Arizonian delight can spice up dinner

Published 2:08 am Saturday, August 11, 2012

Our car’s odometer turned 1,400 miles when we got off the I-10 in Tucson, Ariz. We had come a long way but here we were in the hot desert with wonderful mountain ranges surrounding us. It was beautiful but so different from our hot, muggy, green south. We did not realize we were arriving in monsoon season (who knew Arizona had a monsoon season?). But it did rain every afternoon we were there, so it helped with the heat. Tucson only gets about 11 inches of rain each year, so I believe it comes during monsoon season. One afternoon it rained so hard I was reminded of the monsoon rains in Bombay. They also have dust storms during the monsoons, but fortunately we did not get into any of them. I’m paying more attention to Arizona news on the TV and since returning have noted a dust storm and a flash flood from the monsoons.

We stayed at the Arizona Inn, which has cheaper rates in the summer (before air conditioning it was closed for the summer), but well worth the money—-great value. It is an old inn built by Isabella Greenway in 1930 and still run by the family. We arrived at lunch time and immediately went to the Audubon Bar and had some hummus with warm pita bread and a soup and salad. Not exactly Tex-Mex, but a great little lunch anyway.

Isabella Greenway is best remembered today as the founder of the Arizona Inn. But in the early part of the 20th century, she led a fascinating life. She was a friend of Theodore Roosevelt and went to school with and was in the wedding of Eleanor Roosevelt. She lived in a brownstone in New York City before moving with her small children and her husband who had tuberculosis to a tented camp in New Mexico.

She later married John Greenway, a copper mogul who built the town of Ajo, Ariz. She represented Arizona as their only U.S. Representative in the 1930s. I bought a biography of Isabella – a fascinating read.

We met our daughter late that afternoon at her house. You could not miss it since it was a bright purple. This casita (little house) was bright and colorful, inside and out. It was built in 1912, the year Arizona became a state. She had chosen a restaurant called Cafe Poca Cosa for our dinner. The menu changes daily and is read to you by a waiter. There is a lot offered and it is confusing, but if you have trouble deciding, the last choice is the chefs trio – his choice. We could not make up our mind, so we did the chef’s choice. I really don’t know what I ate! It was very dark in the restaurant, and I could not decide what was on my plate. It was certainly filled with stuff and lots of lettuce with a big slice of pineapple on top. So this dining experience lacked a lot for me.

Our next day was spent in Tubac. The best part of the trip was a stop at San Xavier del Bac. The “White Dove of the Desert” as it is called, is an impressive example of Spanish mission architecture. Although the mission to the Tohono O’odham Indians was founded before 1700, the present structure was built 1783-1797. It is an active mission to the Tohono O’odham and has been beautifully restored. As for food, there were lots of vendors building their fires to cook in the large plaza in front of the church. We were there just after breakfast and did not stay for lunch. The village of Tubac was filled with lots of artsy shops (however, several were closed for the summer) and some restaurants and a small museum.

You can probably skip this little place outside of Tucson, but perhaps there is more going on with the art show in the fall. I would like to have a look at the museum but a monsoon rain hit just at the time we got there and the museum is mostly outdoors. Maybe next time.

One of the best things in Tucson we did was the Desert Museum. It is located a few miles outside the city and is indoor/outdoor, filled with animal, vegetable and mineral. The animals, reptiles, and birds are caged but in a natural habitat. The whole place is a showcase for desert plants, well labeled. Guides are everywhere to answer questions and to suggest things to you. We spent a good part of a day there. I think one could return over and over and not see everything.

The breakfasts at the Arizona Inn were really amazing and filling. You could have eggs any way. We had them in quesadillas (tortillas filled with bacon, onions, peppers, cheese, and then the scrambled eggs).

Another morning was huevos rancheros. Such an easy way to do breakfast! Many of my food magazines had Mexican food featured this month and especially ‘Saveur’ Magazine which devoted the whole issue to Mexican. This recipe is from their Aug/Sept issue.


Huevos a la Mexicana


scrambled eggs)

Serves 4-6

3 tbsp. canola oil

1 small white onion, finely chopped

1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 tbsp. thinly sliced cilantro leaves (You could use basil since which is more available—in your garden, I hope.)

8 eggs, lightly beaten


Heat oil in a 12” skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, jalapeño, and tomato, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until soft, about six (6) minutes.

Add cilantro and eggs, and cook, folding eggs over to large curds occasionally, until cooked through, about four (4) minutes. If using basil, add after cooking the eggs as I think basil is better if not cooked.