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Go Native With Super Bowl Snacks

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There's a foot of snow outside my window, which gets me yearning for southwestern cuisine and all the heat that comes with it. With the Super Bowl approaching, I get the urge to make some spicy snacks.

In 1967, the Super Bowl was broadcast for the first time in a Native language, Navajo. Funny, most of the favorite eats at game watch parties are Native in origin. There's tons of chili, salsa, tortilla chips, all kinds of bean, cheese and guacamole dips, pizza, ribs and buffalo wings.

Notice that a lot of these foods were considered exotic 20 or 30 years ago to the general American public, if considered at all. Today, something like salsa and tortilla chips is as popular as the favorite American snack potato chips—also a Native invention. Maybe by 2014 when the World LaCrosse Championship is held in Denver there will be a few more favorite Native American snacks on board.

I bet there are a lot of Native cooks out there who could take on a snack competition very creatively. My favorite craving for these southwest delights is a three-cheese, handmade (not frozen) jalapeño popper made by my favorite chef at Jalapeño Heaven in Branford, Connecticut. The man is a master and people, myself included, rave about his tortilla-seafood soup.

My personal Super Bowl snack masterpiece? A spicy, salsa and cheese appetizer.

Salsa and Cheese Appetizer

2 cloves of fresh garlic, minced

1 tablespoon corn oil

1 4-ounce can chopped green chiles, well drained

1 jar of your favorite salsa

2 tablespoons blond (golden) raisins

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

½ pound chirazo, chopped small OR hot Italian sausage

1 pound Monterey Jack cheese, cut in ¼ inch slices

2 tablespoons sliced black olives, *optional

Tortilla chips

Saute garlic in corn oil for 1 minute, then add chilies, salsa, raisins, cinnamon, cloves and cumin. Bring this mix to boiling, reduce heat immediately and simmer all until slightly thickened. Cook chopped chirazo OR sausage until browned in a fry pan. Drain any fat and add 1 cup of the salsa mix to it.

Put half the cheese slices in an ungreased pie dish in a single layer and put salsa sausage mix over cheese, then top with remaining salsa and cheese, sprinkle with olives and bake at 400 degrees for ten minutes. Serve with tortilla chips.

Dale Carson, Abenaki, is the author of three books: New Native American Cooking, Native New England Cooking and A Dreamcatcher Book. She has written about and demonstrated Native cooking techniques for more than 30 years. Dale has four grown children and lives with her husband in Madison, Connecticut.