Category Archives: Arizona

Cheese Crisps – Arizona

We’ve talked before about Arizona’s unique state symbols. Any state that has an official march song, an official state neckwear and an official state fossil also needs an official state snack. We suggest Cheese Crisps.

Cheese Crisps - Arizona

Purportedly first invented in Tuscon at El Charro Cafe, this tasty treat is sort of an open faced quesadilla. It works best with thin flour tortillas so leave those thick tortillas for your burritos and fajitas. Use whatever cheese you like — we used a combo of cheddar and asiago — and top with mild (or spicy if you dare) chili peppers.

Check out the array of night programs at Saguaro National Park with two distinct districts, each outside of Tucson, including moonrise hikes, night walks, and star parties.

Cheese Crisps

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 2 flour tortillas
  • 2-3 teaspoons butter
  • 2 cups grated cheese (we used cheddar and asiago)
  • ¼ cup anaheim or poblano chili pepper, chopped

Instructions

Lightly butter both sides of tortillas. Place them on a wire rack and then place on top of baking sheet. Place in 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes or until tortillas are crisp and beginning to brown. Remove from oven and place one cup of grated cheese on each tortilla and then add chopped chili peppers. Change to broil setting and then return tortillas to oven until cheese is melted and bubbling on the edges.

 

 

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Gimme Chimi: Beef Chimichangas – Arizona

The origins of the chimichanga are murky at best. Two restaurants in the Grand Canyon State stake a claim: Macayo’s Mexican Kitchen, a

Beef Chimichangas - AZ

Phoenix chain, asserts that the dish was created there in 1946. Tucson’s El Charro Café also says that the dish was the happy accident of a burrito being knocked into the deep fat fryer in the early 1950s. The cook started to swear in Spanish, but seeing children, quickly changed her profane utterance to the word “chimichanga” which loosely translates as “thingamajig.”

In 2011, Macayo’s started a petition drive to have the chimichanga recognized by the Arizona legislature as the official state dish. Alas, that effort was not successful, so poor Arizona must muddle along without a signature dish to call its own. That’s OK, because StateEats is officially declaring our allegiance to chimis and all its variations, from pork to chicken to vegetarian. For this recipe, we went with the very traditional beef. We also tested both the deep frying and baking methods. Although purists may scoff, we actually preferred the baked version which is less heavy. Save your calories for a margarita (prickly pear!) and chips and guac.

You still have time to check out the Arizona State Fair which runs Wednesday through Sunday until November 6, 2015, in Phoenix.

Beef Chimichangas

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • Small white onion, chopped
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (optional)
  • 4 oz. can chopped green chilies
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 6 flour tortillas
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
  • Salsa (optional)
  • Guacamole (optional)
  • Sour cream (optional)
  • Cilantro, chopped (optional)

Instructions

In a large skillet over medium heat, brown the beef until it is no longer pink. Drain the fat. Add onions, garlic and jalapeno (if using). Cook until onion is translucent and pepper is soft. Add green chilies, chili powder, and cumin. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Soften tortillas one at a time by heating them in the microwave for 10 to 15 seconds. Add approximately one third of a cup of filling just off center of the tortilla. Fold up bottom edge closest to you, then sides, then roll up tortilla the rest of the way. Secure with a toothpick. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Place into a shallow pan, seam side down. Brush with melted butter. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until tortillas just begin to brown. Remove from oven, top with shredded cheese and return to oven for 5 minutes or until cheese is melted. Serve with salsa, guacamole and/or sour cream and top with chopped cilantro if desired.

 

 

 

 

Not so Thorny: Prickly Pear Margaritas – Arizona

Arizona already has some unique state symbols. Official state neckwear? The bolo tie. Official state fossil? Petrified wood. Official state mammal? The ringtail. We in the StateEats Kitchen propose the Prickly Pear Margarita as the official state cocktail of Arizona. We’re pretty sure that no other state has one.

Prickly Pear Margarita - Arizona

Prickly pear cacti are found all over the arid regions of the U.S. southwest. Prickly pear branches look like paddles and are often cooked and eaten as a vegetable. The fruit – also known as tuna – are thought to have anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties, according to the Mayo Clinic. The fruit also may lessen the effects of a hangover. So, if you have it in a cocktail, that means you won’t feel lousy the next day, right?? Hmmmm, more research is required.

Sure, you can find commercially prepared prickly pear syrup. But homemade is always better; you can control the ingredients and the amount of sugar. You can find tuna in Latin-American markets across the country. Choose fruit that is firm, with no bruises or brown spots. If you are lucky, the thorns will already have been removed. If not, wear gloves and remove the thorns with a sharp paring knife.

Look at the beautiful color when you slice these babies open!

prickly pear fruit

Scoop out the flesh with a spoon.

prickly pear fruit

 

Once pureed in the food processor it will look like this.

pureed prickly pear fruit

 

Strain the flesh into a fine sieve or a colander lined with cheesecloth. This will remove the seeds and pulp. Transfer the strained puree to a medium sized sauce pan and add the water, sugar, cinnamon stick and mint. When the sugar is dissolved (after about 20 minutes of simmering), strain again. Add the vanilla extract. Let cool before using.

The flavor of the syrup is rather subtle with hints of mint and cinnamon but just look at the gorgeous color of this drink.

Prickly Pear Margaritas

If you don’t imbibe, you can also use the syrup to flavor lemonade, iced tea, smoothies, yogurt, or even over vanilla ice cream.

So what do you say Arizona Legislature? Not such a thorny dilemma to us.

Arizona Cocktail Week is February 14-21, 2015, in Phoenix. Join professional mixologists for lectures, seminars, dinners, competitions and of course, tastings. The grand finale of the week is National Margarita Day on February 22. Enjoy a free(!!) Latin-themed party with mariachi, a live DJ, cocktail samples, tequila education stations, and food pairings at the Hotel Valley Ho pool in Scottsdale.

Prickly Pear Margaritas

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Ingredients

For Syrup:

  • 2 1/2 pounds prickly pears
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Handful of fresh mint
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For Cocktail:

  • 4 ounces prickly pear syrup
  • 4 ounces tequila blanco
  • 1 ounce triple sec
  • 3 ounces fresh squeezed lime juice
  • Ice
  • Kosher salt (optional – for the rim of the glass)
  • Lime slices (optional – for garnish)

Instructions

For Syrup:

Scrape off any thorns off with a sharp paring knife, taking care not to touch with bare hands. Cut the ends off the prickly pears, then slice the pears in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Put flesh into a food processor and process until pureed. Strain this mixture through a fine sieve or a colander lined with cheese cloth. The seeds and pulp will be left behind yielding about 2 cups of liquid. Transfer the liquid into a medium saucepan. Add water, sugar, cinnamon stick and mint. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low and let simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. All of the sugar should be dissolved. Add the vanilla. Strain again. Let completely cool before mixing in a cocktail.

For Cocktail:

Add syrup, liquors and lime juice to a cocktail shaker. Add ice. Shake vigorously. Strain into two margarita glasses rimmed with salt, if desired. Garnish with lime slices.