Photography: Sean Sherman/Courtesy The Sioux Chef

These truly American recipes make for party hits.

When one thinks of modern cuisine, invariably thoughts lead to images of preciously plated micro everything, a lot of empty plate space, and tweezers — so many tweezers. When one thinks of Native American food, invariably thoughts lead to images of fry bread and Indian tacos. As Sean Sherman shows us in The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen, that’s not always the case. Here are but two examples.

Smoked Whitefish and White Bean Spread

(Makes 1½ cups)

This creamy spread is great with our amaranth crackers or piled high on corn cakes or wild rice cakes.

1 cup shredded smoked whitefish or trout
½ cup cedar-braised beans (recipe follows)
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
Pinch sumac
Pinch maple sugar

Put the whitefish, beans, and oil into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse to create a rough, thick consistency. Season to taste with the sumac and maple sugar.

Cedar-Braised Beans

(Makes 2½ – 3 cups)

Just a small branch of cedar adds flavor to these beans and helps to stimulate digestion and strengthen the immune system. We make up a big batch of these beans each week, then work them into a variety of dishes — appetizers, soups, and entrées. The first step is to soak the beans before cooking; it cuts the time in half. (This recipe is easily doubled or tripled.)

We like to use a mix of heirloom beans for a variety of colors, textures, and flavors. Because of the varied cooking times, we cook them separately and then combine them in a soup, hot dish, or salad before finishing the dish. Be sure to save the bean cooking water for a stock to use in soups and stews.

1 cup dried beans
3 cups cold water
1 5 – 6-inch cedar branch
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Ground juniper, for garnish

Put the beans in a large pot or bowl and cover with water by 3 inches. Allow to soak for at least 6 hours or overnight. Drain the beans and transfer to a medium saucepan or soup pot.

Add 3 cups of cold water to the pot and lay the cedar branch over the beans. Set the pot over high heat, bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until the beans are very soft. Begin tasting after about 25 minutes of simmering. Remove and discard the cedar. Drain and reserve the cooking liquid for soups and stews. Serve the beans or store in a covered container in the refrigerator for several days or freeze.

For Maple Beans: Stir 1 – 2 tablespoons of maple syrup into the pot before removing the beans from the stove.

For Mashed Beans: Put the beans and a little of the cooking liquid into a large bowl. Using an immersion blender, food processor fitted with a steel blade or blender, purée the beans to make a thick paste. Season with salt and ground juniper.


Read more about The Sioux Chef, Sean Sherman and his team in the October 2017 and the January 2016 issues.

Recipes adapted and edited with permission from The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen by Sean Sherman with Beth Dooley (University of Minnesota Press, 2017). © 2017 Ghost Dancer LLC.


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