While we’ve started planning for the new growing season, we’re still eating from the last, and this 3 Sisters Vegetarian Chili with Winter Squash, Corn and Beans makes good use of what we have left in storage. To the traditional Native American trio we added onion, carrots and garlic from the root cellar; and dried beans, and home canned tomatoes and corn from the pantry. The combination made for a savory, satisfying pot of spicy chili, warming enough to make us forget that it’s still winter outside.
The beans we used were Boston Roman, a kidney-shaped heirloom from Baer’s Best, the only grower of this unusual variety in New England. It’s large size, nutty flavor, and ability to hold it’s shape when cooked gave additional heft to the meatless mix. We had both frozen and canned corn at our disposal, and ended up using a jar of corn relish since it also contained red and green peppers; just drain it before adding. If you like, some toasted cornmeal tossed in at the end will thicken the chili and add a hint of smokiness.
3 Sisters Vegetarian Chili, with Winter Squash, Corn and Beans
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 large or 2 medium carrots, cut in small dice
1 red or green pepper, diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 to 3 tablespoons ground chili, to taste
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 quart canned tomatoes, chopped or crushed, with liquid
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 cups cooked beans, with pot liquor
2 cups corn kernels
2 cups diced winter squash (about ¾ pound)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Chopped red onion, grated cheese (jack, queso fresco, cheddar) for garnish
– Heat oil over medium heat in a heavy pot and add the onion, carrot and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is tender and beginning to color. Stir in the garlic and continue cooking until fragrant, about a minute. Add the ground chili and cumin, and cook, stirring, until the mixture begins to stick to the pan. Stir in the tomato paste, and let cook briefly, about a minute. Add the chopped tomatoes with their liquid, oregano, and salt to taste, and simmer until mixture is thick and fragrant, about 30 to 45 minutes.
– Stir in the cooked beans, and bring back to a simmer, then add the winter squash and corn. If letting sit overnight for the flavors to develop, remove pot from heat and let cool; the winter squash and corn will finish cooking through reheating. For serving the same day, continue simmering until the squash is tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. The chili should be thick, but can be thinned out with water. Adjust seasonings, and serve with diced red onion, scallions or cilantro, and grated cheese.
Adapted from Martha Rose Shulman.
Local ingredients: Boston Roman beans from Baer’s Best; onions from Black Kettle Farm; carrots from Red Manse Farm; cheddar from Brookford Farm; home canned tomatoes and paste, corn relish; Tromboncino winter squash and garlic from the garden.