Now that the November holidays are approaching, creative side dishes for this project got pushed to the front of the line - interesting vegetables, in particular, are really challenging when restricted to canned and dried products. My inspiration came from Native American tribes, whose nonperishable staples are still used today. Their staple foods were important for both travel and for trade; thus, native dried maize (corn) and beans were spread throughout the Americas. Perhaps the most famous recipe using these native staples is succotash, a simple stew made from beans, corn, wild onions, sunflower seeds and animal fat - traditionally bear fat, but once adopted by European settlers, "pickled pork" enters the recipe and most modern versions are made with bacon.
Of course, these shelf-stable staples are still available to us, (well, with the exception of bear fat) even in the food desert! However, it's always good to have something a little more versatile in your lexicon - say, something that could easily work as a quick appetizer in addition to being a side. Thus, we employ the versatile artichoke, and make this native food into a one-bite snack.
Food Desert Succotash
2 tbsp dried minced onion
1 tbsp dried chives
2 tbsp white wine
1 can corn, drained and rinsed
1 can beans, drained and rinsed
1 can roasted red peppers
1 tbsp EVOO (or I suppose you could use bacon fat and add crumbled bacon)
1 tsp mustard
Soak the onion and chives in the white wine overnight (alternatively, put them in the microwave for 30 seconds on high and allow to steep until most of the liquid is absorbed.) Combine the first 6 ingredients...
...and sauté in the olive oil/bacon grease until fragrant; stir in mustard. Serves 8. Nutritional Information. You can also chill this and serve it with a viniagrette as a salad...or move on to recipe # 2
1/4 recipe Food Desert Succotash
1 8-10 count can whole artichokes
3 tbsp roasted salted sunflower seeds
1 tbsp french fried onions
1/2 slice bread
Drizzle of olive oil
Cut a small bit off the bottom of each artichoke so it will stand up on its own. Loosen the outer 2 rows of leaves slightly with your fingers so you can pull out the inner leaves,* being careful that the outer leaves remain attached to the bottom.
Fill the cavity with succotash, repeating until all artichokes are stuffed.
Break the bread into small chunks. Add sunflower seeds, bread, and french fried onions to your blender and blend until the bread is crumbled - don't let it become a paste. Drizzle with olive oil and top the artichokes with this mixture.
Place in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes; finish under the broiler for a few seconds to crisp and brown the topping. (This is an excellent recipe for a toaster oven, BTW.) Serves 5 for appetizers, or 3 for dinner. Nutritional Information.
* You weren't going to throw away those artichoke cores, were you? Good heavens, don't do that! Stay tuned for a later installment of the food desert project where we will put them to good use; in the meantime they are safely tucked away in a sealed container in the freezer....
I believe any dish, even one that’s strange to you, communicates the care of the farmer, forager, market and cook who brought it to your plate. At my blog, Quips, Travails and Braised Oxtails I put on my explorer hat, roll up my sleeves (and sometimes the sleeves of innocent bystanders) and share my adventures in cooking, eating, and understanding our relationship to food.
I also offer in-home cooking classes and parties for the culinarily challenged in the Chicago North Shore area.