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Native Cooking

We Abenaki call summer Niben, but the Narragansetts would say, welcome to Nee’pun. It has been a beautiful spring, so hopefully it will be an equally beautiful summer. Picking flowers, berries and garden produce (and watering them all as well) has become a daily pleasure. Gardening and cooking are two things that make a person feel connected to what is important in life.

Writing this column is also a pleasure for me. I am consistently inconsistent on purpose. Sometimes sticking to a theme and then finding out everything I can about that subject, can be rewarding. Other times, I just want to put out recipes that taste good, yet have no connection to each other – and this is one of those times. Summer is travel time or lazy, enjoy the weather time at home. But, either way, we get to meet new friends and savor old ones. This goes for foods as well.

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<b>Bleu Cheese Buffalo Burgers</b>

There are many ways you can perk up any type of burger by adding ingredients to the meat itself before forming the patties or by applying additions to the top of the meat. I have had bleu cheese burgers with the cheese applied on top and they are fabulous, but you need to broil the tops to get the cheese bubbly. This recipe includes the cheese in the “body” of the patty.

1 pound ground buffalo

4 ounces crumbled bleu cheese

1 small onion, minced

1/4 cup plain bread crumbs

1 egg, to bind all ingredients

Combine all ingredients in a bowl with a fork gently. Form into thick-ish patties and place on waxed paper. Cover all with plastic wrap and chill for about an hour before grilling. Chilling helps the burgers hold together. Add barbecue sauce for added flavor while grilling.

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<b>Chickpea Salad</b>

1 15-1/2 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 medium sweet onion, chopped fine

1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 teaspoon cumin or celery seeds

2 tablespoons garlic, minced

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

2 teaspoons honey

2 tablespoons water

4 tablespoons olive oil

4 cups dark greens like arugula, spinach, watercress

<b>Salt and pepper to taste</b>

Put the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Saute the onion, garlic and cumin or celery seeds until the onion is soft. Now add the peppers, chickpeas, salt and pepper and cook for 2 or 3 more minutes. Add the vinegar, honey and water to the rest of the vegetables in the pan. Arrange the greens in a large serving bowl and add the vegetables to them. Toss gently, then serve.

If you do not want to serve this salad warm, hold back on the greens and refrigerate the vegetables. It’s great warm or chilled.

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<b>A Chef Salad</b>

Traditionally, a chef’s salad is just that: made with greens, leftover cheeses, meats, nuts and vegetables, whatever is in the restaurant between meals and seating patrons. A little dressing and some croutons make it special. You can certainly customize your own version. This is one I make when I have these leftovers:

Iceburg or greenleaf lettuce

Spinach and some watercress

Boiled light ham, cut-up salami, roast beef, cooked chicken or shrimp

A tomato, cut up

Sliced mushrooms

Crumbled, cooked bacon

Cubes of any cheese on hand

Pine or walnuts

Croutons

This is something you will want to customize and have with your favorite dressing. Jimica, jalapenos, other peppers, sliced onions, etc. – play!

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<b>Mohawk Blackberry Dumplings</b>

Berry sauce

1 quart blackberries (about 4 cups)

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Dash of salt

Pick over berries and wash, then put undrained berries into a three-quart saucepan with a tight lid. Stir sugar, water, salt and lemon juice (omit lemon juice if barely-ripe berries are used) into berries very gently. Cover and simmer for 3 minutes.

<b>Dumplings</b>

1 cup flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1-1/2 tablespoon firm butter

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon milk

Sift flour and mix well with the sugar, salt and baking powder. Cut in the butter until it’s the size of rice grains. Add the milk, stirring energetically for 30 seconds with a fork. Drop with a teaspoon into simmering berries, dipping spoon into hot berry sauce each time before dipping into better. Cover tightly. Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. DO NOT uncover during this time.

Spoon dumplings into individual dishes and pour sauce over top. Serve warm. Garnish with a bit of cream if you like. Makes 8 dumplings.

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<b>Notes and Tips</b>

* If you have little bits of things like juice, berries or tea left over, freeze them instead of tossing them out. These can make tasty little cubes for summer drinks.

* Save clam, oyster and scallop shells. Aside from being good receptacles for small items or used for smudge, put the shells in a heap or in your compost to get the calcium benefits.