Last weekend I attended a fabulous art festival in Tucson with my friend Dorita Pina. “Art in the Urban Grove” was held at the The Urban Grove on W. Orange Grove Road. The estate, owned by Sabrina Rigas was originally part of the historic 450 acre citrus grove dating back to the 1920’s and founded by amateur horticulturist, M. L. Reid, father of Gene Reid, first director of Tucson City Parks and Rec, later to become the namesake of Reid Park.
|Dorita on the left and Sabrina on the right.
The event featured 42 mixed media vendors, all from Tucson. It was a warm day, but the nearly 40′ tall date palms provided beautiful shade. And if you have never had a date palm, which I had not, try one! They are succulent little morsels; sweet and rich with deep hints of butterscotch. The variety of date I bought are called Barhi. Sabrina refers to them as “nature’s butterscotch candy”. They are quite phenomenal!
This is an oasis in a very hectic city resplendent with a variety of fruit trees, citrus and the date palms, offering 3 varieties of dates. The Urban Grove offers cooking classes, catering, and makes the estate available as a unique and very beautiful event space.
If you want to purchase dates, contact Sabrina by text/phone at:
|Opuntia Cacti aka Prickly Pear
Nopal is from the Nahuatl word “nohpalli” meaning the pads of the plant. The Nahuas are a group of indigenous people of Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua.
Nearly 2000 different cactus live in Arizona and many of them offer edible parts, but one of the most common is the Prickly Pear Cactus. Preferably young paddles are harvested and carefully peeled to remove tough skin and large thorns. Gloves are a must! The older, larger paddles can be tough. I have not peeled the paddles myself, but have encountered their thorns many times, while weeding around them. I am amazed each May when this thorny, rugged cacti bursts forth with the most gorgeous, delicate pale yellow blossoms; a true contrast in nature.
My friend Dorita has been bringing me bags of these wonderful Nopales all cleaned and ready to cook for the last couple of weeks.
She explained the way her mother, and mother’s mother before her, cooked the Nopales. Put them in a dry saucepan over very low heat and cook covered for about 30 minutes until they have dried out. Stir occasionally to help release the liquid. Nopales are similar to okra in that they are filled with a thick viscose, slimy goo. It doesn’t sound appealing, but slow cooking removes nearly all of this goo.
This is what they looked like after being cooked. You can also boil them, but that requires multiple rinsing and a long boiling time, which will remove some of the good nutrients. These cacti are touted for their high vitamin content; some believe they are a good hang-over cure. The Nopales have a citrussy, crisp, clean taste, almost lemony. After a little research I tried a different method of cooking them.
Place a cast iron pan over high heat. Add about 1 Tbsp. oil and once hot, drop in the Nopales and a dash of salt. Stir until they are just slightly browned. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking uncovered until all the goo is gone, stirring occasionally.
They are delicious in salads, eaten plain as a veg, or mixed with eggs.
I should call this blog, HOMAGE TO MY FRIEND DORITA!!
I love learning about different food cultures from around the world and Dorita has inspired me to learn more about Mexico. Even though we come from different backgrounds/cultures we share so many more interests than differences. Dorita is from an Hispanic/Mexican culture and I am from a half New England/Yankee-Hungarian culture. Is that a culture? We love talking about our pasts and sharing stories about harvesting and cooking, what our lives were like growing up, art, literature, history, gardening and so much more, but especially FOOD!
Here is Dorita’s grandmother’s recipe for a refreshing salsa fresca.
I love recipes that are passed down generationally and have so much meaning to our families. This salsa is truly fresh, full-flavored and good on just about anything, and the story about her grandmother making batches of it and giving it as gifts at Christmas to friends, family and ranch workers is priceless!
That will do it for today!
In a perfect world, I would always prefer
to eat locally grown produce.
Here is a shot from yesterday’s beautiful
pre-birthday celebration for ME!
Cake compliments of my dear friend Debby’s husband, Steve–a coconut cake with coconut Italian merengue frosting!
Soon off to New England for a couple weeks
and then to Ireland…
Many more food adventures ahead!!
Please join me again soon…