Healthy, Hearty Harvest Recipes

As summer fades, the days darken and our shadows grow. From one of my preferred cookbooks come fall, New Native Kitchen: Celebrating Modern Recipes of the American Indian, I’m compelled to share several contemporary recipes inspired by rich Indigenous cuisine and fresh flavors. These autumn dishes represent and celebrate a thriving culture that remains a current, present, and relevant part of the Pacific Northwest. Warm, nourishing dishes like a hearty bison chili, braised chicken and decadent bread pudding are integral to maintaining wellness throughout the cooler months while offering a snapshot of just how easy and accessible Native American cooking can be.

Chocolate Bison Chili

Chocolate has a long, sacred history in Indigenous recipes. In 2000, the Chickasaw Nation became the only Native American community to create its own brand of artisanal chocolate. This recipe draws on ancient tradition to create a spicy, savory, herbaceous chili with a hint of that bittersweet goodness.

Braised Chicken Thighs with Sage & Chokecherry Sauce

I love braised chicken thighs because they’re flavorful, easy to prepare and the perfect vehicle for this delicious sauce. Chokecherries were a staple food for Indigenous tribes, a common ingredient in recipes passed down from the Nez Perce, who cooked or dried them to offset the berry’s bitterness. Think of this dish as a new take on the familiar turkey-cranberry combination.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Indigenous recipes did include lightly sweetened, spiced, and roasted squash, but pumpkin breads or pies didn’t exist in traditional Native American recipes. If you’re interested in a pumpkin dessert, try this nutty, chocolaty, decadent bread pudding as a delicious alternative to the expected holiday pie.

See Below for all the recipes.

Chocolate Bison Chili

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and small dice
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 pound ground bison
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 can (14 ounces) diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 can (14 ounces) kidney beans
  • 3 cups bison or beef stock
  • 1⁄2 pound semisweet chocolate
  • Sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper

Preparation

  1. In a heavy stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat, add the oil, onion, garlic, bell pepper, thyme and bay leaf. Sauté until the vegetables are soft, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the bison, salt and pepper, then sear the meat while stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula. Cook for about 8 minutes
  3. Add the tomato paste and allow the paste to brown but do not burn.
  4. Add the cumin, coriander, paprika, cayenne pepper and diced tomatoes. Use the juice of the diced tomatoes to deglaze the bottom of the pot.
  5. Add the kidney beans and stock and bring to a boil. Note: Do not overboil or the beans will tear apart. Allow to boil for about 5 minutes, then simmer.
  6. Add the chocolate, then allow the chili to reduce to a nice stew consistency. Adjust the seasoning, if necessary, remove the thyme sprigs, and serve immediately.

Braised Chicken Thighs with Sage & Chokecherry Sauce

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 4 chicken thighs, boneless
  • 1 small onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 cup cranberry juice
  • 1/4 cup chokecherry preserves
  • 2 cups chicken stock

Preparation

  1. Place a heavy-bottomed large sauté pan over high heat and add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the chicken thighs and sear on all sides until crusted
  2. Remove the chicken and reduce heat to medium-low. Add to the pan the onion, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, sage, salt and pepper. Sauté until the onions are translucent.
  3. Add the cranberry juice and deglaze the pan. Soon as the cranberry juice is cooked off, return the chicken thighs to the pan.
  4. Add the chokecherry preserves and chicken stock. Stir to incorporate, reduce the heat to low-medium and cover the pan. Allow the chicken to braise for 30 to 35 minutes.
  5. Uncover the pan and let the liquid reduce by half. Adjust the seasoning, if necessary, remove the thyme sprigs, and serve the chicken immediately with the sauce spooned over the top.

Pumpkin Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup pumpkin purée
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preparation

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Sift the flour, salt, sugar and baking soda into a mixing bowl.
  3. n another bowl, add 1/4 cup of water, the pumpkin purée, oil, eggs, nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice. Mix well to combine.
  4. Whisk the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture. Then stir in the walnuts.
  5. Grease a standard loaf pan (8-1/2 x 4-1/2 x 2-1/2 inches) with the butter. Pour the mixture into the pan and place on a sheet pan. Transfer to the oven and bake until cooked through, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 loaf Pumpkin Bread, (recipe above) cut into cubes of 1 1/2 inches
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Preparation

  1. Grease a 9-inch square baking dish with the butter. Arrange the diced pumpkin bread evenly on the bottom and set aside.
  2. In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla, until well incorporated. Set aside.
  3. In a small saucepot over medium heat, bring the milk to a heavy simmer. Once simmering, slowly whisk the hot milk into the egg mixture. Note: Whisk slowly; if you add the hot milk all at once, the eggs will curdle.
  4. Slowly pour into the greased pan, over the diced pumpkin bread. Make sure all the bread is soaked with the mixture. Sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over the top. Transfer to the refrigerator and let set for about 2 hours.
  5. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F
  6. Prepare a water bath, which is used to keep baked items very moist, by filling a baking or ovenproof pan that’s larger than the 9-inch square with hot water. Slowly place the square inside the larger pan.
  7. Carefully transfer to the oven and bake until cooked through, 45 to 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve warm.

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