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Native Cooking

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Renewal! What a great word and what a great promise, the promise of spring! Maybe all this slow economy, high gas and oil prices, global warming, nasty human odd behaviors - maybe all of it is a good thing. No kidding.

As we know, all things are cyclic and I believe good always trumps negative. Nature is going to force us to stop. Slowing down is really a fine way to get real about relearning some of the old ways. The traditional knowledge is there; maybe we've all been going too fast to appreciate what we can do to help others and ourselves in the bargain. How will kids learn if we're too busy to teach them?

Scale down, use up what you have, and stop buying all kinds of junk you don't need anyway. Use cash or barter; try not to use credit cards. Eat fresh, grow as much as you can, and buy smaller amounts of meat and seafood.Spring presents lots of free greens.

No time to forage? Get some friends together and start a farmers market. Have it on weekends and invite people to bring anything they want to trade, even furniture! It's green vs. greedy.

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Fiddleheads are young unfurled ferns whose name refers to their resemblance to the scroll top of a string instrument like violins or ''fiddles.'' They grow in wooded areas in most places in this country and Canada. They do not store well, so they should be eaten within two days of harvest.

They have a flavor like a cross between asparagus and artichoke. Clean well before cooking. To cook, steam until tender or boil for 3 - 4 minutes.

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Spring Fiddlehead Salad

4 cups cooked fiddleheads, chilled

4 oranges, peeled, cut, seeded and quartered

2 large bunches watercress

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Pinch of sugar

Place watercress in a large serving bowl or platter. Arrange fiddleheads and oranges on top. Season with olive oil, salt, pepper and sugar. (You don't need any vinegar because the orange provides the acidic element, like lemon does in other dressings.)

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Wild Rice and Fiddleheads

4 cups cooked wild rice

4 cups cooked fiddleheads

1 large onion

3 tablespoons butter

1/2 pound fresh white or wild mushrooms (about 2 cups), thickly cut

1/2 cup pine nuts

1 teaspoon thyme

1 teaspoon oregano

Salt and pepper

Slice onion and saute in the butter for about 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook 2 minutes more. Now add the fiddleheads and pine nuts, and sprinkle with herbs, salt and pepper.

Cover and cook on medium-low for 5 more minutes. Serve on a bed of wild rice.

Note: This dish is especially delicious as a side with spring lamb and the Puffy Basil Popovers.

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Puffy Basil Popovers

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup milk (2 percent is OK)

6 egg whites

2 teaspoons corn oil

1 teaspoon dried basil

4 teaspoons Parmesan cheese, grated

1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground pepper

Butter

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place a little butter, about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon, in each of the cups of an 8-cup muffin pan. Heat pan with butter in the oven for 2 minutes or until the butter melts and is sizzling.

Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, milk, egg whites, corn oil, basil and pepper in a bowl. When pan is sizzling, pour batter equally into cups and sprinkle the tops with the Parmesan cheese. Bake 15 to 20 minutes until puffy and golden. Serve as soon as possible.

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Great Sauce for Roast Lamb

1 8-oz. jar mango chutney

1 8-oz. jar mint jelly

2 ounces good horseradish (or to taste)

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

Combine all ingredients well and chill. Serve cold on the side with roast lamb. You can substitute pineapple preserves for the mango chutney.

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Old-time Bread Pudding

4 slices good bread, buttered

1/2 cup raisins

3 eggs, slightly beaten

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon vanilla flavoring

1/2 teaspoon lemon flavoring (or more vanilla)

2-1/2 cups milk

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 2-quart baking dish and break up bread pieces in it. Sprinkle raisins over bread. Mix the eggs, sugar, spices and flavoring and milk together and pour over bread. Bake for 45 minutes. Serve plain or with light cream.

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Blueberry Delish

1 quart fresh blueberries, washed

1 cup heavy cream, whipped

1/2 cup sugar or substitute

Divide berries into serving bowls and sprinkle with a little sugar. Top with a spoonful of whipped cream and devour.

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Notes and Tips

-- Read labels. The first ingredient listed is predominant; the rest are listed in descending order. If sugar or any of its forms is listed, don't buy it (unless you're buying sugar)! Watch salt content, too; it sneaks in. Wash all produce, no matter how clean it looks.-- Best choices for sweeteners: maple syrup, honey, molasses, date sugar and fruit juices. Watch for artificial coloring.