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Native Cooking: Some Comfort Food for Those Still Chilly Temps

Dale Carson offers some meal ideas with a fish chili, Pequot Johnny cakes and a spinach and chick pea salad to warm up those still chilly evenings.

Looking at a blank page made me turn to look out the window for inspiration and what do I see? Not that lovely green, it’s still white out! This year the weather is even weird in the southwest, so it doesn’t even matter where you live. Yes, we’re all sick of winter, but we still have to cook, buy, or put something together to eat. How about this different chili? With the Johnnycakes and Chickpea Spinach Salad you will have a complete delicious and healthy meal.

Delish-Fish Chili

2 pounds of firm white fish fillets, cod or halibut

1-1/2 cups red onion, sliced thin in rings

1 jalapeno, finely chopped (or one 4-ounce can)

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon fresh minced oregano

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons coarse salt

2 16-ounce cans of either white or red kidney beans, drained

½ cup dry white wine *optional

2 cups orange juice OR chicken broth

2 tablespoons honey

Cut the fish into chunks and heat olive oil. Sauté onion, green pepper, jalapeno and garlic until a little soft, then stir in chili powder, salt and oregano. Add beans, wine, and honey. Stir to blend and cover. Simmer on low heat for 15 minutes. Add fish chunks, cover again and simmer about 6 to 8 minutes. Taste for seasonings and adjust.

You can serve this chili with cornbread, bannock or other bread. We like it with Pequot Johnnycakes made with cornmeal from Rhode Island.

Pequot Johnnycakes

Corn or coconut oil

1 cup white cornmeal

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon sugar

1 cup boiling water

Preheat a griddle or frying pan (preferably cast iron) with oil. In a medium bowl, mix cornmeal, salt, sugar and boiling water until mixture is a thick batter. Drop by tablespoons onto hot griddle or pan. Cook slowly on one side until brown, about three minutes. Turn and cook other side. Remove the cooked johnnycakes to a warm platter and serve plain or with maple syrup.

Spinach and Chickpea Salad

6 to 8 ounces of washed fresh spinach

1 large can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

3 slices cooked bacon

1 clove garlic, minced

3 large white mushrooms, sliced paper thin

Dressing: juice of ½ lemon and ¼ cup olive oil

Pat spinach dry and arrange on serving plate. Sprinkle with chickpeas, garlic, sliced mushrooms and crumble bacon over top just before pouring dressing on.

Dale Carson, Abenaki, is the author of three books: “New Native American Cooking,” “Native New England Cooking” and “A Dreamcatcher Book.” She has written about and demonstrated Native cooking techniques for more than 30 years. Dale has four grown children and lives with her husband in Madison, Connecticut.