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Cornish Game Hens with Mexican Tarragon
Laura Ruffalo

Serves 4

This simple yet elegant holiday dish incorporates Mexican tarragon, which blooms in our part of the Southwest in October, November, and December.

4 Cornish hens
3/4 cup melted butter
1 1/2 cups Mexican tarragon, chopped
12 cloves garlic, peeled
Mexican tarragon flowers for garnish

Add 1/2 cup of chopped tarragon to the melted butter. Place hens in a large roasting pan. Place 3 flattened garlic cloves and 1/4 cup chopped tarragon in cavity of each chicken. Brush with butter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in roasting pan with green beans, small new potatoes, and small boiling onions. Drizzle olive oil over vegetables and roast for 30 to 40 minutes, basting hens with tarragon butter. Garnish with Mexican tarragon flowers.

Three Vegetable Terrene
Sandra and Jim Jefferies

Serves 8

Using tepary beans and squash enhances the regional flavor of this formal dish, which will delight the eyes as well as the palates of dinner guests. It is beautiful served on a clear glass plate.

2 cups cannellini beans or white tepary beans
8 ounces medium-fat cheese (Mexican white cheese or a combination of Monterey Jack and feta)
3 whole eggs, separated
8 ounces cooked carrots or squash
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, cooked and squeezed dry
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup lemon thyme, minced
1 tablespoon marjoram, minced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
Tomato-Red Pepper Sauce (recipe follows)

Drain beans (and rinse if using canned). Grate cheese and set aside. Blend beans, cheese, and egg yolks in a food processor until smooth. Separate mixture into thirds and place in individual bowls. Purée carrots, then blend in cumin. Add 1/3 of the bean mixture to the carrots and blend until smooth; spoon out into separate bowl. Clean processor bowl, then add spinach, nutmeg, lemon juice, thyme, marjoram, salt, pepper, and 1/3 of the bean mixture; whirl until smooth. Remove spinach mixture and place in a separate bowl.

Whip egg whites until stiff, then ­divide into thirds, placing 1/3 into each of the three bowls. Gently fold egg whites into each mixture.

Grease a loaf pan and line with a lengthwise strip of waxed paper, then add another strip cross-wise. Layer terrene in the pan beginning with the spinach mixture, then the carrot mixture, and finally the bean mixture. Smooth each mixture gently, making sure the center is not high and that all corners are sealed. Place loaf pan in a roasting pan half-filled with water (a bain marie), cover loosely with aluminum foil, and bake at 400°F for 50 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking for another 10 minutes.

Remove pan from oven and place on a cooling rack; let the terrene sit for at least 10 minutes. Gently turn the terrene upside down onto a plate and slice into 1/2 inch serving slices. To serve, place 1 slice onto a pool of Tomato-Red Pepper Sauce. The terrene may be served at room temperature, cooled, or slightly warm.

Tomato-Red Pepper Sauce

1 onion, chopped
2 red peppers, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 16-ounce can tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon hot paprika
1/4 teaspoon chile powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar

Sauté onion and peppers in olive oil until soft. Add all remaining ingredients, cover, and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes, then remove solids to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add the liquid and process 30 seconds longer. Press through a medium-fine sieve.

Stir-Fried Calabacitas
Mike Hills

Calabacitas means “little squashes” in Mexican Spanish. This colorful dish differs from kitchen to kitchen and region to region in Mexico, but the basic ingredient is always a summer squash such as zucchini or crookneck. The dish may be prepared on top of the kitchen stove and transferred to a casserole for the final heating or kept warm in a slow cooker for large gatherings. Preparing it in a wok gives it a lively, fresh taste.

4 tablespoons olive oil or bacon drippings
1 large red onion, chopped
3 to 6 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups frozen sweet corn or fresh sweet corn cut off the cob
1/2 to 1 cup diced green chiles
1 poblano or jalapeño chile, stemmed, seeded, and diced
8 medium summer squashes, sliced
2 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
4 large tomatillos, husked and diced
1 tablespoon ground coriander
3 tablespoons finely minced fresh oregano
Salt to taste
1 to 2 cups grated Monterey jack cheese
2 cups chopped fresh cilantro

Heat the oil or bacon drippings in a wok over medium heat. Sauté the onion and garlic until tender. Add the corn and chiles and sauté, uncovered, until just tender. Add the squashes, tomatoes, and tomatillos, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender. Stir in the coriander and oregano. Salt to taste and serve hot with grated cheese and chopped cilantro on top.

Three Sisters Stew
Cindy Bearce

Serves 6 to 8

Native Americans often interplanted the “three sisters”: pole beans, squash, and corn. Not only did this present agricultural benefits (the corn stalks support the climbing beans while the squash plants trap moisture under their spreading leaves), but the crops are considered to be “sustainers of life,” special gifts from the Creator that are protected by the Three Sister Spirits. Many a legend has been woven around these sisters who should be planted, eaten, and celebrated together.

Other dried beans such as ­cannellini may be substituted for the tepary beans.

1 cup tepary beans, rinsed and drained
3 cups water
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup fresh sage leaves
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 green chile pepper, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 cups chicken broth
3 cups sliced yellow summer squash (about 3 medium)
3 cups 1-inch pieces zucchini (about 2 medium)
3 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash (about 1 large)
1 cup frozen corn
1/2 pound crimini mushrooms, quartered
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 to 2 tablespoons mesquite flour or cornmeal

In a large pan, bring the beans and water to a boil. Let stand off heat, covered, for 1 hour. Stir in half the chopped onions and 1/2 cup sage, then simmer, covered, for 2 to 3 hours or until the beans are tender. Sauté the ­remaining onion, garlic, and chile pepper in oil, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft. Stir this mixture into the beans along with all the remaining ingredients except the mesquite flour or corn meal. Simmer, covered, over low heat, stirring frequently for 15 minutes or until the squash is tender. Thicken with the flour or cornmeal.

Green Chile Cornbread

2 eggs
1/3 cup melted butter
1/3 cup vegetable or olive oil
1 cup sour cream
1 cup yellow corn meal
1 cup flour
3/4 cup cream-style corn
1 tablespoon baking powder
11/2 teaspoons salt
2 green onion tops, finely chopped
1 4-ounce can chopped green chile peppers or 2 fresh chiles, finely chopped
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Combine all ingredients except cheese. Stir in half the cheese, pour the mixture into a well-greased 8-by-12-inch pan and top with remaining cheese. Bake for 20 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Mocha Mole Chicken
Phyllis Mack

Serves 4

1 chicken
1/2 cup coffee beans
1/2 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon cinnamon
6 large dried New Mexico chiles (Anaheim or ancho can be substituted)
5 to 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 large onion, diced
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Seed the dried chiles and place in a glass bowl. Cover with boiling water and let sit for 30 minutes to 1 hour to rehydrate. Drain chiles, reserving liquid for sauce, and chop coarsely.

Grind coffee beans to a powder. Mix with cocoa and cinnamon. Wash chicken thoroughly and coat inside and out with coffee/cocoa/cinnamon mixture. Place on a baking rack in 450°F oven for 10 minutes; reduce heat to 250°F and bake an additional 20 minutes or until juices run clear.

While chicken is baking, melt butter and gently sauté the onion until soft. Add garlic and chopped chiles, sauté for an additional 2 or 3 minutes. Remove from heat and purée the mixture. Add reserved liquid in small amounts to attain sauce consistency. Add cilantro and salt; pulse to blend.

Remove chicken from oven and gently pour sauce over top. (Sauce may also be served on the side.)

Cornbread Salad
Joan Allen

This salad can be made well in ­advance to simplify party preparations. Ingredients are flexible and more “Southwest-style” elements can be incorporated; for example, substitute pine nuts or pecans for peanuts or add a small chopped jalapeño for extra bite.

1 loaf cornbread
3 ribs celery, chopped
1 large green pepper
2 bunches scallions and tops, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
1 jar diced pimentos, drained
11/4 cup peanuts
1 cup mayonnaise

Bake cornbread and cool. Crumble in a large bowl. Mix in celery, green peppers, scallions, and tomato. Add pimentos, peanuts, and mayonnaise. Mix well and refrigerate 4 to 6 hours.

Cranberry-Prickly Pear Pie
Carole Palmer

Makes 2 9-inch pies

Prickly pears give this pie a Southwestern twist. Using the real thing can be cumbersome (spines must be removed from the tunas), but packaged candied pears make this dessert quick and easy.

1 12-ounce package frozen cranberries
1/2 pound prickly pear cactus candy, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
1/4 cup candied ginger pieces
3/4 cup water (or half water, half pear juice)
2 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot powder
2 15-ounce cans pears (in juice or “lite”), drained and chopped
1/2 cup prickly pear jelly
4 unbaked 9-inch pie shells
Egg white

Preheat oven to 400°F.

In a nonstick saucepan over medium-high heat, stir together cranberries, candy, ginger, and water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until cranberries have popped and candy is mostly dissolved. Remove about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of liquid, add cornstarch or arrowroot to it, and stir until smooth. Return liquid to cranberry mixture and stir over medium to medium-high heat until mixture begins to thicken. Stir in pears and jelly; remove from heat. Cool slightly.

Pour half of mixture into each of two 9-inch pie shells. Use the pastry from the two remaining pie shells to decorate tops and edges of pies. Beat egg white and brush onto pastry decorations. Bake pies until filling is bubbly and crust is brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Lavender Muscat Wine Cake With Currants and Grapes Laura Ruffalo

Serves 10 to 15

Citrus, grapes, and lavender all thrive in Southwest gardens. This brings them together for a beautiful dessert.

11/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup muscat wine
1 1/2 cups red seedless grapes
1/2 cup currants
1 tablespoon lavender flowers

Preheat oven to 400°F. Brush a 10-inch springform pan with olive oil. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment and brush with olive oil.

Sift flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda into a bowl. In a large bowl, whisk 3/4 cup sugar, 6 tablespoons butter, and 3 tablespoons olive oil until smooth. Whisk in eggs, peels, and vanilla. Add flour mixture, alternately with wine, whisking until smooth after each addition. Pour into pan and smooth top. Sprinkle grapes and currants over batter.

Bake until top is set, about 20 minutes. Dot top of cake with remaining 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons sugar. Bake until tester comes clean, about 20 minutes more. Cool in pan and serve at room temperature.

Pumpkin Pecan Flan
Dorothy Gunderson

Serves 6 to 8

Our two huge old pecan trees furnish us with an autumn harvest that keeps us in pecans all year. The combination of pumpkin and pecans makes a special holiday treat.

11/2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 15-ounce can pumpkin (or 2 cups pumpkin purée)
1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
Spiced pecans (recipe follows)

Pour 1 cup sugar into a heavy skillet and stir over medium heat until caramelized. Pour this mixture into the bottom of a springform pan.

Beat remaining 1/2 cup sugar with eggs, salt, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, pumpkin, and evaporated milk. Pour over caramel in springform pan. Place this pan inside another, shallow pan filled with 1/2 inch of hot water. Bake at 350°F for 11/2 hours. Cool and refrigerate. To serve, run knife around edge of springform pan and invert onto serving plate. Garnish with pecans.

Spiced Pecans

1 egg white
2 tablespoons water
2 cups pecans
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

In a small bowl, combine sugar, salt and spices. In a separate bowl, combine egg white and water. Stir nuts into egg and water mixture, coating thoroughly. Sprinkle spice mixture over nuts. Bake on a buttered baking sheet at 300°F for 30 minutes. Cool on waxed paper.