Three Sisters

Corn, beans, and squash are the trinity of native American staple crops. The fact that they can be planted all together—beans climbing corn, squash crowding out weeds on the ground—only adds to their iconic appeal. This meal took shape around the happy presence of all three in the pantry, all in different states, and the result was quite satisfying.

Dried beans are of course an essential, and instead of the usual polenta this time around I had a bag of masa. One of these days I’m going to start nixtamalizing local corn, because it’s not available in these parts, but for the time being I was happy to have it on hand. Instead of tortillas, for some variety I made arepas instead, giving them a good browning on both sides after cooking and shaping the masa. The beans, after a good long soak, went in the pressure cooker with some of the new batch of miso-cured bacon, an onion, and a handful of herbs for about 40 minutes. I roasted an acorn squash, halved, cut side down in a bit of olive oil and salt. It got very caramelized.

The squash had itself a quick spin with some yogurt whey, and the beans got finished with lots of garlic, smoked salsa, and a glug each of maple syrup and cider vinegar. I let them bubble down a bit to thicken and marry the flavors, then spooned them over the arepas which in turn were snuggled down into some of the purée.

Each component went on to have a glorious second life, too; the squash became a silky curry studded with nuggets of the homemade paneer, which KILLED, the beans made a hell of a breakfast on toast with a fried egg on top, and the arepas, cut up, made crispy little corn croutons. Some greens might have helped, but this was pretty complete and very good to it just as it was. Basic, simple staples, but with the quality ingredients given proper respect in the form of attentive cooking that brought out their best.

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Yours Truly



I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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