Foods of the Americas:
Native Recipes and Traditions
by Fernando and Marlene Divina and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, Ten Speed Press, CA, 2004
I bought this book while on a trip with my husband in Santa Fe, NM. It was one of the most unique cookbooks I had ever seen, because it explores a culture I only know through actors playing a roll in a movie or through a modern lens. The glory of this book is that it explores the history of a dish, giving it a sense of place and telling a story about the people who made it. The ingredients in the recipes have authenticity, though in most cases the author indicates what would be an appropriate substitute. The photography is really well done, showing artifacts, as well as the people. The coverage of the peoples represented is done in the style of photojournalism, avoiding staged photos. My only complaint is that the photography of the food is a bit staged in contrast to the beauty of the book, but in any case, Foods of the Americas is a good of a cookbook as it would be a great coffee table book. recipe from Foods of the Americas: Native Recipes and Traditions .
While nut soups are well established in the Northeast, hazelnuts continue to be a valued food to many other Native people across the united States and Canada. The Algonquin, Iroquois, and most other Native people of the northern woodlands regions prepared nuts in many ways, including versions of this delicious soup. Serve this with corn bread or, as one may do in the Northwest, with Buckskin Cakes (page 159) [of Foods of the Americas]. To make a richer tasting soup, add a dollop of crema (page 209) to each serving and top with a sprig of watercress and some additional toasted and chopped nuts. Yields 4 portions
1 pound hazelnuts
6 to 8 ramps, green onions, or nodding onions, white part only
½ cup watercress, including tender stems
2 Tablespoons hazelnut, sunflower, or corn oil
About 4 cups vegetable stock (page 207) [or store bought] or water
2 teaspoons sea or kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and place in the oven.
Cook for 12 to 15 minutes, until toasted. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. When cool enough to handle, place the nuts in a kitchen towel and rub vigorously to remove as much of the papery skins as possible.
Trim the roots from the ramps and remove any woody stems and flowers. Thinly slice the ramps, with their tops on, and set aside. Rinse and drain the watercress, removing woody stems or pale leaves.
Chop the watercress coarsely.
Heat the oil over medium heat in a large saucepan.
Add the ramps and watercress and wilt for 3 to 5 minutes., stirring continuously.
Add the stock and hazelnuts. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil.
Decrease the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 30 minutes, until the nuts are softened and the flavors have developed.
In small batches, transfer the soup to a food processor or blender and process until smooth (don't fill the processor more than one-third full). Return the purée to the saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add more liquid to thin, if necessary, and stir in the salt. Ladle into warm bowls and serve immediately.
Sunflower Seed Soup: Substitute peeled and toasted sunflower seeds for the hazelnuts and skip the toasting. Walnut Soup: Substitute black walnuts for the hazelnuts.