Native cooking column

Bread is so basic to people's lives. I don't mean the kind of bread that means "money." This is strange because I noticed a lot of "foody" words that mean something else. For example, why is something called "cheesy?" You aren't happy about something, it becomes a "beef." If you can't act, you're a "ham" and a bad joke is "corny." Can't make up your mind? You're "waffling". Waffling is what I'm doing now, so I'll get right to the "meat" of the column. (Sorry!)

Each culture area in Indian country has breads that are unique to them, and there are other breads that are made by all. By this I mean the varieties of both fry bread and corn breads that are everywhere. In the Northwest, a most popular bread is Buckskin Bread. It may look a little like buckskin, but it tastes fabulous. Like fry bread or a tortilla, it is adaptable for holding other foods, or other ingredients can be added to the batter.

Buckskin Bread

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt, any kind will do, or powdered kelp
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup water
You have the option of adding herbs or berries

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine all the dry ingredients, add the water and blend it in quickly. Put the dough into a 9-inch pie plate or iron frying pan, press down to make it even and bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool some and serve warm.

The Plains Indians were, historically, both migratory and farming people. The diets are rich in game as well as grains and vegetables. Breads included Squaw, Bannock, Wild Rice and corn.

Wild Rice

Johnny Cakes

2 cups cooked wild rice
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons white corn meal
1/4 cup bacon drippings

Mix together the wild rice, salt and corn meal. Shape into flat cakes about 3 inches in diameter. Heat the bacon drippings and cook the cakes in it until brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Eat hot or warm.

In researching the breads of our nations, I learned that the blue cornmeal of the Pueblo peoples is unique. Only in the past decade or two has blue corn meal been commercially available to mainstream American markets. It has a heartier, more intense taste than the white or yellow corn meals. There are simple recipes for blue corn bread, but I like this one because it includes peppers, cheese and onion. It is so good that it's nearly a meal in itself.

Blue Frying Pan Bread

1-1/2 cups blue cornmeal
1-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
6 tablespoons grated cheese
1/4 cup sweet green pepper, chopped
1/4 cup onion, chopped
6 tablespoons shortening, or vegetable oil
4 teaspoons chili powder
1-1/2 cups milk
2 eggs, slightly beaten

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Mix or sift all dry ingredients, except the chili powder, in a large bowl. Add the green pepper and cheese. In a large, heavy frying pan (cast iron is best), melt shortening or heat cooking oil and mix in chili powder. Cool. Now add the milk and eggs. Stir this into the dry ingredients and mix gently. Return all to the frying pan and bake in your oven for 35 minutes. Cut in wedges. Serve hot. Serves 6-8.

Fry bread is not very old in native food traditions. It is a relative newcomer since the introduction of white wheat flour to these shores. It flourished in its popularity and there are as many variations of fry bread recipes as there are people who make it. Since it has thrived at pow wows and gatherings of every sort, we can officially declare it to be a Native American traditional food.

A Fry bread

Vegetable oil for frying

2-1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon oil
1 cup warm milk

Heat oil in skillet frying pan until hot, not smoking, over a medium-high heat. Mix the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl. Shape into discs. Fry shaped dough in hot oil until brown and crispy. Turn frequently and watch closely. Serve hot. Makes about four to six discs.


Buffalo Fry Bread

Prepare fry bread as above to the "shape into discs" section
8 ounces buffalo sausage or sweet Italian sausage
1 medium onion, chopped
4 large mushrooms, sliced thin

Saut? the sausage, onion and mushrooms until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove all to paper towels to drain. Carefully spoon some of the drained sausage onto half of each frybread disc. Seal the edges by pressing together and fry as above.

Notes & Tips:

o I often buy a couple of packages of pizza dough from the supermarket and they keep well in the freezer. To use, I let it rise and stretch it out on a cookie sheet. When it puffs a little more after my fiddling with it, I fill it with saut?ed mushrooms (fresh or canned), sprinkle with Parmesan and bake 30-35 minutes at 325 degrees. Pepperoni, chopped spinach, other cheeses, sausage, all have served nicely as fillings. It's easy and fun.

o I had macaroni and cheese heating up in a large double boiler the other night. I needed to cook some corn on the cob for the same meal, so I put the corn in the bottom pot and used one pot for two things, saving time and gas.

o A spatter screen placed on top of a pot cooking something else can become a defroster, or a steamer for one or two odd things like hot dog rolls, frozen bread ?

o Don't toss those oddball key chains. Save them for tough zippers on kids' outerwear or for suitcases.

o Keep your new jeans from fading by soaking them in cold saltwater for an hour (4 tablespoons

of salt per gallon of water) before washing. Turn them inside out, wash and rinse on a cold-water setting.

o From the files:

"I try to take one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack me at once." - Jennifer Unlimited

"If you can't be a good example, then you'll just have to be a horrible warning." - Catherine Aird

"Thirty-five is when you finally get your head together, then your body starts falling apart."


The Peanut Pie recipe in last week's column said: 1/2 in a plastic bag and beat with a wooden mallet.

It should have read: 1/2 pound peanuts, salted and crushed (put in a plastic bag and beat with a wooden mallet.)

Sorry for any inconvenience.