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Native Cooking

Hopefully you are reaping the fruits of your labor in the garden now. It all depends on where you live in Indian country, but berries of all kinds are ripening somewhere every day. Corn and tomatoes still need more time, however, small summer squash and some bean varieties are ready.

It is so easy to get romanced by sunny days and balmy breezes. We have had a few lovely days and they mesmerize as they play with your head. The sheer beauty of ''a perfect day'' can take any worries elsewhere and make you wonder why all days can't be like this. It can lead to daydreaming, clear and generous thoughts, ideas and any number of fun endeavors.

Picking your own fruits and veggies, cooking, then eating them is one of the most rewarding things you can do. Picnics are another good thing to do now from mountain to desert to the beach, and they're always fun.

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Hazelnut Meringues

1 cup crushed hazelnuts

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

6 egg whites, beaten stiff

2 - 3 tablespoons flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a large cookie sheet. Use a large mixing bowl (like a standing mixer) and beat egg whites until stiff. Add the sugar and baking powder slowly, then some flour. Fold in the nut meats and drop by teaspoons onto the greased cookie sheet (might need more than one). Bake in the center of the oven for 5 minutes or until golden. Remove to racks to cool.

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Green Summer Squash Bread

2 cups grated raw green summer squash

1 cup corn oil or light vegetable oil

2 eggs, slightly beaten

2 cups honey

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup wild rice flour (or regular)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3 teaspoons cinnamon

1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Use a large mixing bowl to combine eggs, honey, oil, zucchini and vanilla; stir well, then sift in flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir gently and fold in nuts. Put batter in two greased loaf pans and bake for 90 minutes.

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Picnic Green Bean Salad

1 pound fresh young green beans, trimmed of stems

1 small onion, peeled and stuck with 3 or 4 whole cloves

Olive oil

Red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper

Put 6 cups of water in a saucepan and add the onion with cloves. Bring water to a boil and add beans. Cook for about 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat, drain beans and reserve onion, discarding cloves.

Toss the warm beans with a little olive oil. Chop the onion, add to beans with red wine vinegar, salt and pepper, and toss again. Refrigerate overnight.

For variety, add a few chopped anchovies, a bit of chopped red roasted pepper or a sprinkle of herbs like chive, dill or sweet basil.

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Wild Rice Picnic Salad

2 cups cooked wild rice

2 cups cooked long grain rice

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 cup corn kernels

1/2 cup celery, chopped

Dressing:

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

6 tablespoons light olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped fine

2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped fine

1 pinch sugar

1 pinch ground mace

1 teaspoon whole grain-type mustard

Combine the cooked rices, pepper, corn and celery, and set aside. Mix the dressing ingredients in a jar and shake to blend. Pour over the rice/vegetable mixture and toss to blend flavors. Bring to picnic in a sealed container.

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Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

2 dozen cherry tomatoes

1 3-oz. package of dried chipped beef or pemmican

1 8-oz. package low-fat cream cheese, softened

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon chives, chopped

1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

Core and seed the tomatoes. Turn them upside-down to drain on paper toweling and chill them in the refrigerator. Meanwhile, chop beef or pemmican and mix with cheese, season with Worcestershire sauce and chives. Stuff the tomatoes and sprinkle all with the parsley. Cover with foil to keep cool.

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Notes and Tips

-- Feeding people two or three times a day can cause a little stress. I find it's best to decide what to make early in the day and make sure you are ready for it and have all the ingredients. Then you can go do all the other things you need to before thinking about food again. It always helps to make some parts of a meal ahead of time if possible.

-- Honey is one of the best sweeteners, however, it is not recommended for children under one year old. Maple syrup and maple sugar are OK. Of course, everything in moderation.

-- Chocolate is highly toxic to dogs. Even if they eat as little as 4 ounces, they become so hyperactive it could kill them.