Have a Native Grilled Food Feast this Fourth of July

When we think about grilling, we think about hamburgers, hot dogs, ribs and chicken. How about grille Native food?

The Fourth of July is like the grilling championships. Whether or not you celebrate the “birth” of the United States, it’s a great three-day weekend to spend with family and show off your outdoor culinary skills.

When we think about grilling, we think about hamburgers, hot dogs, ribs and chicken. Those are all well and tasty, but I wanted something a little different. I decided that my friends and I would cook Native foods on the grill. I don’t know why I call this “different” because it’s our, Native food.

“What are Native foods?” we pondered; trying to pull ourselves away from visions of hot dogs.

Corn. That’s a start.

Squash. Yes.

We live in the city, so we couldn’t get as Native and intricate as we wanted, but we came up with a pretty tasty menu with lots of vegetables.

Three Sister’s salad, wild rice, potato salad, salmon, bison burgers and frybread.

Above is grilled butternut squash. We cut some of these slices up for the Three Sisters salad, which is squash, corn and beans.

I’m not a nutritionist, but I imagine this meal is a lot healthier than meats in sauce and salads with mayonnaise and whipped cream bases. We kept everything simple with olive oil, salt and pepper and a few fresh herbs from the garden.

My dad put a potato on the grill a few years ago and it’s been on our family cookout menu ever since. Small- to medium-sized potatoes that are cut down the middle, lengthwise cook very well on the grill when the temperature is low.

I also had a potato salad at a Belgian restaurant once. And the simplicity of it (potato, green onion, olive oil and salt) really did the potato justice and I never forgot it. So I thought I’d keep it simple at this cookout too.

A little bit of fresh sage gives this potato salad an extra bit of earthiness.

Before it went on the grill, we squeezed a lemon on a salmon filet. It sat for a few minutes before we drenched it with olive oil and laid it on the grill.

I had never grilled salmon before, so I was nervous when it came time to flip it over. It took two of us and two spatulas to do the job and we executed perfectly.

Oh, don’t worry, I’m getting to the bison burgers.

I had never grilled bison patties outside, but I figured they are just like hamburgers. Not really. Bison has so little fat, the patties stuck to the grill. At that point, all I could do was wait for them to develop a crust that would be strong enough to withstand vigorous scrapping. After a dash of oil, I could move them easily around the grill.

For the wild rice or manoomin (from the Fond du Lac reservation) I added toasted pine nuts, plumped-up dried cranberries and some tasty butter. This is one of my favorite dishes since my friends and I ordered wild rice from a Fond Du Lac friend last year.

I served it in a grilled acorn squash.

I thought the meatiness of the bison would go well with nutty arugula, garlic aioli and tangy blue cheese. And, boy, was I right. No, blue cheese and aioli are not Native, but $30 worth of ground bison needs something to make it pop.

Our feast of grilled Native foods was satisfying and delicious. We weren’t familiar with how to cook all of the ingredients but with our collective culinary experience, we made this feast one for the books.

If you’re grilling this weekend, what Native foods are on planning to grill?

Andi Murphy, Navajo, is an associate producer for Native America Calling radio program, a photographer and a foodie. Her food blog is titled “Toasted Sister.” She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

This story was originally published on Jul 2, 2016.

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