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Appetites: Celebrating Thanksgiving with indigenous foods

Sunchokes and culinary ash made from juniper. Kate N.G. Sommers
8min 55sec : Appetites: Celebrating Thanksgiving with indigenous foods

Thanksgiving is filled with traditions. The familiar foods and people with whom we share them are the centerpiece of many Thanksgivings. But for Heid Erdrich and Sean Sherman, the traditions associated with the Thanksgiving feast date back far earlier than the green bean casserole that will adorn many tables.

Heid Erdrich is a member of the Turtle Mountain band of Ojibwe and the author of "Original Local: Indigenous Foods, Stories and Recipes from the Upper Midwest."

"I would love for people to look at their Thanksgiving table without changing a thing and discuss where those foods came from," says Erdrich. "Are they indigenous foods? The green beans and the corn, the squash, the pumpkin, the turkey itself -- who helped make these foods come to the world?"

Sean Sherman, who is Oglala Lakota, owns a catering business called The Sioux Chef and the Tatanka food truck.

"Pushing aside the mythology of it all, I think really holding onto the harvest feast, the gathering and the being thankful — I think that part of it is extremely positive and it's good to keep up that positivity," says Sherman.

Erdrich and Sherman joined MPR News' Tom Crann to discuss indigenous foods and shares some recipes.

Foods made of corn, beans and squash are considered the "three sisters" of indigenous cuisine. Kate N.G. Sommers

Maple-Glazed Roasted Acorn Squash with Toasted Pepitas

Recipe by Sean Sherman
Serves 4 to 6

1 medium acorn squash, seeded and sliced, skin on
3 tablespoons sunflower oil
1/4 cup maple syrup, warmed
1 tsp kosher salt
3 Tbsp fresh sage leaves, rough chopped 1/4 Cup Pepitas (Toasted Pumpkin Seeds)

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Place squash sliced into a bowl and drizzle with oil. Season with maple, salt, and sage and gently toss together.

Roast squash for 35 to 40 minutes occasionally tossing around, gently, to avoid sticking.

7 to 10 minutes before roasting is completely, brush a small amount of maple syrup over each piece of squash and finish roasting.

Place in serving platter and sprinkle with toasted pepitas

Maandamin-Manoomin bread and smoked fish dip. Courtesy of Heid Erdrich

Mandaamin-Manoomin Bread

Recipe by Heid Erdrich
Makes 2 loaves

At some point in my Ojibwe language lessons, I had a flash of insight about anadama bread, which I had loved when I lived in New England. Although the name is usually explained through a joke about a weary husband tired of the same old fare hollering, "Anna, dammit," I just did not buy the story. First of all, it is terribly sexist. Second of all, they also call it "Indian" bread, and a main ingredient is cornmeal. Since New England tribes spoke a related language, I just bet anadama must be related to the Anishinaabwmowin word for corn, mandaamin.

For years, I hankered after anadama bread, which I do not often see in Minnesota. So I asked my sister-in-law Mary Burke to try her very capable hand at a version more suited to this region by adding manoomin and using maple in place of molasses. Her recipe is perfect: golden, chewy, dense, nutty, and slightly sweet. It can hold a hefty sandwich, is perfect with soup, and, if you can manage not to eat it all fresh, toasts extraordinarily well. I've used it for Manoomin Corn Bread Stuffing as well as in any other recipes that involved bread and been thrilled with the results. Freezes beautifully, too.

1 1/4 cups boiling water
1 cup cornmeal
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup cooked manoomin
1 cup warm water (about 100 degrees)
6 tablespoons maple syrup
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons yeast
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

Pour boiling water into a large bowl and gradually whisk in cornmeal. Stir in butter and allow to cool to lukewarm. While cornmeal is cooling, place manoomin in a food processor or blender. Process until broken down into small bits but not into mush. To cooled cornmeal mixture, add warm water, maple syrup, salt, and yeast and mix well. Stir in rice. Add flours a cup or so at a time, mixing to form a fairly dense dough. Knead dough for 8 to 10 minutes, adding as little flour as possible to prevent sticking. Give the dough a light poke with a fingertip; it should spring back a bit when ready (it will feel somewhat less "alive" than an all-wheat dough). Form dough into a ball and place in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise until double, about 2 hours.

Grease two 9x5-inch bread pans. Punch dough down and divide in half. Form each half into a loaf and place in pans. Allow to rise until approximately double, about 1 hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake loaves 30 to 35 minutes or until done, checking after about 25 minutes and draping loaves with aluminum foil if the tops look too brown. Allow to cool at least 1 hour before slicing.

Pure White and Deadly--Hot Smoked Fish Spread

Recipe by Heid Erdrich
Serves a crowd

Tasty and dairy laden, this dish makes me wonder if European foods were destined to meet American foods just so we could have this union of smoked fish and cream.

Hickory nuts are indigenous to the southern parts of this region but can be difficult to find if you do not have your own trees. Amish markets or farm stands sometimes carry the nuts in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Or substitute pecans, which are indigenous to parts of Illinois and Iowa. As for the cheese, we used Wisconsin-made morel gouda in this dish. Beyond luscious--can you imagine?

This dip is good served with woven wheat crackers. When cool, it can be sliced into wedges to freeze, and it reheats beautifully in a toaster oven.

3/4 cup chopped hickory nuts (see note above)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 ounces goat cheese, or substitute ricotta or cottage cheese, drained
2 tablespoons milk
1 cup flaked and deboned smoked whitefish
1/4 cup minced green bell pepper
1/2 small onion, grated
1/2 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 cup plain yogurt, or use sour cream
1/2 cup shredded cheese, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine nuts, butter, and salt and spread mixture in pie plate. Bake 15 minutes. Remove from oven and set nuts aside to cool; wash pie plate. In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, goat cheese, milk, whitefish, green pepper, onion, garlic, and yogurt; mix gently and spoon into pie plate. Cover with nut mixture and top with cheese, if using. Bake 20 minutes. Serve hot.

Simple Sunchoke Salad

Recipe by Heid Erdrich

3 cups cold water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3-4 medium sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes)
1 bunch (2 cups) watercress or upland cress, or substitute arugula or baby spinach

In a large bowl, mix water with lemon juice. Using a mandoline, knife, or food processor, slice sunchokes very, very thinly and immediately plunge into lemon water, making sure all surfaces of the sunchokes are bathed in the water to prevent darkening. Chop or tear watercress or arugula into bite-size pieces. Chop stems. Drain sunchokes, and toss with chopped greens.

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