Weeks and weeks ago, I bought a jar of Hidatsa Shield Figure dry beans from Crescent Moon Farm. I’ve only cooked beans from scratch a few times, and frankly find it a little intimidating. Let’s just say that my forays into what feels like days, weeks even, of soaking and cooking beans on the stove have made me depend on (gasp) canned beans. I know you are (justifiably) horrified. So this jar of dry beans stared at me for weeks. Finally, I could stand the taunting no longer, and soaked half of them for 4 or 5 hours.
At Crescent Moon’s harvest celebration, David had made a dried bean and winter squash stew that was one of my favorite dishes that day. I decided I would do something to that effect with my beans. After extensive internet research on dried beans, I found out that mine might take anywhere from half an hour to 3 hours to cook. Not knowing how long they’d take, I didn’t want to completely destroy the veggies, stewing them for hours, or end up with hard squash and overcooked beans.
Look at this beauty in all it’s Acorn Squashyness. According to my local farmer Lazaro, the orange develops on the skin where the squash was on the ground. It’s not an indication of ripeness. So, they are good just green as well.
Knowing that roasting brings out the sweet earthy flavors of squash best, I cut my acorn squash into wedges and popped it into the oven for about 45 minutes. Turned out, the beans and squash took the same amount of time. The beans were perfectly tender, but whole after 45 minutes. Plus, I know lots of people insist it’s a crime against nature to salt beans before they are cooked, but it’s really not true. They retain a slightly firmer texture (not hard by any means) and the salt gets a chance to permeate the whole bean as it’s soaks up the water.
Once the acorn squash was roasted, the peel came off easily (no way was I going to be able to get my paring knife in all those nooks and crannies while it was rock hard). With the beans cooked and the squash roasted, I still wanted to add some aromatics, but I didn’t want to dirty yet another cooking vessel, so I dumped the beans , complete with water and roasted peeled squash, into the baking pan I used for the squash. It actually served two purposes. I was able to sautee the onions, garlic and carrots in the same pan the soup would be finished in, and I got to deglaze all the sweet tasty bits from the roasting pan I baked the squash in.
Since I added some frozen corn at the end, this became another take on Three Sisters (the fabulous culinary and planting companions: beans, corn and squash). Just before serving, we threw together a quick biscuit recipe from scratch and used a sweet heart-shaped cookie cutter. It was yet another tasty experiment, so the “recipe” is an approximation. Please feel free to take it in a more Mexican direction with some hot peppers or poblanos, or in a more European direction with parsley, thyme or sage. As usual, please use as many local/organic/sustainable ingredients as possible.
Marc’s step dad called the heart shaped biscuits “bliss-cuits”. They sure were heavenly with the soup.
Three Sisters Soup (Serves about 4 as a main dish)
1 C. dry beans
6 C. water
1 acorn squash, cut into chunks or wedges, drizzled w/ olive oil, sprinkled with salt and roasted (375*, 30 minutes covered with foil, plus about 20 minutes uncovered)
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
a couple garlic cloves, minced
1 to 2 C. frozen or fresh corn
2-3 Tbs. chopped fresh herbs (thyme, sage, Italian parsley, or cilantro would be great)
salt and pepper to taste
While you are roasting the acorn squash chunks in the oven, cook your beans in a large pot with the 6 cups of water and 1 tsp. salt to start with. Four cups of the water is for the beans specifically, and the extra two (or more if you like) will accommodate the other soup ingredients.
When the squash is tender, and then cool enough to handle, peel the skin off the flesh and cut into bite sized pieces and set aside. Sautee the onion, carrot and garlic until softened and a little caramelized. Throw it all in together with the frozen corn and simmer for maybe five or ten minutes for the flavors to marry, and add any herbs you have around or some canned green chilies.
Taste for seasoning, and you have yourself a delicious warm winter soup. Served with homemade biscuits or garlic bread, and some salad and you’ve got a delicious meal for the family or an informal gathering.