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Native Cooking Column by Dale Carson

These used to be the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer when we slurped sodas and sugary Kool-aid after a dash through the hose. Today, the hazy part is still right and now I think Mother Earth is getting a little fed up with technology and all the abuse it wreaks in the name of progress. Progress brings yellow skies and billowing chemical smoke.

Those who can go straight out to their garden and pull a pure radish or a carrot right out of the soft, fertile soil are the most fortunate souls on earth. The fresher the better, organic and totally without pesticides or expensive packaging is best for all our fruits and vegetables. Most regions of our country have experienced weird weather this year. Here in the Northeast we missed spring completely due to rain. Summer is not looking much better. Everything is lush, but the sun is only out in fits and starts, well, it seems unpredictable. Some garden crops did nothing at all and others look pretty good. It's just a strange year.

My grandmother once had a little shack on the coast of Massachusetts. I can remember going there as a small child before she came to live with us. She would always make her special lemonade for me. She sat in her log bentwood chair with a big brown pitcher on her lap. In the pitcher she had put cut up lemons and some sugar. She pounded those lemons with her wooden spoon until they had no more juice to give. Then she put water that had come from the hand pump into the pitcher and chipped some ice off the block of ice in the ice-box on her porch with her ice-pick. That was the best lemonade. Only once have I tasted any that came close to grandma's and that was at a pow wow a few years ago.

Oven-Baked Carrots

12 carrots

3 tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

Wash carrots; peel only if they remain very dirty. Cut each carrot in thirds and parboil for about 20 minutes or until they can be pierced with a fork. Drain them and put them in a baking dish. Dot with the butter, season with the salt, pepper and brown sugar. Cover and bake at 325 degrees for one hour. Check them while baking and baste with the pan drippings.

Little Green

Squash Pickles

6 tiny zucchini (about 3-4 inchs)

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne

2 cloves garlic, sliced and peeled

2 teaspoons good olive oil

1 cup vinegar, white or cider

1 cup water

Sprig of dill

You may have extra squash but the pickles should be packed tight. Wash and remove blossom ends. Soak in hot water while you get the other ingredients together. Pack the squash into a clean hot quart jar. Add the salt, garlic, pepper and oil. Heat the vinegar and water, but don't boil, pour over squash. Put in sprig of dill. Seal and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Makes one quart.

Wild Rice is a luxury for most because it is expensive. It is expensive because to this day, it is harvested by hand (and canoe) by the Ojibwa of the Great Lakes who call themselves Menominee, wild rice people. This wild rice which has been cultivated for centuries in northern Minnesota produces a major portion of the world's supply. It is now being cultivated in California and other states to keep up with the growing demand for this delicious aquatic grain.

Wild Rice Pinon Cakes

1 cup wild rice

3 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons white corn meal

1/2 cup roasted pine nuts

Bacon drippings or corn oil

Put the water, wild rice and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook for about 35 to 40 minutes until you can bite easily through a test kernel. Stir a little of the corn meal into the wild rice, a little at a time, and then the pine nuts.

Let all this cool until it can be shaped, without burning your hands, into cakes about the size of a medium hamburger. Heat the bacon drippings or corn oil and brown the cakes thoroughly on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Good hot or cold.

Notes & Tips

*I like to keep a couple of 4 ounce bags of wild rice on hand. It is good with brown or white rice for variety or tossed with mushrooms, onions, chopped nuts or add it to stews and soup.

*Wild rice is also nice mixed with the pasta orzo. Cook them separately. To this add some black olives, sun-dried tomatoes, cut up artichoke, red onion, cilantro, walnuts, pine nuts, a bit of balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar plus some salt and pepper. It is good hot or cold.