Desert Festive

Shop at local markets for a Sonoran spin on holiday classics.

November 11, 2016

Issue 21: November/December 2016Sonoran Skillet

For many of us, the holiday season means potlucks and casual parties as well as formal holiday meals. With our mild winter weather and a few recipe ideas in hand, there’s no better place to spend your time and money than at your favorite farmers’ market. Whether you are preparing a holiday meal, shopping for a last-minute contribution to a potluck, or putting together a gift basket for friends or relatives across the country, you will find great products at local farmers’ markets. From pomegranates and pistachios, fresh chèvre, and locally milled grains to citrus and greens, you can build your holiday meal to highlight the seasonal items that can be found in and around Baja Arizona.

There are plenty of ingredients for traditional holiday meals available at local markets. Find local apples and pumpkins, as well as holiday centerpieces like lamb or beef roasts and salmon filets. Find local goat cheese, nuts and fruit, as well as olives, dates, and bread for elegant holiday platters. Consider, too, the local foods that offer a Sonoran flair to holiday dishes. The chile is a widely recognized icon of the Sonoran Desert; consider picking up a locally produced hot sauce or salsa. Local salsa and tortilla chips are an easy contribution for a last minute potluck during this busy season. Chiles are also an excellent addition to holiday cookies and candies. Consider adding a bit of crushed chiltepin to your favorite chocolate cookie or fudge recipe for an unexpected but delicious surprise. For more desert flavor, mesquite and White Sonoran wheat flours are both becoming more widely available at farmers’ markets, as well as Native Seeds/SEARCH, the Food Conspiracy Co-op, or Whole Foods. These flours add local flavor to your baked goods and are an excellent gift idea for cooks and foodies.

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Local citrus becomes widely available in November, when early navel oranges and mandarins appear at markets and backyard trees become laden with heavy fruits. Limoncello and preserved lemons both make excellent gifts and kumquats and oranges are a refreshing alternative to baked goods on holiday tables.

Recently the three of us met at a farmers’ market to brainstorm holiday recipe ideas. As we explored the market, we were delighted to see that many of the ingredients for our favorite holiday dishes were available right there. Getting together gave us a chance to talk about some of our current food projects and what inspires us most about the local food scene. We each have a diverse history of cooking in this region. Rusty Ramirez is a baker who helps stock the delectable pastry case at the B-Line restaurant; Joy Vargo offers catering and personal chef services in Tucson; and Sara Jones teaches cooking classes and helps members at the Tucson CSA find the perfect recipe for their produce.

So get shopping! We hope you have as much fun procuring the ingredients as you have making the dishes.


Roasted Garlic and Spinach Dip
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This is a deliciously simple, healthy dip that can be gobbled up practically guilt-free, and can be offered alone as an appetizer or to complement smaller dishes in a holiday spread. Locally grown spinach is plentiful in the markets this time of year, and fresh spinach will make a world of difference in this recipe. You can also substitute other fresh greens for the spinach, for interesting flavor variation. Serve alongside a loaf of sliced fresh artisan bread, toasted bruschetta, festive crackers, or colorful root veggie chips.
Roasted Garlic and Spinach Dip
Print Recipe
This is a deliciously simple, healthy dip that can be gobbled up practically guilt-free, and can be offered alone as an appetizer or to complement smaller dishes in a holiday spread. Locally grown spinach is plentiful in the markets this time of year, and fresh spinach will make a world of difference in this recipe. You can also substitute other fresh greens for the spinach, for interesting flavor variation. Serve alongside a loaf of sliced fresh artisan bread, toasted bruschetta, festive crackers, or colorful root veggie chips.
Instructions
  1. Remove from heat, drain, and reserve the oil. In a large sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the reserved garlic oil and gently cook the minced onion until soft. Add the spinach, season with salt, and cook, tossing just until wilted.
  2. In a small saucepan, gently simmer the minced garlic in 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil until soft and lightly golden brown, about 5 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat, strain, and cool completely. In a large mixing bowl combine the roasted garlic, cooked spinach and onion mixture, and Greek yogurt. Season with more salt if needed. Serve in a colorful dish and garnish with edible flowers.
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White Sonora Wheat and Olive Oil Crackers
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These crackers are easy to make, and are a great addition to any holiday party platter or as a packaged gift for friends and family. To get creative with your crackers, considering adding a topping before baking: freshly grated cheese, artisan salts, dried herbs, a dusting of your favorite spice blend, seeds, or a brushing of infused oil. You can cut the unbaked cracker dough into shapes or leave it whole.
White Sonora Wheat and Olive Oil Crackers
Print Recipe
These crackers are easy to make, and are a great addition to any holiday party platter or as a packaged gift for friends and family. To get creative with your crackers, considering adding a topping before baking: freshly grated cheese, artisan salts, dried herbs, a dusting of your favorite spice blend, seeds, or a brushing of infused oil. You can cut the unbaked cracker dough into shapes or leave it whole.
Instructions
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours and salt. Add the water and olive oil. Using a mixer with a dough hook attachment, mix the dough at medium speed for 5-7 minutes. Alternately, mix by hand and knead on a floured counter-top. The dough should be just a bit tacky—not too dry, not too sticky. Depending on the humidity, you may need to add a bit more flour or water.
  2. Shape the dough into a large log and cut into 12 equal-sized pieces. Gently rub each piece with a bit of olive oil, shape into a ball and place on a plate. Cover with a clean dishtowel or plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 30-60 minutes. While the dough is resting, preheat your oven to 450 degrees. 
  3. To shape crackers, flatten one dough ball on a lightly floured surface. Using a rolling pin, shape the dough into a flat oval strip. Gently pull the dough out a bit thinner by hand, the same way you might pull pizza dough. At this point you can cut the dough into whatever shape you like, or just leave it whole.
  4. Transfer rolled crackers to a parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough balls, leaving about a fingers width between each cracker. Poke each cracker with the tines of a fork to prevent puffing and add any toppings you like.
  5. Bake until deeply golden, 12-15 minutes, and let cool completely before eating.
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Tepary Bean Hummus with Sonoran White Pomegranate Seeds
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Beautiful, delicious, and nutritious, tepary beans make a great substitute for the classic chickpea in this recipe. They can be found in numerous local markets and specialty grocers. Choose the type of tepary bean that will best suit your fancy—lighter colored/white tepary beans have a more fruity and sweet flavor while the darker colored/brown beans have more of a nutty and earthy flavor profile. Additionally, the seeds of the Sonoran White pomegranate are softer and sweeter than their bright red counterparts and make a beautiful topping for this festive dip. If you have trouble tracking down the Sonoran White pomegranate, substitute with the seeds of the red variety. Hummus makes a great centerpiece for a holiday party platter.
Tepary Bean Hummus with Sonoran White Pomegranate Seeds
Print Recipe
Beautiful, delicious, and nutritious, tepary beans make a great substitute for the classic chickpea in this recipe. They can be found in numerous local markets and specialty grocers. Choose the type of tepary bean that will best suit your fancy—lighter colored/white tepary beans have a more fruity and sweet flavor while the darker colored/brown beans have more of a nutty and earthy flavor profile. Additionally, the seeds of the Sonoran White pomegranate are softer and sweeter than their bright red counterparts and make a beautiful topping for this festive dip. If you have trouble tracking down the Sonoran White pomegranate, substitute with the seeds of the red variety. Hummus makes a great centerpiece for a holiday party platter.
Instructions
  1. Add tepary beans, tahini, olive oil, water, garlic, lemon juice, and spices to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse several times until mixture comes together, then blend on low speed for about a minute or two more until hummus is smooth and creamy. At this point add a bit more water and/or olive oil if needed. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
  2. Remove the bowl from the machine base and, using a rubber spatula, scoop out hummus into your favorite serving bowl, or divide among several glass jars, top with garnish, and serve.
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Spaghetti Squash Latkes
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Spaghetti squash is available at market in the fall and winter. This is a great way to use it, perfect for holiday parties. Several farmers’ markets sell cured salmon, produced by local families who fish in Alaska part-time. Serve these latkes with curls of lox or slivers of cured salmon. The latkes can be made ahead of time and reheated in the oven before serving.
Spaghetti Squash Latkes
Print Recipe
Spaghetti squash is available at market in the fall and winter. This is a great way to use it, perfect for holiday parties. Several farmers’ markets sell cured salmon, produced by local families who fish in Alaska part-time. Serve these latkes with curls of lox or slivers of cured salmon. The latkes can be made ahead of time and reheated in the oven before serving.
Instructions
  1. Toss squash and onions together, sprinkling with a couple of teaspoons of corn starch or potato starch, if using. Mix in egg and add enough panko or matzo meal to bind together in a loose batter.
  2. Heat two tablespoons of oil in large skillet over medium high heat. When oil is hot cook latkes in batches, scooping large spoonfuls of the mixture into the oil and pressing lightly to spread. Brown latkes on both sides and drain on paper towels.
  3. Cooked and cooled latkes can be covered and stored in the fridge for a day or two. To reheat, arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet and cook for about 10 minutes at 375 degrees.
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Lemon Pistachio Shortbread Cookies
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Pistachios are available at the Thursday Santa Cruz River Farmers’ Market as well as the Sunday farmers’ markets at St. Philip’s Plaza and Rillito Park.
Lemon Pistachio Shortbread Cookies
Print Recipe
Pistachios are available at the Thursday Santa Cruz River Farmers’ Market as well as the Sunday farmers’ markets at St. Philip’s Plaza and Rillito Park.
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Using a mixer, cream the powdered sugar, lemon zest, salt, and butter in a medium bowl until light and fluffy. Add the flour and mix on low speed until just incorporated. Do not overmix. Stir in nuts by hand or with a wooden spoon, gently mixing to ensure that everything is incorporated.
  2. Using a dough scoop, or a teaspoon, pinch dough off into 2-inch balls, roll and place on a greased and parchment-lined cookie sheet 2 inches apart. Press the tops down lightly.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes, until they are a light golden brown around the edges.
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Candied Citrus Peel
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Candied citrus peels make an elegant dessert. Dipped in chocolate they are extra fancy, but they can also be served alongside squares of good dark chocolate. The candied peels can be chopped and added to baked goods like fruit cake, biscotti, or muffins. The process takes time, but the steps are quite easy.
Candied Citrus Peel
Print Recipe
Candied citrus peels make an elegant dessert. Dipped in chocolate they are extra fancy, but they can also be served alongside squares of good dark chocolate. The candied peels can be chopped and added to baked goods like fruit cake, biscotti, or muffins. The process takes time, but the steps are quite easy.
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Quarter fruits and remove peels from flesh (reserving the juice/flesh for another use). Stack quarters neatly into piles of 4 and cut lengthwise into long strips approximately 1/4- to 1/2-inch wide. Meanwhile bring a medium pot of water to a boil.
  2. Add peels to water, return to a boil, and cook for about 1 minute. Drain and repeat blanching process once more (for thicker peels, like grapefruit, blanch peels three times). Set drained peels aside and bring sugar and water to a boil, stirring occasionally to ensure that sugar is completely dissolved.
  3. Simmer sugar syrup over medium heat for 10 minutes, then add peels. Try to press peels under syrup until they are all mostly submerged. Return to a low simmer and cook for 45 minutes. You can poke peels under the syrup but avoid stirring.
  4. Remove pan from heat and let sit at least 5 hours or overnight. Return to a low simmer and cook an additional 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Pull individual peels out of syrup, gently squeeze excess syrup from peel and lay out on a tray covered with parchment. Reserve syrup for reuse or to flavor cocktails.
  5. When peels are mostly dry on top, flip and let other side dry slightly. (Depending on the humidity, the peels can take anywhere from 12 to 36 hours to dry.)
  6. When peels are just barely tacky to the touch, toss in sugar to coat. Leave peels in an unsealed bag for one day to continue the drying process, then place in an air tight container to store. If you plan to make chocolate-covered peels, let the them dry on parchment until no longer tacky before dipping. The peels can be stored for several weeks in an airtight container and hold up well to shipping.
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