Native Cooking

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We Abenaki call this month Alamikos. Happy New Year! I sincerely hope we
get one. Now stories may be told, old ones and new ones as well. The deeds
of the past year shall be woven into new stories for children of all ages.
There will be tribal rituals at private gatherings, open socials and other
activities of winter. It is a good time to catch up on organizing
everything. Repairing regalia or making new, snuggling up with a special
book, better still - a special person.

All year we focus on our outer world, work, physical activities of all
sorts, but winter is just different, it is a time for introspection. We can
take more time to be understanding of families and friends, considerate of
their needs and wants and our own needs without guilt. After all, you can't
make someone else happy unless you are happy with yourself. Eating is one
of the things that makes us happy, but so is keeping and looking fit.
Balancing the two is the hard part.

Kale is one of my favorite vegetables. I never wanted to try it as a young
child, probably because someone said it was bitter - not! Now I prepare it
in the following way that is delicious. It also has "crave-ability," not to
mention tons of beta-carotene which is simply the plant form of vitamin A.
Just one cup of it has nearly twice the recommended daily allowance of
vitamin A. Kale has more calcium than broccoli and is a great addition to
soup for that added nutrient. It also has a lot of vitamin C and E, plus
fiber and potassium.

Dale's Kale

2 bunches of kale (1-1/2 lbs.)

3 tablespoons good olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tablespoon or more of fresh lemon juice

Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

Wash and trim the kale. Cut or pull the stem off and tear the leaves into
small bite-size pieces. Boil two inches of salted water and drop the kale
in to steam for just two or three minutes, until almost tender yet green.
Drain. Now put the olive oil in a large frying or saute pan and cook the
garlic about one minute.

Add the drained kale to the garlic and oil in the pan. Salt and pepper all
and stir until the kale wilts a bit, about two or three minutes. Sprinkle
with fresh lemon juice. Toss to blend.

Kale-Tomato-Squash Side

1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed in 1-inch chunks

2 tablespoons good olive oil

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

1 1 lb.can whole tomatoes, plus juice

1/2 cup water (or vegetable broth)

1/2 pound kale

1 tablespoon sage

1 tablespoon basil

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Using a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat and add the garlic,
cooking it until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the cubed squash,
tomatoes, juice, water or broth. Cover the skillet and reduce heat, cooking
all for 25 to 30 minutes or until squash is fork tender. Check during
cooking and add more water or broth if needed to keep vegetables from
sticking. Wash and strip kale from stems. Chop in large pieces and add to
pan with the sage, basil and pepper. Cook for four or five more minutes to
wilt the kale. Serve this dish alone or on quinoa. If you want to extend it
to feed more people, add a can of drained white beans.

Hospitality hints

OK, it's cold out. People stop by expected or unexpected. You either knew
they were coming, or not, and you haven't had time to get to the store or
prepare anything. What to do? There are staple things we nearly all have on
hand like crackers, cheese, peanut butter, jelly ... and they can work in a
pinch. Plain peanut butter on a cracker is satisfying. Cream cheese with a
tiny bit of jelly on a cracker is good. These things are basic.

Then, there is the world of "other." If you have some smoked salmon,
olives, roasted red peppers, pine nuts or capers, you can make a savory
combination on tortillas, cut in small portions, or rolled and cut. Cream
cheese can be used as glue to affix bean dip, nuts and/or garlic to the
tortillas, maybe some watercress.

Leftover chicken can make a pretty salad, even hard-cooked eggs. It sort of
depends on the circumstance. If you stand in front of the fridge and sort
things out I bet you will figure out a half dozen quick combinations. In
the pantry you might want to keep a jar of roasted peppers, artichokes,
bean dip, whole mushrooms, olives, anchovies, jalapenos and so on, whatever
you fancy.

Made-ahead quiches, pizzas, eggplant parmesan, spinach appetizers or
lasagna are always great to have at the ready if you have had time to
prepare them. Another impromptu is good ol' franks and beans. Pancakes and
sausage. A slice of squash broiled with a piece of cheese on top is another
quickie. The secret of it all is to think ahead and be prepared. Of course,
the first thing you offer is something to drink, cranberry juice, tea,
water.

Notes & Tips

It is said that the average American eats about 1,150 pounds of food in a
year. Of course, most of it goes to waist.

There are too many food choices out there. When I was a kid, the choice was
take it or leave it.

It's always better to give people a piece of your heart than a piece of
your mind.

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.