Local food columnist and photographer Jackie Alpers’ cookbook, “Taste of Tucson: Sonoran-Style Recipes Inspired by the Rich Culture of Southern Arizona,” is replete with recipes from well-known local chefs such as Suzana Davila of Café Poca Cosa and The Little One, and Carlotta Flores of El Charro Café.
Published earlier this year by West Margin Press, the lavishly illustrated cookbook also features the Ohio native’s own creations, including some that draw on her Jewish heritage. One example is her Matzobaldogas Soup, a play on the popular Mexican meatball (albondigas) soup.
“’Taste of Tucson’ is about how the evolution of food culture in my community inspired me,” she says. “This cookbook is about inclusion and it is also about diversity. You will see the merging of cultures over time and the way food has progressed in one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in North America.”
Alpers notes that Tucson is the first city to be designated a food capitol of gastronomy by UNESCO. Her book builds on tried-and-true basics and tutorials on tacos, enchiladas, carne asada, and huevos rancheros to explore a wide range of Sonoran style savories and sweets.
In addition to her food photography and recipe blog, “Jackie’s Happy Plate,” Alpers writes and photographs a monthly column for FoodNetwork.com and has contributed recipes and photography to to Refinery29, Random House’s Tastebook, TheKitchn, TodayFood, Real Simple, National Geographic and Edible Baja Arizona Magazine, among others. She is the recipient of numerous awards from American Photography, The Photographer’s Master Cup, ASMP and the International Photography Awards (Lucie’s). In 2004 she received the the Black & White Spider Award’s Merit of Excellence, and in 2001 was awarded a bronze medal from the London Photographic Awards.
Here’s a fun and festive dessert recipe, perfect for this holiday season:
Papel Picado (Crunchy Tortilla Snowflakes)
Makes 8 Snowflakes
Papel picado means “perforated paper,” and it’s a popular folk-art craft in Tucson and Mexico. This edible version will brighten any winter holiday table. This is probably the only time I will recommend using those super-soft, fluffy, white, supermarket tortillas. Use fine-pointed scissors and the softest, freshest tortillas you can find so that they fold easily without cracking. Serve these as a dessert or appetizer, either alone or with crème fraiche for dipping.
8 (6-inch) extra-fluffy flour tortillas
Olive oil spray or 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons colored sanding sugar, such as turquoise blue
2 tablespoons sprinkles, such as white jimmies, snowflake quins, or multicolored nonpareils
1 tablespoon coarse salt flakes, such as Maldon
½ cup crème fraiche, for serving (optional)
Position your oven racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven and preheat to 325°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone sheet liner.
Fold each tortilla in half, then in half again, and then in half a third time to make a roughly triangular shape. Using fine-pointed scissors, cut away small triangles or semicircles from the tortilla layers. Cut off a small piece from the tip, too, if you want a hole in the very center. Carefully unfold the tortillas—they will resemble large snowflakes— place them flat on the baking sheets, and spray or brush with olive oil.
Decorate the “snowflakes” to your liking with sanding sugar, sprinkles, and coarse salt. Bake until slightly golden around the edges, 8 to 10 minutes, switching and rotating the baking sheets halfway through.
Recipe and Photo reprinted with permission from: Taste of Tucson by Jackie Alpers / West Margin Press/2020