Sunday, January 11, 2009

Three Sisters Stew

Three Sisters Stew is a traditional dish of the Native American tribes of the southwestern United States. It draws on the ancient subsistence crops of the Americas: corn, beans, and squash.

I like to make Three Sisters Stew in the fall and early winter to enjoy locally grown butternut squash. Early in the season, I'm able to add some of our homegrown garden tomatoes. But now in January, I have to rely on the vacuum packed tomatoes from our fall CSA shares from Sandhill Organics in Grayslake, IL. When those fabulous tomatoes are gone, I rely on Muir Glen Fire Roasted tomatoes. For the beans, I usually use organic black beans, tossing in some pinto or roman beans to make a creamier texture. While dried, soaked beans are ideal, canned work just as well and take less time. Add some roasted corn (Trader Joes has a tasty frozen corn) and you are good to go.

As part of a vegetarian diet, corn, beans, and squash include key vitmains and minerals. The squash provides beta-carotene and a host of nutrients. The beans add protein, which becomes a complete protein if you serve this dish with brown rice or another grain such as millet.

As part of a local diet, it's a great dish for the fall, using ingredients grown throughout the Illinois and the Midwest.

Here is my version of this traditional dish.

Serves 6
1 large butternut squash, peeled and cut into one-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
Olive oil
1 leek (or small onion), chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, cut into cubes (about 1 cup)
Small amount of poblano pepper, seeded and cut into strips (jalapeno can also be used)
1 14-16 oz can of diced tomatoes and juice (Muir Glen organic fire roasted preferred)
Mix the following seasonings as you have available:
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground chipotle (or use chili powder)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
Dash of tomato powder
Dash of ancho chili powder
1 cup vegetable stock
2 cups canned, drained beans (pinto, black, dark kidney – mix and match)
1-2 cups corn (sweet white preferred, Trader Joes roasted is even better)
Fresh cilantro

Note – you can skip baking the squash and microwave or steam until tender, or just cook the whole stew longer.

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Peel and cut the squash into one inch cubes. Toss with olive oil and put in a baking pan that was sprayed with Pam. Bake for about 30-45 minutes or until squash is easily pierced with a knife but still firm. Stir occasionally to make sure it does not burn.
4. Heat the oil in a large soup pot. Add leek and sauté for three minutes. Add garlic and sauté for two minutes. Add bell and poblano peppers and cook five minutes more, stirring often.
5. Stir in squash, tomatoes, and spices. Toss to coat and then cook five minutes.
6. Stir in vegetable stock. Bring mixture to a boil, the reduce heat and simmer until mixture thickens a little. Add beans and corn.
7. Season to taste. If time allows, let sit for a couple of hours or overnight before serving. Add cilantro just before serving. The stew should be thick and moist but not soupy.

Serve with a side or brown rice, quinoa, or millet for a complete vegetarian meal.

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