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Native Cooking

We had a wonderful gathering at our house recently and I learned a thing or five about feeding a lot of people. We’ve had gatherings before – one last month – but this time I got too ambitious. I found out that I can’t be in two or more places at once; I need to ask for more help when planning; I need to accept help when offered; and I need to be more realistic about logistics.

The menu was bleu cheese buffalo burgers, coleslaw and baked beans, plus all the trimmings and condiments and, finally, a big birthday cake for one of the guests. It was one of those bloody-hot July days. Ice and cold beverages were very important. The cake had to be hidden in a cooler in a car because of limited fridge space. It was retrieved just in time, as the bottom was beginning to melt away. We sang “Happy Birthday” very quickly.

That said, I’d like to update a tip for grilling corn that was recently published in this column [“Native Cooking,” Vol. 26, Iss 1]. In the recipe for grilled corn with handles, I said to tie the pulled-back husks with a piece or two of chive or thin string. Fine, that works; but I forgot to mention the most obvious – a strip of plain green husk, which is natural and it’s right there.

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<b>Cold Tomato Soup</b>

3 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped

1 large cucumber, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

2 cloves fresh garlic, chopped

1/2 cup water or tomato juice

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 slice of bread, cubed

Dash hot pepper sauce and Worcestershire sauce

Put all of the ingredients in a blender on high. Stop and scrape down sides as necessary. Strain through a sieve, pressing down to get as much liquid as possible out of the mixture. Salt and pepper to taste, then chill. Serve with a garnish of fresh parsley and maybe a dollop of sour cream.

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<b>Tomatoes with Meat and Squash</b>

4 – 6 large, fresh, firm tomatoes

1 pound ground lamb, buffalo or turkey

1/2 cup onions, chopped

1/2 cup chicken broth

1 cup summer squash, cubed

1 cup bread crumbs

1/4 cup parsley (or cilantro), chopped

1/4 cup mint, chopped

Salt and pepper

Grated cheese

Cut tops off tomatoes, remove pulp, lightly salt then drain upside-down on paper towels. Chop up pulp. Cook the onions in a little olive oil, then add the meat. When the meat is cooked, drain off any fat and add the pulp and squash. Simmer this for about 15 minutes, covered.

Add the bread crumbs, herbs, salt and pepper. Let cool a bit, then stuff into tomato shells. Drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with grated cheese. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 10 minutes.

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<b>Fresh and Light Tomato Soup</b>

6 cups ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

4 tablespoons good olive oil

6 cups chicken broth

2 cups onions, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 cup carrots, sliced or chopped

1 teaspoon sugar

1 bunch fresh curly parsley, chopped fine

2 stalks celery, chopped fine

Salt and pepper to taste

Saute the onions in the olive oil with the garlic. Add a couple of cups of tomatoes, the carrots and sugar. Simmer all for about 10 minutes. Add the parsley and celery, the rest of the tomatoes and the chicken broth. Simmer all for about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then test seasonings and serve hot with croutons.

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<b>Yogurt Parfait</b>

Parfaits are layered desserts in individual glasses. This recipe is for 4.

2 cups low-fat plain yogurt

1/2 cup wheat germ

3 tablespoons honey

1 can mandarin orange slices, drained

1 tablespoon orange zest

1 cup fresh cherries, pitted

In a medium bowl, mix together the yogurt, honey and orange zest. Then chill this for about 4 hours to set flavors.

To compose the parfait, sprinkle a little wheat germ in the bottom of each glass and top with a layer of yogurt, then cherries, then yogurt, then orange slices. Add a little more yogurt and remainder of wheat germ. You can make these parfaits three hours before serving and keep chilled.

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<b>Easy Beans and Rice</b>

2 15-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed

1 10-ounce package yellow rice mix

1 14.5-ounce can stewed tomatoes

1 4.5-ounce can chopped jalapenos

1 tablespoon cilantro

1 cup pepper-jack cheese, shredded

Prepare rice per instructions. Cook beans, tomatoes and jalapenos in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the cilantro, rice and cheese, then heat until cheese melts. This side dish is excellent with the “Tomatoes with Meat and Squash” recipe.

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<b>Notes and Tips</b>

-- Cold soups and desserts should be served really well chilled, not room temperature.

-- I know it’s naughty, but a little crumbled bacon in corn bread batter is a nice change once in a while.