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Native Cooking

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Recently, I watched a program on public television about farmers markets. It was so good. They highlighted several: one in San Diego, a big one in Hawaii, others all over the country. I was hoping there might be a couple of Native farmers markets shown. I am sure they exist. If not, they should, so maybe it's time to get some started.

Many had items you wouldn't think were typical at produce stands. There were homemade jellies, pies, specialty items like meat pies, cheese, appetizers, fish, stuffed tomatoes and clams, just to name a few. The vendors all seemed to be so personable and having a great time, it made me want to have a booth just for the fun it could be. In the glorious name of networking, I would love to hear from some of you if you know of any food stands in Indian country. Please write to me at NativeCooking@aol.com or P.O. Box 13, Madison, CT 06443. Why not pass this information along and help each other?

Even just having some corn for sale out in front of your house can be fun. I make some mean clam cakes and live on a road people need to take to the beach. It would be a real money-maker and people would love them, but the bureaucracy that the state and local health departments put you through these days would shut me down in a flash. I gave up the idea years ago. Good to see others haven't - there are lots of little produce stands in our area, probably all over this country, and I smile every time I see one.

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Clam Cakes

1 can chopped clams and juice, chilled

1-1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 egg white

Pinch of each: salt, pepper, sugar

Ice water

Mix together clams, clam juice, flour, baking powder, egg white, salt, pepper and sugar. If the batter is too thick, add just a few drops of ice water at a time to thin the batter slightly. It should be thick, not flat. Meanwhile, put about a half inch of oil in a small (8- or 9-inch) cast-iron fry pan and heat on medium-high. Drop clam cakes by tablespoons into the very hot oil. Cook until golden. It only takes a minute or less per side, so don't go away! Drain and devour. You may want to sprinkle some more salt on them.

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Corn and Chicken Tortilla Soup

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons corn oil

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4 cups chicken broth (reduced sodium OK)

4 ears of corn, scraped or 1 can creamed corn and 1 can kernels

1 10-oz. can diced tomatoes with green chilies

1 8-oz. package of jalapeno Cheddar cheese, grated

Corn or flour tortilla chips

Cook and shred the chicken breasts and set aside. Use a heavy soup pot to saute the onion and garlic in corn oil until onions are tender. Add the chicken broth plus 2 cups of water, corn and tomatoes with green chilies. Simmer this all for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, but leave the pot on the burner and add the grated cheese and shredded chicken. Ladle soup into large bowls and arrange some tortilla chips around one side. Garnish with a sprinkle of parsley or sprig of cilantro.

Note: You can vary this recipe deliciously with imitation lobster, a few shrimp, maybe some cut-up cod. I don't recommend using any shellfish like clams or scallops, though.

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A big, fresh, beefy tomato straight from the garden and some salt can feel like a meal in itself, but I like this recipe for a spectacular side dish of two happy foods that like each other.

Broiled Tomatoes and Portobellos

4 portobello mushroom caps, 3 - 4 inches across

2 - 3 large fresh tomatoes, sliced 1/2-inch thick

8 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced

Balsamic vinegar dressing

Turn the mushroom caps up on a broiler pan and sprinkle them lightly with your favorite balsamic dressing. Place a tomato slice on each cap, with a little salt and pepper on the tomato if you'd like, and then top this with a slice of the cheese. Broil for only a couple of minutes until the cheese bubbles up. This can be a meal in itself, a great lunch, or with salad and crusty bread, too.

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Notes and Tips

* Tomatoes and corn together make a great combo. Fresh tomatoes, cut up and paired with corn kernels, are hard to beat. If you want ''fancy,'' add some sauteed onion and cut green beans; try thyme, sage, basil and salt and pepper, too.

* Tomatoes are so versatile. They love sandwiches, hamburgers, salads, sauces and even jam. Some of their best friends are corn, mint, cheese, oregano, basil, poultry, shellfish, pastas, stir-fries and even being stuffed.