Due to its largely desert climate, Nevada has relatively few food products that influence local cooking. For Native Americans and early settlers, few foods were available. Local cuisine gradually developed into very plain, simple dishes. Potatoes in a very rich butter, cream, and cheese sauce are a popular side with plain meats. Casseroles using ingredients such as mushrooms, beef, and spinach or ham, mushrooms, and potato feature a similar rich sauce.
Basque and Mexican-American communities contributed a spicier style of cooking, and residents relocated from California have pushed current trends toward fresh, high-end foods. Many dishes have a mixed heritage. German and Scandinavian settlers, for example, brought recipes for meatballs. Although the original sausage-beef formula of these settlers is still popular, meatballs are usually dressed up with extras such as tomatoes, olives, and spices.
Nevada is something of an immigration magnet, and new residents from other states, particularly in the South, have brought their own local foods to the table, such as buttermilk corn bread, and string beans or okra stewed with tomatoes and bacon. The Nevada version of these vegetables usually features cayenne pepper or hot chilies. Middle-American staples such as beef and bean chili also get a slightly spicier treatment in Nevada, sometimes with an assortment of southwestern peppers. Pine nuts are the one notable local product, and they commonly dress side dishes such as rice pilafs, vegetables, and lettuce or spinach salads. They also flavor cookies, and take pride of place in pine nut brittle.
-World Trade Press