Native American cuisine is poised to become “the next big culinary phenomenon” in the 50 states, and it’s long overdue. As a melting pot for European settlers, we’ve overlooked the fact that there is a longstanding history of agriculture, living off the land, and cooking that pre-dates 1621.
A number of celebrity chefs are working on bringing Native American flavors to the forefront of their restaurants in places like Washington DC, Minneapolis, and Phoenix, Arizona. The Native American food truck never did arrive in Bowling Green, but we can still enjoy the taste of America’s indigenous peoples right here in our own kitchens.
Since November is “National Native American Heritage Month,” we figured what better time to introduce your palate to authentic Native American recipes and flavors? These pre-colonial bites will make the perfect addition to your feast day table.
Wild Gitigan Salad
From Dream of Wild Health Executive Director Diane Wilson
This recipe was designed by six youth leaders who promoted this salad at the Minnesota Twins baseball games in a healthy food initiative called “Roots for the Home Team.” The group wanted to showcase ingredients that were important to Indian Country like wild rice and black beans, while also using vegetables like tomato and kale grown at their farm in Hugo, Minnesota, as sovereignty and sustainability are very important principals in Native American cultures.
Seminole Baconed Hominy
From Genius Kitchen
Hominy was one of the first gifts the Native Americans gave to European colonists in Cape Cod. The word “hominy” is likely derived from the Algonquin word “rockahominie,” referring to a corn that has been soaked in lime or lye water. As a result of this ancient practice, the corn becomes more digestible and nutrient-soluble. The softened maize is then easily cooked into grit, ground into meal, or fashioned into everything from cornbread to tamales. This super simple side dish uses just four ingredients and cooks in less than 15 minutes.
Ginger, Carrot, and Turnip Casserole with Candied Chestnuts
From Chefs at the Mitsitam Native Foods Café in Washington DC, via The Washington Post
This dish can easily replace the usual sweet potato casserole at your Thanksgiving table. Conveniently, you can make and refrigerate for up to three days in advance. Kids will like the familiar roasted carrots and sweet potatoes they know and love, while adults can appreciate the mild zing of ginger and festive allspice. The honey chestnut topping shines with a sweet, rustic, appealing “crunch” to the uppermost layer of the casserole. Finding chestnuts is easy enough at your local Whole Foods, but the one challenge may be the texture. Some people opt for the fast, easy food processor, but you may want to put in the work with an old-fashioned food mill to get the perfect consistency for your topping.
Pasilla Chile-Rubbed Turkey
From Jerome Grant, Executive Chef of Mitsitam Café in the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian via The Washington Post
We’re all looking for a way to impress guests with an atypical turkey, right? The dried chilies in this recipe are more smoky than spicy, so they’re still kid-friendly. The use of sweet agave nectar, savory roast garlic, and fresh cilantro combine into a paste that turns the skin a wonderful shade of brown. Start a few days in advance to brine the turkey in the refrigerator. It’s not a difficult recipe, but you’ll need about 20 ingredients – sugar, spice, and everything nice! The effort is worthwhile. You’ll want to reuse the pan juices as gravy, it’s so delectable! (If you love these recipes, you can find more in the Mitsitam Café Cookbook.)
From “The Sioux Chef” Sean Sherman
The Sioux Chef’s favorite recipe in his Indigenous Kitchen cookbook brings back memories of early childhood. “Our family relied on the local chokecherries I gathered as a kid,” he recalled. “We’d spread a blanket under the tree and gather buckets full. There’s no need to pit them because the pits drop to the bottom of the pot as the sauce becomes thick and lush.” This mix of chokecherries or blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, elderberries, cranberries, and blackberries can be sweetened with maple syrup or honey into a dessert, or used as a tangy dressing for wild game and vegetables.
Enjoy preparing these easy Native American recipes with the kids. Remember, Shine offers additional experiences for the aspiring chef, from cooking classes and Health Nuts workshops, to farm tours and outdoor gardening parties. Contact us to learn more!
By Jenn Fusion for Shine