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Native Cooking

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What is the first thing you think about eating at a pow wow if it's raining? I think about a soup - chowder - and a big, fat piece of frybread. Of course, if it's really hot out I'd prefer a big hunk of watermelon. In the past few years, food vendors have become more innovative and offer more variety than in times past.

Watermelon is great, but storage is the problem. They will keep for up to an hour in a thick or double paper bag if it is cold. I read somewhere that the Japanese are trying to develop a strain of watermelon that is square so it can stack and be shipped easier. That isn't too out of sight, I suppose; a watermelon without those big black seeds was achieved with good results.

Cantaloupe is also a favorite of mine and now available most of the year. It mixes well with other fruit and is good alone. I find that buying a melon that I'm not sure is ripe does well if I just let it sit around for two days. If I don't cut it up, seed and put it in a container in the fridge, it won't be eaten; so in that respect, it is a little work for mother, usually.

Honeydew, cantaloupe and crenshaw are technically muskmelons; all are delicious, especially when good and cold. The Peruvian pepino is smaller than others, quite fragrant, and can be eaten whole - skin, seeds and all.

For all the water that melons contain, they do contain some good doses of vitamin C, beta carotene and potassium. The more good fruits and vegetables we can get in ourselves, the better.

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Melon Salsa

1 honeydew, cut in small pieces

1/4 cup scallion, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 small chili (hot or mild), chopped

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1/2 cup chopped salted peanuts

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1/2 cup golden raisins or Craisins

Combine all, toss and chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

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A Fruit Salad

1 cantaloupe, seeded and cubed

1 honeydew, seeded and cubed

1 bunch fresh mint

1/2 pound fresh strawberries, hulled, cut in half

Marinade:

1 cup orange juice

3 pieces of crystallized ginger, grated

Put the fruit in a stainless steel bowl. Add the mint, chopped up, now the orange juice (if you need to substitute, use lemon or lime juice), and grate ginger over all. Toss and marinate for at least 2 hours, more if possible. If you use alcohol, this salad can be marinated with any fruit liqueur.

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A Filling 'A Dip' A Spread (say that fast)

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2 cans crushed pineapple

1 8-oz. package cream cheese, softened

2 cups low-fat sharp Cheddar cheese, grated

2 tablespoons mayonnaise or low-fat sour cream

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 cup chopped almonds or walnuts

1 tablespoon chopped chives or parsley

Beat the cream cheese until smooth, then add the mayo or sour cream, Cheddar and soy sauce; blend well. Stir in the drained pineapple, nuts and chives or parsley (or both). Chill until ready to use. Spread on crackers, fill celery stalks or use as a dip.

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Dip for Fruit

Kids are crazy about dips of any sort. My grandson, who is 2, dips into peanut butter a lot. He likes this one, too, especially with fruit chunks.

1 small (4 oz.) package low-fat cream cheese

1 equal-sized container plain yogurt

2 tablespoons honey

Mix all together well and chill before use. If you use flavored yogurt with fruit already in it, eliminate the honey.

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Melon Yogurt Smoothie

1/2 cantaloupe, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks

1 cup 2 percent milk

1 cup vanilla yogurt

1 cup crushed ice

2 tablespoons honey

Combine all ingredients in the blender. For a variation, throw in a few strawberries.

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Notes and Tips

-- Fruit, especially melons, lend themselves to cold soup recipes very nicely. Try cantaloupe with tomatoes, cucumber, mint and low-fat sour cream pureed into a delicious cold soup.

-- Pears, fresh sliced or canned and chilled, make a great lunch. Put the pear slices on soft lettuce like Boston, or homegrown leaf lettuce, and top with cottage cheese. You can also the same dish with cold pineapple rings. It's healthy, refreshing and low in calories.

-- Mints of nearly any variety go very well mixed with, or as a garnish, to melon recipes. A sprig of mint is very refreshing in lemonade, or my favorite, lemonade and iced tea together, about half and half.

-- The cherimoya is an interesting fruit. It is native to Ecuador, Chili and Peru; however, today the largest commercial producer of this large oval fruit that tastes like a combo of papaya, pineapple and banana is Spain. They are hard to find in most markets being very tropical and also very expensive.