I recently returned to the set of WTNH-TV's "CT Style" to prepare a seasonal recipe called Three Sisters Stew. The stew gets its name for the three main ingredients - corn, beans, and squash - which grow in harmony together and are also culinary companions. The corn grows tall while the beans climb up the stalk and around the base, squash plants crowd out the weeds and keep the roots of the plants cool and moist. This type of companion planting was used by Native Americans who discovered that these three crops grown together minimized the need for watering, weeding, and fertilizing the soil. It is a planting method still used in organic gardens today, and chefs like me reap the rewards!
These three veggies, along with tomatoes, proliferate farmer's markets this time of year and are at their peak of flavor, which also makes it the perfect time to create this recipe. I've prepared this dish with fresh made polenta, and topped it with spiced pepitas, and a drizzle of parsley oil for added layers of flavor, color, and texture.
I hope you enjoy it this season!
Three Sisters Stew (serves 4)
2-3 Tbl olive oil
1 cup onion, diced
2 cups summer squash, cut into quarter moons
2 cups green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
1-2 tsp cumin
1-2 tsp dried oregano
1 lb. diced tomatoes (or 1 28 oz. can)
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 cup corn
1 15 oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
½ tsp sea salt
fresh black pepper
In a large sauce pot, sautee onion in olive oil until it sweats and is starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add summer squash and green beans and cook until fork tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, red pepper flakes, cumin and oregano and heat for about a minute until fragrant. Stir in diced tomatoes, tomato paste, corn, and pinto beans and heat for 10-15 minutes, or until sauce thickens. Season with salt and pepper.
Polenta (makes 4-6 servings)
6 cups water
2 tsp sea salt
1 3/4 cups yellow cornmeal
3 Tbl Earth Balance margarine
Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add salt and gradually whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the mixture thickens and the cornmeal is tender, stirring often, for about 5-10 minutes. Turn off the heat then add the margarine, and stir until melted. Pour into oiled pan and let cool.
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1 Tbl Earth Balance margarine
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp sea salt
In a sauté pan, melt Earth Balance over medium heat. Add pumpkin seeds and sauté several minutes until they begin to get toasted. Add spices and sea salt and sauté another minute, or until pumpkin seeds begin to pop. Set aside in a bowl to cool.