Posts Tagged With: Carolyn Niethammer

Agave Fest Begins in Tucson

Tucson is gearing up to celebrate all things agave with the annual Agave Fest. It began Friday, August 28, at Mission Garden in Tucson with tastes of alcohol distilled from agave hearts.  Bacanora is to Sonora as tequila is to Jalisco, mezcal is to Oaxaca and sotol is to Chihuahua.  Bacanora and sotol are the lesser-known. This is how bacanora is described in Tequila: a natural and cultural history by Ana G. Valenzuela-Zapata and Gary Paul Nabhan:

“Bacanora: A bootleg mescal made from the northernmost populations of Agave angustifolia var. Pacifica in sonora and adjacent Chihuahua, sometimes mixed…with A. palmeri. Named for the small rancheria of Bacanora near the pueblo of Sahuaripa, Sonora, this mescal was recently legalized and commercialized, but the clandestine cottage industry product by this name remains the pride of Sonorans.” Bacanora has now been legally sold since 1992, but old-timers still have nostalgia for the unmarked bottles obtained with a little stealth from a Mexican rancher friend.

Native Americans and Mexicans have for centuries used agave as a food source. The agaves are harvested shortly after they start to send up a bloom spike. All the sugars are concentrated then. If you cut the bloom spike when it is just coming out, it can be sliced and eaten raw and is reminiscent of jicama.  However Jesus Garcia cautioned the audience that the raw sap from the agave heart is very caustic and any that ends up on your skin will cause an itchy welt. When the leaves are removed from the agave and the hearts baked, the result is a fibrous sweet pulp.  The volunteers at Mission Garden have constructed a traditional earth oven and Jesus Garcia demonstrated how to prepare the harvested agave for roasting.

Jesus Garcia demonstrates how to prepare an agave heart for roasting at Mission Garden.  Removing the leaves is not easy task, requiring a machete and a strong back. The earth oven is in the foreground. Jesus is preparing a thick bed of coals to roast the agave hearts.

 

Several decades ago when I was doing the research for my first book American Indian Food and Lore (now American Indian Cooking: Recipes from the Southwest), I learned the lesson about the caustic agave sap the hard way as I spattered the raw pulp with every swing of the machete.  While an earth oven gives baked agave a lovely smoky taste, you can also bake agave in a regular oven. I did this for the first time in about 20 years this week with a heart provided by Mission Garden. It was such a huge agave, that I had to quarter it to fit in my home oven.

Quartered agave heart.

Here are two baked quarters going into my oven.

Agave hearts that I have baked that are about the size of a large cauliflower have taken  10 hours at 350 degrees to become soft. These were larger and took about 17 hours until the leaves were soft enough to pull away from the core.

Nicely baked agave heart after 17 hours in the oven.

Soft sweet agave pulp, between the fibers. You can chew it or nudge it out with a knife to use in recipes.

 

 

A few years ago, I visited a mezcal-making demonstration in Oaxaca. Once the agave heads are nicely baked and caramelized, they are cooled, unloaded and the leaves are separated. This crusher is the traditional way that the baked agave leaves are crushed to release the sweet pulp from the fibers. A draft animal goes round and round crushing the baked leaves to a pulp.

The mill,or molino, that crushes the baked agave leaves.

The mill,or molino, that crushes the baked agave leaves. Usually powered by a mule or burro.

 

There are many more events coming up next week for Agave Fest: a dinner, a brunch, lectures, seminars. One I’m sure not to miss is the mezcal and chocolate pairing at Maynards at 7 p.m. May 4. You can read all about it at www.agaveheritagefestival.com or look on Facebook.

Interested in more recipes for wild desert foods?  Check out my book Cooking the Wild Southwest for delicious mesquite recipes as well as recipes for 22 other easily recognized and gathered southwest plants.  For at look at Native American uses for agave and other desert plants, see American Indian Cooking, Recipes from the Southwest.  For a short video on some of the interesting plants you can gather, click here.

Categories: Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tarte au Citron: Best Ever Lemon Pie

 

Spring in the desert means great citrus.

Carolyn here today with one of my favorite recipes, perfect for spring. Many people in the desert have lemon trees in their garden or have access to a neighbor’s bounty. Farmers markets also have lots of citrus in the spring. Making this recipe always reminds me of two dear friends. I begged the recipe several decades ago after eating at a dinner party hosted by Susie Morris and David Devine. I adored the pie, but dreaded making it because I always grated my knuckles along with the lemon zest. Then, a few years ago in repayment for a very minor favor, another friend, Margaret Pope, gave me a new type of zester. It is a miracle tool that makes zesting citrus peel quick and bloodless.

This zester makes producing citrus zest quick and easy.

You can use a commercial pie crust or use the directions for a lemon-flavored crust below.  Some directions call for combining the flour and butter in a food processor, but I think that cuts the butter too small. It’s those larger pieces of butter between layers of flour that make your crust flaky. I use an old-fashioned  pastry cutting tool for this.

Cutting the butter into the flour for pie crust.

To make the filling, you need to separate the eggs. Even a little bit of yolk in the whites with inhibit the amount of volume when you beat them. The trick here is to have three bowls: one for the whites, one for the yolks and the working bowl. Crack the egg over the working bowl, catching the yolk in the shell and letting the white go into the bowl. If there is no yolk in the white, add it to the bowl for whites. If the yolk breaks, set the whole egg aside for scrambled eggs for breakfast and get another egg.

Use the yolks to make the lemon custard filling. It cooks rather quickly, so use low heat and stir and stir. Stop when it is the consistency of mayonnaise.

The custard should be the consistency of mayonnaise.

Next, you will beat your egg whites. The filling for the pie is similar to lemon meringue pie, but rather than the custard on the bottom and meringue on top, you fold together the egg whites and custard.

Gently fold the the custard into the beaten egg whites.

Tarte Au Citron

Pastry:

1 ¼ cups flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon ice water

½ cup butter

1 egg yolk

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon lemon zest

Filling:

4 eggs

¾ cup sugar

½ cup lemon juice

zest of two lemons

1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 teaspoons water

pinch salt

Optional garnish: Whipped cream and mixed berries

Tarte shell: Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut butter into the flour. Add  egg yolk, ice water and lemon juice. If you are in the desert, you might need to add more water as our flour has little moisture. Roll out and fit into a 8- or  9-inch tart pan. Bake 10 minutes at 400 degrees. (Use pie weights, beans or rice over a sheet of foil or parchment paper to keep pastry from puffing up).  Reduce heat to 350 degrees. Bake another 10 minutes until lightly golden. Set aside.(Can substitute own recipe for pastry but this is really good)

Filling: While the crust is baking, you can start the custard. Separate eggs. Beat yolks with half the sugar. Add lemon juice, zest and cornstarch. Transfer to saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring often, until consistency of mayonnaise, about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and rest in bowl of ice water to cool completely. Again preheat oven to 400 degrees if it is cold. In a bowl, place egg whites and salt. Beat gradually, adding remaining sugar until stiff peaks form. Stir about a quarter of the whites into the yolk mixture to lighten it. Then gently fold in the remaining whites.

Spoon lemon mixture into the pastry shell. Bake until the crust is lightly browned and the filling is set, about 15 minutes. Serve alone or with whipped cream and berries.

Cool on wire rack. Serves 8 (or maybe 2).

Whipped cream and berries are a luxury addition to a slice of Tarte au Citron.

_______________________________

Carolyn Niethammer is the author of five cookbooks on Southwest foods. You can see her books here.

Categories: Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Wild Rhubarb Rises Again!

Wild rhubarb is emerging again this month from its hidden storage roots, dotting arroyo-banks and sandy places with green rosettes of leaves and colorful raspberry-pink stalks (MABurgess photo)

Wild rhubarb is emerging again this month from its hidden storage roots, dotting arroyo-banks and sandy places with green rosettes of leaves and colorful raspberry-pink stalks (MABurgess photo)

It’s an unusual winter season when Canaigre (also known by many other names:  Wild Rhubarb, Desert Dock,  Hiwidchuls in O’odham language, Latin name Rumex hymenosepalus) creeps up out of its sandy hiding places to bloom and seed before spring weather gets too warm.  When conditions are right, it can dot the desert floor in early spring with its floppy leathery leaves and pink stalks similar to domestic rhubarb.  This recent cool season Nov.2016-Jan.2017, with its period of penetrating rains, has been the right trigger for awakening canaigre.  Right now it’s time to attune our vision to finding it!  If the weather heats up rapidly, as happened in the last couple of springs, its tender leaf rosettes will dry and crinkle leaving a brown organic “shadow” of itself on the sand, its stored life safely underground in fat roots.  Tia Marta here to share some experiences with canaigre or wild rhubarb.

Wild rhubarb dug out of sandy soil showing multiple tuberous roots and young leaves (MABurgess photo)

Wild rhubarb dug out of sandy soil showing multiple tuberous roots and young leaves (JRMondt photo)

Close-up of wild rhubarb storage roots (JRMondt photo)

Close-up of wild rhubarb storage roots (JRMondt photo)

Canaigre isn’t just everywhere in the desert.  It’s elusive.  It usually likes sandy loose soil, like the flood plains of our desert rivers in Baja Arizona and Sonora, along major arroyo banks, and on pockets of ancient sand dunes.  Where you see one you usually see many.

Wild rhubarb on sandy soil in Paradox Valley, western CO (JRMondt photo)

Wild rhubarb on sandy soil in Paradox Valley, western CO (JRMondt photo)

Wild rhubarb emerging in ancient dune soil, Avra Valley , southern AZ (MABurgess photo)

Wild rhubarb emerging in ancient dune soil, Avra Valley , southern AZ (MABurgess photo)

My late friend and mentor, Tohono O’odham Elder Juanita Ahil, would take me to her favorite harvesting grounds at the right time each February and March to collect the rosy stalks–if they had emerged.  Over the last 40 years, with deep regret, frustration and anguish, I’ve seen her special “harvesting gardens” go under the blade as development turned wild rhubarb habitat into apartments, golf courses, and strip malls.  Hopefully our Arizona Native Plant Society (www.AZNPS.com) will be able to advocate for setting aside some remaining sites on public lands, similar to the BLM Chiltepin Reserve at Rock Corral Canyon in the Atascosa Mountains.  Where wild rhubarb was once super-plentiful, they and their habitats are now greatly diminished, even threatened.

Wild rhubarb stalk ready to harvest (MABurgess photo)

Wild rhubarb stalk ready to harvest (MABurgess photo)

Botanical illustration of wild rhubarb from Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West by Michael Moore, U.NewMexico Press (drawing by Mimi Kamp)

Botanical illustration of wild rhubarb from Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West by Michael Moore, U.NewMexico Press (drawing by Mimi Kamp)

Details of the parts of the plant that Juanita traditionally harvested are shown in Mimi Kamp’s sketch.  Contrary to some ethnographic reports, Juanita did not use the leaf petioles for food; she harvested the flower stalks, i.e. the stems, leaving the leaves to make more food for the plants to store for the next season.  Traditional knowledge is so attuned to Nature.  Hers was an awareness of the plant’s needs balanced with her own appetite.  Other reports of traditional use of wild rhubarb mention cooking the leaves after leaching/steaming out the oxalic acid from them which is not healthy to eat.

Juanita would also dig deeply into the sandy soil directly under an unusually large, robust hiwidchuls to harvest one or more (up to maybe 1/4 of the tubers) to use as medicine.  I recall her digging a big purplish tuber the size of an oblong sweet potato at a depth of 2 1/2 feet on the floodplain of the Rio Santa Cruz where ball parks now prevent any hiwidchuls growth at all.  She would dry it and powder it to use later on scrapes to staunch bleeding.  Her hiwidchuls harvesting dress was dotted with rosy brown patches of color dyed from the juice splashed on the cloth when she cut the tubers into slices for drying. (See Jacqueline Soule’s post on this blog from 2014, also Michael Moore’s Medicinal Plants books, for alternate uses.)

Wild rhubarb flower stalk close-up (MABurgess photo)

Wild rhubarb flower stalk close-up  with buds and flowers  typical of buckwheats (MABurgess photo)

Canaigre/wild rhubarb is in the buckwheat family sporting clusters of little flowers that produce winged seeds.  Their papery membranes help catch the wind for flying to new planting grounds.  The green celery-like flower stalk or stem turns pink or raspberry-tinted as it matures.  That was when Juanita would cut the stem at its base to use for her hiwidchuls pas-tild, wild rhubarb pie!

Wild rhubarb stalk with colorful immature seeds forming (MABurgess photo)

Wild rhubarb stalk with colorful immature seeds forming (MABurgess photo)

Close-up of wild rhubarb's membranous seeds (MABurgess photo)

Close-up of wild rhubarb’s membranous seeds (MABurgess photo)

In a good year, Juanita would harvest literally bundles of hiwidchuls stalks and we would set to work baking.  Her pies were sweet and tangy.  Here is what she would roughly put together in her off the cuff recipe.  But almost any rhubarb pie recipe should work with the wild rhubarb.  You can find great info on Southwest Native uses of canaigre in Blog-Sister Carolyn Niethammer’s book American Indian Food and Lore.

Juanita’s approximate Hiwidchuls Pas-tird RECIPE

Ingredients:

ca 4-6 cups chopped young wild rhubarb stems

1/4-1/2 cup white Sonora wheat flour

2-3 Tbsp butter

ca 2 cups sugar

pie crust–2 layers for top and bottom, or bottom crust and top lattice crust (A good variation is mesquite flour added to your crusts)

Directions:  Prep stems ahead.  Preheat oven to 450 F.  Chop young rhubarb stems in 1/2 inch cuts.  Stems are full of vascular bundles and can become very fibrous as stems become fully mature, so youthful stems are best.  (Be warned:  One year we harvested a little too late and our pies were so “chewy” with fiber that we had to eat our pies outside in order to be able to easily “spit out the quids.”)  Cook hiwidchuls chopped pieces in a small amount of water until tender.  Add in sugar, butter and flour and cook until mixture is thickening.  Pour mixture into your pie crust.  Cover with top pie crust and pierce for steam escape, or cover with lattice crust.  Begin baking in hot oven (at 450F) then reduce heat to medium oven (350F) for 45-50 minutes or until crust is golden brown and juice is bubbling through lattice or steam holes.  Enjoy it hot or cold!

 

Wild rhubarb stalk ready to harvest (MABurgess photo)

Wild rhubarb stalk ready to harvest (MABurgess photo)

Now let’s head out into the desert washes to see if there are more stands of hiwidchuls popping up out of the ground, making solar food to keep themselves and other creatures alive and well!   Let’s get ready to be collecting their seeds (which also were used traditionally by Native People as food) in order to propagate and multiply them, adding them to our gardens for future late winter shows of color, good food and good medicine.  Happy gardening and eating from Tia Marta and traditional knowledge shared!

 

 

Categories: Cooking, Dye, dye plant, Edible Landscape Plant, medicinal plant, Sonoran herb, Sonoran Medicinal, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

dsc00040

dsc00041

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.

dsc00048

 

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

dsc00049

Add a salad and you have a great light meal.

Add a salad and you have a great light meal.

__________________________________________

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

Southwest Foraging: A book to guide you

Southwest Foraging: 117 wild and flavorful edibles from barrel cactus to wild oregano

by John Slattery. (Timber Press, $24.95)

By Carolyn Niethammer

In the introduction to John Slattery’s new book on wild foods, he states, “If you have not foraged for your food, you have not yet fully lived on this earth.”  I couldn’t agree more as there is nothing like popping a handful of sun-warmed orange hackberries into your mouth as I did on my Sunday morning walk.

southwest-foraging_hi-res

Although the book encompasses the states of Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Southern Utah, and their great diversity of habitats, Slattery does a good job of telling you not only what you might find in your area, but also in which season you should go out looking for a particular plant.

Although I have been playing with and writing about edible wild plants of the desert Southwest for more than 40 years, Slattery includes many plants that are new to me.  I recognize desert willow flowers, but didn’t know that they can be steeped to make a tea.

Desert Willow flowers

Desert Willow flowers – a picture pretty enough to frame!

Steep flowers for a nice tea.

Steep flowers for a nice tea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slattery  makes it easy to recognize each plant with precise color photos, which he took himself on his many foraging expeditions. Some of the photos rise to the level of art and will have you just tasting those juicy berries and grabbing your backpack to go find some for yourself.

I do have one small quibble with the book. Slattery mentions harvesting the bulbs of mariposa lily. As an avid seeker of spring wild flowers, I’m always thrilled to find the gorgeous mariposa lilies. The fact that someone might dig up these bulbs to eat, unless they were truly starving, doesn’t sit well with me. (However if you do find yourself lost and starving, you will be very happy to have learned something from this book).  In fact, wild foragers should always consider harvesting anything sustainably and Slattery does address this briefly in the introduction. When you grab a copy of this book and head for a date with Mother Nature to try your luck, and I hope you do, please stick with the other 116 nuts, berries, fruits and greens he suggests and leave the bulbs in place.

Folks interested in wild foraging, but wanting a little more guidance than they can get from a book, can sign up for one of Slattery’s frequent foraging classes and the Sonoran Herbalist Apprenticeship Program. You can find a link here. For a previous article on John showing pictures of the potluck his graduating students prepared look here.

This summer, Slattery has been experimenting with using his foraged berries to make shrubs, which might be described as colonial-era homemade fruit sodas.  Using this basic recipe, you can experiment with other fruits. Here is Slattery’s recipe using lovely graythorn berries.

Graythorn berries

Graythorn berries

Garythorn shrub in process

Garythorn shrub in process

Bottled graythorn shrub

Bottled graythorn shrub

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slattery’s Recipe for Graythorn Soda

1 1-quart canning jar

1 cup fresh, fully ripened graythorn berries (don’t wash them)

1/4 cup organic cane sugar

filtered, or spring, water to fill the jar

Combine the fresh fruit, sugar, and most of the water in the jar and screw the lid on tight. Shake the jar vigorously to dissolve the sugar. Fill the jar to within 1/4 inch of the top with filtered, or spring, water and leave the lid on loosely.

Allow the fruit to ferment for two to three days in a warm, shaded place indoors. We’re simply utilizing the native yeasts present on the fresh, unwashed fruit. Once bubbles are visible and active, strain out the fruit, and transfer the contents to swing-top bottles filling to within 1/4 inch of the top (even if less than 2 days). Here you have the option of adding 1/4 teaspoon of sugar (to 12oz) to encourage more carbonation before placing in the refrigerator for four to seven days. You can leave it longer, if you like. Taste as you go. If the fermentation is particularly active, the sugars will be eaten up very quickly and your drink will become sour. So keep an eye on it!

_____________________________

Once you have your carefully foraged foods, it’s time to think of how to cook them into something wonderful. For complete directions and recipes for  cooking with edible wild plants, check out Cooking the Wild Southwest: Delicious Recipes for Desert Plants. and The Prickly Pear Cookbook.

Categories: medicinal plant, Sonoran herb, Sonoran Medicinal, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Best Mesquite Brownies

Carolyn Niethammer with you here today talking about one of my favorite subjects, mesquite meal. The first crop of mesquite pods ripened early this year on the lower desert. Here in Tucson, Desert Harvesters sponsored a milling in June. (A milling is this miraculous process of putting whole pods in a hammermill and getting lovely, silky flour at the end.) Because of the early summer rains, there is a huge second crop of pods ripening on the trees now(see the photo above). If you missed the first round, there will be opportunities to get your pods ground in communities throughout Arizona later in the fall after the weather has dried out.

Dry mesquite pods ready for milling.

Dry mesquite pods ready for milling.

So what to do with all that mesquite meal after you have had your fill of pancakes?

I have been cooking with mesquite pods since the early 1970s and have published in my cookbooks lots of recipes using the ground pods. But until now, I’ve never been completely satisfied with a mesquite brownie recipe. But this one that I made for a potluck at Native Seeds/SEARCH earlier this summer is close to perfect. I used pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds) because I think the flavor goes well with mesquite, but pecans would work too. If you cannot bear to bake anything without chocolate, feel free to toss in some chocolate chips and maybe a little cocoa powder as well. The familiar warm flavor of mesquite will still come through.

 

The recipe has a considerable amount of fat and sugar, but those are the ingredients that make up what we consider a proper brownie. Just go easy on how many you eat.

If you aren’t up to making your own mesquite meal, you can purchase it from the Native Seeds/SEARCH retail store or order on-line from NS/S or Flor de Mayo. Mesquite meal is also available at farmers’ markets throughout Arizona.

Ummm, don't these look good?

Ummm, don’t these look good?

Best Mesquite Brownies

2/3 cup melted butter

1/4 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup mesquite meal

2 cups brown sugar

4 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1- 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt (if using unsalted butter)

1/2 cup pepitas or chopped pecans

2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9×13-inch baking pan. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine mesquite meal, flour, baking powder and salt if using. Set aside.
  3. Combine melted butter and oil in a large bowl. Stir in sugar and add eggs, one at a time, combining well after each addition. Stir in vanilla.
  4. Stir in mesquite and flour mixture. Add chocolate chips if using.
  5. Spread batter into the prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. When cool, cut into squares.

__

Cooling in the pan, ready to cut into squares.

Mesquite brownies cooling in the pan, ready to cut into squares.

____________________________

Want more recipes for mesquite meal? Check out my cookbook Cooking the Wild Southwest: Delicious Recipes for Desert Plants available at Native Seeds/SEARCH or from Amazon or B&N.  There you’ll find my favorite recipes for Apple-Mesquite Coffee Cake and a killer Banana Mesquite layer cake.

Categories: Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Promise, Preparedness, Present Fulfillment–with Fruits of the Desert

small fishhook Mammillaria microcarpa celebration the monsoon with a promise of future fruitlets (MABurgess photo)

Fishhook Mammillaria microcarpa celebrating the monsoon with a promise of future fruitlets (MABurgess photo)

Crowns of Mammillaria flowers make pink arches like miniature 4th of July fireworks now suddenly visible among desert rocks and under greening bursage.  They are rain celebrations–the PROMISES of fruits to come!  In a few weeks the little fishhook pincushions will sport a crown of shiny red fruitlets.  Keep watch for them.  Known in Sonora as pitayita de raton (little mouse’s pitaya), each long red droplet will give you a sweet tangy zing– like a mini-organpipe-cactus fruit.  Tia Marta here to share ways of enjoying the cornucopia that is beginning to spill out flavorfully all around us in town and out in the desert in this monsoon time.

Late fruiting prickly pear--still green and full of promise

Late fruiting prickly pear–unripe green but full of promise this week (July 8)

Opuntia lendheimeri alba barely turning pink--more promises...

Opuntia lindheimeri alba barely turning pink this week–more promises…(July 8)

Opuntia engelmannii in first stages of ripening...

Opuntia engelmannii in first stages of ripening…not yet (week of July 8)

All around the desert and through every neighborhood, I see the promise of a good prickly pear harvest, inspired by our elongated spring and nurtured by good monsoon rain.  Each prickly pear seems to march to a different drummer.  Right now you can see every shade of color–unripe to ripening tunas–very green, to rosy, to deepening red.  These are PROMISES so don’t jump the gun!  They are not ready quite yet–but this is the signal to get your kitchen PREPARED.  Stay tuned–There will be more blog posts to detail prickly pear ideas in coming weeks.  Make space now in your freezer, and make time on your calendar for the August TUNA HARVEST.

 

Opuntia engelmannii in full ripening fruit--but not ready yet!

Opuntia engelmannii full of ripening fruit–But don’t salivate yet (week of July 8)!  Wait for a dark maroon color to extend all the way to the bottom attachment of the tuna AND through the tuna‘s entire interior before they are fully ripe and ready to eat or cook.

What a glorious monsoon our Sonoran Desert has enjoyed over the last couple of weeks!  The explosion of life in such a short time is astounding on the heels of record-breaking heat and drought.  This is when the desert shows its tropical heritage with a surge of energy, fecundity, productivity.  Isn’t it interesting that the “outsider’s” view of the desert is of hazardous scarcity?  More interesting instead is to understand and appreciate the waves of nutritious plenty that can erupt suddenly here in the Sonoran Desert.  Native People know how to rally, to harvest in the times of plenty and to store short-lived fruits of the desert against lean times–lessons worth exercising.   Plentiful foothills palo verde seeds (Parkinsonia microphylla) are a case in point.

Mature dry pods of foothills paloverde--They have potential for making flour!

Mature dry pods of foothills paloverde–with potential for making nutritious flour!

Foothills palo verde seed milled raw for baking

Foothills palo verde seed milled raw for baking

Seeds of foothills palo verde dry and hard as little stones

Seeds of foothills palo verde– dry and hard as little stones

 

At PRESENT, lasting perhaps through July, there are copious “fruits-of-the-desert” hanging on foothills palo verde trees (aka little-leaf paloverde) covering desert hillsides.  In early June, palo verde pods were offering soft sweetpeas for fresh picking (described in the June13,2015 Savor blog on this site).   Now in July, palo verde pods are rattling with shrunken stone-hard seeds.  When ground, or when toasted and milled, these little dry seeds can produce two fabulous gluten-free flours for adding to baked goods, hot cereal, gravies etc.

Dry foothills palo verde seed milled raw on L, toasted and milled fine in center, toasted coarse-milled on R

Dry foothills palo verde seeds:  milled raw-Left; toasted and milled fine-Center; toasted & coarse-milled-Right

Foothills palo verde seed toasting in a dry iron skillet

Foothills palo verde seed toasting in a dry iron skillet

Oh how I wish that technology could keep up with our needs for scratch, sniff, and taste in this blog!!  The distinctly different flavors and textures of these two flours are so pleasant.  Desert People traditionally parched and ground these seeds in bedrock mortars.  I used a coffee mill to grind them.  The raw flour has a wonderful bean-i-ness bouquet coming through.  Then I toasted (parched) a separate batch of seeds in an un-greased skillet before milling, and WOW the roasty aroma of this gluten-free flour is rich.  I am using it to add flavor –not to mention high protein and complex carbs–to multigrain breads and biscuits.  So FULFILLING!  A friend who tried these different preparations for palo verde flour even wants to use it as a spice or seasoning!

With the monsoon (and with the help of many hummingbird pollinators) has come another edible surprise to my desert garden–octopus cactus fruit–that I just have to share with you:

Stenocereus alamosensis with hummer- and perhaps ant-pollinated flower, June26,2016 (MABurgess photo)

Stenocereus alamosensis with hummer- and perhaps ant-pollinated flower, June26,2016.  Note happy ant on petal.  (MABurgess photo)

Fruit of octopus cactus Stenocereus alamosensis, ripe and splitting July 4, 2016

Fruit of octopus cactus Stenocereus alamosensis, ripe and splitting July 4, 2016 (MABurgess photo)

Sliced octopus cactus fruit on palo chino bowl (MABurgess photo)

Juicy sliced octopus cactus fruit (Stenocereus alamosensis) on palo chino bowl (MABurgess photo)

Years ago I collected seed for it near Alamos, Sonora, and grew it out in Tucson.  Surviving frosty winters, and flowering in previous years, it never bore fruit before.  This year, fertilization happened at last, and voila–there are sensational, gently sweet delicacies to eat right off the cactus.  The fruit’s fresh crispy texture is like watermelon and its seeds are tiny protein crunches.  [Light bulb idea]–With climate change, this flavorful cactus fruit–and others like it–could become an appropriate specialty food to grow locally.

Keep your eyes peeled and prepare for more harvests from the latest new “promises” blooming for multiple times this season in the desert…..Check out these potential edibles:

This is the third bloom of saguaros this season--with pollination may give another fruit harvest

This is the third bloom of saguaros this season–if  pollinated may give yet another fruit harvest

Green swelling Padre Kino fig--watch for preparing heirloom fruit ideas next month….

Green swelling Padre Kino fig–Young trees are available next week at the NSS plant sale!

A new wave of mesquite flowers and green pods promise a second harvest this season.

A new wave of mesquite flowers and green pods promise a second harvest this season.

Don’t miss the NativeSeeds/SEARCH Monsoon Plant Sale this next weekend, Friday-Sunday, July 15-17, 2016!  For your own garden-to-table promises and preparations, check out the many starts of NSS heirloom summer vegetables and monsoon wildflowers.  There will be tomatillo plants, heirloom chile varieties, cucumber, many squash and melon varieties to give your garden a jump-start.  A few 5-gallon  Father Kino fig trees propagated at Mission Garden will be available for sale, so come early.

For well-seasoned ideas for desert cookery, two fabulously useful books continue to inspire:    Tucsonan Sandal English’s cookbook from the 1970’s Fruits of the Desert published by the Arizona Daily Star, and desert-foods aficionado (& Blog-Sister) Carolyn Niethammer’s book Cooking the Wild Southwest published by University of Arizona Press.  Borrow or buy, and use them with joy.

I wish you happy harvesting as the desert’s present promises become a cornucopia of fulfilling plenty!

[For anyone seeking heirloom foods and products made with wild foods, check out http://www.flordemayoarts.com and http://www.nativeseeds.org, or visit the Baggesen Family booth at Sunday St Philips farmers market.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Epazote and Garden Herbs Blend Into Delicious Mole Verde

This epazote plant has grown to over 6 feet.

This epazote plant has grown to over 6 feet. It was a volunteer in the lettuce bed and loved the rich soil.

Carolyn here this week. This spring I have had epazote sprouting between my tomato plants, epazote in the pea pots, epazote in the kale and in the I’itoi onions. I harvested the last of the chard today and there was an epazote plant hiding in that row. For fun, I left one in the lettuce patch and it has grown over 6 feet, thriving in the rich soil and organic inputs in that area. After taking a picture today, I’m going to pull it before it releases a couple thousand seeds and takes over my entire garden.

I bought my first epazote plant from a lovely Mexican woman at the farmer’s market. That one died, but I tried again the next fall. This time I was more successful and now I can supply epazote to anyone who needs it.

Healthy epazote plant earlier in the spring.

Healthy epazote plant earlier in the spring.

Epazote is a New World herb that originated in Central America and parts of Mexico and in the Nahuatl language is called epazo-tl. It has spread north to the U.S. and to the Caribbean. The scientific name was formerly Chenopodium ambrosoides but has been changed to Dysphania ambrosoides. Interestingly, it is related to quinoa, spinach and beets.

Epazote is used as an flavoring herb and its taste changes slightly as the plant ages. Chew on a leaf of a young plant and you will notice a light citrus-y flavor that starts on your tongue and spreads through your mouth. Leaves from older plants intensify the pine-y or eucalyptus flavor notes that underlie the citrus. Some say it tastes similar to tarragon.

In the Southwest, epazote is most frequently used in cooking black beans for flavor and also for its anti-gas effects. Add two or three sprigs during the last 15 minutes of cooking. If you have access to fresh epazote, feel free to try it in other dishes. A little chopped up in a corn relish adds a spritely flavor. If you make your own mole sauces, add a few leaves, particularly to a green mole. It also goes well in filling for tamales and sprinkled on the cheese in quesadillas

Another traditional use of epazote as developed by the native Mayans is as a tea, particularly as a remedy for intestinal parasites. Epazote includes 60-80 % ascaridole, which is toxic to several intestinal worms.

Herbs for Mole Verde from left: epazote, parsley, oregano, and cilantro.

Herbs for Mole Verde from left: epazote, parsley, oregano, and cilantro.

Here are the vegetables you will use: tomatillos, onion, garlic and jalapenos.

Here are the vegetables you will use: tomatillos, onion, garlic and jalapenos.

As with most leafy greens, epazote also provides some vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, B-complex vitamins (specifically folic acid) and vitamin C as well as calcium, manganese, copper,  potassium, phosphorous and zinc.

Mole Verde

Here’s a recipe for a delicious green mole with epazote. This is a chewy, substantial version due to the pepitas.  I served the sauce with sautéed chicken breast pieces and fresh nopalitos from my garden. Makes about 6 generous servings.

Ingredients

1 cup pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)

1 cup roughly chopped white onion (about 1 small)

1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 3 medium cloves)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/2 pound tomatillos, husked and cut in eighths (about 5 large)

2 medium jalapeño peppers, roughly chopped (seeds removed for a milder sauce)

1 cup packed coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems

1/2 cup packed coarsely chopped fresh epazote

½ cup parsley leaves

2 tablespoons fresh oregano

2 cups low-sodium chicken stock, divided

Salt, to taste

Directions

Saute the onion, garlic, and tomatillos until soft.

Saute the onion, garlic, and tomatillos until soft.

  1. Prepare all your herbs first and set aside. In a medium heavy skillet over medium-high heat, toast pepitas until they start to pop and turn a light golden brown. Toss constantly so they won’t burn. Transfer to a blender and process until finely ground. You will have to stop the blender every few seconds to redistribute the contents.
  2. In a heavy saucepan, heat the oil and sauté the onion until it starts getting translucent. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Add the tomatillos and jalapeno and cook, stirring frequently until soft.
  3. Transfer the sautéed vegetables to the blender jar with the pepitas and the herbs. Add one cup of the chicken stock and puree until well combined. This may take a couple of minutes.
  4. Return the blended mixture to the saucepan and put it over medium heat. Meanwhile rinse the blender jar with the remaining cup of chicken broth and add to the pot. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes to let the herbs release their flavors and the flavors to blend. Stir frequently.
  5. Use immediately or transfer to an airtight container and store in refrigerator for up to 3 days, reheating before use.
Serve the sauce with chicken, fish, or vegetables.

Serve the sauce with chicken, fish, or vegetables.

_____________________________________________________

You can buy seeds for epazote from Native Seeds/SEARCH.   They also carry a selection of cookbooks by Carolyn Niethammer. The books are also available online from Amazon and Barnes&Noble.

Categories: Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, herbs, Sonoran Native | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Everybody Cooks Desert Wild Plants

It’s Carolyn Niethammer with you this April Friday, my favorite time of year when the Sonoran Desert is bursting with life. The rains weren’t as heavy as El Niño had promised, but there was enough moisture so that our arid-adapted plants could produce a colorful and abundant spring. When I was a young reporter for the Arizona Daily Star we used to have a feature called “Everybody Cooks.” I loved going out into the community and talking to good cooks from all walks of life — Mexican nanas, musicians, business owners, Jewish homemakers — about what they made for holidays and everyday family meals. I recalled those good times earlier this month at the Native Seeds/SEARCH Arid Abundance Potluck.

People arrived at the Arid Abundance Potluck with so many creative uses of the delicacies of a Sonoran desert spring that I just had to document the event.

Chad Borseth shows off his cholla bud appetizer.

Chad Borseth shows off his cholla bud appetizer.

Chad Borseth, the manager of the NS/S retail store, started us out with a cholla bud appetizer. There’s an old joke about how a cook made chicken soup in 1880. It starts: first you catch the chicken. This is sort of like that. You do have to harvest, clean (meaning remove the thorns) and dry the cholla buds. Or you can go the the NS/S store and buy some already cleaned and dried. Chad boiled the dried cholla buds for about 45 minutes, drained them and then chilled them in white balsamic vinegar overnight. When he was ready to serve them at the potluck he cut  each of them in half and arranged them on a plate and drizzled them with prickly pear syrup. Toothpicks are handy for picking up the delicious little morsels.

 

 

IMG_0658

Nancy Reid serves up  her rich and delicious  Green Chile-Cholla Bud Quiche

Nancy Reid, a retail associate at the NS/S store,  brought a green chile and cholla bud quiche that she had modified from a recipe in a wonderful but out-of-print NS/S cookbook. She began by melting a tablespoon of butter in the bottom of an 8-inch round pan. In a bowl, she beat 4 eggs. Then she added 3/4 cup cooked cholla buds, 3/4 cup chopped green chiles, 1 cup of cottage cheese, 2 cups of shredded colby/jack cheese, and a little salt. It went in the oven at 325 degrees F. for 40 minutes.

 

 

 

Laura Neff with her salsa.

Laura Neff , NS/S retail associate, with her salsa.

 

 

What’s a southwestern meal without salsa? Laura Neff’s version includes 1/2 cup dried cholla buds boiled for 45 minutes and drained, 1/2 cup diced tomatoes, 1/4 cup diced red onion, 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, 1-2 finely minced jalapenos, and 1 tablespoon of lime juice. She combined everything except the cholla buds in a food processor. The cholla buds were chopped by hand and added  at the end.

 

 

 

My friend Connie Lauth wasn’t at the potluck but she made this gorgeous quiche recently for company. Connie lives on the desert at the very end of a road into the Tucson Mountains. While Chad and Laura used dried and reconstituted cholla buds, Connie just walked out her door and picked some fresh ones. She used nopalitos from Food City but by now there are plenty of fresh, new-growth prickly pear pads ready for harvest.

Nopalito-Cholla Bud Quiche

Connie’s Nopalito-Cholla Bud Quiche

Here’s Connie’s recipe:

Connie’s Desert Pie

1 cup of cholla buds

1 cup of nopalitos

½ cup thinly sliced red bell pepper

4 large eggs

1/2 cup milk,

1 ½ teaspoons pico de gallo seasoning

1 tablespoon of chopped fresh cilantro

1 frozen deep dish pie shell

1 cup shredded Mexican cheese

Dethorn cholla buds by holding them with tongs and burning them off over a gas stove.. Rinse. Microwave in a covered dish on high for 4 minutes.

Cut gathered or purchased nopalitos into 1/4-inch dice. Microwave with red bell peppers for about 4 minutes.  In a bowl, beat eggs and milk, add seasonings.  Layer egg mixture with vegetables and cheese in the pie shell. Bake at 400 degrees about 40 minutes until a knife inserted in center comes out clean

________________

If  you are inspired to try your hand at more desert gathering and cooking, my book Cooking the Wild Southwest: Delicous Recipes for Desert Plants can be your guide to 23 easily recognized, gathered and cooked  desert edibles.  If you want to harvest some nopales (prickly pear pads), you can find lots of recipes in The Prickly Pear Cookbook. Both books  are available in the Native Seeds/SEARCH retail store at 3061  N. Campbell or on their website. The books are also available from Amazon and B&N.

 

Categories: Cooking, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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.

________________________________________________________________

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: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.