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Native Cooking

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Endangered species of seafood – shellfish especially – prompted me to attend a lecture about this problem. The speaker was an expert on the subject. He set up a Native weir, a design that is fairly unmatched today for fishing in local waters.

The lecture was excellent, yet sobering – more than 100 species of fish and shellfish are endangered. In recent years there have been ecological restoration projects which have produced major salt water farming efforts in many coastal areas. This is a good thing, though wild caught seafood seems to have more taste.

One thing that echoed from that talk was for those of us in the food industry to try new recipes for underutilized species. This may help endangered favorites like cod, lobster, bay scallops and shrimp to renew their numbers. For those of you who don’t have access to fresh coastal seafood, frozen choices are a close second. Canned tuna, crab and anchovies are canned immediately on ship, so are safe as well.

Conch Chowder

2 pounds conch meat

1 bottle clam juice

3 pounds potatoes, cubed

1 large sweet onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 strips bacon, cut in 1/2-inch pieces

1/2 stick butter

3 tablespoons flour

2 cups milk, 2 percent works

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped

1 teaspoon dried thyme

Parboil potatoes in a large stockpot, drain and set aside. Use a large sauté pan to melt the butter, then add the bacon, onion and celery and cook until golden. Chop the conch meat very fine, or use a food processor. Put sautéed vegetables, conch and rest of ingredients in stockpot with potatoes and simmer for about 20 minutes, do not let it boil.

Note: I have found that conch is very much like clams, only sweeter. You can interchange them in recipes. They make great stuffed clams, and also work in clam cakes. Conch is also sold as “whelk” and is available at major supermarket fish departments.

Conch Fritters

2 pounds conch meat, ground in food processor

3 eggs, separated, beat whites until stiff

1/2 onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup crushed cracker crumbs, (Ritz work best)

1 tablespoon half and half, or cream

1/4 cup vegetable oil

Mix conch meat, egg yolks, onion, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper and crumbs.

If this mixture is too tight, add the half and half or cream. Then fold egg whites into this mixture. Heat oil in cast iron pan and drop batter by tablespoons into hot oil and cook until golden on each side. Good with lime juice, tartar sauce or lemon butter on the side.


In this day and age, it is increasingly important that we keep the knowledge of wild edibles alive. Show and tell anyone willing to listen what you know about the delicious and edible flowers, herbs, berries, bark and anything else you can think of before this knowledge is gone forever.

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Chive is one of the first herbs to show itself in spring. They came from northern Europe, but are everywhere in America, and are often assumed to be Native. If you cut them about an inch from the ground when they first appear and cut them into 1/8-inch pieces with scissors onto paper towels, pat dry, they can last a long time as a shelf herb, but even longer if you freeze them. Chive likes to party with baked potatoes, or in potato salad, with parsley, in soups and salads and are delicious with corn cakes.


Batter-Dipped Squash Blossoms and Daylilies

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 egg white

Pinch each: chili powder, salt, pepper, ginger, sugar

Ice water

Vegetable oil for frying

Mix batter ingredients until blended to the consistency of pancake batter. Heat oil and deep fry each blossom until golden. Do one at a time.

Note: Try some blossoms sautéed in butter or cut up in an omelet. To freeze blossoms, pick before they are open, they will open in hot water later. Blanch unopened blossoms in boiling water for three minutes, then put into ice water. When completely cooled, pat dry and pack in freezer bags. You can keep them frozen up to eight months.


Notes and Tips:

• Wash your hands often when preparing food, especially between handling meat and vegetables.

• When in doubt about food, especially leftovers, let your nose be your guide. If you don’t trust – throw it out, you must.

• Insist that school age children wash hands. They can bring home some icky germs.

I want to thank all of you who have sent in suggestions and ideas to I am always learning things. Please let me know what YOU want to see for recipes in this column.