Above: Try these recipes from Freddie J. Bitsoie’s new book, New Native Kitchen: Celebrating Modern Recipes of the American Indian (from Cultural Blend, November 2021). Photograph by Quentin Bacon.
Our spiritual connections to food have always been honored and reflected in ceremonies, one of which is the Bean Dance, vital to the coming-of-age ceremony for Hopi children. Keep that in mind as you prepare this comforting stew, best served with grilled or roasted meats, or spooned over wild rice for a delicious vegetarian dinner. I prefer the combination of kidney, cannellini, and black beans, but substitute what you have or what you like: pinto, great northern, or cranberry beans. If you like a little heat, add roasted chiles. Their smoky spice pairs beautifully with the sautéed onions and garlic.
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 small onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
½ carrot, peeled and finely diced
½ stalk celery, finely diced
Salt, to taste
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
1 cup cooked kidney beans
1 cup cooked cannellini beans
1 cup cooked black beans
½ cup diced tomatoes
2½ cups chicken or vegetable stock
Serves 4 to 6
Into a large, heavy-bottom pot over medium heat, add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, carrot, and celery. Season with a pinch each of salt and pepper and allow the ingredients to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add the cooked beans, diced tomatoes, and stock. Bring to a light boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for several minutes; the stock will thicken.
Adjust the seasoning if necessary. Remove the thyme sprigs and bay leaf and serve hot. This stew can be refrigerated for three to four days or frozen for four to six months.
Prickly pear cactus began growing in the deserts of North America about 3 million years ago, so it’s always appeared in recipes passed down from the Akimel O’odham and Tohono O’odham. In late August the deserts are accented with the cacti’s rich, dark-pink fruit, signaling that it’s time to harvest. This recipe sticks with a tradition of combining fruits, nuts, and foraged greens, but I update it with a zesty sprinkling of queso fresco to bring some tart saltiness to the sweeter elements. If you can’t find prickly pear juice or syrup in your grocery store, you can easily find it online. Just skip the agave if you’re using syrup instead of juice—you don’t want to oversweeten the dressing.
MIXED GREENS SALAD
2 cups julienned green apple
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 cups julienned jicama
1 cup julienned red onion
½ cup chopped pecans
1 cup loosely packed mixed greens
1 cup chopped dandelion leaves
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
½ cup crumbled queso fresco
PRICKLY PEAR VINAIGRETTE
1 shallot, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
Zest and juice of 1 lime
3 tablespoons prickly pear juice
1 tablespoon agave nectar
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
Serves 6 to 8
For the vinaigrette, in a small bowl, place the shallot, garlic, lime zest and juice, prickly pear juice, and agave nectar. Drizzle in the oil while whisking. Continue to whisk until emulsified.
Stir in salt and pepper and reserve until ready to use. Any remaining dressing can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
In a medium bowl, combine the apple and lemon juice. Toss well, then add the jicama, onion, pecans, mixed greens, and dandelion leaves.
Add just enough Prickly Pear Vinaigrette to lightly coat the leaves. Season with 2 teaspoons salt and 2 teaspoons pepper and gently toss. Garnish with the queso fresco and serve.
New Native Kitchen: Celebrating Modern Recipes of the American Indian is available at bookstores throughout the country. Learn more about Freddie J. Bitsoie’s work, including his partnership with famed Italian chef Lidia Bastianich, on his Rezervations Not Required Facebook page.