If you’re not familiar with the concept of Three Sisters in agriculture, I strongly suggest you educate yourself because it’s rather cool and there’s a lot of compelling folklore and art around it.
My Coles’ Notes version:
The Three Sisters are corn, winter squash and beans.
Different variations on this trio is grown all over the Americas by Indigenous and NI folk alike because it’s a gardening no brainer. If you have sprogs, I extra super duper urge you to educate yourselves because the whole of it makes for a really interesting family project with ideas and activities that can be grasped by all ages.
When my sprogs were wee, I was lucky enough to be a member of a local Native Women’s Association, which is where I learned about the Three Sisters and how to make amazing meals from its components…from a three year old. The wee muffet kept insisting that I go to the garden with her to see her sisters. I followed her to her family’s plot and saw only vegetables. The child was incredibly patient with my ignorance and talked me through it and how she would be having frybread tacos for dinner that evening.
Seriously, living in a community entirely surrounded by reservations and getting schooled by a three year old about food is a wonderfully humbling experience.
I highly suggest doing that too.
This soup, as you may have guessed, incorporates all Three Sisters, but is inspired by the flavours and textures of turf that is much further south, though nothing that cannot be grown in an Ontario garden. I know we’re a way off from gardening temps, yet, but that’s another bit of the beauty of the Three Sisters: they all overwinter well.
It’s also totally vegan and gluten-free, but still very rich in flavour and texture. And holy filling! The mister and I could only do one bowl each.
See the cook’s notes below the recipe for some variations.
What you need:
- 2 fresh poblano chilies, seeded and quartered
- 1 large tomato, quartered
- 1 large cooking onion
- 1 garlic bulb
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 winter squash, peeled and chopped into bite-sized chunks
- 2 cups (or 1 can) of black beans
- 1.5 cups (or 1 can) of corn
- 2 cups of cooked quinoa
- 4 cloves of garlic, pressed
- 1 cup of strong, black coffee
- 6 cups of water
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds, lightly ground
- 1 tbsp dried thyme
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- Chipotles (these are optional and used to tweak the heat)
- Juice of one lemon or lime
- Salt & pepper to taste
What you do:
- Toss the peppers, tomatoes, onion and garlic bulb in the olive oil, then lay out in a single layer on a baking sheet.
- Roast at 400 for about an hour or until soft and a little charred.
- Let cool until the roasted veg can be handled.
- Squish the contents of the squishy, roasted garlic bulb into a bowl and reserve.
- Using a blender or food processor, combine the roasted veg and garlic with the coffee until smooth.
- Add this and the remaining ingredients to a pot and let simmer for a good 20 minutes.
- Taste test and add salt and pepper and some chipotles if the heat level isn’t quite where you like it. Poblanos can be all over the map when it comes to their heat.
- Serve piping hot with some kind of dip-able bread thing. Frybread is highly recommended.
The roasted ingredients with the coffee make a really excellent sauce. Take those and add 1 tbsp more oil, 1/2 cup of water and 2 tsp cumin and process until combined. Serve over pork, fish, or chicken, add it to taco/burrito beans for some added deliciousness, or use it as a stir fry sauce.
Reduce the amount of water to 3 cups and turn this recipe into a chili. Fill some tacos with it!
Replace the preserved beans with fresh green beans, but don’t add them until the last 10 minutes of simmering so they stay a bit crisp.