Appetites: 'Corn Dance' cookbook weaves together Indigenous and Southwest traditions

A cookbook cover
"Corn Dance: Inspired First American Cuisine" by Loretta Barrett Oden with Beth Dooley features recipes that bring together the two different cultures that shaped Oden.

After years of putting it off, famed Native chef Loretta Barrett Oden is finally out with a cookbook. She credits Minnesota food writer and co-author Beth Dooley for pinning her down.

“The University of Oklahoma press had been chasing Loretta for years trying to get a cookbook out of her and she’s been too busy,” Dooley recalled. “So I said, ‘Well, I’m not too busy. I can chase her and get her to sit down and write this thing’. And that's what we did.”

The strategy worked. “Corn Dance: Inspired First American Cuisine” is out now. Oden learned the recipes and knowledge of Potawatomi cooking on her mother’s side of the family from her grandmother and aunts.

“All of the recipes and the knowledge that I’ve gleaned have really come down through generations and generations of women,” said Oden. “And that’s my passion is to finally get all of this information — or as much as I can — into print and out to a larger audience.”

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On her father’s side, she’s a Mayflower descendant. She says growing up in these two worlds sparked a curiosity to create a hybrid of Native cuisine. This fusion is what characterizes the recipes in Corn Dance.

To hear the full interview with Barrett Oden and Dooley, click play on the audio player above. A recipe from the cookbook is also below.

Three Sisters and Friends Salad


A colorful salad
The colorful 'Three Sisters and Friends' salad is based on the three sisters of native cuisine: corn, beans and squash.
Courtesy of Mette Nielsen

1/2 cup dried heirloom beans, soaked overnight, or 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup quinoa (a mix of red, black, and white or all one color)

1/2 cup hand-harvested wild rice

1/2 cup lightly grilled or roasted corn kernels (see note)

1/2 cup diced tender, small zucchini or summer squash, unpeeled

1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

3 tablespoons chopped cilantro

1 tablespoon minced red onion

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon serrano chili, seeded, deveined, and minced

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Note: To roast corn kernels, film a skillet with a little oil, and set it over medium-high heat. Add the corn kernels, and sauté until they’re nicely browned, about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove and cool before adding the roasted corn to the batter. You can also grill a whole ear of corn over an open fire until it’s lightly toasted. Remove the corn and, when cool, cut the kernels from the cob.


1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar

1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

In a small bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the vinaigrette.


Drain the beans, and transfer them to a large saucepan. Add enough water to cover the beans by 4 inches.

Set the saucepan over high heat, and bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat, and simmer the beans, covered, until they’re tender, about 35 to 45 minutes (older beans may need to cook longer). Drain the beans.

Rinse the quinoa thoroughly. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil, and add the quinoa. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer on medium-low until the quinoa’s germ, or tail, appears, about 12 to 15 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat, drain any remaining water from the quinoa, and fluff it with a fork.

Rinse the wild rice under cold running water until it runs clear. Transfer it to a pot, and add enough water to cover the rice by 4 inches.

Set the pot over high heat, and bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat, and simmer until the rice opens and is tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Drain off any excess water.