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Native American cooking column

Someone asked me the other day, "What is Native American cooking?" I was taken aback for a minute because this person really thought it was something exotic from somewhere else. They thought it was perhaps a method of cooking, something as odd as a course on Mongolian pastry secrets or Tasmanian soups.

There are, I will admit, two ways of describing our foods and cooking. One being the very traditional, following specific recipes passed by word of mouth through the generations. These would be basic tribal classics, recipes containing purely indigenous ingredients that are prepared pretty much the way they always have been because they have stood the test of time. Of course, there are hundreds of these to savor, learn and treasure.

The other way to look at Native American cooking is through the ingredients, influences and time period. It is believed that as much as three quarters of the world's foods originated in either North or South America. These are our foods. Using them with ingredients from other global sources doesn't make them any less our food. It stands to reason that we, as a people, are still here. We are still inventive cooks using mostly our own harvests. Because we are here right now, why not avail ourselves of all the world has to offer, blending these "other" foods with our own to create thousands of new dishes? Many of these blends will one day be called traditional, such as fry bread, for example.

Native American cooking must be recognized by the mainstream population. Friends and others should be told about what they are eating and where it came from before this opportunity is lost. I suspect some of it has been lost. Let people know there would be no pizza without our tomato, no chocolate, no corn, beans or potato dishes like fries. This is an endless list. Few things we eat are not native to these continents. I wish some were, like asparagus, eggplant, globe artichoke, olives, just to name a few. If we remind our children often where their food originated, some of them will remember and carry this knowledge with them forever.

I try, in this column, to bring you recipes that taste good. Some may be traditional and some not. Some may be very healthful, some not. You must be the judge of what you can eat or can't eat. That old plug, "moderation in all things," applies.

Pepper Stuffed Chicken

2 chicken breasts, skinless & boneless

2 roasted red sweet peppers

2 ounces Fontina cheese

4 fresh sage leaves

2 tablespoons flour

1 tablespoon good olive oil

1/2 cup white wine or chicken broth

Put the chicken breasts between plastic wrap and pound flat. Remove from plastic wrap and sprinkle lightly with pepper. Layer cheese, red pepper and sage. Roll, jelly-roll style and press to seal. Roll in flour. Saut? 10 minutes to brown, watch carefully. Remove. Add wine or broth to pan and lower heat while you whisk liquid until hot. If you want to cook the chicken a little more, put it back in the pan now for a few minutes. You can also make this in the oven.

Before we get into colder weather and it's still pretty warm out, this entr?e salad is a nice treat. If you can't get fresh scallops or shrimp, don't worry about it. The frozen will do just fine.

Wild Rice and Seafood Salad

1-1/2 cups water

1-1/2 cups chicken stock

1/2 cup wild rice, uncooked

1/2 cup brown or white rice, uncooked

1/3 cup walnut oil

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 teaspoon honey

2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon or

1 teaspoon dried tarragon leaves

1/2 pound bay scallops,

steamed 3-5 minutes and cooled

1/2 pound small shrimp,

steamed 3-5 minutes and cooled

2 tablespoons minced parsley

Garnish with tomato wedges

Put water, stock and rices in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a low-medium, cover and simmer for 25 minutes. (Tip: Put the wild rice in alone for about 10 minutes before adding the other rice because it takes a little longer) Remove the cooked rices and let them cool to room temperature.

In a small bowl, combine oil, vinegar, honey, tarragon and pepper. Stir this into the cooled rice mixture. Carefully fold in the scallops, shrimp and parsley. Spoon onto plates and serve with tomato wedges at room temperature or cover and refrigerate up to 3 days.

I love dressings for salad made with lemon, but once in awhile, vinaigrette is a good alternative. This one to follow is low calorie, only 12 calories per tablespoon. I don't recommend using any sugar substitutes, as there have been negative recent findings about them. This one uses sugar and still is only 12 calories.

Dressing

2 tablespoons corn starch

1-1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon paprika

3/4 cup water

1 tablespoon salad oil

3 tablespoons wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons catsup

Pepper to taste

Pinch of garlic salt

Mix cornstarch, sugar, salt, paprika and stir in water slowly. Stir and cook over low heat until thickened. Cool completely, then stir in remaining ingredients. Makes 1 cup.

Squash~Coconut

Pie

2 cups of fresh grated

yellow squash

1-1/2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon

coconut

extract*

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon

cornstarch

1 tablespoon flour

3 eggs

1/4 cup melted butter

Pinch of salt

1 9-inch, deep-dish pie crust,

unbaked

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine squash, sugar, coconut, vanilla, cornstarch, flour eggs, butter and salt in a large bowl. Mix well and pour into piecrust. Bake in the pre-heated 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes; reduce heat to 350 and continue baking 40 to 50 minutes, or until golden brown. You can put foil on the top if the pie is browned, but the center is not cooked through.

*Coconut extract is pretty widely available, but if not in your food market, try a health food store.

Notes & Tips:

o I bought one of those sprinkle-cheese containers with a lid. Of course, it's great for cheese, hot pepper flakes and other things but I filled this one with sugar and a whole lot of cinnamon powder. Great on toast, butternut squash, fruit salads, oatmeal ...

o Mice trying to get in? Sometimes they come in a hole near your drainpipe under the kitchen sink. If so, stuff steel wool tightly into the hole. If you still have mice, look near your hot water heater's base for another hole. Mothballs can also do the trick but they are stinky to people too. If you don't mind the smell ...

o Today, the best buys on detergent are for these really big bottles. You save a lot, but they are so heavy. I keep a half-gallon container and a funnel in my laundry area. That way, I fill up my container 2 or 3 times before it's gone. Saves my hands and I keep better track of how much I'm using that way.

o If you are traveling a long way and want your kids to sleep most of the way, don't give them soda. Most sodas have as much caffeine as coffee. With kids or anyone for that matter in the car, keep some handi-wipe type cloths and tissues.

o Back to mothballs for a minute. Use old socks or stockings and put mothballs in them and hang them in your closets or you can put potpourri in them to hang for that sweet smell.

o File wisdom:

Ever stop to think, then forget to start again?

I used to have a handle on life, but it broke.

I have a degree in Liberal Arts - Do you want fries with that?