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Native Cooking

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I just read a wonderful article by Denny McAuliffe online where he described a delicious meal he had at the National Indian Gaming Association event recently. All the ingredients came from tribes or Native-owned businesses. Bravo! He described everything as delicious.

Some of the samplings were wild mushrooms, sweet potato puree, king crab legs, poached shrimp, pine nuts and tomatoes, cactus and pepper salad, herb-crusted buffalo rib-eye, sweet corn polenta - all just part of a larger menu which sounded equally luscious.

What got me was that the preparation of these foods was termed ;'modern traditional,'' as opposed to frybread and other heavy lard and flour-filled foods developed during the commodities era. ''Modern traditional'' is a great term and a great goal for all Native chefs, cooks and consumers.


Stuffed Corn Tortillas

1 dozen corn tortillas

1 cup each: Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheese, shredded

1 4-oz. can chopped green chiles, drained

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped

Corn or vegetable oil for frying

Combine the cheeses. Fill half of each tortilla with the cheeses. Leave a 1/2-inch border clear. Now sprinkle each with a little of the chiles and cilantro and fold over the tortillas. Heat some oil, about 4 tablespoons, in a large, heavy skillet. When good and hot, but not smoking, fry the tortillas, just a few at a time, for about 2 or 3 minutes per side. Remove and drain on paper towels. Serve with your favorite salsa and a side of sour cream.


Corn Salsa/Relish

1/2 dozen cooked ears of corn, kernels removed

1/2 large red onion, cut in small cubes

1 each: red and green bell pepper, chopped small

1 large tomato, cut in small cubes

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped

1/4 teaspoon dried chili flakes

Combine all ingredients in a ceramic or non-reactive bowl. Chill at least 2 hours before serving.


A Good Succotash

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3 tablespoons butter (or substitute)

1 small onion, chopped

1-1/2 cups each: lima beans and corn kernels, fresh, frozen or canned

1/2 cup water or broth

1 cup low-fat cream (optional)

Salt and fresh ground black pepper

Melt butter or substitute in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and cook for about 3 minutes, until translucent. Add beans, corn, water and pepper. Cook covered for 10 - 15 minutes.


Quinoa and Roasted Peppers

2 cups vegetable or chicken stock

2 tablespoons orange zest

1 cup quinoa, white or red

2 green or red peppers, roasted, seeded and chopped

1 stalk scallion, minced

2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the stock to boiling with the orange zest; add the quinoa and stir. Simmer for 5 minutes and remove from heat. Saute the peppers and scallion in a small amount of butter or olive oil until tender. Combine with quinoa and fluff with a wooden spoon. Top with parsley.


Mid-May until the end of June is corn planting time. An old Abenaki story tells of how ''One Who Lives Alone'' was awakened one night by a beautiful young woman with long, light hair. She promised to stay with him if he would do what she asked.

First, he was to set a field of dry grass on fire. When it cooled a bit, he was to drag her by the hair over the field. He didn't like this idea much, but she told him a special grass would grow and bear edible seeds. He would be able to see her hair between the grasses.

It must be true because each ear of corn does have silken light hair. And ''One Who Lives Alone'' was never alone again.


Notes and Tips

* Succotash can become an entire meal with the addition of cooked meat cut in cubes or small bites. Chicken, venison or pork are good choices. To keep the dish vegetarian, you can extend it with cooked sunchokes or potatoes.

* If you are trying to cut down on salt, like most of us, try a few drops of lemon as a salt substitute. It works especially well on salads and vegetables, but give it a try on steak.