In the arid southwest, mesquite trees thrive, and their seedpods have much to offer hungry humans in the way of cooking ingredients. A couple recipes from a new mesquite cookbook follow.
The following is from Eat Mesquite! A Cookbook (Green Press Initiatve). © 2011 by Desert Harvesters. Used by permission.
12 large corn husks or 24 small ones
1 pound boneless, free range chicken thighs
4 ounces medium cheddar, grated
Salt and pepper to taste
For the sauce:
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons New Mexico chile powder
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried native oregano or epazote
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon white or whole wheat flour
1 cup water
1 cup cooked black or white tepary beans
For the masa:
2 cups toasted* mesquite flower
2 cups fresh corn masa
½ cup soft butter
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup water or as needed
*Note: Most mesquite flour comes untoasted, unless otherwise noted. Toasting mesquite pods before milling is done by the Seri Indians in Desemboque, Mexico.
Toast raw mesquite flour in a dry skillet. Stir constantly over medium heat until flour turns a light brown. Watch carefully as it can burn easily. Remove from heat and from pan immediately to stop cooking.
Place cornhusks in a bowl and cover with warm water.
Salt and pepper chicken thighs. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place chicken on a baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until no longer pink in the middle. Let cool, remove from the bone and shred or cut into ½-inch chunks.
Heat vegetable oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add chile powder, cumin, oregano or epazote, salt, and 1 tablespoon of white flour. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture sizzles and chile color deepens to a darker red. Add water, stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until slightly thick. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add chicken and beans and let simmer 5 minutes. Set aside.
Mix together mesquite flour, corn masa, butter, salt, baking powder and enough water to make a wet, but not runny, dough.
To assemble, remove cornhusks from water and pat dry with a towel. Lay out one with the pointed end pointing away from you. Spread 14 inch of masa over the cornhusk, leaving the top third uncovered. Now lay a vertical ribbon of sauce with chicken and beans on the masa. Cover with cheese. Fold the right and then the left edge of the cornhusk over the filling. Finally, fold up the pointed end. Place your assembled tamale folded side down on a baking sheet. Repeat until all ingredients are used up.
To cook tamales place water in the bottom of a steamer. Put the tamales in the steamer with the folded side down and stand them up, so the open side is on the top. In the tightly covered steamer, simmer for 45 minutes. Remove carefully and let site a few minutes before serving.
Pinole, from the Nahuatl word “pinolli,” is a traditional drink from Mexico made from ground roasted corn kernels that are mixed with herbs and seeds such as mustard and chia and often combined with sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. Pinole makes a nice warm drink and is also good trail food when on the go or backpacking.
Ingredients (serves one)
1 tablespoon mesquite flour
1 tablespoon saguaro seed meal
1 cup of water or milk
Stir all together and drink. You may need to stir as the flour tends to settle to the bottom.
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