What’s more iconically American than the great western desert? The vast majesty of empty space, full of possibility; of beckoning horizons, open freedom, endless roadless trackless possibility. A blank — OK, desolate — canvas makes for thrilling adventure and damn pretty sunsets, but as easy as it is on the eyes, it’s tough on the tummy. Beauty beauty everywhere, but not a bite to eat. No worries, amigo — you bring the sombrero, we’ll handle the vittles. Load your pack mule with this month’s tote-able oasis of taste, and you won’t end up buzzard bait.
Blue Corn Piñon Pancake Mix // Sante Fe Culinaria // Santa Fe, NM
The Southwest’s busiest breakfast joints have been griddlin’ up Culinaria’s two-stepping blend of New Mexico’s iconic kernels — Hopi blue corn and piñon pine nuts — for twenty years. Now’s your chance to join the hoedown. Alas, the cakes ain’t turquoise — or even blue — but, sweet and nutty with a hearty chew, they still have all the spirit of the southwest. Whip a cup of mix, a half-cup of milk, an egg, and a glug of oil until barroom dance floor–smooth (that is, *just* lump-free enough). Then ladle on a skillet or pour into an iron until the edges bubble, and serve with fresh fruit and, no yankee tree-tappers here, agave cactus nectar.
Roasted New Mexico Green Chile // Santa Fe Ole // Santa Fe, NM
Some states have a smell (Cali smog); others a drink (Kentucky bourbon) — but nowhere claims a flavor like New Mexico owns the chile. And not just any pepper: the legendary Hatch Valley green chile, that sweet, spicy, smoky pod, sliced, sauced, and slathered over everything there from nachos to noodles. Flame roasted, salted, zested with lime and packed into jars, this salsa is a travel-friendly taste of Taos. Our favorite application: A few spoonfuls heated and stirred with scrambled eggs, then piled on a griddle-hot tortilla.
Machaca // People’s Choice Jerky // Los Angeles, CA
From an unlikely *ranchería* (downtown LA) but a no-surprises pedigree (a four-generation Angeleno butcher dynasty) comes this extra-traditional dried, shredded beef, the secret to many a sauce and scrambled *huevo* north and south of the border. Whole cuts, marinated, slow cooked (and we mean sloooow, *hombre* — five hours at least), get pulverized into a rich, spicy, filling cure-all, perfect for snacking on, jerky-style, or stirring into any dish for a stampede of flavor.
Cactus Candy // Cactus Candy Company // Phoenix, AZ
Well-regarded as slakers of thirst, stretchers of mind, and stickers of privates, the desert cactus has another trick in its holster: the less-known prickly pear fruit, which, like a quince or sour orange, seems only to shine in sugared-up jellies and sweets like these candy cubes. A Phoenix tradition since 1942, these sugarbomb nuggets are stuffed full of real cactus fruit juice — and, unfortunately for the sweeter-toothed among us, a hell of a lot easier to eat.
Garlic Green Chile Pistachios // Eagle Ranch // Alamogordo, NM
New Mexico’s oldest and largest orchards turn days of desert sun into nature’s perfect packable protein snack — the ever-nutritious pistachio. Ditch the cocoa-covered peanuts and over-salted almonds, and stuff your saddlebag with these, flavored — of course — with the state’s famous chile. Just be sure to pick up your shells, lest a hungry trail bum raid your private stash.
White Sage & Wild Mint Tea // Juniper Ridge // Oakland, CA
Delicious on its own, sure, but hot tea in the desert? Whoa, cowboy. Instead, concoct a frozen treat from this forest-foraged elixir: the Julep paleta. Steep a few teabags in a pot of hot water and mix in enough sugar to satisfy. Wait until cool, add a nip (or two) of grandpa’s liquid courage, pour the now fortified tea into popsicle molds, cover with foil, stab with sticks, and toss in the chill chest.