Oh, do I have a lot. Old cookbooks, that is. Before my recent move across the country – it was nearing the 700 mark. I know, it’s an illness.
I had the arduous task of whittling down my collection and then leaving it in storage for about a year. It has made me that much more appreciative of the weird stuff I have. These throngs of cookbooks usually serve as a inspiration, lots of flipping pages randomly.
I decided to finally start using the cookbooks as what they meant to be used, by cooking the recipes.
The first book I wanted to feature is appropriately the first Americans cookbook, called The Art of American Indian Cooking.
Published in 1965, this book opens to a map entitled Early Explorers’ Dates and Contacts with American Indians – and sets the tone for the direction the book takes. This book divides the country in five parts (NW, SW, Plains, East, and West), details the native plants and cooking techniques, and (the part I find most interesting) goes over how the blending of Native and European cultures happen through food. The authors put the emphasis on how so many foods that are native to the Americas have changed the cuisines of so many cultures around the world.
I learned that the mash up of Spanish livestock and Native American open pit cooking techniques was the advent of BarBeQue; that the corn, potatoes, and tomatoes of the Western Hemisphere has changed the world in ways we could not quantify; and that the Native populations were generally extremely helpful and important players in the new settlers putting roots down in the New World.
There are about 3o recipes of interest that I marked, including Trout Consomme, Sunflower Seed Cakes, Adobe Bread, and Fried Cucumbers. But you have to start somewhere.
I chose Green Pepper and Pink Bean Casserole from the Gardeners and Gatherers of the Southwest chapter. Mostly because beans and peppers were things I already had, but also becuase it is freezing in our log cabin and I will take any reason to turn on the oven. I made a few slight adjustments to the recipe: I added more ham, I used nutmeg instead of mace, I used a poblano pepper (assuming they meant a green bell pepper), I used pinto beans and a few chickpeas instead of the allusive “pink bean,” and I used canned tomato sauce (just tomatoes, no flavoring). Here is the recipe in a legible manner.
GREEN PEPPER AND PINK BEAN CASSEROLE
(makes 4-6 servings)
3 strips bacon, cut into julienne strips
1 green pepper, washed, cored and coarsely chopped
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tablespoon minced, cooked ham (optional)
1 cup canned tomatoes
1 teaspoon brown sugar
salt and coarsely ground pepper to season
2 (1 lb) cans pink beans, drained
1. Brown the bacon slowly, add green pepper and onion, and saute gently until tender.
2. Stir in garlic, minced ham (optional), tomatoes, brown sugar, mace, salt, and black pepper, and simmer, stirring, for about 10 minutes.
3. Mix tomato sauce with pink beans and transfer mixture to a 2-quart baking dish.
4. Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes in a moderate oven, 350 degrees.
This recipe was super easy. Plain and simple. I, obviously, started and finished the recipe in the same pan – making it even easier. And turned out really deliciously. Real smokey, salty and sweet, not too tomatoey. I had to fight the urge to cover or stir the casserole, for the fear it would get to dry on top. It did not get too dry, it was pretty much a perfect texture.
So, for a easy delicious nutritious warm winter meal (or side dish) this comes highly recommended.