Sunday, August 28, 2011

Three Sisters Soup

The end of summer/beginning of autumn is the time to reap what we sowed. Harvest. Such a comforting word! No better reminder of eating locally can be had.
I really like old recipes that were very locally inspired. What choice did they have back then but to be local? It was a necessity not a fad.
One such recipe is the soup composed of the tres hermanas: squash, beans, and corn, the mainstays of Mexican diet and culture. That native diet works due to a delightful confluence of factors.
  1. The plants grow together well. The corn grows tall, providing a "pole" for the climbing bean vines, and slight shade for the creeping squash vines below. The beans' roots also provide nitrogen in the soil for the other two species.
  2. The vitamins and amino acids in the three products complement each other. Adding rice makes for an even healthier meal.
  3. The flavours and consistencies combine superbly in a single dish, or several dishes eaten together.
  4. The plants ripen around the same time - or can be stored easily until it all "lines up."
  5. All plants are indigenous: adapted to a long growing season and very hot, dry conditions.
Although the conditions where I live in Canada are fairly different, during the summer they can resemble Mexico's - especially lately. I never had the space to grow the three sisters together (where they are happiest), but I certainly have enjoyed putting them together in soup every August and September. The local farmers' market can provide all three ingredients. If not, I buy a local squash (delicatas and acorns are best) and add frozen corn and canned beans, all organic. [About 100% of non-organic corn is genetically modified, so I avoid it.]
To make Three Sisters Soup, bake a squash (cut in two and de-seeded) until it is nearly entirely cooked. Remove the skin off and cut into small pieces. In a medium pot, put the cubed squash, 2 cups of vegetable stock, herbs to taste, about a cup of corn kernels, and about a cup of small pre-cooked beans. (I prefer navy, cannelli, or baby lima.)  Cook for about 20 min. on a moderate heat. Add a dollop of butter and stir in before serving. For a creamier soup, purée the squash before adding to the stock, and add a bit of organic milk or cream. Serve with a green salad and garlic bread - all locally sourced, of course!
!Buen provecho!

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