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.
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.
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.