The Seasoned Franciscan - Cooking Joyfully

Three Sisters Soup

By by Sue Moran of "The View from Great Island" on Monday, October 16th 2023


Ingredients:  There is no set recipe, but some recommendations are indicated.  Use your experience of soup making to adjust the amounts, if you like!  
2 T olive oil  
1 medium onion, diced
3-6 cloves garlic, minced
4 C chicken or vegetable broth
1 14 oz can fire roasted or regular tomatoes
2 C cubed red or sweet potatoes, removing skin is optional
2-3 C any peeled cubed winter squash
1 ½ C corn, frozen or kernels cut fresh off the ears
1 15 o can black beans, drained or 1 C dry beans, soaked in water overnight 
1 chopped jalapeño, with or without seeds
1 tsp chipotle powder or 1 T sauce from canned chipotles in adobo sauce, adds a nice smokey heat
bay leaf 
1 tsp cumin or to taste
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot over medium heat add oil and onions.  Saute for 5 minutes until onion is translucent.
Add garlic and saute for 1 minute. 
Add broth, tomatoes, potatoes, squash, corn, beans, seasonings and jalapeno.
Turn heat to high and bring to a boil.
Cover, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 50 minutes or until beans and squash are tender. 
Check every 15 minutes or so.  Add more broth or water as needed to maintain the consistency you like and to prevent burning. 

Use summer squash.  Bring the recipe into spring and summer by subbing out winter squash for zucchini and crook neck squash.
Explore different beans: Black-eyed peas, pinto or kidney beans work well.
Use fresh beans: If you’re not into dried or canned legumes, use fresh green or waxed beans.
Try canned hominy, instead of sweet corn.
Add chilis, canned or fresh, to enhance this soup. Go for mild or spicy.
Thicken the soup by adding some masa harina toward the end of cooking to give the soup body and more corn flavor. Or, using an immersion blender, blend just a portion of the soup to thicken it up.  You can even blend canned pumpkin into the soup stock.
Add animal protein such as shredded pork, chicken or sausage of your choice, such as chorizo.
Add cheese.  This is not traditional, but shavings of queso, Parmesan, or other aged cheese add another dimension of flavor.
Make it vegan by using water or vegetable stock in place of the chicken stock.

This recipe has been adapted from The View from Great Island by Sue Moran who moved from LA to Great Island, NH to Madison, Wisconsin.  Sue loves Midwestern food culture and being near the biggest farmer's market in the country.  Her summer version of Three Sisters' Soup is pictured above.

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There is no one authentic recipe for this soup ~ it can be made, and is made, in a variety of ways, with different combinations of ‘sisters’. Recipes for it have been passed down through generations in tribes, and have become more modernized in the process. This version uses chicken broth and fire roasted tomatoes for a flavorful broth, potatoes for their satisfaction factor, jalapeño and chipotle powder for a little kick of heat, and black beans. Tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers are all indigenous crops, native to the Americas.

Three sisters soup celebrates the fall harvest  Three sisters refers to the combination of corn, beans, and squash, as well as to a native American companion planting technique that paired the three crops together for better productivity, and sustainable land use. The three foods have been staples in the diets of many tribes (from the Iroquois in the North, the Chickasaw in the South, and the Hopi and Navajo Nations in the Southwest) over the centuries, and this soup is a celebration of that magical trio. This hearty healthy soup provides a great story and learning opportunity as well!

Meet the three sisters. These three crops not only support each other as they grow, they have been critically important foods to Native Americans, and are particularly nourishing. In three sisters soup corn, beans and squash are a complete nutritional package with carbohydrates from the corn, protein from the beans (they provide the missing amino acids in the corn) and essential vitamins and minerals from the squash.
CORN ~ the tall corn provides support for the beans vines to grow on.
BEANS ~ add nitrogen into the soil to fertilize the corn and squash. These can be fresh or dried beans.
SQUASH ~ this refers to both winter and summer squash, both of which are low to the ground crops which provide shade to keep the ground moist and prevent weeds.
Speaking of Squash:

Check out the Seasoned Franciscan next week for how to roast squash seeds (even touch pumpkin seeds) and season them 5 ways. 

P.S.  If you haven’t yet seen Ken Burns' PBS special on "The American Buffalo", it is another learning invitation for all white people.  It isn't just about Bison as food.  Burns thoughtfully tells the story of the history and tragedy of this important lifegiving animal in Native history and that of our country.  It is often difficult to watch, but Burns offers both challenge and hope.  VLK

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