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Savor the Southwest
 I produce a blog with two other remarkable women involved in the food of the Southwest. We discuss edible wild plants, foods that grow well here like citrus and olives, and flavors typical to the Southwest. Sometimes we'll highlight a new book by one of our colleagues. We take turns so there are three posts every month. The links will take you to the full blog.

Having Fun with an Old Fruit

Quinces look similar to apples but are hard and astringent and need to be cooked to bring out their flavor.

 

I've been experimenting with cooking unfamiliar foods since I wrote my first cookbook back in the early 1970s. These were usually edible wild plants that used to feed the Native people or early cultivars that appeared with the first wave of farming. 

Quinces originated in the Near East (countries like Turkey) and were brought to the new world by the Spanish. They arrived in Sonora and what is now Southern Arizona around 1700. They are different that their relative, apples, because they need to be cooked to be palatable.

You can read about my process to learn about quinces, my attempt to combine a few different recipes, and the ultimate end of the odd jam I produced as filling for empanadas (turnovers). 

Mesquite and Chocolate: A Love Story

To cook this dessert, first make a mesquite pudding, add chocolate to half of it, then layer in glasses. The flavors complement each other deliciously. 

Mesquite trees usually produce pods in June, but they also put out a small crop in autumn. If you can find some or have some left over from earlier, you can make this delicious dessert that combines the luscious flavors of caramel and chocolate. Find the recipe here. 

 

Mesquite is a desert tree that sends down roots so deep that it can make it through even severe droughts. It grows widely throughout the West.  Its nutritious pods with an appealing sweet flavor have been used by native desert dwellers in the arid Southwest for thousands of years.

All About Prickly Pear

It's prickly pear season.

Newcomers and new generations discover prickly pear. I'm always happy to talk about harvesting this delicious fruit. I've learned lots of tricks to make it easy to get the juice and quick to start making something delicious. You can read a  Nice interview with me here!

 

Make A Delicious Drink with Mesquite

Mesquite broth mixed with coffee and topped with whipped cream makes a perfect brunch drink.

Mesquite pods are a reliable food that has sustained Southwest desert populations for millenia. One of the reasons Tucson was named a UNESCO City of Gastronomy is that we still incorporate some of these foods into our modern diet. This week's blog post gives an easy recipe for making a delicious mesquite drink and some ideas for including mesquite into other easy recipes. People have said that the flavor of mesquite is sort of like a fruity brown sugar.

 

Read the whole post here.

How to Make Jam with Less Sugar

A breakfast set out at EXO Roast with Rusty's barrel cactus jam and toast made from heritage wheat by Barrio Bread.

 

I love to make jam and marmalade, but I cringe at the amount of sugar in most recipes. That sugar is necessary to make the product jell. But in researching my new book "A Desert Feast," I spoke to many professional chefs and learned some secrets. One, from Rusty the cook at EXO Roast, is how to make jam with less sugar. Here's what I learned

 

Call it Prickly Pear, Call it Nopal, It's time.

Fresh prickly pear pads are found in gardens in April and May. They are available year 'round in Mexican grocery stores. 

 

 

Prickly pear pads or nopales are a common vegetable in Mexico, as common as green beans in the U.S. They are a traditional food in Southern Arizona, brought by people who migrated from Mexio and eaten long before that for millenia by people who lived on the wild foods of the desert. Here are instructions for how to prepare the pads and several recipes to make nopales your new favorite vegetable.

 You can find many recipes for prickly pear pads and fruit in my Cooking the Wild Southwest, Delicious Recipes for Desert Plants and The The Prickly Pear Cookbook.

On the frontline of the 1918 flu

This pandemic takes me back to the research I did on the biography of Navajo politician Annie Dodge Wauneka. She was a child at Ft. Defiance School in 1918 during the Spanish flu. Her father Chee brought home to his ranch his other three children but left her at school. She got a light case of the flu and then helped the matron nurse the other ill students. Many died and she recalled "they just piled up the bodies like a bunch of wood and hauled them away." As an adult, she spent decades working for the health of the Navajo people. Her story is in "I'll Go and Do More," and the young reader "Keeping the Rope Straight."
Here is Annie about this time, second from right.

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Yes, We Eat Cactus in Tucson

Cholla cactus buds, plump and ready for picking.

Those of us who live in the Sonoran Desert are odd ducks. Many of us eat and relish cactus, just like people living on this land have done for around 10,000 years. This fact is one of the many reasons Tucson was named a UNESCO City of Gastronomy. My blogmate, Tia Marta, wrote about how to gather and prepare cholla cactus buds. A small handful of buds (cleaned of thorns) supply as much calcium as a glass of milk.  You can read her post here.

 

 

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Mexican Cornbread is Comforting and Delicious

In the Savor the Southwest blog, we usually incorporate wild foods gathered in the Southwest or unusual ingredients. In these difficult days, we generally gravitate to the familiar. Mexican Cornbread is a common comfort food in these parts, so my blog today gives a recipe for that and also comments on how Tucson, a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, is coping with the Pandemic challenges.  You can read the blog here.

 

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Herby-Salad Dressing for Spring

Simple ingredients all whizzed together in your blender will perk up any salad greens.
 

My Tucson garden is finally lush and producing. I needed a new salad dressing to make the lettuce even more delicious and I found the herbs in my garden. I found the perfect recipe in my just re-released book "The New Southwest Cookbook." I has all the flavors of spring. You can read all about it here.

 

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