There is no doubt in the fact that the richness of any culture is reflected in its cuisine. The Americas, similarly, are a diverse and vibrant collection of states, with their culture deeply rooted in their foods. From Minnesota in the north to Texas in the south, every region has its own native recipes and traditional foods. From Native Indians to tribes across the country, several dishes have been transferred in families, generation after generation, preserving the heritage of the area. Some modernizations are of course inevitable as an adaptation to modern times but these succulent dishes are a treat, and their aroma sure reminds us of either our childhood or visits to our grandma’s.
I still fly back to when I was ten whenever I smell the mouth-watering deliciousness of home-cooked Buffalo/Beef Stew.
This nutritious and filling stew is cooked with meat (beef), and vegetables cooked in liquid which results in a thick, juicy gravy.
- 1 cup barley
- 2 lbs. Beef meat
- 2 carrots
- 2 stalks celery
- 4 quarts water
- 1 can tomatoes
- 2 lbs. white (or red) potatoes
- beef broth (optional)
- 1 medium onion
- balsamic vinegar
- 5-6 cloves garlic
- 2 bay leaves
Slice the beef, carrots, celery, onions and potatoes in cubes and chop garlic. Make sure that the vegetable cubes are about one inch thick (if not, they might get too tender and mashed in the gravy.)
The meat needs to be browned on high heat first in a large soup pot. Once it’s brown, remove the beef from the pan and add the cubed onions, chopped garlic and balsamic vinegar. The vinegar will deglaze the pan and add flavor. Sauté the onions until tender, then add the beef in the pan. Add the water, broth and bay leaves and stir occasionally.
Wait for 2 hours before you add in the carrots and potatoes.
Cook until the gravy thickens and the meat, carrots and potatoes are fork-tender.
The most underestimated Native American recipe is Fry bread. Every time I serve it to myself is a delight. It is incredibly easy to make and is far beyond delicious.
- 1 cup flour
- ½ tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. baking soda
- ¾ cup milk
- Oil for frying
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and knead until a uniform dough forms. At this point you can decide how you want your bread to be served. Make small round batches or squared ones. Fry in a pan until it is golden brown on both sides.
Talking about bread, we cannot ignore the traditional Acorn bread that everybody loves.
- 2 cups finely ground leached acorn meal
- 6 tbsp. Cornmeal
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 packet active dry yeast
- ½ cup cold water
- 1 cup boiling water
- ¼ cup lukewarm water
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tbsp. butter
- 1 cup mashed potatoes
In a big bowl, add the cornmeal and cold water first. While blending it together, add the boiling water and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Add the salt and butter at this point, mix it well and allow it to sit until it is lukewarm. In a separate container, add the lukewarm water and soften the dry yeast in it. Once done, add it in with the rest of the ingredients in the bowl.
Knead the mixture well until a sticky dough is formed. Allow it to sit until the dough doubles in size. At this point make loaves out of the dough and let it rise again. After this just stuff the loaves in the oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for about 45 minutes.
The next savory dish is native to the Chippewa Tribe near Lake Superior. It is called Baked Pumpkin and its recipe is as simple as its name.
- 1 pumpkin
- ¼ cup melted butter
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- ¼ cup apple cider
Bake the pumpkin at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours. Slice it up and scoop the pulp and seeds from the inside. Discard the seeds and spread out the mashed pulp on a casserole dish. Add in the rest of the ingredients on top and bake for another 35 minutes.
This next meal is super healthy and nutritious and with very inexpensive ingredients. It was adopted by many Americans in the Great Depression. S
- 2 lbs. lima beans
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3 quarts water
- 3 cups corn cut from the cob
- 3-4 wild or pearl onions
- 2 tbsp. melted bacon fat
- 2 pieces of smoked ham
If the lima beans are dry, soak them for three to four hours to soften. Drain them and then add into a bowl of boiling water. Cook for about ten minutes, then add the corn, onions and salt and pepper.
After this cook for one hour at low heat.
Fried Green Tomatoes
The next recipe might come as a surprise to many: Fried Green Tomatoes
- 3-4 large green tomatoes
- 2 cups coarse ground yellow cornmeal
- 1 tbsp. salt
- Pinch pepper
- Lard or vegetable oil
Slice the tomatoes into pieces and sprinkle salt over all the slices. Let sit for about ten minutes and then pat the slices dry with some paper towels. In a bowl add the ground cornmeal and dip the slices in it so that they are covered on all sides. In a pan heat some lard or oil and fry the tomatoes until golden brown. Serve with some freshly cut coriander leaves and sour cream to your liking.
Pine Nut Catfish
How can the native recipes exclude our favorite Fish? This amazing catfish recipe will leave you licking your fingers.
- 4 catfish fillets
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1⁄4 cup pine nuts
- 2 additional tbsp. pine nuts
- 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
Spread the pine nuts on a baking dish and put into your pre-heated oven for about five minutes or until brown. Separate 1/4 cup of the nuts and set the rest aside for later.
Grind the 1/4 cup of pine nuts and add them to a bowl with the fish fillets. Add the cornmeal, salt cayenne Pepper, flour and cumin and coat the fillets well. Heat oil in a large skillet and fry the coated fish until golden brown on both sides. Sprinkle the roasted pine nuts on the fillets before serving.
Pemmican is a dish to provide you instant energy. Usually kept for long journeys, this dish is very fulfilling and nutritious. The American Indians used this recipe for hundreds of years. It has been a little modernized now but still has that ancient touch.
- 1 cup roasted nuts (chopped)
- 1 cup raisins (or other dry fruit)
- 4 tbsp. peanuts
- 3 cups butter
- 2 tbsp. honey
- 1 cup ground jerky
- 1/3 tsp. Chile powder
Mix all the ingredients together and deep press into a shallow pan. Cover the pan with wax paper and leave to refrigerate overnight.
After it is solid, cut it into bars or round shape (whatever is suitable) and wrap into foil.
They are good to go for a long time except in very hot conditions.
Roasted Wild Turkey
If you like to enjoy a family gathering with great food, Roasted Wild Turkey is definitely for you. It serves the whole family and adds a delightful taste to the family dinners.
- 1 Turkey (wild preferred, 8-10 pounds)
- 1 medium onion
- 2 apples
- 1 teaspoon sage
- 2 stalks celery
- 6-8 slices bacon
- Melted bacon fat
- Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven at 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Sprinkle salt and pepper on the inside and out of the turkey. Cut the apples and onion in half and slice the celery stalks. Place the onion, apples, celery and sage inside the cavity. Sprinkle more salt and pepper. Cover the breast with bacon slices and cheesecloth soaked in bacon fat.
Roast in the oven until the joints move freely and keep basting the turkey with pan juices.
Serves around 8-10 people.
Black Bean soup
The Black Bean soup is a must in the winters and is a great way to keep yourself full and warm. This bowl of hot goodness is great for a snowy winter dinner.
- 2 lb. black beans
- 1 cup leeks (sliced)
- 1/8 cup ground pepper
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/3 cup oil
In a large saucepan, sauté the leeks until they turn crispy golden. Add garlic and half the beans. These beans need to be smashed for a thick soup texture. Later add the rest of the beans but do not mash.
Next add in the water and salt and pepper and simmer for about 40 minutes.
Indian Salmon Cakes
Another great recipe granted to us by the Indians generation after generation is the Indian Salmon Cakes. They are easy to cook and a yummy treat for the taste buds.
- 1 lb. canned salmon (flaked but reserve the liquid)
- ½ cup corn meal
- 4 juniper berries
- 1/3 cup milk
- 2 eggs (beaten lightly)
Mix the salmon, juniper berries and corn meal together, then add the eggs carefully.
Add milk very slowly and carefully, make sure that the liquid content is not too much, only moisten the ingredients. You can also add the salmon liquid – carefully.
The batter should be moist enough to be made into little cakes – 2 inches across and 1 inch in height will make a good appetizer.
Place the cakes onto a well-greased baking pan and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about thirty minutes.
You can also fry the cakes on a moderate heat until golden brown on both sides.
These can be served hot or cold to your liking with some mayonnaise or tartar sauce.
You can also add in corn meal and plain crumbs to hold the cakes together.
Indian Spice Cake
If Indian cakes are under discussion, we cannot forget our good old Indian Spice Cake.
This sweet and spicy dish can be eaten anytime of the day, after dinner or just with the evening tea. Also serves as a good nutritious snack.
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups water or milk
- 3 ½ cups flour
- 1 cup pecans (or any other nuts) – chopped
- 1 cup raisins
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. cloves
- 1 tsp. nutmeg
- 1 tsp allspice
- 1 tsp. salt (or to taste)
- ¾ cups bacon grease
Take a cast iron pot and heat the sugar and bacon grease together. To this, add the water or milk, allspice, salt, nutmeg, raisins and cloves. Bring to boil and cook at boiling for about five to seven minutes, stirring from time to time. Remove the pot and let sit to cool.
In a separate bowl, stir in the flour, baking soda and baking powder. Add this to the now cooled pot and beat thoroughly for a uniform batter. Add in the nuts and mix well.
Pour the batter into a baking pan which is nicely buttered. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 40 minutes.
It can be eaten plain with tea or you can sprinkle some powdered sugar on top for a great dessert.