Native American Nosh

Have you ever wondered about your family’s food traditions? Undoubtedly, many of them were brought to this country by your ancestors and have been passed on to succeeding generations. But there probably are some that had their origins right here.

A good example of that is the traditional foods of the original Americans, the Indians. Many of the foods that we take for granted were grown and eaten by Native Americans for years before they became part of a broader culinary demographic.

Three vegetables that fit into this category are corn, beans and squash, collectively known as the Three Sisters by Native Americans.

I had the opportunity to sample a couple of different dishes that contained those nutritional stalwarts today at UND’s Wellness Center. They were among some traditional foods of North Dakota tribes that are taking part in the 42nd annual Time Out Week, five days of cultural events, exhibits and entertainment organized by the UND Indian Studies Association.

Presenters Twyla Baker-Demaray and Amber Finley talked to a group of about 30 UND students and faculty about Native American cuisine and served up a couple of soups, a healthier version of Indian fry bread and an ice-cream sundae that was topped with a sauce made of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and honey.

Baker-Demaray, project director of the National Resource Center on Native American Aging, principal investigator for the National Indigenous Elder Justice Initiative, both at the Center for Rural Health at UND’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences, and Finley, executive director of the Northstar Council, a private North Dakota Nonprofit Organization with the express mission of creating a Native American Cultural Center for the Greater Grand Forks community, also explained how their ancestors thrived on indigenous plants and animals.

My favorite dish at the demonstration was the Three Sisters Soup, which contained hominy (corn), butternut squash and kidney beans in a vegetable stock. While passing on the sundae, I did have some of the tasty berry sauce atop some gabooboo bread, which was cooked in a little oil in a cast-iron skillet instead of being deep-fried.

While I didn’t get the recipes from the UND event, here are a few other Native American recipes, the first courtesy of Donna LaChapelle and Patricia Chandler of the Leech Lake Chippewa tribe, the second from the late Hazel Dupree of Fort Peck Reservation near Poplar, Mont.

Three Sisters Soup
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon curry powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 cups chicken stock
1 butternut or acorn squash, prebaked and pureed
½ cup corns
½ cup hominy, cooked
½ cup white beans
Melt butter in a large sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook for 3 to -5 minutes or until tender. Stir in curry powder, salt, coriander, and crushed red pepper. Cook for 1 minute. Add chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally for 15 to 20 minutes to develop flavors. Stir in pureed squash. Cook 5 minutes or until headed through.
Serve warm with chives and plain yogurt, if desired.

Gabooboo Bread
5 cups enriched flour
5 tablespoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup warm water
¾ cup vegetable oil
Mix flour, baking powder and salt together. Mix milk and water together. Add milk mixture to the flour mixture.
Knead dough gently, form five equal sizes of dough balls. Set aside.
Flour table or cutting board and knead to form a 9-inch diameter round dough, about ¼-inch thick. Cook on top of stove at medium heat, in a skillet, with 2 tablespoons oil.
Rotate to brown and turn over to cook on the other side. Dough should take about 5 to 8 minutes to cook.
Yield: 5 9-inch rounds of bread.

Buffalo Chili
2 tablespoons oil
1 pound ground buffalo meat
2 canned chipotle chilies in adobo, minced
1 each, chopped: yellow onion, green bell pepper
¼ cup chili powder
2 tablespoons ground coriander
1 to 2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 cup tomato puree
2 cups cooked or canned pinto beans, drained, rinsed
1 cup water
1 cup beef broth, homemade or canned, plus more if necessary
2 tablespoons tomato paste
½ cup masa harina
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook the ground buffalo, breaking it up with a spoon, until well-browned and crumbled, 8 minutes. Add the chilies, onion, bell pepper, chili powder, coriander, cumin and garlic. Cook, stirring, until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes and tomato puree; simmer 15 minutes. Add the pinto beans, water and beef broth. Heat to a boil over high heat; reduce heat to simmer. Cook 30 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste; simmer 30 minutes. Gradually stir in the masa harina; cook until thickened lightly. Add more water or stock if the chili becomes too thick. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer 15 minutes. Serve hot.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 334 calories, 32 percent of calories from fat, 12 grams fat (3 grams saturated), 46 milligrams cholesterol, 35 grams carbohydrates, 22 grams protein, 1,337 milligrams sodium, 8 grams fiber.