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Native Cooking

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My mother preferred her food plain. She didn't like things mixed together,
like casseroles or other one-dish meals. She liked fresh vegetables raw or
steamed quickly and not embellished by much more than salt and pepper, if
that. She ate very little meat, but when she did, it would be in the
morning for some reason. She must have been doing something right because
she lived to be 86 and her mother lived to 96. Dad was rather the opposite.
He loved French food and would go to restaurants in New York City, where he
worked, for lunch. Somehow, they worked it out and got along just fine. In
fact, I never heard either one of them raise their voices.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, it is just to honor the differences in
our taste buds.

I take cravings very seriously. We all have a "style" of eating that we
prefer. It could be that cravings are simply a call for various vitamins
and minerals that the body needs. As for my parents, I find my preferences
somewhere in the middle of theirs. Sometimes I love a simple food, alone
and plain, and other times I go to great lengths to combine many
ingredients for a sumptuous bite or two.

This time of year is Native harvest, time to enjoy fresh vegetables in
their most natural and tasteful condition. Since tomatoes, corn and squash
are still coming in by the bushel load, here are some more recipes for
eating and saving them.

Sick of boiling, skinning, draining, coring and squishing up tomatoes with
your bare hands to freeze or can them? Here is a nice easy way to take care
of the rest.

Oven-Dried Tomatoes

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees. Remove the stems of the tomatoes, cut in
1/4-inch slices and place on baking sheets with shallow sides (jelly-roll
pans). Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with fresh ground pepper, salt and
oregano and/or fresh basil.

Bake 3 - 4 hours (time depends on the size and water content of your
tomatoes). When they look all shriveled up and dry, put the baking pans on
a rack to cool. Store in an airtight container for up to four days, or put
in sterile jars. Cover with olive oil and add a couple of whole, peeled
fresh garlic cloves.

Squash Enchiladas

14 flour tortillas

4 cups diced summer squash

1 cup onion, chopped fine

1 teaspoon minced fresh hot pepper (jalapeno or other)

3 cups diced tomatoes

4 tablespoons butter, or low-fat substitute

4 tablespoons flour

3 teaspoons chili powder

2 cups Cheddar cheese, grated Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Steam the squash for 5 minutes while you
saute the onion and pepper until translucent. Add the squash to this saute,
mix to coat.

In a separate saucepan, melt the butter and stir in the chili powder and
flour to make a paste. Add a little milk and keep stirring so it doesn't
get lumps. Add the cheese slowly to this and stir gently over low heat
until the cheese melts. Put about half or more on the squash mixture. Save
back the rest.

Butter a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Lay out the tortillas and spoon some
filling on each one and roll them up. Place seam side down in the baking
dish. Put the reserved cheese sauce on top and sprinkle with all the
tomatoes. Bake for 30 minutes.

Squash-Corn-Tomato Bake

6 small summer squash, sliced 1/2-inch thick

6 tomatoes, sliced 1/2-inch thick

2 cups of corn kernels (cut from ears or canned)

2 slabs of cooked bacon

1/2 cup bread crumbs

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use a large shallow baking pan and layer
the squash and tomatoes. Sprinkle the corn on top, then the cooked bacon,
crumbled. Next, sprinkle with the bread crumbs and herbs. Salt and pepper
to taste and drizzle top with a little olive oil. Bake for 30 minutes.

Nice Salsa

2 big tomatoes, chopped

1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons minced onion

1 green chili, seeded and chopped

1 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice

2 tablespoons chopped black olives

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and let sit at room temperature
for a couple of hours so the flavors can blend together. Chill (or not) and
serve.

Notes & Tips

Try making ice cubes out of limeade, lemonade or orange juice and add to
iced tea. You can also do this in winter to cool off too-hot tea.

Put sugar on your tongue if you burn it with pizza or other hot food.

Spray a sticky bicycle chain with cooking spray.

I want to thank all of you who have sent in suggestions and ideas to
NativeCooking@aol.com. I am always learning things. Please let me know what
YOU want to see for recipes in this column.

Dale Carson is the author of three books, "New Native American Cooking,"
(temporarily out of print) "Native New England Cooking" and "A Dreamcatcher
Book."

For ordering information write to Dale Carson, P.O. Box 13, Madison, CT
06443 or e-mail NativeCooking@aol.com.