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Native Cooking

Rivers of torrential rain are flowing through my yard and I'm watching it carefully, trying to time travel back and imagine what the old ones - our ancestors - would do, would eat, on a day as wet and raw as this one. Then just like that, I snapped out of it. All I could think of was sitting at an outside table on the plaza in Taos sipping something wonderful and munching on nachos or a chicken with pine nuts salad.

I was dreaming about that when I turned on the news and they were saying that Santa Fe and Taos had just had about two feet of snow dumped on them. So, OK, I began to reminisce about a visit to Santa Fe years ago in January when it did snow and it was quite beautiful. We stayed with friends who had a deck off their guest room that overlooked the whole city, a magical place. We stayed there again once on July Fourth and could see the fireworks. I guess you've figured out I'm craving Southwest cuisine about now.


Stuffed Avocados

3 avocados, cut lengthwise in half and remove pits

1 lemon

1/2 cup diced apples

1/2 cup diced celery

2 tablespoons golden raisins

1/4 cup pine nuts or slivered almonds

1/4 cup salad dressing (I use ranch; or see *)


Chili powder


Squeeze the juice from the lemon and put it on a flat surface that will hold the avocados flesh-side down in the juice (this will keep them from turning brown while you make the filling). Put the celery, apple, raisins and nuts together in a nonreactive bowl and pour the dressing over them. Stir to coat surfaces and let them marinate for a bit.

Place the avocado upright on a piece of lettuce on the plate and stuff with mixture. Top with just a dab of mayonnaise and sprinkle lightly with a little chili powder and then the cilantro.

* Dressing

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon chili powder

2 teaspoons sugar (or substitute)

3 tablespoons orange juice

2 tablespoons pineapple juice, unsweetened

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 cup light oil


Shrimp Fritters

1-1/2 cups flour

1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Dash each: cinnamon and cayenne

2/3 cup milk

1 egg, beaten

1-1/2 cups shrimp, cooked and chopped

1 cup vegetable oil for frying

Mix or sift the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the milk and egg very slowly to this mixture. Fold in the shrimp. Heat the oil in a deep, heavy pan to about 375 degrees. When ready, use a tablespoon to drop mixture into pan. Turn once very carefully and remove when golden brown on both sides. Drain and serve.


You don't always have to rely on specific recipes when you want to make a quick ''something.'' I always have flour and corn tortillas on hand, usually in the freezer. They're great for quick quesadillas with a shot of hot sauce instead of traditional grilled cheese. But you can play with fillings for flour tortillas; a little ground meat, some onion and a little cheese make great appetizers. For those, I cut the large tortillas in quarters and fill, then seal the edges and saute in just a little oil, slowly, so they cook through. Serve with salsa and a bit of sour cream. Adding spices and chopped vegetables to the meat can vary the taste. Try different cheeses, too.

Wonderful Warm Chowder

2 16-oz. cans creamed corn

4 potatoes, cubed

1 stalk celery, diced

1 large carrot, diced

1 large sweet onion, chopped small

4 cooked shrimp, chopped

4 oz. white fish (like cod or flounder), chopped small

1 slice bacon, cooked and crumbled

1 quart chicken broth

1 pinch each: sage, cayenne, parsley, thyme and basil

Cook potatoes and diced carrot in a large pot with just enough cold water to cover them, for about 20 - 25 minutes. Saute the onion and celery in a little butter or substitute in a small pan while the potatoes cook. Drain the potatoes and carrot when tender and add chicken broth, corn, shrimp and fish. Let this cook about 5 minutes, then add the herbs, onion, celery and bacon. Stir to blend and keep on simmer very low while flavors mingle. If you like, blend a little cold water or milk with some flour, about two tablespoons each, and add to pot to thicken.

Notes and Tips

* If you have a favorite appetizer or soup at a local restaurant, ask them if they have it available for takeout. Some places do, and they like the publicity.

* Squash is good to thicken soups and chowders. The mild flavor enhances the other flavors.