The Time of Food : A Catalogue of Native American Cooking


The first museum founded in Los Angeles happens to specialize in the first Americans. The Southwest Museum, established in 1907, is one of the most important archives anywhere for materials related to American Indians, particularly of the West: the Northwest Coast, the Southwest, the Great Basin and California. Among the materials it has collected are, not surprisingly, recipes.

It has just published a collection of them, “Southwest Cooks!” The book includes not only recipes and some stunning photographs from the museum archives (including the photo on the cover of this section and on H8) but a shopping guide for Indian ingredients such as bison meat, chokecherries and acorn flour. (You might not know that acorn flour, the staple food of many California Indians, is available at most Korean markets: Ask for do to ri mook ga roo .)

“Southwest Cooks!” is $14.95 and can be ordered from the Southwest Museum, P.O. Box 41558, Los Angeles 90041-0558. Proceeds benefit the Museum.

From the Great Plains comes this recipe for a green that can still be gathered wild--if you have a large and tragically weedy lawn. Many supermarkets also carry dandelion greens these days.



1 1/2 pounds dandelion greens

3 tablespoons duck or bacon fat

1 large clove garlic, minced


Salt, pepper

Place greens in large pot filled with boiling water and boil until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and place in bowl filled with ice water.

When greens are cool, drain again. Chop and set aside.

When ready to serve, heat fat in large skillet, add garlic and cook briefly, stirring. Add blanched dandelion greens and cook only until heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes 4 servings.

Each serving contains about:

113 calories; 109 mg sodium; 10 mg cholesterol; 10 grams fat; 5 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams protein; 1.03 grams fiber; 80% calories from fat.

The economy of the river-dwelling Northwest Coast Indians was based on salmon, but cod and halibut were as important for island- and coast-dwellers.



1 1/2 pounds boneless fish such as cod, halibut or snapper

6 crushed juniper berries

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 to 4 tablespoons whipping cream


3 tablespoons cornmeal

2 tablespoons oil

Combine fish and juniper berries in saucepan. Add water to cover. Bring to boil and simmer gently until just cooked through, about 10 minutes per inch of thickness. Remove, cool and flake. Reserve poaching liquid. Cook sweet potatoes in poaching liquid until tender.


Drain sweet potatoes, mash coarsely and mix with fish. Bind with whipping cream, add salt to taste and form into patties. Coat patties with cornmeal and fry in hot oil until brown on both sides. Alternatively, patties may be brushed with oil and browned under broiler. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Each serving contains about:

144 calories; 179 mg sodium; 23 mg cholesterol; 3 grams fat; 22 grams carbohydrates; 7 grams protein; 0.68 grams fiber; 20% calories from fat.

In much of California, Indians lived largely on acorns, laboriously leached of their tannin and ground into flour. This recipe combines them with pine nuts and sour dried cherries (standing in for dried chokecherries).


1/2 cup dried sour cherries, pitted

1/2 cup pine nuts

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

6 tablespoons brown sugar

6 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup acorn flour (do to ri mook ga roo)

3/4 cup bread flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Soak cherries in water overnight. Drain and set on plate until dried to firmness of raisins. Chop coarsely.

Toast pine nuts in dry skillet until light gold. Cream butter and slowly add sugars. Mix in egg and vanilla. Sift together acorn and bread flours, then measure and sift again with salt and soda. Stir into butter mixture. Stir in cherries and nuts.

Drop by tablespoons onto greased baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees 8 minutes. Remove from baking sheets and cool on rack. Makes about 45 cookies.

Note: Raisins or other dried berries may be substituted for sour cherries.

Each serving contains about:

69 calories; 49 mg sodium; 10 mg cholesterol; 4 grams fat; 8 grams carbohydrates; 1 grams protein; 0.13 grams fiber; 51% calories from fat.