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Treats for the Table
Even though my family was transplanted to the Southwest only three decades ago, it didn’t take long before we felt right at home. One of the quickest ways to adjust to a new community is to learn what everyone enjoys eating, and we quickly discovered that some of the more cherished recipes in our new community dated back a few hundred years. With every potluck or community event in Prescott, Arizona, we learned about traditional native recipes such as roasted corn salsa and pinon pine nut cookies. Soon, these recipes were coming to life in our kitchen and were being shared with our friends and family. With fresh cactus and prickly pear growing in the front yard and acorn flour and pinon pine nuts available at the grocery store, we also had an array of indigenous ingredients to discover and experiment with.
I didn’t have any idea how many people in the community knew about these incredible native recipes until last year, when I stumbled across a cookbook published by the Prescott Highlands Center of Natural History. The cookbook featured a healthy collection of native and pioneer inspired dishes, several of which I was already familiar with. Wild Sage Bread, Apache Acorn Soup, Pinon Pumpkin Bread, and Pinenut Cookies, all dishes that I had discovered from friends and neighbors over the years, all cataloged in a small handmade book and made available to the broader community.
In the spirit of sharing great food and showing appreciation for local cultures, here are four recipes that have a special place in my collection and have evidently become favorites among the Prescott Highlands Center employees as well.
Wild Sage Bread
(This recipe, from the Highlands Center cookbook, is similar to a rosemary bread that a friend of mine makes. The sage is wonderfully fragrant and is a perfect addition to a winter meal.)
- 1 package Dry Yeast
- ¼ cup Warm Water
- 1 Tbsp Sugar
- 2 tsp Dried Sage
- ½ tsp Salt
- ¼ tsp Baking Soda
- 2 ½ cups All Purpose Flour
- 1 Egg
- 1 cup Cottage Cheese
- 1 Tbsp Shortening
- Crushed, toasted pine nuts
- First, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Allow it to sit for 5 minutes.
- Next, in a medium bowl, combine sugar, sage, salt, baking soda, and flour. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat egg and cottage cheese together until smooth. Add the shortening and yeast mixture. Mix to combine.
- Add the flour mixture slowly to the egg mixture and beat well until a stiff dough is formed. Shape into a ball. Cover with a cloth and let sit in a warm place until the dough doubles in size (about 1 hour).
- Punch the dough down and knead for 1 minute. Place in a well-greased loaf pan. Cover again and let rise for another 40 minutes.
- Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 50 minutes.
- Brush the top with melted butter and sprinkle with crushed pine nuts.
Yields 1 loaf.
Apache Acorn Soup
(This traditional Apache recipe has been a favorite at potlucks and is easy to make. The acorn is incredibly important to the Apache community and their way of life. They have provided nutrition and sustenance through the harsh winter months for thousands of years. Historically, this soup was made with pronghorn meat or venison; however, beef is the meat of choice now.)
- ¼ cup Vegetable Oil
- 1 cup White Onion, chopped into ¼-inch pieces
- 3 cloves Garlic, minced
- ⅔ pounds Stew Beef (or any meat of your choosing)
- 2 quarts Water
- 1 tsp Sea Salt
- 1 tsp Black Pepper, fresh ground
- 1 cup Acorn Meal
- Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add onion and garlic and cook on low until translucent.
- Add beef and cover with water. Season with salt and pepper and cook until tender.
- Remove the beef and shred. Mix shredded beef with acorn meal and put it back in the pot.
- Simmer until the broth bubbles creamy-white with yellow flecks.
Pinon Pumpkin Bread
(According to the Highlands Center cookbook, this recipe is originally from Stella Byrd Cartwrite Carter, a pioneer who settled in Walnut Grove, AZ. Many of her recipes are similar to traditional Zuni recipes and have been passed down through her family. I was introduced to this delicious bread during a downtown celebration several years ago.)
- 1 ¾ cups Cooked Pumpkin
- 1 ½ cups Brown Sugar
- ½ cup Butter, melted
- 3 Eggs, beaten
- 3 cups Flour
- 2 tsp Baking Powder
- 1 tsp Cinnamon
- ½ tsp Salt
- ½ tsp Nutmeg
- 1 cup Pine Nuts, toasted
- Heat oven to 350 degrees.
- Sift flour, baking powder and spices together in a large bowl. Stir in the pine nuts.
- Mix together the remaining ingredients in a small bowl and slowly add to the flour mixture.
- Pour batter into a greased loaf pan and bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Cool on a metal rack before slicing.
Pinon Pinenut Cookies
(A favorite recipe that is made as often as possible.)
- 2 sticks Unsalted Butter, room temperature
- 1 cup Dark Brown Sugar, packed
- ½ cup Granulated Sugar
- 2 Tbsp Light Corn Syrup
- 1 tsp Vanilla
- 1 Large Egg
- 2 ¾ cups All Purpose Flour
- ½ tsp Kosher Salt
- 1 ¼ tsp Baking Soda
- 1 ½ cups Raw Pine Nuts
- Heat oven to 375 degrees.
- Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- With an electric mixer on medium/high speed, beat the butter, sugars, corn syrup and vanilla for three minutes. Add the egg and beat until the mixture is combined.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda. Reduce the mixture to low speed and slowly add the flour mixture to the egg mixture.
- Form the dough into tablespoon-sized mounds.
- Spread the pine nuts on a plate. Roll each mound in the pine nuts, pressing to the nuts cover the dough. Place the mounds two inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned.
- Cool on baking sheets for five minutes before transferring to wire racks and devouring.
Recipes courtesy of the Go Native with a Taste of Place cookbook published by the Prescott Highlands Center for Natural History.