The Ark of Taste, a vision of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, is a celebration and living catalog of regionally distinctive foods facing extinction. These place-based and artisanal quality nominations represent an extraordinary heritage of fruits, vegetables, animal breeds, cheeses, breads, sweets, and cured meats from cultures around the world. Each nomination must be rare or endangered, regionally or historically unique, sustainably produced or harvested, and have distinctive flavor, texture and culinary uses. In Baja Arizona, a remarkable diversity of desert specialties are included; of the 1,700 products from 50 countries included on the Ark of Taste—174 in the United States—12 come from southern Arizona alone. We asked five Baja Arizona chefs to create a recipe inspired by one of these ingredients.
Sauté beans and vegetables in duck fat until they begin to soften. Add hot stock, cocoa, sugar, ancho chili powder, and coffee, and simmer until beans are soft. Season to taste.
Slice calabaza lengthwise and roast in a 350˚ oven for 30 minutes. Peel skin and cut in to ¼ inch pieces. Dice tomatoes, onions, and peppers. Heat a large pot to medium heat, add all the vegetables, and salt; cover for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally. After 15 minutes of cooking, add the cheese, cream cheese, and corn. Set heat to low and let cook for an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off and remove from heat and let sit for about 5 minutes. Makes 6 servings.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix dry ingredients in a chilled bowl. Cut in butter using a pastry blender or fork until pea-size meal forms. Add cold cream and mix until the dough holds together. Do not over-mix. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to relax the gluten and chill the butter before rolling. Sprinkle table with flour. Roll out dough to roughly the dimensions of tart pan, stopping to flour as necessary to prevent sticking to rolling pin. Place dough in tart pan and push with fingertips to mold into pan. Bake for 15 minutes. Set aside.
Toss cauliflower pieces, mushrooms, and tomatoes in the olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt. Spread on two baking sheets and top with separated stems from one sprig of thyme. Roast in oven for 20 minutes or until cauliflower is browned on the edges. (Reserve all the tomatoes and ¼ each of cauliflower and mushrooms for the topping of tart.) In the meantime, sauté onions and garlic on medium heat for about 15 minutes, or until they are lightly browned. Place in food processor along with the remaining cauliflower and mushrooms as well as the salt, goat cheese, and buttermilk. Pulse until just combined; consistency should be chunky. Fill the tart shell and decoratively top with the reserved tomatoes, cauliflower florets, and mushrooms. Remove leaves from thyme sprig and sprinkle over all. Bake in oven for 20 minutes.
Boil 2 quarts of dried chapalote corn with 2 ounces of lye in enamel pot for 15 minutes. Cool the corn in the lye liquid overnight. The next morning vigorously rinse the corn under fresh water, discarding the lye mixture. The goal is to remove most of the outer hull of the corn. This process is known as nixtamalization. The finished corn is now ready to become hominy. Take the nixtamal chapalote corn and return it to a pot of fresh water. Simmer for 2-3 hours until the nixtamal becomes tender, less starchy, “pops” open. The finished chapalote hominy is now ready to add to the posole.
Boil ribs in water until meat is tender and falling off the bone. Reserve liquid for pork broth. Clean the chiles, removing the stems and seeds. In a hot cast-iron skillet, soften the chiles on each side for about 1 minute. Place all the chiles in a saucepan, cover with hot water, and soak for 1 hour. Create a red sauce by blending the onion, garlic, olive oil, and chiles. Season to taste. Strain the sauce. In a large roasting pan or rondo, combine pork broth, chili sauce, and spices. Add the meat from the ribs, and prepared chapalote hominy. Simmer for at least 1 hour, adjust salt, and serve with corn tortillas, fresh onion, cilantro, avocado, and your favorite hot sauce.
Cholla buds are one of the food treasures the Sonoran Desert provides in the spring. Like much that comes from the desert, their pleasures don’t yield without some effort. To fully appreciate, you may enjoy the process of harvesting, removing their stickers, drying, and reconstituting. They are wonderful freshly harvested and processed, but either the fresh or reconstituted cholla buds work well here.
In a blender, puree the jalapeño, scallions, garlic, cilantro, and orange juice concentrate until very fine. With the motor running, whip in the olive oil in a slow steady stream. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Makes 1 cup.
Place the cholla buds and water into 6-quart pressure cooker over high heat until regulator starts to rock. Adjust heat down so that regulator rocks evenly and gently. Cook 20 minutes then remove from heat, cool until air vent or cover lock has dropped. Remove and drain the cholla buds. To store for a longer period of time, pickle cholla buds. Makes 6 cups.
Blanch the green beans in two quarts boiling water for just a minute or two, so that their color is bright, the beans are slightly cooked and lose their raw edge but are still toothsome. Drain and immediately submerge in the ice water to stop the cooking and set their color. Drain and pat dry.
Gently mix the cholla buds, green beans, mushrooms, and verdologas together and season with salt and pepper. Gently toss the salad in the jalapeño orange vinaigrette and garnish with the pumpkin seeds, queso fresco, and orange supremes.