Native Cooking Column

Funny how gardens are good one year, bad the next, never predictable. This seemed to be a pretty good year for us. I secretly believe every other year is good, but I have nothing solid to back that up. We don't have anything fancy: asparagus, blueberries, peaches, corn, kale, spinach, lettuce, parsley, grapes, plus too many summer squash and tomatoes. If you are like me, and I hope some of you are, you can never have too many recipes for ways to vary squash.

The following recipe is a good one for using both corn and summer squash. You can cook and drain the squash, then mash it or you can simply grate it, uncooked. Either way, it is delicious.

Squash Fritters

2 cups grated or mashed squash
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/2 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon melted butter or corn oil
1/2 cup cheese: Feta, Parmesan, Cheddar or Jack
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of dried, ground mint (optional)
Kernels from one ear of cooked corn (optional)

Beat eggs and add other ingredients. Heat some oil and drop batter by tablespoons into the hot oil in a frying pan. Brown on both sides, drain and serve.

Squash Omelet

2 cups mashed cooked squash
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper (or jalapeno)
1/2 cup of cheese: Cheddar, Jack, Muenster, Swiss or Feta
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of fresh parsley

Beat the eggs and add other ingredients. Heat a saut? pan and add a small pat of butter or substitute. Do not let it burn. Add the egg mixture and let it cook on one side, watch carefully and do not scramble. Turn over gently half way, then halfway again. It only takes about two to three minutes, so don't go away.

You can put shredded ham or crumbled bacon in the egg mixture before cooking for a variation.

I love nuts, even the people kind. Recently, I had some dental work done and found the only nuts I could handle in my mouth were pine nuts (pi?on, pignoli.) These light, soft roasted, almost sweet beauties can be addictive, not to mention expensive! When I purchased them for contrast in a trail mix, I didn't look at the price until I got home. What made them so special? After a little research, I discovered that the Southwest pinon trees are unpredictable. The cone of this tree produces the nut only one season every four to seven years! It doesn't mean that you can't get them every year though. Trees grow at different rates and produce cones at varied times depending on location, soil and weather.

These nuts are very important ingredients in many traditional feast celebrations of the pueblos of New Mexico and other parts of the Southwest. There they are often mixed with blue corn or other grains and baked into breads. In Nevada, the Walker River Paiute hold an annual festival honoring the pine nut in September. These nuts are very delicious all ways ? raw, roasted or boiled and incorporated into a wide variety of recipes.

To roast them, spread them as a single layer on a cookie sheet or a pie plate and put in a pre-heated oven at 400 degrees for five minutes. Remove from oven and transfer them to a cold pie plate or cookie sheet, this is to stop them from cooking any more on the hot surface and possibly burning them. They are very good raw, but many recipes call for toasted or roasted nuts. They freeze well if you need them for another time.

Pine Nuts & Spinach Side Dish

1/2 cup roasted pine nuts
1 pound of fresh washed spinach
4 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
2 tablespoons golden raisins
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan. Saut? the garlic and crushed pepper until the garlic is browned. Add the spinach. It may seem like a lot, but will reduce itself if you cover the pan and turn off the heat. In three to four minutes the spinach will shrink down. Uncover and use tongs to mix and turn the spinach. Now add the raisins and pine nuts, salt and pepper and cook another three to four minutes.

Brown Rice & Pine Nuts

3 cups of cooked short-grain brown rice
1 cup pine nuts
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley or cilantro

Just mix all together and serve right away. Very simple. Very good.

Chocolate Custard Dessert

6 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
4 cups of prepared cocoa

In a large bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add sugar, salt, vanilla and cocoa. Pour into individual baking dishes or one large baking dish. Place this dish in a pan of hot water. Bake at 325 degrees for 50 minutes, (40 minutes if using small individual dishes). If you insert a knife blade into the custard and it comes out clean, it's done. If not, give it a few minutes more until the blade tests clean. Serve warm or cold.

Sometime within the first millennium, Central and South American markets used cacao beans as currency. A pumpkin could be purchased for four beans; a rabbit was ten beans. Later, in the 1500s, the Aztec of central Mexico made a special drink with roasted cacao beans. They ground the beans into a powder, mixed it with water, and added fresh ground vanilla and red peppers. This they churned and churned until it foamed and then drank it cold. They called it cacaolatl.

Notes and Tips

oI was brought up to waste not, want not. The other day I was rinsing out a tuna can to recycle when I saw that I needed something to put a soapy steel wool pad on or in. The can was the perfect size.

oJar lids are something else that I find useful. I use them like little pallets for small amounts of acrylic paint, glue, glitter, sequins, etc when doing craft projects.

oI have not tested this hint yet, but it sounds like it might work well. Try using white toothpaste to remove spots and stains on polyester clothing. A lot of clothing today is a poly-cotton mix, so try it on something small first.

oFrom the files:

The older you get, the harder it is to lose weight because by then, your body and your fat are really good friends.

Sometimes I think I understand everything, then I regain consciousness.

I intend to live forever, so far so good.