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Native Cooking Column by Dale Carson

It's corn planting time all over our country. Ceremonies are everywhere for blessing the corn fields, for good health, and fertility. The Corn Planting Moon is here. It is also time to plant other crops as well. Flowers will be blooming from now until November, longer in some places. The joy of life renewed brings celebrations of every kind beginning now. Very soon it will be the fifth of May, Cinco de Mayo. This day is celebrated throughout Mexico, the Southwest and as far north as the Canadian border.

Even here on the East Coast there has been a trend in recent years by Mexican restaurants to treat this as a special holiday. Why not, it's a chance to show off and introduce all kinds of culinary delights to the uninitiated. The holiday celebrates the defeat of Napoleon's forces in the city of Puebla in l867 by the soldiers of Mexican General Ignacio Zaragoya.

Cumin Rice

1-/2 cups of long grain rice

1 tablespoon good olive oil

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 cup of onion, minced

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

3 cups of boiling liquid, (use a blend of tomato juice, beef or chicken broth and water- 1 cup of each)

2 tablespoons blond raisins

2 tablespoons roasted pine nuts

Coat a 2-quart baking dish with the olive oil. Saut? the garlic, onion and cumin in a small frying pan, and then put this into the baking dish. Stir in the rice and add the boiling liquid. Cover and bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and add the raisins and pine nuts. Stir to blend them in, or toss lightly.

Jicama (hick-a-ma) is a root vegetable about the size of a large yellow turnip. It has been compared to apples, potatoes, cucumber and even water chestnuts. You can peel it and eat it raw or cooked. I must admit I have never had it cooked, but I do love it cold, cut in julienne matchsticks in this salad with an interesting lime dressing.

Jicama Salad

1 jicama, cut in julienne

strips

1 cup pineapple chunks

2 oranges, peeled,

seeded and cut up

Dressing:

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine in a lidded jar and shake to blend. Put all salad ingredients in a bowl and pour dressing over, toss to blend. Chill before serving and garnish with fresh minced cilantro.

A Nice Corn Chowder (easy version)

This recipe makes a lot of chowder. You can make it all for a crowd, or have it over for a couple of days. It really does taste better the second day anyway.

4 large cans of creamed corn (14 oz.)

1 quart chicken broth

Water

4 stalks of celery, sliced

2 large onions, chopped

3 carrots, cut in pieces (optional)

6-8 potatoes, cut in bite-size chunks, peeled or unpeeled

1/2 cup flour

1 egg

2 tablespoon butter, or substitute

1 cup cream or milk

1/2 teaspoon each: salt, cayenne, sage, parsley, thyme, basil, rosemary, and fresh ground black pepper

Saut? the onions and celery in the butter and set aside. Cook the carrots and potatoes in the chicken broth, adding one or more cups of water to cover the vegetables. When the carrots and potatoes are tender, add the corn and onion, celery mixture plus their pan juice and seasonings. In a separate small bowl, blend together the flour, milk or cream and egg (egg is optional, it helps the thickening process). Add this slowly to the rest of the chowder and simmer all for 10 to 15 minutes, being careful not to let it boil.

Skamonnoktahigan

This is the Abenaki word for cornmeal. Polenta is the name of a dish made with our whole cornmeal that is very popular. It can be eaten like oatmeal, or set into a mold and sliced cold. You can eat it cold or grill the sliced polenta. If it is grilled it can accommodate toppings (butter, goat cheese, mushrooms, etc.). This recipe is a little rich, but a very nice side dish with nearly anything at any meal.

1 cup heavy yellow cornmeal

2 cups milk (reduced fat milk doesn't work)

2 cups water

1/4 cup of cream

Salt and pepper to taste.

Bring the milk and water to a boil in a saucepan. Stir in the cornmeal very slowly. Stir constantly until mixture starts to thicken, reduce heat and add cream, stirring again until you get a smooth, creamy texture. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

Notes & Tips

*You can buy polenta in tube packaging all ready to use, very like some cookie dough comes now. This way you can slice it and cook it any way you like.

*There are certain herbs that fall into categories when combined with each other. For example, eggs like to mingle with dill weed, parsley, beau monde and basil. Fish is happy with basil, tarragon, lemon thyme, parsley and sage. For most cooked vegetables, basil, parsley and summer savory. It is a good idea to pour herbs and spices into your hand first, then sprinkle carefully. From the jar directly can often cause overdoing and accidents.

*Sage is easy to come by in some places and easy to grow in other places. It likes poultry, poultry dressings, pork sausages, beef, buffalo and game dishes. Aside from ritual uses, it is a comforting aroma alone or mixed with other herbs in a potpourri.

*E-mail wisdom, aka/'sillies'

The most important thing in your home are the people.

If life deals you lemons, make lemonade. If life deals you tomatoes, well, the juice is great for getting rid of skunk smell.

Care more about your character than your reputation. Character is what you really are, reputation is only what people think you are.

Remember, turtle only makes progress when it sticks its neck out.