Growing up in an Anglo-American household in rural Ohio, Andrea Murdoch found herself far, geographically and culturally, from her Indigenous roots. In fact, it wasn’t until she was around 28 years old that the Andean native of Venezuela, who was adopted and brought to the United States as a young child, embarked on a life-changing mission to explore Native heritages—both her own and those of other original inhabitants of the Americas.

Already a chef trained in fine-dining techniques by the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, Murdoch first turned to members of the Oneida Indian Nation to learn about Indigenous culinary traditions. Their ancestral homelands include the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, area where she was living in 2015. “The generosity in sharing knowledge, their creation story, and so much more was so impactful and healing for me,” Murdoch says, “that I dove headfirst into this work of Indigenous foods, sovereignty, and etymology and haven’t looked back since.”

Andrea Murdoch and her dog, Roja. Photograph by Aaron Colussi. Styling: Hat by Mali Textiles; Apron by Valentich Goods; shot on location @thedenverstonehouse

Six years ago, after moving to Denver to be close to the mountains that remind her of her brief time in the Andes, Murdoch launched Four Directions Cuisine, a catering company that fuses Native North, South, and Central American ingredients and techniques to produce dishes such as bison-stuffed arepas and Ute corn cakes. “As a displaced Indigenous person living on land originally stewarded by other Indigenous nations, I am responsible for learning their history as if it were my own,” Murdoch says, “and then sharing that knowledge in appropriate educational ways.”

That side dish of education can be heavy: Through her pop-up dinners, classes, and speaking engagements, Murdoch raises funds for and educates diners about causes close to her heart, such as the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls movement. (According to the National Institute of Justice, four out of five Indigenous women experience violence in their lifetimes, and Native women and girls are 10 times more likely to be murdered than people of other ethnicities.) Murdoch also connects violence against women with the destruction of Native lands, explaining that although crimes are committed by individuals, a long history of harmful government policies and the displacement of Indigenous peoples have created conditions ripe for these tragedies to occur.

As such, Murdoch hopes her food—including the fall-bounty-filled feast spread out on the following pages—inspires individuals to respect both the land from which her ingredients come and the earth’s historical stewards. ‘‘Stories are told when preparing and consuming food,” she says, “so I wanted to offer recipes that would cultivate an environment of people coming together to prepare food, talk, and be in relationship with one another.”

Grilled Garden Vegetables

You can opt for any assortment of seasonal veggies for this recipe. Murdoch favors squash, tomatoes, and corn—all grown in her yard, where she has cultivated a precolonial edible garden featuring produce native to the Americas, including traditionally Andean crops such as oca and mashua (potatolike vegetables). She also hosts workshops on-site that teach aspiring gardeners how to sow their own seeds.

Photograph by Aaron Colussi

Serves 4

1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
3 bell peppers (yellow, red, and orange)
6–8 Tbs. sunflower oil
¾ tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. sumac
½ tsp. dried sage
12 oz. tomatoes on the vine
2 local or heritage corn ears, shucked and halved
1 bunch of green onions

1. Cut the zucchini and yellow squash into ¼-inch planks lengthwise and set aside.

2. Cut the tops and bottoms off the bell peppers and discard. Remove the seeds and white pith, then cut into quarters.

3. Whisk the oil with the salt, sumac, and dried sage in a large bowl and gently toss the vegetables—including the tomatoes, corn, and whole green onions—in the mixture.

4. Preheat the grill to about 400° and cook the vegetables directly on the grill. Turn them every two to three minutes until the tomatoes are blistered, the corn is amber-colored, the squashes and bell peppers are al dente (and have crosshatch grill marks, if you desire), and the green onions are wilted. This should take 13 to 15 minutes.

Jicama Slaw

Jicama is a globe-shaped root vegetable originally cultivated in Mexico. Its starchy white interior has a slightly sweet, subtly nutty flavor that brings a pleasant crunch to salads. Murdoch’s slaw holds up well in the refrigerator for up to six days.

Serves 4 to 6

Jicama Slaw. Photograph by Aaron Colussi

1 poblano pepper
½ medium red onion, julienned
2 bell peppers (any color), julienned
1 lb. jicama, peeled
1∕3 cup cilantro, chopped
2 tsp. sea salt
¼ cup sunflower oil
Juice of two limes

1. Char the poblano on a grill, preheated to about 400°, or a comal (pan/griddle) on the stovetop on medium heat, turning as needed until the flesh is tender (about eight to 10 minutes). Once it’s cool, peel, seed, and dice the pepper and place it in a mixing bowl.

2. Soak the red onion slices in cold water for five minutes to tame the flavor. Drain and add, along with the bell pepper, to the bowl with the poblano.

3. Using a box grater, grate the jicama on the larger side and add it to the mix.

4. Toss together with the chopped cilantro, sea salt, oil, and fresh-squeezed lime juice. Add more salt if you prefer.

Shredded Bison

This recipe honors the Northern Plains Indian Tribes—whose cultures, spiritual lives, and traditions are interwoven with the bison that once roamed the Great Plains—and highlights the importance of protecting Indigenous foodways. Any cut of bison roast, such as chuck, will work in place of the top round.

The slow-simmered bison plays well with Murdoch’s salsa trio. Photograph by Aaron Colussi

Serves 4 to 6

2 lb. bison top round
½ tsp. sea salt
¾ tsp. dried sage
¼–1∕3 cup sunflower oil
1 medium white or yellow onion, peeled and quartered
3 Roma tomatoes, quartered
2 red bell peppers, quartered
4–6garlic cloves
1½–2 qt. vegetable stock (enough to cover the meat)
1 small dried ají amarillo (or 2 Tbs. of ají amarillo paste or 1 fresh habanero or Scotch bonnet pepper)

Photograph by Aaron Colussi

1. Dry the bison by leaving it uncovered in the refrigerator overnight or up to two days, which will help the meat gain a nice sear.

2. Season the bison with salt and sage. In a cast-iron Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Sear the bison, turning occasionally, until it is browned on all sides (about five minutes).

3. Add the onion, tomato, bell peppers, and garlic and cook for three minutes.

4. Add the stock and chile. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and slow-cook on the stovetop for four to five hours or until the meat shreds easily when pulled with two forks.

5. Remove the protein from the liquid and shred. To make a thin sauce to serve with the meat, blend the braising liquid, including the vegetable pieces, until smooth. Taste and add more salt if you prefer.

Andrea making salsa. Photograph by Aaron Colussi

Salsa Trio

Murdoch recommends making salsa—a food with origins in South America and Mesoamerica (a historical region that spans from central Mexico to northern Costa Rica)—with a molcajete and tejolote, or a mortar and pestle. “That just adds to the specialness, because then you’re downshifting from a quick, easy, mechanical process to a more intentional, handmade, ancestral process and tradition,” she says. These three blends are designed to complement Murdoch’s shredded bison, but you can also enjoy them with anything you’d usually pair with salsa, from tacos to eggs.

Each salsa makes about 1½ cups

Grilled Salsa Roja

Murdoch prefers to use sunflower oil sourced from a local company, such as Lamar’s Colorado Mills or Berthoud’s Healthy Harvest, whose goods are available online. If you can’t find kaleidoscope cherry tomatoes for this sweet, mild condiment, any multicolored variety of grape or cherry tomatoes will do.

1 poblano pepper
10 oz. kaleidoscope cherry tomatoes
3 Tbs. sunflower oil
1∕3 tsp. sea salt
¼ medium red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves
¼ cup cilantro, chopped

1. In a medium bowl, toss the poblano and tomatoes—both uncut—in sunflower oil and salt. Then char them on a grill, preheated to about 400°, or a comal on the stovetop on medium heat, turning as needed until their flesh is tender (about eight to 10 minutes). Peel and seed the pepper.

2. While the tomatoes and poblano roast, pulverize the red onion and garlic in the molcajete. When the tomatoes and poblano are ready, add them in and continue to carefully grind down the mixture into a chunky salsa.

3. Stir in the chopped cilantro. Taste and add more salt if you prefer.

Salsa Verde

A roasted serrano pepper gives Murdoch’s bright and acidic version of this classic tomatillo-based sauce, which dates back to the Aztec empire, a gently fiery punch.

6 (about 12 oz.) tomatillos, husked
1 serrano pepper
2 Tbs. sunflower oil
¼ tsp. sea salt
2 garlic cloves
¼ medium yellow onion, chopped
¼ cup cilantro, chopped

1. In a large bowl, toss the whole tomatillos and the serrano pepper in sunflower oil and salt. Then blister them on a grill, preheated to about 400°, or a comal on the stovetop on medium heat, turning as needed until their flesh is tender (about eight to 10 minutes). Remove the skins from the tomatillos and seed the pepper.

2. While the tomatillos char, pulverize the garlic and yellow onion in the molcajete. When the tomatillos and serrano are ready, add them in and continue to grind down the mixture into a chunky salsa.

3. Stir in the chopped cilantro. Taste and add more salt if you prefer.

Salsa Macha

This versatile, crunchy chile oil is often made with a medley of dried peppers and peanuts, but Murdoch uses pepitas and sunflower seeds, both native to North America, in place of the latter due to the prevalence of peanut allergies. Look for the dehydrated peppers at local Mexican supermarkets such as Mi Pueblo or Lowe’s Mercado or from online retailers like Amazon. If you can’t find any of these varieties, replace the missing amount with more of the other chiles or sub in another type.

8 dried chiles de árbol, stems removed
2 dried chiles morita, stems removed
1 dried ají amarillo, stem removed
½ cup raw pepitas
¼ cup raw sunflower kernels
8 garlic cloves
2 tsp. sea salt
1¼ cup sunflower oil

1. Using gloves, roll the chiles between your fingers to remove and discard the loose seeds.

2. In a large skillet, toast the chiles over medium heat, stirring often until they’re puffed all over (about six to eight minutes). Be sure not to burn them or your salsa will be bitter. Set aside.

3. Toast the pepitas and sunflower kernels in the same pan over medium heat until mostly golden brown (about five to seven minutes). Set aside.

4. Pulverize the garlic in a molcajete. Next, add the chiles and continue to grind. Then add the toasted pepitas, sunflower kernels, and salt and continue to pound; you want to crush everything without creating a paste.

5. Heat the oil in the small saucepan over medium-low heat. Meanwhile, transfer the chile mixture to a heat-safe bowl. Slowly pour the hot oil over the chile mixture, pausing three times to let it seep into the ingredients and avoid burning the garlic. Cool and store in a glass container or jar in the refrigerator for up to one month.

Roasted Potatoes

Pick up La Salle’s Strohauer Farms fingerling potatoes, which have a buttery, starchy flesh, at select Whole Foods Markets, and merquén chile seasoning, a smoky blend of crushed Chilean peppers, at Savory Spice stores.

Serves 4

1½ lb. Strohauer Farms fingerling potatoes, washed and dried
4 Tbs. sunflower oil
½ tsp. sea salt
½ tsp. merquén chile seasoning

1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. In a large bowl, toss the potatoes in the oil, salt, and merquén seasoning. Arrange them on a half-sheet pan and roast for 30 minutes or until fork-tender.

Andean Porridge

In Murdoch’s native Venezuela, mothers feed their babies porridge with nutrient-dense quinoa and amaranth (a flowering plant that yields protein-packed seeds) to wean them off their milk. In addition to being hearty and comforting, for Murdoch, the porridge, akin to elevated oatmeal or rice pudding, is a way to connect with her ancestors. She uses pepita milk, a plant-based alternative to the traditional dairy version.

Andean Porridge. Photograph by Aaron Colussi

Serves 6

For the pepita milk:
2 cups raw pepitas
3 cups water
2–3 Tbs. agave nectar
¼ tsp. sea salt

For the porridge:
4 cups pepita milk
1 cup quinoa flakes
2 Tbs. agave nectar
2 pints fresh berries, such as raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries
3 Tbs. bee pollen granules (Murdoch likes Björn’s Colorado Honey brand)

1. To make the milk: Toast the pepitas in a dry pan over medium heat until they are very fragrant and have taken on an oak color (about five to seven minutes). If they are any darker, your milk will be bitter. Cover with water, soak for eight hours, and strain. Blend the pepitas on high with the water, agave nectar, and sea salt. Store in the refrigerator in a lidded container for up to five days.

2. To make the porridge: In a large saucepan, bring your pepita milk to a simmer on medium-high heat (be careful not to scorch the liquid). Whisk in the quinoa and cook for about five minutes, whisking every minute or two to keep the porridge from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Stir in the agave nectar and remove from heat.

3. To serve: Spoon the warm porridge into small bowls and top with the washed berries and a sprinkle of bee pollen.

Blueberry Lavender Spritz

Murdoch sources dried blooms from Savory Spice to whip up a lavender sugar for this refreshing nonalcoholic sipper.

Blueberry Lavender Spritzes. Photograph by Aaron Colussi

Makes 4 drinks

For the blueberry-lime purée:
6 oz. blueberries
2∕3 cup agave nectar
Juice of one lime

For the lavender sugar:
2∕3 cup coconut palm sugar
1 tsp. dried lavender

For each spritz:
Lavender sugar
3–4 Tbs. blueberry-lime purée
Club soda
Lime wedge

1. To make the blueberry-lime purée: Blend the blueberries, agave nectar, and lime juice until smooth (squeeze in more lime if you prefer a tangier drink). It will keep in the refrigerator for up to six days.

2. To make the sugar: Combine the coconut palm sugar and lavender in a clean coffee or spice grinder and blend until combined. You can store the condiment in an airtight container, such as a mason jar, in a dry place for up to six months.

3. To serve: Cut a notch in the center of a lime wedge and run it around the rim of a glass. Put the lavender sugar in a dish that is larger than the diameter of your glass and dip the top of the glass into the sugar to dust the rim. Fill the glass with ice, add the purée, and fill it the rest of the way with club soda. Garnish with a lime wedge.

Save The Date

Don’t feel like turning on the stove? Savor Murdoch’s cooking at one of these coming events instead.

September 7: Molcajete Youth Workshop, Loveland Public Library

September 8: Tracing Andean Culture Through Food lecture and cooking demonstration, Denver Botanic Gardens

October 6: Chef Takeover, SAME Café

This article was originally published in 5280 September 2023.
Patricia Kaowthumrong
Patricia Kaowthumrong
Patricia joined the 5280 staff in July 2019 and is thrilled to oversee all of the magazine’s dining coverage. Follow her food reporting adventures on Instagram @whatispattyeating.