Three Sisters Soup

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I recently discovered the “three sisters” on a trip to Charlottesville. About two months ago, on one of many wedding-planning trips to the Blue Ridge Mountains, we stopped into Revolutionary Soup near the downtown mall. I had heard great things about Revolutionary Soup and I had been meaning to try it for years. On a gorgeous September day in Charlottesville with my parents and Kyle, I finally had the opportunity.

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Revolutionary Soup has an extensive menu of sandwiches, soups, and salads. There are plenty of vegetarian and vegan options on the menu. There is also a great selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. I was impressed by the selection of local beers and ciders. Kyle had a matcha (green tea) flavored soda that he is still talking about, two months later. I think one of Kyle’s greatest regrets in life is not writing down the name of that soda.

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One thing that really impressed me at Revolutionary Soup was this giant diagram that illustrated all of their local vendors on a map of Virginia. This is definitely a feature of my fantasy restaurant now.

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I chose a tofu wrap and a small Three Sisters Soup, which was one of the seasonal specials they offered that day. I had never heard of “three sisters” before, but I learned that the term refers to the trio of squash, beans and corn. Native Americans grew the three crops together, using a technique called companion planting, because each one benefits from the other two. Not only are they a great combination in the garden, but they also taste wonderful together. The soup was a total knockout and I knew I would have to replicate it at home.

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While I was picking up a few things at the grocery store later that week, I saw a giant bin of fall and winter squash. I couldn’t resist taking home this Turks Turban squash. I had never seen a squash like this before, and although I knew nothing about how to prepare it or how it tasted, I decided this would be the squash for my Three Sisters soup. Cutting and seeding it was really difficult due to its odd shape.

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When peeled, chunked, and roasted, the Turks Turban squash is sweet, with a smooth, dense texture. It was fun to use just for the experience and for the look on the grocery store cashier’s face when the odd-shaped squash came gliding down the belt and to her scanner. When I looked up the Turks Turban, I was disappointed to find that it didn’t have great reviews for taste. I tried it anyway and thought it tasted like a cross between a butternut squash and a pumpkin. I thought it was great and had no complaints regarding taste. However, due to the weird shape, the peeling and seeding process was so labor intensive that it wasn’t really worth it. In the future, I think I’ll just use butternut squash instead.

Anyway, enough about the squash. This recipe is all about the soup. I have made three sisters soup three times now, with a different type of squash every time. It is delicious no matter what type of fall or winter squash you include. This soup is hearty enough to stand alone in a big bowl as a main dish, or you could serve a smaller portion with bread and a salad. It would be a nice starter to your Thanksgiving meal. A large pot of it simmered on a Sunday provides an alternative to chili for watching football, or plenty of lunches to reheat throughout the week.

Three Sisters Soup

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Ingredients:

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups cubed, roasted winter squash
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1- 15 oz. can pinto beans
  • 2 cups frozen corn kernels
  • 5 cups water or vegetable broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. In a large soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Sauté onion, pepper, celery and garlic until onion is translucent.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients to the pot and bring to a boil.
  4. Cover and simmer over medium heat for 45 minutes. Remove bay leaf before serving.

Summer Solstice Meal

It’s officially the first day of summer!

I celebrated last night with a delicious summery meal. I made corn on the cob for the first time this year, and if the season wasn’t blatantly obvious by the looks of the main plate, it certainly was evident in the accoutrements.

You can take the girl out of Maryland. . .

I served up a Thai mock chicken salad over a bed of arugula, corn on the cob, and raw sliced kohlrabi. Regarding the previous photo, it is my firm belief that the only way to have sweet corn is on the cob, with butter and Old Bay seasoning. And while you’re salivating over that, might I add how excited I am that it is a seasonally appropriate time for a nice crisp white ale?

This chicken salad was a hit. I planned on having leftovers for sandwiches – I didn’t. It turns out that Kyle is a Thai chicken salad fiend! He suggested, between mouthfuls, that we call this “Trickin’ Salad” because it’s like chicken but it’s a trick – as there is no real meat in this salad. Har har har.

I love it when an original recipe is a home run on the first try.

Thai “Chicken” (or Trickin’) (or Mighty Ass-Kickin’) Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 package (4 pieces) Quorn Naked Chik’n Cutlets
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1/2 cup veganaise
  • 1 Tbsp light sodium soy sauce
  • 1-1/2 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup lightly salted peanuts
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper or crushed red pepper to taste

Preparation

  1. Cook the Naked Chik’n cutlets according to package directions. I chose to microwave mine with a few tablespoons of water, covered, for about two minutes.
  2. While the cutlets are warming up, dice the celery and carrot.
  3. Chop the cutlets into small cubes, or tear them for a more rustic texture.This yields about 2 cups of “chicken”.
  4. Combine the “chicken,” celery and carrots in a medium sized bowl. Add the veganaise, soy sauce, and vinegar. Stir to combine.
  5. Pour the peanuts into a small zip-lock bag and crush them by pounding them repeatedly with the bottom of a can or jar until they are smashed into a crumbly texture. Add the peanuts to the salad.
  6. Stir in peanuts and pepper.
  7. Chill for about an hour before serving.

Serve the Thai “Chicken” Salad over arugula or spinach, in sandwiches or wraps, or rolled up in large leaves of romaine for a crunchy summer lettuce wrap. The possibilities are endless!

What will you do to celebrate the longest day of the year and the official kickoff to summer?

Tomatillos!

That word is so much fun to say, I have to accent it with an exclamation point.

I picked up these tomatillos last week at the farmers’ market and couldn’t wait to get in the kitchen.

After a bit of research, I found some creative ideas online and I also had a recipe that had been calling my name from the bookshelf for a while. The tart green tomatillos sat on my counter in their papery husks while I searched for inspiration. I had purchased the last little container of tomatillos from the farmer’s stand, and because they were so delicate and so rare this time of year, I wanted to make sure I gave them the dish that they deserved.

Tomatillos look like small green tomatoes, but they taste quite different. Because the tomatillo is covered by a papery husk, the fruit itself has a smooth skin and is free of blemishes. Their insides are white and less juicy than a tomato. They taste tart when eaten raw, however I read that they can be very inconsistent in flavor; some are sour and tangy, while some are mild and sweet. That reminded me of a box of assorted chocolates, which made me even more excited for the challenge.

I have been holding on to this recipe for nearly two years, trying to muster the courage to a) use tomatillos for the first time, b) bake something in a pumpkin for the first time, and c) spend three hours in the kitchen for one dish. Item (c) would not be a first for me, but it definitely takes some energy and concentration to pull off. Because I didn’t want to turn the entire apartment into an oven by cooking hot stew all afternoon, and because the recipe isn’t exactly seasonally appropriate, I decided to hold off on Spicy Fall Stew Baked in a Pumpkin. That I can look forward to for just a couple months more. Instead I decided to go with a classic that we could enjoy in a variety of dishes all week: Salsa Verde!

I can thank Tyler Florence for guiding me through this meal. I used both his salsa verde recipe and his roasted corn recipe to make these delicious summer tacos.

Roasted Tomatillo Chile Salsa (adapted from Tyler Florence, Food Network.com)

Ingredients

8-10 tomatillos, husked and halved

1/2 white onion, quartered

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, diced

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup fresh cilantro

1/2 lime, juiced

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

2. Cover a baking tray with aluminum foil. Roast tomatillos, onion, garlic, and jalapenos on baking tray in oven for 10-12 minutes.

3. Transfer the roasted vegetables and any juices in the bottom of the tray to a food processor. Add the cumin, salt, cilantro, and lime juice and pulse until the mixture is smooth.

And it was delicious. Here are some of the dishes I used it in this week:

Black Bean and Corn Tacos with Roasted Tomatillo Chile Salsa

I found these great whole wheat wraps for these tacos:

First, make some oven roasted corn on the cob. I couldn’t believe how easy this was and how much better the corn tasted when it roasted in its own juices.

Next remove the corn kernels from the cob.

Heat some black beans over the stove and warm the tortillas. While the beans and tortillas are warming, prepare the following toppings:

  • diced tomatoes
  • diced avocado sprinkled with lime juice
  • grated monterey jack cheese
  • roasted tomatillo chile salsa

Lay out a buffet of ingredients and assemble your own tacos. This is one of my favorite warm-weather meals! 🙂

Green Eggs No Ham

I used some of the tomatillo salsa on this tasty breakfast that I am calling Green Eggs No Ham Sandwiches:

Here are the ingredients. I am sure you can figure out how to put them together:

  • Two slices of Arnold’s Health Nut bread, toasted
  • 1/4 cup baby spinach, chopped
  • Two cage-free organic eggs, fried (not too hard, not too runny)
  • Grated cheese (an amount that I will not admit to) – I chose monterey jack, Kyle chose cheddar
  • Salt and pepper
  • One messy dollop of roasted tomatillo chile salsa

I love Saturdays.