Mexican Food

Wild Satisfaction: A Simple Sandia (Watermelon)-Pomegranate Margarita; (and for the Intrepid Sipper, Chiltepin)

 

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Savor Sister Linda here on this beautiful, lightly drizzling, evening in the Old Pueblo. It is nearly time for the Wild Chile harvest in the mountains in Sonora. The rains have brought life back to the very parched land. I have to admit that I had begun to loose faith that it would ever rain, even though I am generally friendly with cycles in life and seasons.  It is so hard to watch the land get so dry that even it shows it’s ribs;  and not just the hoofed creatures that depend upon it.  Now,  because of all the reconditioning and regenerating brought by the rains, we’ll soon be harvesting chiltepin.  I’ll be be musing and meandering in this blog about the rare Wild Chiles,  and how they are harvested, dried, and used – and likely about how darned transformative it is to simply be in their midst. Today I am in the mood for something simple and satisfying to kick off the season. I look around my kitchen at the red, ripe fruits of late summer/early fall and have decided to craft an adult beverage. And because I always have chiltepin on hand, I added it to the mix of ingredients as well.

I am not at all sure how smart it is to write after sampling a few versions of this Sandia Margarita, but here goes. This Recipe is for 2 people and served in smallish glasses. It takes about five minutes to prepare.

Combine the follow ingredients:
1 cup fresh watermelon
2 Tablespoons fresh pomegranates
Juice of one fresh lime – or two if you like lime flavor.
1.5 OZ Tequila Silver (this amount is a starter amount – wax and wane as you desire. Use good quality tequila, you’ll feel better in the morning)
1 chiltepin
Blend, and blend it well.  Otherwise you’ll have glumps of sandia/watermelon which is distracting; and the seeds of pomegranate will stick in your teeth. Instead: blend it all until satisfyingly smooth. 
Put into beautiful glass and garnish as you would like. I garnished one glass with just pomegranate seeds. Another with Pomegranate and one crushed chiltepin on top.
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Natures Beauty ….

 

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Scoop put one cups worth of watermelon …

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…. place watermelon in blender.

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Add 2 Tablespoons of pomegranate seeds and juice of one fresh lime.

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1.5 Silver Tequila. 

 

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Blend and Garnish as you would like; pomegranate seeds add color and a nice crunch.

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Add one crushed chiltepin for a surprisingly satisfying “heat”  that  balances out the cooling property of the watermelon.

 

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Categories: Edible Landscape Plant, fruit, Gardening, Mexican Food, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: | Leave a comment

Huevos Rancheros with Mole

 

Hello, Amy here, full from a hardy brunch. Earlier this week my friend invited me to lunch at the Tucson Botanical Garden, where we enjoyed a lamb empanada, calabacitas tamal and huevos rancheros made with mole, black tepary beans and queso fresco. It was ALL soooo good, but I think you can guess my favorite!

Café Botanica is delicious, adorable (the old adobe Friends’ House, inside or on the patio) has really nice staff, and is open 8am-2pm daily. You do have to pay admission or be a member to get to the café, so we wandered, looking at plants in the shade and a gallery or two after our meal. Perfect afternoon.

I had never heard of huevos rancheros with mole, and I had to make it at home, often! Since I was only making brunch for two, I used dry corn tortilla meal I had on hand instead of buying or making a batch of highly perishable fresh masa. Maseca is a common brand name in Tucson grocery stores, or online.

Café Botanica used parsley in their masa for flavor and color, so I chopped a few leaves of quelites (young amaranth greens) raw and mixed them into the masa. This of course is optional, but quelites are so prolific this year with our above average rainfall this summer. Recently Carolyn used amaranth seed her in corn tortillas.

Add enough water to make a soft dough. Mix about a quarter cup meal to a few tablespoons water and adjust as necessary. If it is too dry, it will crack. If it is too wet, it will stick to your hands. Form into two balls, cover, and let rest for a few minutes. Then reassess the moisture.

Place the ball in a plastic bag and flatten with a tortilla press, a dinner plate or a rolling pin.

Thoroughly heat a comal (a dry cast iron griddle) over medium heat and put tortilla to cook. Flip a few times until both sides are covered with brown spots. No need to keep them hot, they’ll be fried!

Next I made a small amount of Mano y Metate Mole Dulce with oil and veggie broth. Other varieties of mole would work, and any broth you like. Since the dish was vegetarian, I decided to keep with the theme.

Café Botanica used black tepary beans, but I used a summer squash from the Tucson CSA. I had never heard of Tromboncino before this year, and we love the taste and its trombone shapes! As a mature, winter squash, it resembles its relative the butternut. Even as a baby, it is slightly yellow on the inside with tender skin and really nice flavor. I sautéed it with onion, salt and pepper.

Next fry the tortillas in a little bit of oil until beautiful brown and fragrant.

Fry eggs over medium, or to taste. These eggs were from a friend of a friend. The deep color of the yolk is due to the hen’s diet and I bet these birds eat plenty of fresh greenery and insects.

Assemble the dish: tortilla, squash, egg. You could melt some cheese over the tortilla if you want.

Finally, top with the Mole Dulce and I’itoi onion tops. My new favorite.

Categories: Cooking, Mexican Food, Sonoran herb, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blessed Monsoon Weeds!

Yikes–look what has happened all around us!

Verdulagas — purslane — exploding in the garden. (photo by ChadBorseth, NativeSeedsSEARCH store mgr.)

With our recent record-breaking rainfall in Baja Arizona, weeds continue to go rampant. Now, what to do with them? Tah-dah–Eat them before they eat up all your garden space!

Tia Marta here—admitting I actually don’t believe in weeds at all—Weeds are gifts to be used, relished gastronomically and nutritionally, admired as amazing strategists,… appreciated!  Weeds are much-maligned plants with a different way of surviving than our regular “garden variety” plant.  They know genetically how to hustle to “make hay while the sun shines.”  So if you need to deal with a bounty of weeds coming on like gang-busters in your garden or nearby in the desert, I’d like to share some fun ways to consume and internalize them.  If we are what we eat, perhaps their “energies” may be a form of speed on some ethereal plane.

Fresh young quelites  (Amaranthus palmeri), aka pigweed and carelessweed, popping up with summer rains–ready to pick!  (MABurgess photo)

Quelite, weed of many names– careless weed, pigweed, Amaranthus palmeri, known as “rain spinach” or Juhukia i:wagi to the Tohono O’odham–is popping up in great green swaths wherever rainwater has pooled. It grows faster than one can imagine. The scourge of cotton farmers, it is, on the flip side, a positive boon to traditional harvesters—Native, Hispanic, African or Asian. As climate change digs its teeth into desert environments, our native Amaranth “weed” holds great potential as a rapid-responder “dry-land” crop for the future.

When flower stalks of Amaranthus palmeri emerge, leaves toughen. Be sure to harvest only the tender leaves. (MABurgess photo)

Mature, drying Amaranthus palmeri image taken at Mission Garden. The seedhead is spiny but contains nutritious seeds! (MABurgess photo)

The nutrition of Amaranth, our rain spinach, is way up at the top of the chart. Consider that 100g of young shoots provides 42 calories packed with 3-4 grams of protein, 3mg iron, and 4-11 mg of available calcium.

If your Amaranth patch matures faster than your harvesting schedule allows, don’t fret–all is not lost. As long as there are soft, non-fibrous leaves to pick, they are fair game for steaming or stir-frying as greens or quelites. Later, when the arching spike of spiny seed capsules matures and dries, you can harvest seeds (carefully with gloves) and winnow the tiny grains in the breeze. THEY are fabulously nutritious too. Amaranth seed is 15-18% protein—far higher than most cereals. They can be cooked as hot cereal or ground into flour– full of healthy, gluten-free carbs and fiber. Amaranth weed seed baked into bread adds a pleasing and healthy crunch. If you want quantity and lack patience to harvest wild carelessweed, the NativeSeedsSEARCH store, 3061 N Campbell Ave, Tucson, has grain-amaranth for cooking or milling, also popped amaranth for adding to baked goods or confections for Dia de Los Muertos. [More to come on that topic in early November.]

Caution:  Here’s a trick plant that may look like Amaranth but it is a perennial that leafs out with summer rains, especially in the Tucson Mtns area–Ambrosia cordifolia–not good for eating–better for soil stabilization. (MABurgess photo)

Delicious and healthy grain amaranth and popped amaranth, available at the NativeSeedsSEARCH store for cooking.

Another “weed” that is probably at this very minute creating mats of green in your garden is verdulaga. Traditional Tohono O’odham know it as ku’ukpulk, and some gardeners refer to the same puffy-leafed ground-sprawler as purslane (Portulaca oleracea). It can be added fresh to any salad for a juicy, succulent texture and tang. And check the nutrients, especially if your body needs available calcium. Every 100g (a little less than ½ cup) of verdulagas provides 0.3mg iron, 19mg calcium, high omega-3-fatty acids and lots of vitamins A&C. Rinse your verdulagas in a bowl of water, then toss the water back in the garden where the many teensy seeds that have dropped to the bottom can go for a “second round.”

Caution:  Another “trick plant” is this purslane- look-alike called “horse purslane”-Trianthema portulacastrum. It will taste a little soapy if you try it. (MABurgess photo)

Picked and washed true verdulaga/purslane, ready to make into pesto (MABurgess photo)

Here is an idea for Monsoon Pesto made with tasty weeds! Pestos of course can be made with almost any greens—e.g. with kale in the winter—so why not use what Nature provides locally and now?  Both amaranth or verdulaga can be used in your favorite pesto recipe for a healthy and tasty Southwest vacation from basil. [A word of caution: If you harvest from the wild, be sure to collect at least 50 feet from a roadway, or upstream from any road along an arroyo. Know your plants when harvesting!]

 

Here is a SUPER-NUTRITIOUS SONORAN DESERT MONSOON-WEED-PESTO RECIPE:

Ingredients:
2+ cups well-packed, fresh, washed Amaranth or Purslane greens
2-3 cloves heirloom garlic
¼ cup pinyones shelled (pine nuts), or any other fresh nutmeats, or soft seeds such as pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
2/3 cup cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt or ancient Utah salt, and ground pepper, to taste (all optional)
½ cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese

Directions:
In a food processor, combine wild weed greens (Amaranth or verdulaga), garlic, and pinyones, and process on the  “pulse” setting until finely chopped.
With processor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until the texture is smooth and fine.
Add the cheese and pulse briefly just to combine ingredients.
Taste, then season with salt and pepper as needed. (It may not need any.) Give one last pulse after seasoning.
(Pesto can be stored in frig or freezer.)
Serve on crackers with cream-cheese, in pasta, on pizza made with local white Sonora wheat flour for another local twist, or simply spread on good bread for a fantastic snack, as seen below!

Monsoon Weed Pestos–The top row is Purslane Pesto with Pine Nuts. The darker green is “Pigweed & Pepita Pesto” made with pumpkin seeds–(here served on harvest seed bread squares)–Both Weed Pestos are SO delicious (MABurgess photo)

As you taste either of these nutritious weed pestos with eyes closed, you can SAVOR the wild Southwest bouncing back into its burgeoning monsoon mode and relish the desert’s rhythms. This is Tia Marta’s wish for you– Happy weeding and eating your way through monsoon season!

Amaranthus palmeri seedheads growing too tall for a selfie –but soon ready to harvest for seed

(You can read about Winter/Spring Weeds in my blog from February 14, 2014. Interestingly, the weeds that flourish with our Sonoran Desert summer rains in the heat are totally different from the species that sprout in winter with cool/wet conditions here. The metabolism of winter vs. summer weeds involves totally different biochemical strategies—tho’ they are all similarly nutritious.)

 

 

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, heirloom crops, heirloom grains, Mexican Food, Sonoran herb, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Savor Homemade Corn Tortillas

Carolyn here today to expound on the glories and benefits of homemade corn tortillas. With inexpensive corn tortillas wrapped in plastic available everywhere, why bother to make your own? Same reason to make your own bread: flavor and nutrition. The fragrance and flavor of a tortilla right off the grill is is warm and homey and the perfect base for a simple meal.

Homemade tortillas over a fire at Linda’s ranch in Mexico. (photo by Linda McKittrick.)

Corn tortillas are made with masa harina, or corn that has gone through the nixtamal process with lime and is then dried and ground (or maybe ground and dried). If you want to start from scratch with the corn,  Savor blog sister Amy can lead you through it in a previous  post here. 

Back in April, public radio had an interesting piece on a Mexican cook who maintains that tortillas made from heritage corn are vastly superior to those made from commercial bagged masa. You can read the very interesting article here.

The problem is that corn alone, whatever corn you use,  isn’t all that nutritious, lacking protein and some other nutrients. As with all foods, combining ingredients can lead to more balanced nutrition.

Grated turmeric root adds nutrition and a lovely golden color to the tortillas.

I added both garbanzo flour and amaranth flour as well as some grated turmeric to the masa  for some tortillas I made recently and the results were delicious. (See recipe below). Amaranth is high in protein and the amino acid lysine. You could also use quinoa flour for more nutrition.

 

 

 

 

 

Once you have the dough, you need to shape it. In Tucson, traditional Mexican cooks pat out tortillas in perfect rounds. It’s an art. Further south, cooks use a tortilla press, either handsome wooden ones or the more utilitarian metal.

Hermina Serino uses a wooden tortilla press in her booth at the San Phillips Farmers Market in Tucson.

Plain metal tortilla press.

The trick to getting the dough off the press in one piece is to use pieces of plastic below and on top of the ball of dough. The other trick, which I learned in a cooking class in Oaxaca, it to peel the tortilla up from the hinge end, not the lever end. The hinge end is just enough thicker to help you peel it without tearing.  Once you have it in your hand, drop it directly onto a hot griddle or frying pan. Let it cook for a few seconds, then flip and do the other side.

Peel the tortilla up from the hinge end of the press.

For even more nutrition, you can add a sprinkling of seeds (I tried both chia and barrel cactus) to the dough before pressing the tortillas.

Sprinkle some chia seeds on the tortilla dough before pressing.

Tortillas cook quickly on a well-seasoned griddle. You can see the gratings of turmeric in this picture

As you finish the tortillas, store them in a folded tea towel until ready to serve.  They are fine as they are, or if you wish to cook further, you can saute in a little bit of oil. Top with fillings of your choice: meat or vegetables and beans.

A simple meal includes one tortilla with chicken and green salsa and another with grilled beef with red salsa.

More Nutritious Tortillas

3/4 cup dried instant masa

1 tablespoon garbanzo flour*

1 tablespoon amaranth flour*

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon grated fresh turmeric or dried turmeric (optional)

1/2 cup water (approximately)

First cut a plastic bag into two large squares to use on the tortilla press. Mix the flours and the salt in a medium bowl. Add half the water and mix. Add more water slowly until you get a dough that just sticks together. You don’t want it too soft. This takes a little practice. If you add too much water, just sprinkle in a little more masa. Roll the dough into balls of about 2 tablespoons each. Heat the well-seasoned frying pan or griddle. Press a tortilla and transfer to grill. Don’t worry if every one doesn’t turn out great. Just rebundle the dough and try again. Makes 6 to 8 tortillas.

(*Purchase these flours in health food stores or make your own by grinding the dry garbanzos, amarath or quinoa until fine in a coffee or spice grinder.)


Carolyn Niethammer writes about edible wild plants and Southwestern food. Read more at www.cniethammer.com.  Buy her books at the Native Seeds/SEARCH retail store or website or on Amazon.

 

 

 

Categories: Cooking, Mexican Food, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

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