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Native Cooking

I had to be in bed for a few days recently and could only read so much. Most of the time I was drowsy from the meds and had no appetite at all, so what did I do but watch the food shows trying to get one. Some are very good, and I get real ideas and learn something; but a lot of the others lately are so convoluted and contrived with lots of stacking, oddball combinations and haughty ingredients often taught by equally haughty hosts.

All this made me yearn for simple, plain, delicious, fresh food. Think a fresh slice of tomato with a little salt; a bowl of simple mashed potatoes; corn on the cob; a handful of just-picked berries ... fresh, warm corn tortillas with a homemade salsa; buffalo steak; clams on the half-shell ... Finally, I'm getting hungry!

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Blue corn has a ''richer'' flavor to me. The addition of a bit of ash to the mix is said to help maintain the color as well as boost the nutritional value.

Blue Corn Breads

1 cup blue cornmeal

2 cups milk

1 tablespoon corn oil

1/2 teaspoon honey

Dash of ash (juniper preferred; or baking powder)

More oil for frying

Combine the cornmeal, milk, corn oil and honey in a bowl until it becomes a batter. Heat a little more oil in a heavy frying pan and cook about 1/4 cup of batter at a time. Breads will be thin.

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Beans, beans, beans! They are one of the simplest staples of Native foods that are highly nutritious, easily stored and adaptable, come in many varieties and are totally delicious. This is a contemporary version of the Eastern Cherokee ''se la a su yi tu ya,'' which uses dried beans and hominy. Sometimes sugar or honey is added.

Cherokee Bean Side

2 cans pinto beans, rinsed

2 cans hominy, rinsed

6 teaspoons white cornmeal

3 tablespoons ground walnuts

1/2 teaspoon salt

Simmer all ingredients in a medium pot. Add about 1/2 cup of water, or more if needed, to keep from sticking. Stir frequently until mixture begins to thicken.

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Dill Bean Salad

1 large can Great Northern beans, rinsed

1 teaspoon dill weed

2 medium stalks celery, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

2 stalks scallions (include some greens)

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1/3 cup walnut or vegetable oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and toss well to coat beans. Serve cold or at room temperature. Salad keeps several days in the fridge.

Hash-Browned Potatoes

4 large potatoes, cooked, skin on

1 medium onion

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon dried parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large cast-iron or heavy frying pan. Cut potatoes and onion while the oil is heating up. Put onions in the pan first, then potatoes, and let them get nice and crisp. Reduce heat and stir to cook through. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and parsley just before serving.

--Good time to try out a seasoned salt.

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Not many foods are better for you or more delicious on their own than wild rice (manoomin). I suppose you can get it at almost every food market these days, but to get the ''real deal'' and a free catalog, contact:

White Earth Land Recovery

Project and Native Harvest

607 Main Ave.

Callaway, MN 56521

(800) 973-9870;

www.nativeharvest.com

Wild Rice with Maple Syrup

2 cups cooked wild rice

1/2 cup real maple syrup

1/4 cup crushed walnuts or pecans (optional)

To serve 4 people, use 1/2 cup each of wild rice. For an elegant dessert, a small dollop of creme fraiche or whipped cream on top is nice.

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Wild Rice Salad

3 cups cooked wild rice

1 large tomato, chopped

2 scallions, sliced thin (include some green)

1/2 cup cubed cheese (Cheddar, Monterey jack, Swiss)

1/4 cup pine nuts

Dressing

Juice of 1/2 lemon

3 tablespoons light olive oil

Dash each: dry mustard, celery salt

Fresh ground black pepper

Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl; combine dressing ingredients in a separate small bowl. Pour dressing and toss well before serving.

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Good Venison Stew

2 pounds venison meat, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 cup flour

2 large onions, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 slices bacon, chopped

2 cans chopped jalapenos

1 can tomatoes with juice

1 can chickpeas

1 can pinto beans

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped

Put the meat in a bowl or plastic bag and coat with flour. Cook bacon, onions, garlic and meat in a heavy frying pan. When browned, remove mixture to an oven baking dish or slow cooker and add jalapenos, tomatoes, chickpeas, pinto beans, cumin and cilantro. Add a little salt and pepper if desired. Cook for 4 to 5 hours in a slow cooker, or 2 to 3 hours in the oven at 325 degrees.