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Native Cooking Column by Dale Carson

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It is so true, "For every thing there is a season..." Now is planting season, mid-spring, and just about the most joyous time of year weather-wise. There are a number of vegetables which like, even thrive, in cool temperatures, and they are ready about now. I am thinking spinach, asparagus, broccoli, fiddleheads and early peas, to name but a few. Even though modern processing of foods has become so advanced that we can pretty much buy anything, anytime year round, it is still best to try and stay with what is seasonal. Sure you can buy a lemon in August, but it will cost you. Most artichokes and asparagus are sold in March, April and May. Most fresh fruits are sold in June and July; almost all plums, from June to September, and so on.

Sugar Snap Peas

10 ounces of fresh sugar snap peas, strung (pull the fiber string along the seam off)

1 teaspoon sesame oil

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon minced or grated fresh ginger

2 tablespoons cooking sherry

2 tablespoons soy sauce

3-4 tablespoons pinenuts

Heat a heavy frying pan and add the vegetable oil, then the sesame oil. Add the ginger and pinenuts to the hot oils and keep them moving. Now add the snap peas and stir-fry them to coat them with the oils. To keep the snap in the peas, don't overcook them. Add the sherry and soy sauce then lower the heat and cook about two minutes, stirring constantly. Basically it is best to cook snap peas no more than two minutes, any longer and the pea pods open, losing some of their sweetness.

Watercress was something we had in two places when I was growing up. Some was in a water glass on the windowsill to grow roots; some was in a water glass in the fridge to use. When roots were long enough, the cress was tossed into a small swamp-like place in our yard with a trickle of running water. It took over a giant flat rock on its little trip downstream so we had access to this colorful green for months. It is a tad peppery, which means it has some decent flavor, more than most salad greens. It is good so many ways, but we have three ways we usually fix it. Cold in salads, as an ingredient in tempura and hot in this flavorful soup. Watercress is a heart disease fighter because it is packed with beta-carotene and vitamins C and E.

Watercress and Potato Soup

1bunch watercress, rinsed and chopped

5large potatoes, peeled or unpeeled, cubed

1large onion, fine chopped

11/2 quarts of chicken broth

2tablespoons parsley

4tablespoons butter

1cup cream* optional

Pinch of each: salt, pepper, nutmeg, sugar

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Saut? the onion in the butter until golden. In a 3-quart saucepan, cook the potatoes in the chicken stock until they are soft, about 15 minutes. Add the saut?ed onions, watercress and seasonings to the potatoes. *Add the cream if desired and heat through before serving.

Another vegetable to harvest now is also full of beta-carotene and other cancer-fighting enzymes, this is spinach. It is so good, I never could understand why people turn their nose up at the mere mention of its name. Spinach and watercress together make a very tasty salad. Fresh is always best, however, I try to keep a package of frozen, chopped spinach in the freezer. It is great for hot or cold dips when you have unexpected company. Spinach is a good ingredient in many recipes, but it is quite delicious all by itself raw or steamed. My mother would steam fresh spinach and serve it with a pat of butter and drizzled with cider vinegar. At pow wows, we have friends with a food booth called "Native American Cuisine," and

these two people, one Maliseet and one Cherokee, combine their talents in delicious and innovative ways.

Smoky Mountain Salad

10ounces fresh spinach, washed, stemmed and torn into bite-size pieces

1bunch watercress, washed, and loosely chopped into bite-size pieces

4scallions, chopped

6slices bacon, well cooked, drained, warm bacon drippings reserved

3tablespoons cider vinegar

1/2teaspoon sugar

Combine spinach, watercress and scallion, crumble bacon on top. In a small bowl, combine 3 to 4 tablespoons of the warm reserved bacon drippings with the vinegar and sugar. Whisk to combine and pour over salad. Toss and serve immediately.

Notes and Tips:

*Picnic food and travel food are kind of related, like cousins. Each needs a ready container, be it basket or thermal bag, and frozen ice block. Preparation time should be used for food, not packing, so keep your bag or basket at the ready with all things not edible, napkins, salt and pepper, straws, paper plates, etc...

*If you travel a lot, or even a little, it's a good idea to have some items at the ready. Look for sales on travel size toiletries during the year, stock up. Instead of expensive paper plates and cups for camping, buy from tag sales or store clearance sales.

E-wisdom

*Funny, I don't remember being absent-minded.

*Funny, I don't remember being absent-minded.

*If all is not lost, where is it?

*I used to work in a blanket factory, but it folded.

*If a turtle doesn't have a shell, is it homeless or naked?