Friday, August 7, 2020

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Cook of the Month: Donita Fischer

Donita Fischer

Foodie is a great way to describe Donita Fischer, who has a passion for food. Her knowledge has grown over the years and she has developed many cooking methods that have been inspired by the opportunities she has experienced.

“I love food. I love sourcing it, preparing it, and eating it. Like most families in this area, food connects us as do the celebrations, holidays, funerals and where we gather together,” she said.

Donita attributes her cooking skills to her late maternal grandmother, Belle Jewett, who passed away 25 years ago the day after Christmas.

“She was truly the epitome of making something out of nothing and her main ingredient was love. As we visited her in the hospital, she encouraged us to cook our Christmas meal and she taught me her stuffing-from-scratch recipe. Over the years, I’ve changed it up, but she’s always over my shoulder, repeating the steps in her soft, kind voice,” said Donita.

Having a wide variety of exposure to many diverse and unique food has given her many opportunities to capture the essence of culinary cuisine from cultures across the world. Her recent travels to Italy expanded her love to learn more about other cultures and food preparation.

“My love of food combined with my love of travel, definitely carries over into my cooking. I recently celebrated ‘five decades of eating’, traveling across Italy with my sisters. Our hosts in Tuscany treated us to simple, authentic Italian cooking and the many restaurants we visited didn’t disappoint. We are truly connected as humans, through our stomachs, our hearts, and in the soul food we share,” she said.

Through her work with the Intertribal Agriculture Council, she has attended the Great Lakes Intertribal Food Summit for the past five years. This summit is the largest gathering of Native culinary masters in the country.

“These chefs have opened my eyes and palate to some amazing indigenous meals, but mostly have taught me to look within our own borders to source products, choose sustainable ingredients, and to look outside for flavors that enhance the food while honoring our traditions and culture,” she said.

Here are a few recipes Donita has shared and introduced for your next family gathering or to just enjoy experimenting new cooking techniques.

Wild Rice Stuffing

1 loaf French bread or any kind of bread on hand (just not sourdough)

2 lbs. ground deer sausage (or Italian), browned

2 cups chopped mushrooms (portabella)

1 cup cooked wild rice (31 minutes is the magic number in an Instant Pot)

1 large onion, chopped

3 carrots, chopped

3 stalks celery, chopped

Seasonings: herbs de Provence, sage, salt and pepper

1 qt. Broth (chicken, vegetable or whatever you have on hand)

Cube bread and roast in 275 degree oven for 25 minutes or until sakA (Lakota for hard), while bread is roasting. Chop onion, carrots and celery and sauté with 2-3 tablespoons of butter, ghee or your fat of choice. Add seasonings and browned sausage, place in roasting pan. Sauté mushrooms in same skillet and add to roasting pan with the cooked wild rice and mix well. Cover pan with the dried bread and add the broth. Mix gently and thoroughly. Place dish, uncovered in 350 degree oven for 30-45 minutes. Let sit for about 15 minutes and fluff with a fork before serving.

Left over steak hash

This is a family favorite that I like to make with leftover Bob’s steak. I usually use vegetables I have on hand and love to add a variety of colors. The key is to chop everything small and sauté everything together in butter or ghee.

Grilled steak leftovers, about 2 cups

1 cup diced butternut squash or sweet potato

½ cup diced red peppers

1 cup chopped kale

1 medium onion, diced

Seasonings: herbs de Provence, sage, salt and pepper

Refrigerator pickles

Can you keep pickles in their fridge for more than a weekend? Hehe, this is a quick recipe if you have some extra cucumbers.

1-2 cucumbers sliced into rounds or spears (I used gherkins from the Black Hills Farmers

Market – enough for 4qts)

1/2 onion, sliced

2 cloves garlic, peeled

½ tsp dried dill, per jar or a sprig of fresh dill

2 cups water

1/2 cup distilled white vinegar

1 1/2 tsp salt

2 Tbsp sugar

Slice the cucumbers, onions and garlic, place them, along with the dill into quart size mason jars. Heat water, vinegar, salt and sugar to a boil. Stir until sugar is dissolved, remove from heat. Pour the vinegar solution into the mason jar and seal with a lid. Store in the refrigerator. Seriously, that’s it! They will be ready overnight and will keep for just a couple weeks. For variation, you can add, jalapeños or red chili flakes to spice it up.