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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.

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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 *)

Mayonnaise

Chili powder

Cilantro

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

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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.

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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.