Three Sisters Winter Stuffed Squash with Corn and Beans
The traditional Native American diet included many seasonal plants, as our native ancestors understood the complex interrelationship between food and climate. Their farming traditions reflected that. They planted three major vegetables—corn, squash, and beans, also known as the “three sisters”—with ecology of land and water in mind; in this method, the corn supports the beanstalks and the squash enjoys the shade below. In addition to being grown interdependently, corn, beans, and squash complement one another nutritionally: corn provides complex carbohydrates, beans provide protein, and squash provides vitamin A and potassium.
-Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff
1 each: small butternut, kabocha, and acorn squashes
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup onion, chopped
12 to 15 thin strips red or green bell pepper (from one medium pepper)
1½ cups corn kernels, freshly scraped or frozen and thawed
1½ cups green beans, cut into small (1/2 inch) size pieces
1 teaspoon freshly minced or ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon cilantro leaves, chopped finely
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Optional: ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese or vegan alternative for topping
Use a sharp knife to cut each squash in half lengthwise. Remove the fibers and seeds and rinse the squash. Arrange the squash halves in a vegetable steamer with the open sides down. If necessary, cook batches so as not to crowd the steamer. Steam the squash for about 20 minutes or until most of the inner pulp is cooked but the shells are still intact. Some squashes will take longer to cook than others, so check each of them after the first 15 minutes to be sure they are not overdone. Cool the cooked squash for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a frying pan heat 2 tablespoons oil and sauté the onion for several minutes until limp. Add the bell pepper strips and stir-fry for a few minutes. Add the corn and green beans, and stir-fry for 5 minutes. Transfer the cooked vegetables to a mixing bowl and set them aside.
Use a paring knife to carefully scoop out the pulp from the squash without breaking the shells. Cut the pulp into small pieces and mix with the vegetables. Add salt, pepper, oregano, and cilantro, and mix well.
Rub the remaining oil on the insides of the squash shells and on the outer surfaces. Stuff the shells with the vegetable mixture and arrange the “bowls” in two shallow casserole dishes or on a baking sheet that has been lined with a small amount of water (to prevent sticking to the baking sheet). Bake the bowls for 30 minutes (or longer), until they turn golden brown on the edges. Top with the optional Parmesan or vegan alternative.
Makes 8 to 10 servings