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Native Cooking

We are between May and June. May is the Kikas moon, “The Planter” or “Field Maker” to the Abenaki, and June is the moon named for The Hoer, Nokkahigas.

As we get into spring and great goings-on, the temptations of fresh fruit present themselves. I guess we all have our favorites but now and then I like to sample a new taste, like pomegranate, or revisit an old one, like plums.

There are more than a hundred varieties of plums grown around the world. I can remember the taste of a cold, juicy, sweet, delicious plum and the feel of the juice dribbling down my chin on hot days in my childhood. It’s been a long time since that sensation, yet I buy them every year hoping for a repeat (it never happens). If you buy them, let them ripen at room temperature out of sunlight. The sunlight will remove any vitamin C they have. Refrigerate them only after they are ripened.

As I’m sure you know, prunes are dried plums. They are good, too, but taste nothing like fresh plums. Prunes contain dihydroxyphenyl istatin, which is an organic form of bisacodyl, which happens to be the active ingredient in most commercial laxatives. My mother loved prunes: she would have two or three steamed prunes each morning with one apricot in a bowl. I prefer dried prunes and apricots.

Dried apricots, pineapples, cranberries and raisins are wonderful mixed with nuts of most any sort. A handful of a mixture like this makes you feel like you’re eating pure health. The season for plums is from May to October. Try to buy only firm or slightly soft plums, as hard plums don’t ripen well. I love fresh pears and apples, but can’t seem to enjoy them dried; oh well, to each his own.

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Fingerling Potatoes

These small, long, thin potatoes are my new favorite food. They taste the way potatoes “used to” taste, and are excellent just steamed and eaten plain. For spring and summer they make a delightful warm or cold potato salad.

1 pound fingerling potatoes, warm

1 tablespoon minced onion or scallion

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

3 tablespoons light olive or vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon each: parsley and tarragon

Salt and pepper to taste

Steam or boil in water until cooked through but still somewhat firm. Let cool slightly. Mix onion, vinegar, oil, herbs, salt and pepper in a small bowl to blend.

Slice or cut potatoes in chunks, then pour dressing mixture over them and toss to blend. To make a richer taste, add a teaspoon of low-fat mayonnaise or sour cream. Serve warm or cold.

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Sauce for Fish

This sauce is excellent for trout, salmon and white-fleshed fish of any sort, and is delicious on braised scallops.

1 cup chicken broth

1 clove garlic, crushed

Juice of 1 lime

1 teaspoon butter

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

1 teaspoon sugar

Put all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk until thickened, about 5 minutes. Keep warm and serve with fish.

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Plum Salsa

This is delicious with chicken, but especially good with any pork dish and absolute heaven with pork enchiladas.

6 ripe plums

1 tablespoon golden raisins

1 scallion

1 tablespoon fresh basil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Pinch of salt

Pit and chop the plums, place in a medium bowl. Finely chop the scallion and basil, add to bowl with the raisins. Mix in the vinegar and salt, stir gently to combine. Cover and refrigerate at least an hour to let flavors meld.

You can keep this refrigerated for up to two days. You can also use half an apple, chopped, for added taste interest.

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Plum Sauce

If you like a warm sauce with meat, use a little bit of the drippings and add some brown sugar and dry mustard with a touch of salt.

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If you have mint in your garden, you must be up to your eyeballs in it by now. I love it, but need to find new uses for it constantly. This mint sauce for meat can be made and canned, and/or sealed for gift-giving. It’s perfect with lamb or wild game.

Spearmint Sauce

2 cups fresh spearmint leaves, packed

1 cup cider vinegar

1 cup water

1/2 cup honey or sugar

Bring water, vinegar and honey to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add mint, remove from heat and cover. Let stand for about 15 minutes.

At this point you can pour into sterile jars and seal them, but I recommend tripling the recipe if you are canning the sauce. Otherwise, just refrigerate until ready to heat and use.