and make sure that the seeds are coated with and spread them out evenly on the sheet.

I sprinkle half of the pan with dried chiltepin – and the other half leave for those who may not like such heat.

Every oven is different, but mine take about 15 minutes to roast. While they are in the oven, check them once or twice moving them around with a utensil to keep them from sticking.

When they are dry (and not sticky) take them out and let them cool.

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Here are a few other squash adventures that I have had. Please let me know what you make with your squash!

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Scramble squash blossoms into your eggs …. they are delicious!!!

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Empanadas baking …

Make empanadas with squash filling sometime – they can be sweet or savory! The rustic oven you see above lends a nice smoky flavor to the empanadas – but they are fabulous in any kind of oven. img_1486

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An embroidery project I made as an Ode to this generous plant

 

Categories: Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

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