Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Traditional native cuisine..

If you're traveling the backroad, Highway 86, between Ajo and Tucson, as we recently did, stop in Sells and have lunch at the Desert Rain Cafe.  Our friend, photographer, and fellow blogger, Betty of Nomad's Notes, told us about this place during her visit in Ajo.

The Desert Rain Cafe is a project of the Tohono O'odham Community Action group, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating a healthy, culturally vital and sustainable community.  100% of all proceeds support TOCA's educational programs for this tribal nation's approximately 20,000 people living here in the heart of the Sonoran Desert, 60 miles west of Tucson.

 Despite the cultural richness and the community's many assets, there are extraordinary challenges to be faced, one of which is health.  More than 50% of all adults have Type II (adult-onset) diabetes, the highest rate in the world, with children as young as 6 years old suffering also.

The Cafe is dedicated to preparing traditional, healthy foods with each dish containing at least one local product such as cholla buds, tepary beans or saguaro fruit syrup, using techniques that have been handed down for countless generations that also help regulate blood sugar levels and control diabetes.  Agave syrup is used as a sweetener, mesquite flour in baked goods and olive oil for cooking.

Standing room only
The restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch Monday thru Friday. As luck would have it we stopped by on Thursday afternoon and the day's special was Prickly Pear Glazed Pork Ribs served with a side salad, brown Tepary beans, and a whole wheat tortilla...$9.95.  We added a couple of mesquite oatmeal cookies for dessert and Agave lemonade for drinks.  Absolutely delicious...

Prickly Pear Glazed pork ribs
We couldn't leave without visiting the impressive gift shop next door.  Beautiful Tohono jewelry, baskets, and art work were displayed, along with cookbooks and packages of beans and spices.  We left with a bag of white tepary beans and  recipes for different preparations.  I decided to fix the hummus to take over to friends in Tucson when we visit.

We use a pressure cooker instead of a slow cooker since we boondock so frequently and depend on solar power rather than being plugged into electricity.  Two cups of beans in 10 cups of water cooked under pressure for 30 minutes, then sitting covered for another 20, yielded a perfect texture and doneness.

All of the above; beans with garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, capers, a shot of hot sauce, salt and pepper went into the food processor for maybe a minute and....Voila'!

There is a large vacant lot next to the plaza on main street, perfect for parking the motorhome.  We'll definitely be returning and hope you will, too!

Parking on north side of Plaza

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