Native Cooking

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Before the Europeans landed on our shores, eggs were not a regular ingredient in Native cuisine. In fact, the only data I could find was from the 1965 edition of “The Art of American Indian Cooking” by Yeffe Kimball and Jean Anderson, which states that wild fowl eggs were a source of protein for the Plains nations and were obtained by hunting the nests of partridge, quail, duck and plover.

Well, we use them now and they are a treasure more than a curse. Eggs got bad press for a few years because of cholesterol content and a lot of people have adjusted their diets to limit their intake to either whites only or three to four whole eggs a week. One egg yolk contains about 213 milligrams of cholesterol, so if you do not suffer from high cholesterol and/or diabetes, they are a good source of quality protein. The American Heart Association and most doctors and nutritionists suggest limiting your cholesterol intake to 300 milligrams per day. So, if you must, maybe half a yolk is better than none (only yolking).

The season, if you will, for the egg’s 15 minutes of fame is coming up. Prices will be down and children’s excitement will be up in anticipation of coloring the orbs for Easter. Whether you celebrate this holiday or not, I have some recipes that are eggs-actly perfect for this food product.

<b>Egg Facts</b>

-- In recipes, the egg is what binds ingredients together.

-- Always cook a soft-boiled egg at least four minutes to kill any bacteria.

-- Brown eggs and white eggs are the same in taste and nutrition.

-- Use two eggs per person for scrambled eggs.

-- Cool boiled eggs to room temperature before refrigerating.

-- Fry eggs slowly until white is firm and set.

-- Beat egg whites at room temperature for best volume. Room-temperature eggs makes for fluffy scrambled eggs, too.

-- Save egg shells for the compost or grind up for plant fertilizer.

-- Duck eggs go bad quickly; eat within three days of laying.

-- General rule: if it floats, it’s bad – throw it out.

-- Normal shelf life is one month from purchase; store in carton.

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<b>Great Scrambled Eggs</b>

2 eggs

1 or 2 dashes hot pepper sauce

1 teaspoon water

2 tablespoons butter

Salt and fresh ground pepper

The best results seem to come from a well-seasoned small cast-iron pan (some say they like a small Teflon-coated pan). Either way, remember that the key is to not overcook them and that they keep cooking from their own internal heat once removed from the stove.

In a small bowl, break the eggs; add the pepper sauce, water, salt and pepper. Beat lightly. Melt the butter in the pan over medium heat and add the eggs when the butter is melted but not sizzling. Stir the eggs around with a wooden spoon from side to side as you lift the pan from the heat frequently. When the eggs are not runny, get them onto a plate quickly to stop the cooking process. If you plan to add herbs, mushrooms or cheese, have these additions ready and add them quickly just after the eggs.

To make an omelet, do the same procedure, but do not stir the eggs around. Shake the pan to make sure the eggs are free from sticking and add your extra ingredients at this time. Have them ready because cooking goes very quickly, about 30 seconds.

Some good omelet fillings are onion, scallion, cheese, sliced mushrooms, steamed asparagus, cooked crumbled bacon, bits of ham, or cut-up tomatoes. You may find it fun to experiment with leftovers like roasted peppers or other items.

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<b>Hard Boiled Eggs</b>

6 eggs

In a medium saucepan, cover eggs with cold water. Bring slowly to a boil over medium heat, then lower heat and simmer for 15 – 20 minutes. Turn off heat and remove pan from stove. Let the eggs cool in the cooking water before removing and putting in the fridge. I mark the shells with an “H” in pencil so no one gets a surprise.

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<b>Decorating Eggs</b>

For children, figure on four to six eggs per child. White eggs work best. Hard boil the eggs and let cool. At this point, kids can draw on the egg with a crayon to make a design, as the dye will not take through the wax.

Use glass or stainless steel bowls or jars and fill about halfway with hot water. Add a tablespoon of white vinegar to each container and drops of food coloring. Place one egg at a time into the mixture and be patient, let it sit and absorb the color. Remove with a wire ring or slotted spoon and let dry. An egg carton works well as a drying rack. You can add paint or stickers after the dyed egg is dry.