Monday, February 20, 2012

Three Sisters Soup

Beans, corn and squash are known in Native American food culture as the "Three Sisters" because of the practice of companion planting these items together to feed the soil, help provide structure for the climbing beans and decrease weeds.

The fact that the beans are available dried in winter, along with my stash of winter squash, and corn that was frozen from summer, means local eating in winter, too. The hearty soup does include a smoked pork shank for flavor, but this is optional if you want a vegetarian soup. The three sisters also provide a good vegetarian protein balance without the need for meat here.

I use my handy, and rather large pressure cooker here. To do this without a pressure cooker, plan on a cooking time of two hours and 15 minutes. It makes a whole lot of soup. Plan on freezing some for an easy dinner in the future.

Three Sisters Soup

1/2 pumpkin, rind, seeds and stringy pulp removed, diced in 1/4 inch cubes
1 onion, diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbs. olive oil
4 mild green chiles, poblano works well, seeded and diced
28 oz. tomatoes in juices
1-1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. Ancho chile powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
64 oz. chicken or vegetable stock
1 lb. dried beans, soaked overnight, drained and rinsed (heirloom beans like anasazi or vaquero work best, kidney beans as a substitute).
1 smoked pork shank, optional
12 oz. frozen corn
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, green chiles, garlic, cumin, Ancho chile powder, and cinnamon to the pot and sweat for 10 minutes until the onion is translucent. Add the stock, tomatoes and juices, beans and the pumpkin cubes, and pork shank if using.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Lock on the pressure cooker top, making sure it seals correctly. This will cook for 45 minutes. When done cooking, turn off burner and follow your pressure cooker manufacturer's directions to release the steam. When the cooker is ready to be opened, unlock the top and remove the pork shank to a cutting board.

Using tongs, pull the meat from the bone. Add meat back to the pot. Bring to a simmer. Add the frozen corn and simmer for about 10 minutes. Before serving, adjust the salt and pepper, mix in the cilantro, reserving some as a garnish. Freezes well. Makes about 14-16 servings.

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