Category Archives: mesquite

cheesecake2

Acorn, mesquite, pine cheesecake.

Apologies for my absence, friends, but I have been looking at things after getting LASIK, and not much else, simultaneously awe-struck and wonder-filled.

The LASIK procedure was uncomfortable, spent in a blind panic trying to control my breathing and therefore my reaction because there was a laser pointing at my eye. The aftermath was painful, as the numbing drops wore off and I wore dark goggles and tried to sleep. The rest of the day was spent watching a blurry television and drinking tea and complaining about the taste of antibiotic eye drops because, as it turns out, they drip into your sinuses through your tear ducts. And then I went to sleep. The next morning, I woke up and looked out the window and could see every single leaf on the nearest tree with such clarity and intensity that it felt as though I had never actually SEEN it before.

And I started crying. Big sobs of relief and reverence. The rest of the day, I spent looking at things. Colours! Leaves! Birds in the sky! The pores on peoples’ faces! Individual hairs! Green grass! Purple flowers! The night sky! It felt as though not only my eyes had been opened but all of my senses in turn. Food had never tasted so good, smells had never been that smelly before, and at this middle of all this sensory overload was me, just walking, staring, smelling, feeling.

During this week, with my new (better than 20/20!) eyes, I discovered, at the back of a dark cupboard, a little jar of roasted acorn flour. I remember putting it there- much like one stashes a spare $20 under a pair of underwear just in case, and then forgets about it, so that, upon finding it six months later it’s become free money. Well this was free acorn flour. At a time of year that I’m usually bereft of acorn flour. Joy, my friends, doesn’t even describe the emotional response to finding such things.

I’ve been so in love with the mountains lately- that smell of pine tree and sweetness. High desert, where mesquite turns to oak, and then to pine belt. I’ve been spending as much time as possible up there lately, to gather mountain roses, and to enjoy the crisp air, the smells, the staggering beauty. I pulled out the last of my mesquite pods from last year, and the jeffrey pine honey I made a few weeks ago, thinking to combine them all to make something that spoke of Southwestern mountains. The combination of acorn and mesquite flour is both sweet and wild-tasting. Different enough that you think ‘what IS that?’ but not so different that you want to stop eating it. Quite the opposite, in fact.

So I made cheesecake, using the flours as a crust, and the honey to sweeten the cheese mixture. Using a combination of Dorie Greenspan’s recipe in Baking, From My Home To Yours, and Kiva’s recipe from the Wild Things acorn roundup last year, and a few modifications of my own.

A note on ingredients: Come autumn, it should be pretty easy to get hold of acorns. I’ll remind you; there will be talk of them for weeks. If not, then try a Korean market- you can usually get acorn flour there, and if not, try it with chestnut flour, which you can definitely get there. Mesquite flour can be found at health food stores, though, if you’re in the Southwest, I really recommend harvesting your own. If you don’t have access to Jeffrey pines (or ponderosa) then try a local pine species, or fir, or even Douglas fir…

Acorn, pine and mesquite cheesecake. 

3/4 c acorn flour

1/2 cup mesquite flour

1 cup oat flour

11tb butter, melted

1/2 tsp salt

grate of nutmeg

2 packs cream cheese

3/4 cup sour cream

2 eggs

1/2 cup pine infused honey

1 tsp vanilla

2 tb spiced rum

 

First, make the crust- combine the flours, salt and nutmeg in a bowl, and stir in the melted butter. Press into the bottom of a pan (I used a cast iron pan, but you can use a springform pan- the crust holds together really well), and bake for 15 minutes at 325.

While that’s in the oven, beat the cream cheese and sour cream until really light and smooth- about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one by one, and beat until combined, then the honey, and the rum.

 

When smooth, pour into the crust, and bake, still at 325 for 45 minutes to an hour. Start checking it after 45- it should still be slightly jiggly in the centre, and nicely bronzed on top.

Mesquite granola

Like a lizard

(A day trip with mesquite granola, with polenta and coconut and all kinds of good things.)

If you were to visit California at any time of year, my friends, this should be it. The air is warmer, the nights are still cool, greenery is shooting up at a rapid pace. Road trips are riddled with ‘ooooh’ and ‘aaahhh’ pointing at one tree or another awash in spring green. That slightly dusty hazy light falls on it all with a benevolent hand that makes it all somewhat nostalgic even though it’s happening right now. Maybe it’s David Hockney’s fault- I’m not sure if California felt dated until he dated it. Still, this is the time to come here. A drive up the usually hideous 5 freeway will greet you with lush green fields, happily grazing cows, almond blossoms as far as the eye can see, and a row of cottonwoods and oaks along the Grapevine that make you want to stop and explore. A drive out to the desert (such as the one I did yesterday) will, once you pass Beaumont and the outlets, hit you in the face with a wave of warm air and blooming creosote and citrus blossoms but with snow still atop the San Jacinto mountains. All topped off with that big curved blue sky that makes you feel like you’re in a snow globe.

Last night, as the sun went down, Alysa and I dusted off her barbecue and grilled some chicken, and sat outside eating and sipping cider until the night got cool. This time thing is especially present here in the desert because there are maybe two months left before the heat becomes oppressive. Even now, sitting outside in the crispy morning air, there’s that electricity in the air; that anticipation that it’s going to be a hot day. Luckily, I’m heading up into the mountains for the majority of the day, to gather some sage and yerba santa and pine needles from my favourite tree. These are my favourite days, spend crawling over tree branches and stepping over bubbling brooks. Tasting leaves and whispering to trees and, most likely after a snack atop a rock (lizard style), a little nap in the sun.

But it’s that snack I want to bring up right now. Because, if you guys are privvy to my numerous Facebook posts, I don’t really do breakfast. I mean, I like the idea of it, and I know it’s good for your metabolism and that starting the day without it just isn’t right and all that stuff but, since this whole paleo movement made my sweet sugary breakfast cereals into demons (actually it was Sally Fallon, in Nourishing Traditions, and before that my move to America in which nothing tasted the same as the Rice Krispies in the old country, but paleo appealed to my vanity, which was even worse) I went off breakfast altogether. Compound my lack of desire to eat something heavy in the morning with the 3 hours of having been awake before yoga practice is over, and it’s just easier to say ‘I’m not a breakfast person’.

Until this mesquite granola happened. Which, if you ask my rational nutritionally-minded opinion, is really quite bad for you. But if you ask my tastebuds and stomach, both of which are quite happy to have something to gnaw on in the morning, it could possibly be quite good for you if the alternative (starvation) is worse. Here is the conundrum of modern living: too many sides to the story. I leave it up to you to decide after you’ve tasted it. Meanwhile, I’m heading up a mountain with a little bag of homemade granola, scented with vanilla and mesquite from this desert that I love, with little poppy bites of polenta throughout, to eat my lizard style lunch and nap in the sun. The health benefits of such behaviour have not been proven in clinical tests as one cannot patent the lizard style snack-and-nap, but I’d venture a guess that they’re pretty damn good.

I’ll post some pictures for you guys tomorrow.

Mesquite granola, with polenta and coconut and all kinds of good things. 

5 cups oats

3 cups mixed nuts, ground in a food processor (I used half almonds, half brazil nuts)

3/4 cup rapadura

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 cup dry polenta

1/2 cup grated dried coconut

1/2 cup mesquite flour*

2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp vanilla powder

1/2 cup butter

1/4 cup coconut oil

1 cup water

Dried fruit to your taste

 

Melt the butter and coconut oil together. While you’re doing that, assemble all the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Pour the melted oils over the top, mix everything together, then add water until the whole mixture is moist. Spread out over 2 baking sheets, and cook at 300 degrees for 40 minutes, setting a timer every 10 minutes to give everything a quick stir.

Allow to cool, mix in the dried fruit, then store in an airtight container.

* Mesquite flour is available at health food stores. I gather mine in the desert in the summer, you can read about how to prepare it HERE