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Book Byte

For the Native Palate

By On The Bookshelf
Wednesday, September 22, 2004; Page F02

BOOK AND AUTHOR: "Foods of the Americas: Native Recipes and Traditions," by Fernando and Marlene Divina (Ten Speed Press, $39.95). Few American cooks know much about the food traditions of what the book calls "the Western Hemisphere's first inhabitants." Fewer still have experienced the fine cooking that can emerge from those native cultures. This beautiful book, whose release is timed to the opening of the new National Museum of the American Indian on the Mall, aims to change that. The recipes go far beyond the fry bread, tacos and other snack or fast foods sold at powwows. But they're not authentic tribal specialties, either. Instead, chef Fernando and his wife Marlene, a restaurant and menu adviser whose heritage includes the Chippewa, Cree and Assiniboine tribes, have assembled dishes that celebrate the basic ingredients, flavors and cooking techniques of native cultures from North, Central and South America.

FORMAT: The recipes have been grouped into easy-to- navigate categories that are both familiar and representative of Native American culinary traditions (For example, there's a chapter on Meats & Wild Game instead of just plain Meats; or Foods from Rivers, Lakes & Oceans instead of Fish.) Each chapter is accompanied by an illustrated food memoir, essay or explanation by a Native American writer. And each recipe is preceded by commentary related to the origins of the dish, and guidelines on how to cook or serve it. The result is an intriguing introduction to the role food plays in this world, with recipes that range from basic tamales, Ecuadorian- and Peruvian-style seviches to quinoa salad and maple- and ginger-marinated buffalo jerky.

WHO WOULD USE THIS BOOK: It's common practice in cookbooks these days to include glossaries and source lists. Extensive bibliographies are another story; the one in this book is a clear indication that it's intended for people interested in native cultures as much as it is for cooks. The recipes aren't hard to follow; but several of them aren't quickies, either. It takes time to braise a rabbit, prepare a mole, cure a salmon or turn fruits into fruit leather. But nobody's suggesting you grind your own corn.

-- Judith Weinraub

Quinoa Salad

6 to 8 servings

"Quinoa, a grain, was a major agricultural commodity of the Aztec and Inka. It is highly nutritious, very tasty and easy to prepare. Try using quinoa as an alternative to starch. Quinoa can be served hot with butter or nut oil and your favorite flavorings as an accompaniment to any meal. This salad is particularly good when sandwiched in lettuce leaves."

2 cups quinoa, rinsed and drained

1 large tomato, seeded and finely chopped

1 small red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped

1/2 cup fresh corn kernels or canned white hominy, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro

1/4 cup minced fresh mint

1 teaspoon minced garlic

3 tablespoons corn oil

3 tablespoons sherry vinegar

Juice of 1 lime

1/4 teaspoon sea or kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat and add the quinoa. Return to a boil, then decrease the heat to medium and simmer for about 10 minutes. The quinoa is cooked when all of the grains appear translucent. Drain the quinoa through a fine-mesh strainer, transfer to a baking sheet and spread out with a fork. Allow to cool completely.

Transfer the quinoa to a bowl and add the tomato, bell pepper, corn, cilantro, mint, garlic, oil, vinegar, lime juice, salt and pepper. Toss well and serve immediately.

Per serving (based on 8): 223 calories, 6 gm protein, 34 gm carbohydrates, 8 gm fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1 gm saturated fat, 85 mg sodium, 3 gm dietary fiber

© 2004 The Washington Post Company