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Native Cooking

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As the earth awakens to another sweet season, it is just as important to clean out your food pantry and freezer to start planning the garden. Odds and ends need to be identified, used or chucked. If you have bits and pieces of various meat and game, you might have the makings of a glorious cassoulet or soup. Fish of forgotten origin can become a one-of-a-kind chowder. Oddball bread ends become French toast or a bread pudding. Chocolate chips and a variety of frozen nuts are cookie wannabes.

Of course, you may want to be sure you have time to create on the day you defrost. It;s a good thing to start a new season with a clean freezer and fridge. It also stimulates new ideas for meals you haven't thought about in awhile. I try to date everything that goes in the freezer because it helps a lot when deciding what to dispose of, and what not to.

Maple-Braised Sea Scallops

1/2 pound sea scallops (about 6 - 7)

1/2 strip of bacon per scallop

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 teaspoon horseradish

Mix syrup and horseradish together. Wrap each scallop with the bacon and hold together with a toothpick. Brush with syrup mixture and let marinate 15 - 30 minutes. Place on a flat pan and broil for 2 - 3 minutes per side. Be sure bacon is cooked and crisp. Serve hot.

"Note: This recipe also works well with chicken breast cut in 1-inch pieces.

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I gave you my favorite recipe for acorn squash stuffed with maple syrup, butter, pine nuts and craisins. I tried it in buttercup squash as well and it works just great. Fool around with it and you may come up with even better ideas.

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Baked Fish with Asparagus

1-1/2 pounds fresh boneless cod, haddock or halibut

1 teaspoon coarse salt

1 sprig fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

3 tablespoons butter (no substitutes)

3 tablespoons flour

1-1/2 cups hot milk

1 tablespoon celery, finely chopped

1 tablespoon onion, minced

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced

1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper

1 pound fresh asparagus

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

Poach fish in hot water or broth for about 10 minutes with a little salt, thyme and a bay leaf. Drain and place fish in a greased baking dish. Set aside and make the sauce by melting butter and sauting the onion, celery and parsley for a minute or two. Then add flour, milk, salt and pepper. Use a whisk to smooth and thicken the sauce, then pour over fish.

Steam asparagus for 5 - 8 minutes and place on top of sauced fish. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and bake for 20 - 25 minutes at 400 degrees.

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Rhubarb Pie

3 cups rhubarb, cut in 1-inch pieces (pink only)

1-1/4 cups sugar

3 tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 2-crust pie pastry

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup ground nutmeg

1 tablespoon milk or

egg white

Mix together rhubarb, flour, sugar and salt and put into bottom crust. Dot with butter and sprinkle on nutmeg. Put on top crust, crimp edges and brush with milk or egg white. Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake another 35 minutes.

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Notes and Tips

"Now there are early spring greens about everywhere. Violets, pansies, dandelion leaves, daisy sprigs, sorrel and mustard greens.

"Remember that rhubarb leaves are poisonous. Cut for recipes up to about 3 or 4 inches from the leaf on each stem. Rhubarb is especially delicious with a bit of strawberries thrown in. They are natural friends whose flavors complement each another.