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Native Cooking Column by Dale Carson

All over Indian country the signs are there, the earth is now renewed. The natural world is celebrated in many different ways in many different parts of our country. The northeast is having its annual shad and/or herring runs. The northwest now celebrates roots and salmon with great feasts. As people gather everywhere in small or large numbers, the pure joy of getting together again after a long rather nasty winter is quite special and refreshing to body and spirit. It is more important now than ever before to return to more natural foods and far less of the processed, over-packaged, over-priced offerings in supermarkets.

It's not all their fault that they sell so much salty, sugary, carbonated, hydrogenated, irradiated and other like foods. They are pressured on the one end by the customer's wants and by the manufacturers on the other end. So, once again, we must adopt the role of informed, educated, careful, thrifty super shopper. In this regard, it probably wouldn't hurt to think of ourselves as great modern day "hunter-gatherers." And, as things always come full circle it is now more than nutritionally correct to eat nuts and berries.

Corn Salad

3 cups of fresh or frozen corn kernels

1 cup of cooked lima beans, chilled

1/2 cup pimento, sliced fine

3/4 cup onion, chopped small

1 cup green bell pepper, chopped small

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon red chili powder

1/4 cup vinegar

1/3 cup oil

Combine corn, limas, pimento, onion and pepper in a large bowl. In another bowl, mix salt, chili powder and vinegar.

Add the oil to this mixture slowly and beat well until dressing stays together. Pour dressing over corn mixture and toss well to coat all vegetables. Let the salad marinate in the fridge for at least two hours before serving.

Zuni Succotash

2 cans pinto beans, drained

1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn

2 cups fresh string beans, chopped in 1-inch pieces

1 1/2 cups of water

4 tablespoons butter or shortening

1 teaspoon sugar or substitute

1 teaspoon salt

Pepper to taste

2 tablespoons sunflower seeds, shelled and crushed

Put all ingredients except the sunflower seeds in a large heavy saucepan in the water with 2 tablespoons of the butter or shortening. Simmer for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Now add the sunflower seeds and remaining butter. Continue to simmer until the dish thickens.

Nuts are good sources of vitamin E, especially almonds and walnuts. Most nuts are high in the "good" fats, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. This type of fat can help lower cholesterol. They also contain strong amounts of copper and magnesium which seem to help regulate cholesterol, heart rhythms and blood pressure. All nuts have good amounts of protein. They also contain vitamins, minerals and fiber - pistachios having the highest amount of fiber. Nuts do, indeed, have many healthful benefits but, they are a tad high in calories (about 250-300 per 1/3 cup) and fat (20-25 grams of fat per 1/3 cup). The nut to be the most wary of is, of course, one of the most delicious and versatile, the coconut. It contains a lot of saturated fat, which is the worst for your arteries. One of the best ways to get a good healthy dose of nuts every week or more often, is in a trail mix.

Happy Trails Mix

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup blond raisins

1/2 cup craisins (dried sweet cranberries)

1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped up

1/2 cup hulled sunflower seeds

1/2 cup pine nuts

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, hulled

1/2 cup walnuts

1/2 cup roasted and/or salted peanuts

Mix all together in a large bowl, divide into sandwich size plastic bags. Keep the excess bags in the freezer until needed.

This recipe can stand substitutions or deletions and it's great to keep in the car or good for after school snacks.

Walnut Green Summer Squash

1 1/2 pounds green summer squash (zucchini)

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

3 tablespoons butter, or substitute

1 teaspoon salt

1 healthy dash black pepper

In a large skillet, heat one tablespoon of the butter and add the walnuts. Let them brown and get coated. Remove them to the serving dish. Now, add the rest of the butter and the squash. Saute until lightly browned, combine with walnuts, salt and pepper.

Notes & Tips

oPeanuts are actually legumes (beans), but more often than not, they are called groundnuts.

oSome people have severe allergies to nuts. If serving a crowd, announce which dishes contain nuts so it isn't a sad surprise. If you know a person's allergy beforehand, you can substitute rice cereal in most recipes.

oIf you need to crush nuts, put them in a strong plastic bag, freezer type, and smash them with a wooden mallet. Don't use a meat mallet, it will break the bag.

oEven if you don't use it, buy a can of hair spray on sale. It will stop a flying bug in mid-flight. Just be careful not to do it near food.

oYou can toast shelled nuts in the microwave, in a safe dish, for one to two minutes.

oVegetables are best grown or bought fresh, next best for flavor is frozen and canned veggies are fine, but last in this order of things.

oHere we go with the "why" questions again:

Why is it called "after dark" when it is really "after light?"

Why is "phonics" not spelled the way it sounds?

Why doesn't glue stick to the inside of the bottle?

I am putting out an early request this year for recipes you might want to share for Cinco de Mayo. Please send them to NativeCooking@aol.com or regular mail to Box 13, Madison, CT 06443. Thank you.